'Central Luzon politicians raise funds by fuel hijacking'

By Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Nov 24 2012 09:02 AM | Updated as of Nov 24 2012 05:02 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Several “crooked” local politicians in Central Luzon are raising campaign funds by hijacking fuel tankers and selling their contents, Rep. Arnel Ty of the party-list Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers Association said yesterday.

“We have received law enforcement intelligence reports showing that fuel thieves have stepped up their criminal activities to help produce fresh campaign funds for certain shady local politicians,” said Ty, a member of the House energy committee.

He said culprits behind the illegal activities “are the same officials giving mafia-like protection to gangs seizing fuel tankers around Metro Manila and Central Luzon.”

“We are counting on newly appointed Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla and incoming Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima to take swift and resolute actions to suppress the entrenched gangs,” he said.

“These syndicates and their coddlers are not only defrauding the government of millions of pesos in lawful tax revenues, they are also swindling consumers who end up unwittingly buying short-filled LPG cylinders,” he added.

Ty refused to name names, but said the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has filed criminal charges against a Bulacan local official’s son caught red-handed running a large illegal fuel refilling station in Valenzuela City.

The culprit’s father is now campaigning for higher office, he said.

Meanwhile, Ty said the illegal trade of the fuel thieves, usually conducted through shifty refilling stations, endangered surrounding communities.

“Since they are operating illegally, they do not have to live by any safety standards whatsoever, so they are definitely putting at grave risk whole neighborhoods,” he said.

Besides Metro Manila, Ty identified Bulacan, Bataan and Pampanga as illegal fuel trade hotspots.

“In some towns in these areas, bolder armed gangs simply commandeer tankers on the road, and help themselves to the fuel. This is really a law enforcement problem. The only reason these gangs have been emboldened to ply their nefarious trade is because they have not be apprehended and put behind bars,” he said.