MANILA, January 21, 2004 (STAR) General Angel Atutubo, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) assistant general manager for security and emergency services, yesterday ordered an investigation into the reported car theft near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) complex in Parañaque City last Saturday.

Atutubo, in an interview with The STAR, clarified that the incident took place not inside the NAIA complex, but outside along MIA Road.

Col. Alvin Tiam Watt, officer-in-charge of the MIAA’s Airport Police Department (APD), also denied that a 2002 model Mitsubishi Adventure (WTJ-562) was not stolen in front of the arrival area, but at a curbside in front of Nayong Pilipino.

Tiam Watt said he has coordinated with the Southern Police District (SPD) in connection with the theft. He said police earlier already banned parking along MIA Road to avoid such incidents as well as security reasons.

He also said the victim, Paulo Era, 33, wanted to avoid paying parking fees at the airport complex and decided to park along MIA Road while waiting for his brother who was arriving on a flight from Hong Kong.

Tiam Watt also said that the incident was not reported to the APD. He urged the victim to report to the APD so a cartographic sketch of the six armed suspects could be made. – Sandy Araneta

25 luxury right-hand-drive cars seized in Mandaue City The Philippine Star 01/21/2004

CEBU — Twenty-five luxury right-hand-drive vehicles worth at least P12 million were seized in Mandaue City last Friday, raising speculations how the vehicles could have slipped Customs inspection.

Agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) confiscated the luxury right-hand-drive vehicles, all second-hand, during a raid on the compound of Sulpicio and Dalisay Jao along A. S. Fortuna street.

Among those seized were seven Mitsubishi Pajeros, five Nissan Terranos, three Toyota Prados, three Toyota Surfs, two Isuzu Bighorns, two Nissan Mistrals, a Mitsubishi Space Gear and a Nissan Regulos. Each unit, when converted, can reportedly be sold at P1 million each.

Acting NBI regional director Reynaldo Esmeralda said the Jao couple reportedly resisted when ordered to hand over the car keys even as they were shown a search warrant from the Mandaue City Municipal Trial Court.

They later yielded and all 25 seized vehicles were marked and taken to the NBI compound.

NBI executive officer Nelson Bartolome said it is possible that right-hand-drive vehicles were being converted inside the compound because the area was secured with high perimeter walls.

Republic Act 8506 specifically prohibits the importation, registration and operation of right-hand-drive vehicles.

The Jao couple, said to be proprietors of a Dapitan-based cable company, would not say how they acquired the vehicles.

It was learned though that the vehicles were reportedly bought from Japan. The NBI has given the couple a grace period to produce the necessary documents on the car shipment.

Esmeralda said a crucial part of their investigation is why the Bureau of Customs released the right-hand-drive vehicles last Dec. 23.

He said release papers will have to be scrutinized to determine the legality of the release. Charges for alleged violation of RA 8506 are expected to be filed against the Jao couple with the Mandaue City prosecutor’s office.

Customs district collector Billy Bibit asked the NBI to furnish his office with a referral on the case.

Bibit chided the NBI for violating protocol when it seized the vehicles without consulting the Customs bureau.

He said protocol demands that the bureau be notified first before any seizure is made.

Bibit dodged questions on how the vehicles could have slipped Customs inspection and released last Dec. 23.

Local Customs authorities came under fire in previous incidents. On Christmas Eve in 2002, MV Great Faith, which carried some 20,000 sacks of smuggled rice, disappeared while under Customs custody. — Freeman News Service

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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