Provincial Legal Office (PLO) chief lawyer Nilo Ahat has refused to comment on Land Transportation Office (LTO) VII director Victor Caindec’s statement that the Capitol’s use of a license plate which is registered to a vehicle owned by a private citizen is “tantamount to carnapping.”
Ahat, during the Capitol’s weekly virtual press briefing led by Governor Art Yap on Friday, said he wanted to read the full transcript of Caindec’s statement first before issuing a response.
“With all due respect, wa ko kadungog sa iyang interview. Wa pud ko kabasa sa transacript sa iyang interview,” said Ahat.
Caindec, in a live interview over station dyRD’s “Inyong Alagad” program on Thursday refuted Ahat’s earlier claim that it was “justified” for the Capitol’s sports utility vehicle, which supposedly has a red government plate, to sport a green plate since the SUV was being used during a provincial government-sanctioned surveillance operation.
The green license plate used by the Capitol SUV when it was flagged by police officers of the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) Bohol Unit was traced to have been registered to a vehicle owned by a woman in Lapu-Lapu City.
Caindec said there was no legal basis for Ahat’s claim, noting that unauthorized use of the plate was not justified even if it was done during a government operation.
Although Ahat said he did not want to comment on Caindec’s statement, he went on to deny the LTO official’s claim that the unauthorized switching of plates is equivalent to carnapping.
“I just want to refer to that law nga Section 3 sa balaod na iyang gi cite carnapping is defined as the taking with intent to gain of a motor vehicle belonging to another without the latter’s consent or by means of violence against or intimidation of persons or by using force upon things,” Ahat said.
However, Caindec did not say that the Capitol’s switching of plates was actually carnapping but rather “tantamount” to it.
Meanwhile, the unauthorized switching of license plates is covered under Republic Act 10883, or the Anti-Carnapping Act of 2016.
Section 16 of the RA stipulates that it is “unlawful for any person, office or entity to transfer or use a vehicle plate from one vehicle to another without securing the proper authority from the LTO.”
According to Caindec, the Capitol should have applied before the LTO for the issuance of a security plate as this requires evaluation and approval by the agency at the national level.
Caindec has assured that he will look into the Capitol’s alleged violation and coordinate with regional police officials to discuss the incident.
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.
Caindec was the second official who asserted that the switching of license plates is illegal without authorization from proper authorities including the LTO.
Highway Patrol Group 7 deputy chief Lt. Col. Plania earlier said that there are no exemptions in the implementation of Republic Act A 4136, or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, which also prohibits the transfer of license plates.
What went before
On June 7, 2021, officers of the HPG Bohol Unit caught the Capitol SUV in Barangay Laya, Baclayon sporting a fake license plate. 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.
An LTO document obtained by the HPG showed that the plate number used by the Capitol SUV, GWT 383, is registered to another vehicle, a 2002 Daihatsu “S Pass” owned by one Leda Vida Ramirez of Lapu-Lapu City.
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 in implementing mining laws.