MANILA, Philippines - Suspected vehicle smuggler Lynard Allan Bigcas was able to delete the registration of one of the vehicles found on his property, a lawmaker said Monday.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said he received information that the registration of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution was deleted from the Land Transportation Office database.
However, Assistant Secretary Racquel Desiderio of the Department of Transportation and Communications said it was another car, a Dodge Charger, which was registered with LTO and then deleted.
Lawmakers now want LTO contractor Stradcom to explain the deletion.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez asked Bigcas if he can produce the documents of the Lancer and Chevy Tahoe found on his property by government agents.
Bigcas invoked the right to self-incrimination and said he cannot answer that question. He, however, admitted that he has kept unregistered vehicles.
Bigcas said he could not produce the OR/CR of the Charger he got in a trade-in in 2009. He said the document maybe in the Charger.
He also said that there were 3 cars he could not register so he just parked it in his garage. These are a Toyota, a Lancer and a Tahoe.
Subcommittee chairman Rodolfo Fariñas said Bigcas is admitting that he tried to register hot cars that could not be registered.
Bigcas could not recall who traded him the cars. He claimed to have the documents of most of the vehicles except for the Martin Brothers chopper, the Charger and the dirt bikes. He said he purchased 10 vehicles in the US, paid in cash.
Under interpellation by several lawmakers, Bigcas maintained that he bought in 2009 the Martin Brothers chopper allegedly stolen from Hollywood scriptwriter Skip Woods.
He said the chopper could not have been registered in the United States since it is a show bike. He said he only has a pink slip, which is proof of ownership.
Changing car color
Bigcas was also questioned why he changed the color of the Charger from white to yellow.
He admitted he changed the color of the vehicle without going through the proper process at the LTO.
He also said he registered some of the vehicles in the names of his cousins because he was advised that it may not be good for him to have so many vehicles under his name. Bigcas said his cousins did not know the vehicles were registered under them and now they are angry with him.
Alvarez said his agency has filed smuggling charges against Bigcas and 5 others. The Bureau of Customs may also file charges for falsification of documents.
At the start of the hearing, Fariñas told Bigcas that he has to tell the truth. If he cannot, he can invoke his right against self incrimination.
Fariñas also reported that the committee already has a list of vehicles that were registered outside Metro Manila in violation of existing rules.
Changes in vehicle registration
LTO Assistant Secretary Racquel Desiderio said policy on vehicle registration had been changed several times.
In May 2008, registration was limited to the LTO offices in NCR-Diliman, Pasay, Quezon City and Caloocan.
In March 2011, LTO Chief Virginia Torres allowed registration in the regions provided there is a Customs port of entry. Right now, registration is also allowed at La Union, Aparri district, Mabalacat and SBMA, Batangas, Legazpi, Iloilo, Cebu, Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro and Davao City.
Desiderio said 11 vehicular plates are now under investigation.
Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga said he expects the LTO to furnish them with details on how the vehicles were registered.
Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez said he decentralized the entry of importations when he assumed office. He did this by allowing district collectors to approve entries of vehicles.
Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay scored this, saying this eliminated the check and balance.
Cagayan de Oro sub-port
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Benjamin Benaldo noted that 2 container vans of allegedly stolen vehicles are at the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) sub-port in Cagayan de Oro City. He said the container vans allegedly contained a Mercedes Benz and a Durango.
Alvarez said the container vans will be opened to the media tomorrow.
Lowell Medija, MICT Deputy Customs Collector, told the committee how some importers skirt the rules on vehicle importation.
He said some vehicles are shipped from the US to another country where its papers will be changed to make it appear that it is the originating country. The vehicles will then be shipped to the Philippines.
Medija said the vehicles are not being declared as vehicles but as replacement parts.
Leyte 3rd District Rep. Andres Salvacion said the misdeclaration is already a violation of the law.
The next hearing of the subcommittee will be set in Cagayan de Oro.