MANILA, Philippines?Virginia Torres, chief of the Land Transportation Office (LTO), and 25 other LTO and police personnel are facing criminal and administrative charges for allegedly facilitating the registration of stolen vehicles, the Philippine Daily Inquirer has learned.
A Feb. 2 report prepared by Chief Supt. Leonardo A. Espina, head of the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG), showed that a criminal complaint was filed in the Department of Justice on May 7, 2009, against Torres in connection with the illegal registration of a Mitsubishi Pajero while she was the LTO head in Tarlac City.
The charge against Torres, a shooting range buddy of President Benigno Aquino III who appointed her LTO chief in July last year, was for violation of Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code for falsification of a document by a public officer, according to the Espina report to PNP Director General Raul Bacalzo.
The Inquirer secured a copy of the Espina report on Thursday. Phone calls to Torres on Sunday by the Inquirer were not returned although she released a statement earlier saying that the allegations against her were part of a ?demolition job.?
LTO spokesperson Roberto Ricohermoso declined immediate comment on the report, saying he had not seen it. The LTO previously said that the registration of the Pajero in Tarlac was done by a Torres predecessor.
A copy of the Espina report was issued to reporters during a briefing at Camp Crame on Feb. 4, but it went unnoticed in the midst of an uproar over the killings of car dealers Venson Evangelista and Emerson Lozano, the arrests of leaders of a notorious car theft gang led by the brothers Roger and Raymond Dominguez and the alleged involvement of senior PNP officials in criminal activity.
LTO officials facing charges for falsification of documents, the anti-fencing law and the anti-graft law also included Gimla Salai of Polomolok, South Cotabato; Estrella Cahilog, Davao City; Bedula Lipoles, Bislig City; Gavino Paden, Toledo City; Abdulatip Amilil, also from Polomolok; Monadato Mangadang, Molave City; and three unidentified district directors from Ifugao, Surigao and Tagbilaran City.
The PNP personnel charged included Supt. Judy B. Dao-ay, SPO3 Dominador Moldes, PO2 Sherwin Valmores, SPO2 Edmundo Agadulin, SPO3 Antonio P. Alcozar, SPO2 Eulogio Pastor Jr., PO2 Jorlick Roma, Arnold DC Carino and SPO2 Virgilio Devera.
The LTO officials administratively charged and under investigation are AG Petarco, an encoder verifier in Tagbilaran; Eduardo Mata, district head of Danao City; SR L. Padriga, an encoder verifier of Danao; Luciano Llanillo, former district head of Tarlac City; LS de Vera, an encoder verifier; Edgardo de Veza, former district head of LTO based in Camp Aguinaldo; and M. De Guzman, an encoder verifier.
Supt. Edwin Butacan, HPG spokesperson who was shown a copy of the report, confirmed the list.
?These cases are still pending, and HPG personnel included in the list had been removed from the group and were assigned in other posts,? Butacan told the Inquirer in an interview in his office on Friday.
LTO probe scuttled
In his report, Espina pointed out that the supposed involvement of LTO officials and personnel were submitted to the agency?s Internal Affairs and Legal Task Force (IALTF). But he said that until now, the LTO legal office had not provided the HPG with an update of its investigation.
Espina said that the IALTF that was supposed to conduct the investigation of the LTO personnel involved also had been dissolved.
According to the Espina report, the case against Torres stemmed from ?irregularly issued LTO registration papers for a Mitsubishi Pajero with Plate No. RJP 111, by making it appear that it was originally registered at the LTO Roxas City and a transfer of registration was being effected to the said Pajero when the certificate of registration pertains to a Honda motorcycle.?
The Espina report cited incidents in which these LTO officials supposedly provided LTO registration papers and new plate numbers processed in their areas.
Among the cases mentioned was a vehicle owned by one Alexander Alindahao, which was stolen while parked along Aquarius Street, Bel-Air, Makati City, on Dec. 10, 2004. The vehicle was recovered in 2008, with a new plate number and LTO registration papers, but with tampered chassis and engine numbers. The papers were processed at the LTO Cebu district office and in Polomolok both at that time headed by Gimla Salai.
?It has been emphatically observed that carnapping activities thrive in the country because of the involvement of certain public officials facilitating the official registration of motor vehicles (MVs) which are obviously coming from questionable sources,? Espina said.
?Carnappers and their financiers find it easy nowadays to ?legitimize? their stolen wares by registering the same through their contacts in the agencies involved in the registration of MVs, and dispose these stolen wares to unsuspecting buyers. These vicious schemes made this profitable market possible for carnappers and their financiers,? Espina said.
He said that in the attempts to stop activities of car theft gangs, the police were being blamed by the public even as agencies refused to coordinate in campaigns against the crime.
He said the courts also made the job for police difficult by issuing writs against recovery of stolen vehicles. He said in most cases innocent buyers of stolen vehicles were the ones being prosecuted. With reports from Alcuin Papa and Paolo Montecillo