THE Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group is batting for tough laws that will stop the sale of totally wrecked cars which have been restored to their original forms with parts and accessories from stolen vehicles.
PNP-HPG officials led by Senior Superintendent Antonio N. Gardiola Jr. said that first and foremost, they want to bar insurance companies from re-selling motor vehicles rendered total wreck as a result of road crashes as the practice is being taken advantage of carjacking syndicates to register stolen vehicles with the help of some rogue public officials including those from the Land Transportation Office.
“We are batting for a legislation that will make it unlawful for insurance companies to re-sell totally wrecked motor vehicles together with their registration documents. We believe that this law, if enacted, will greatly deter car theft in the country,” said the PNP-HPG director.
There are observations that carnapping activities thrive in the country because of the involvement of certain public officials who facilitate the official registration of motor vehicles which are obviously coming from questionable sources. The PNP admitted that car thieves and their financiers find it easy nowadays to ‘legitimize’ their stolen wares by registering the same thru their contacts in the agencies involved in the registration of MV, particularly the LTO and dispose these stolen wares to unsuspecting buyers.
There is already a Circular Letter No. 18-99A-2000 from the Insurance Commission under the Department of Finance which refers to the ‘sale of motor vehicles acquired by insurance companies after payment of total loss claim.’
The circular issued by then Insurance Commissioner Eduardo T. Malinis prescribed the procedures to check the unscrupulous practice of legitimizing the registration of carnapped or illegally obtained vehicles using ‘total wreck’ vehicles.
It said that without exception, whenever a total loss claim for loss or damage to a motor vehicle is paid, the insurance company insuring the vehicle should submit a report in an attached form entitled ‘Description of Motor Vehicle Paid for Total Loss’ to the Insurance Commission within seven days from the date of the payment of the claim.
If the vehicle acquired by the insurance company after payment of a total loss is sold (as a whole or only its parts) together with the vehicle’s registration certificate, the insurance company should submit a report to the Commission too within seven days from the date of the sale.
If the motor vehicle which is the subject of a Total Loss claim is no longer serviceable, considered totally wrecked or junk, the insurance company should submit the Registration Certificate of the vehicle to the LTO for cancellation. Within seven days after the date of the cancellation of the Registration Certificate of the vehicle, the insurance company should submit a report to the Commission.
If only some parts, particularly the motor or chassis are sold, the company should not transfer the Registration Certificate of the vehicle, but instead surrender it to the LTO for cancellation.
The circular took effect on May 30, 2000 and affected all vehicles acquired from January 1999 to April 2000 thru payment of Total Loss Claims. However, HPG officials said the circular seemed to be only being implemented in the papers and not in practice since many insurance companies who pay Total Loss Claims want to recoup some of their losses by selling the registration papers of Total Wreck vehicles to highest bidders. ‘The buying rate is from P150,000 up depending on the type of the motor vehicle,” one HPG official said.
A few years ago, the country’s used-car dealers asked then President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to launch a no-nonsense massive crackdown against rogues in the LTO and the insurance industry who have greatly contributed to the car theft business in The Philippines.
In a meeting with top PNP officials, the second-hand car traders said the existence of some ‘bad eggs’ in the LTO who allow the registration of stolen motor vehicles in the country should be quickly addressed by the government. The meeting was made in the wake of the abduction and killing of their fellow entrepreneurs Venson Evangelista and Emerson Lozano and his driver Hernane Sensil.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, most of the car dealers said that they or their friends have suffered humiliation after they bought motor vehicles which turned out to have been fraudulently registered with the LTO.
The entrepreneurs complained that some of them have acquired motor vehicles which turned out to have falsified LTO Official Receipts and Certificate of Registration, meaning that the registration papers were genuine but the entries are not since they have been altered by the syndicate.
They also called on proper authorities to immediately confiscate the registration papers of ‘total-wreck’ vehicles or those beyond economical repair after being involved in major road crashes.
The car traders said carnapping syndicates are known for buying the registration papers of ‘total-wreck’ vehicles especially if these are Sports Utility Vehicles and other high-end motor vehicles.
Once the syndicate has acquired the OR and CR of the ‘total-wreck’ vehicles, say an SUV, they will then steal an SUV with the same color, model and type. The car theft syndicate will then bring the vehicle to a clandestine motor shop where its chassis and engine numbers and other identifying marks will be erased and later replaced with the numbers of the ‘total-wreck’ SUV they have bought from an insurance company.
“They call this lipat-bahay. But we believe that this practice will stop if the government will stop insurance companies from selling ‘total-wreck’ vehicles. We also hope that insurance companies will stop this malpractice,” a QC car trader said.
PNP-HPG officials agreed with him citing instances wherein they discovered that some SUVs stopped for traffic infractions turned out to be ‘total-wreck vehicles.’
PNP-HPG Special Operations Division/Task Force Limbas chief, Supt. Joel Manuel A. Ana said they have investigated scores of cases of SUVs which look as if they were almost brand-new when records show that they became ‘total-wreck’ after figuring in high-speed crashes.
“Papaano magiging halos brand-new ’yung isang SUV na durug-durog na at nayupi pa sa aksidente sa highway? Mangyayari lang ito kung buburahin ang chassis and engine numbers ng isang nakaw na kaparehong SUV at ita-transfer dito ang numbers ng total-wreck na sasakyang nabili sa insurance,” he said.
The PNP-HPG leadership said they are recognizing the fact that ‘car dealers are vulnerable to the activities of carnapping syndicates who often pass off stolen motor vehicles in the used car market, translating to huge losses on the part of dealers and buyers as well.
Officials said they are completely aware of the issues and concerns affecting the second-hand motor vehicle industry, and want to identify, arrest and prosecute the authors of this heinous crime.
Gardiola said they are continuously improving their systems and procedures in the Motor Vehicle Identification System to detect stolen cars and vehicles used in crime.
However, he asked the full cooperation of the used car dealers in reporting the presence of people passing off stolen motor vehicles. He also asked the buying public to have the motor vehicle they are planning to buy cleared first by the HPG Motor Vehicle Clearance Division amid the presence of syndicates selling vehicles included in the HPG list of wanted/stolen motor vehicles.
The member of Philippine Military Academy ‘Sinagtala’ Class of 1986 said that when he was still a young HPG officer, they have already recovered dozens of motor vehicles in Mindanao and Visayas region which all turned out to have been stolen in Metro Manila but were registered fraudulently with some LTO district offices outside of the metropolis.
He asked the car dealers to first verify with the HPG the papers of the vehicles they are planning to buy and look for discrepancies in the registration papers.