The Capitol’s unauthorized use of a license plate that is registered to a vehicle owned by private citizen, even during a legitimate government operation, is not justified and is “tantamount to carnapping,” said Land Transportation Office (LTO) VII director Victor Caindec on Thursday.
Caindec issued the statement in an interview over station dyRD’s “Inyong Alagad” program in response to the Capitol’s use of a fake license plate on its sports utility vehicle (SUV) which Provincial Legal Office chief lawyer Nilo Ahat claimed to have been “justified” as it was attached to the vehicle during an undercover operation.
“Dili justified. There is no excuse, there is no reason. There is no legal basis. The only way you can use a security plate is mo apply ka sa LTO and LTO will make an assessment, and evaluate that,” said Caindec.
On June 7, 2021, a Capitol-owned Pajero, which supposedly has a red government plate, was flagged down by police officers of the Highway Patrol Group in Baclayon town for using a green license plate that is registered to a vehicle owned by a woman in Lapu-Lapu City.
The vehicle was not impounded and the investigation on the case did not push through after Ahat met with the apprehending officers, and then claimed that the issue had been resolved.
However, Caindec said that the alleged violation of the Capitol could be deemed as carnapping.
“Dili na arbitrary na mo ingon ka’g cased closed,” said Caindec.
“Kung ni gamit ko og plaka sa laing registered vehicle, carnapping ang tawag ana. You are using already the registration of another vehicle which is tantamount to carnapping,” he added.
According to Caindec, the use of a security plate requires an application through the LTO at the national level.
While it was the HPG which caught the Capitol SUV, Caindec said the LTO may take over the case if a complaint is filed before the agency.
“Dili man ang LTO ang nakadakop. There was an arresting entity. The arresting entity is the one that has jurisdiction of the case. Now, kung gusto mo na mo abot sa LTO ang jurisdiction, padalhi mi og kopya sa police report so we will now look at the case,” said Caindec.
Caindec also assured that he will coordinate with the regional directors of the Philippine National Police 7 and Highway Patrol Group 7 to discuss the issue.
“Ayaw mo og kabalaka. Mo abot naman ko og Cebu. Ako silang estorytahon, ako silang pangutan-on og unsa ang nahitabo aron masabtan namo og unsay angay ug sunod na buhaton nato aning sitwasyona,” he added.
Caindec highlighted that the imposition of the law should not be selective as he noted that the Capitol vehicle should have been impounded for the unauthorized switching of license plates.
“Unsa may rason na manakop napud ta og mga motor na walay rehistro or mga truck na nagdan diha na expired na ang rehistro pareha ra man na na violation. The use of an unauthorized plate is an impoundable offense,” he said.
What went before
On June 7, 2021, HPG officers caught the Capitol-owned Mitsubishi Pajero in Barangay Laya, Baclayon sporting a private license plate registered to a vehicle owned by a woman in Lapu-Lapu City.
Members of the Bohol Environmental Protection Task Force (BEPTF) who were onboard the vehicle were reportedly travelling from Garcia Hernandez town where they investigated an alleged illegal quarry operation.
Following the incident, Ahat had maintained that the use of the fake plate was “justified” considering that the BEPTF was conducting a “legitimate” operation and was using the plate as “disguise” so as not to alert the subjects of the operation.
It was Ahat who signed the BEPTF’s Travel Authority and “Driver’s Trip Ticket.”
Both documents which were shown by the BEPTF to the police indicated that the SUV’s plate number was supposed to be SEY-969, a red government plate.
Instead, the vehicle was caught using the plate number bearing GWT 383, which is registered to another vehicle, a 2002 Daihatsu “S Pass” owned by one Leda Vida Ramirez of Lapu-Lapu City based on a document from an LTO branch in Bohol.
On June 18, the Capitol, through its communications arm, Primer, announced the “closure” of the issue, saying that the HPG Bohol Unit and the provincial government represented by Ahat reached an agreement that an investigation on the violation will no longer be conducted.
According to Primer, the meeting between both parties was set by Provincial Board Member Ricky Masamayor, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s peace and order committee chairman.
“All is well that ends well,” Masamayor was quoted as saying by the Primer after the meeting.
During the meeting, which was held at Masamayor’s office, Ahat and the HPG Bohol Unit represented by Master Sergeant Marcelino Dacoylo agreed that the incident could have been prevented had both the BEPTF and police coordinated prior to the operation.
“HPG Bohol Unit explained that while they were performing their duties when they flagged down the vehicle, there is no more need for a full-blown investigation as the BEPTF was able to present Travel Authority,” Primer said.
Both parties instead forged a partnership and agreed to work together to implement mining laws.
Lt. Col. Oliver Plania, HPG 7 regional deputy chief and Bohol officer-in-charge, earlier acknowledged that reports on the incident have reached his office but its investigation was led by Dacoylo.
Plania told the Chronicle that there are no exemptions in the implementation of the law on the proper use of number plates as indicated in Republic Act A 4136, otherwise known as the Land Transportation and Traffic Code.
He said there are also no rulings allowing exemptions in the prohibition of license plate switching.
“Wala tay rule ana. Ari g’yud ang atong basehan sa atoang balaudnon which is 4136. Dili na puydi kay ang sakyanan naa g’yud nay kaugalingon nga plaka. Walay balaudnon ana. No exemption ta,” said Plania.