THE Philippine National Police has been tracking criminals who rent vans from unsuspecting driver-owners in Metro Manila and nearby provinces before killing them and stealing their vehicles.
Police Regional Office 1 director Chief Supt. Gregorio R. Pimentel said members of the Pangasinan Police Provincial Office and the Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group shot dead five heavily-armed “rent-tangay” gang members in a running gunbattle in Urdaneta City early yesterday morning.
Pimentel said the five suspects were on board a stolen Toyota Innova (NRQ-496) when they ignored a police checkpoint on McArthur Highway and fired shots at officers of the Urdaneta City police, the Pangasinan Provincial Public Safety Company and the PNP-HPG Special Operations Division-Task Force Limbas around 2:30 a.m. yesterday.
The police officers under the supervision of Pangasinan police director Senior Supt. Ronald O. Lee gave a chase and cornered them in Zone 3, Bgy. Nancalabosaan, Urdaneta City where the five were killed in a shootout.
Found in the suspects’ vehicle were two police athletic uniforms, a PNP bull cap and some identification cards.
The slain suspects were identified as Jomar delos Santos, 23, of Bgy. Masapit, San Miguel, Bulacan; Ronnie G. Chico, of Arcinas, San Miguel, Bulacan; Arnold Bandara, 30, of Purok 2, Barangay Bass, Trento, Agusan del Sur; and Gilbert Trimico, 23, of 4929 Durian Street, Sta. Mesa, Manila.
The fifth suspect, who was clad in white T-shirt and blue maong pants was still unidentified.
Lee said the suspects were responsible in carnapping and highway robberies committed within Regions 4A, NCR, 3, 1 and Cordillera Administrative Region.
Police said three of the group’s victims were Joselito Umali Santiago, alias Jojo, of Sitio Wawa, Bgy. San Sebastian, Hagonoy, Bulacan, the owner and driver of Toyota Grandia (AVA 8484) which was rented by the suspects on December 9, 2015 and his body was dumped in Binalonan, Pangasinan; Joel Tubig Lulu Sr., 48, of Sta. Rita, Macabebe, Pampanga, whose body was dumped in Barangay Babasit, Manaoag, Pangasinan; and Joel Canono Orbillo, 33, of Sitio Balsa, San Isidro, Tarlac City, who was the driver of a D4D Toyota Commuter (XY 6788) and his body was dumped in a canal on a national highway in Barangay Asan Sur, Sison, Pangasinan.
Police recovered from the suspects’ possession four loaded .45 pistols and a sachet containing shabu.
Lee said the suspects gained notoriety for posing either as returning overseas Filipino workers, vacationers or individuals who will pick up an arriving relative from the airport. As soon as they get the confidence of their target, they will immediately give him an advance payment and ask him to meet them at a pre-arranged site. When they meet, the suspects, at gunpoint, will blindfold and gag the victim. They will eventually shoot the victim and dump his body on the highway before taking off with the van.
The spate of “rent-tangay” killings prompted PNP chief Director General Ronald “Bato” M. dela Rosa to order PNP-HPG director Senior Supt. Antonio N. Gardiola Jr. to launch a massive operation to get the suspects with the help of local units.
Lee said they partnered with the PNP-HPG to smash the syndicate which was believed responsible for at least three “rent-tangay” incidents in Pangasinan province this year alone.
HPG SOD-Task Force Limbas operatives led by Supt. Joel Manuel A. Ana have been hot on the trail of the suspects which led to their identification.
According to Pimentel, their round-the-clock checkpoints in Ilocos-Pangasinan region enabled them to engage the fleeing suspects shortly after they got a call from the HPG.