Spare parts capital may yield clues to carjacking cases

By Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 20 2011 09:09 PM | Updated as of Jan 21 2011 05:09 AM

PAMPANGA, Philippines - Police are now scouring several areas of Central Luzon, hoping to find the green Toyota Land Cruiser that went missing since the abduction of Venson Evangelista last week.

Evangelista and the vehicle went missing after he met a prospective buyer in Diliman, Quezon City.

His body was found burned and dumped in Nueva Ecija last Tuesday.

The vehicle has yet to be found, and police investigators believe that the recovery can bring a breakthrough that will eventually lead them to the identity and arrest of the people behind the gruesome killings.

On Thursday afternoon, operatives of Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group (HPG) in Region 3 swooped down on Barangay Capalangan in Apalit, Pampanga, a village publicly known as the capital of cheap spare parts and car surplus items.

Senior Superintendent Eduardo Tinio, HPG regional director, headed the team that went to Barangay Capalangan.

With a convoy of journalists at their tail, police went door-to-door in every store.

"We're here to exercise our visitorial powers on these establishments, to make sure that all the parts that they are selling are obtained from legitimate sources" said Tinio.

However, an officer in the group told ABS-CBN News that they are trying to see if there are parts of a green Land Cruiser that were brought here. "Baka kasi may possibility na dinala dito," said the police official who refused to be identified.

Barangay Capalangan shops are known to sell spare parts and car surplus items at prices lower than those sold in Banawe, Quezon City. 

Jimmy Lacanilao-Guese, president of Capalangan Auto Parts and Surplus Association incorporated (CAPSAI), told reporters that they buy  parts in "lot sales" and sell them to customers after reforming and reconditioning the auto parts.

"Ninety percent po kasi ng lalaki dito mga latero, kaya mula pa noon, ang skills namin dito ay di matutumbasan sa pag-aayos ng mga yan," he said, while giving reporters a tour of one of the stores.

He admitted that they also buy from insurance companies the parts that were removed from damaged vehicles.

A businesswoman, Lanie Esguerra of Ralph/Laniel Auto Parts, said that they don't buy from carjackers.

"Karamihan ng mga binibili namin dito galing Japan, mga import na wholesale, saka may resibo kami," said Esguerra, while showing a bundle of papers drawn from a big brown envelope from her desk.

Esguerra said police are always visiting them, making sure that the auto parts that are being sold are not obtained from stolen vehicles.

Police left the place empty-handed, with no information about a green Land Cruiser being sold in Bgy. Capalangan.

In a telephone interview, Senior Superintendent Romano Cardino, spokesman of Special Investigation Task Group Lozano, told ABS-CBN News that Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina is now in Central Luzon and is leading a team searching for the green Land Cruiser.

Cardino would not reveal the whereabouts of the team, saying that operational details are not available right now.

ABS-CBN News tried to contact the cellphone of Espina, but got no answer.