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PNP-HPG intensifies crackdown vs ‘COVID’ smugglers

ON orders of Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, General Debold M. Sinas, the PNP Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) has intensified its crackdown against drivers of colorum public utility vehicles and cargo trucks and vans behind the so-called ‘COVID-19 smuggling.’

Mamang PulisWe are going after unscrupulous operators and drivers of colorum public transport vehicles and delivery trucks and vans smuggling or illegally transporting people to and from the NCR Plus ‘Bubble’ for a fee despite the possibility that these people could be COVID-19 carriers,” said PNP-HPG director, Brigadier Gen. Alexander C. Tagum.

Since March last year, at least 78 passengers, mostly of colorum passenger vans have tested positive for COVID-19, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) said.

Last April 4, members of the Regional Highway Patrol Unit 5 in Bicol region apprehended the drivers of 11 colorum passenger vans, one AUV and one car found to be illegally transporting people from Metro Manila to Bicol.

The following day, officers of the RHPU National Capital Region apprehended the drivers of 11 colorum passenger vans involved in the same irregularity.

“We will be continuing our anti-colorum operations in close coordination with the LTO, the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and local PNP units in order to stop the illegal transport of Unauthorized Persons Outside of Residence (UPORs) in the country,” Tagum said.

Sinas has also instructed all police regional office directors to join the same campaign to apprehend drivers of colorum public transport vehicles and closed vans and trucks smuggling people in gross violation of the law and despite the fact that they may be transporting COVID-19 positive persons.

Target of the crackdown in particular are unscrupulous drivers of closed vans and trucks delivering fish, vegetables and other basic supplies and essential goods but are contacting online people who want to hitch a ride for a fee to and from the NCR Plus ‘Bubble’ knowing they can easily pass thru Quarantine Control Points in Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal on their way to other regions.

Two Saturdays ago, over a dozen locally stranded individuals were found to be on board a closed van which appeared to have skipped established QCPs in Bicol while enroute to Metro Manila. A video of the van’s ‘secret passengers’ went viral on Facebook after it was uploaded.

The LTO took cognizance of the case and had issued a ‘show cause order’ to the registered owner of the van who is reportedly from Albay.

The van owner identified as Marvin Salvador Ramos was also summoned to appear before the LTO Region 5 office in Legazpi City this week. He will be facing charges for violation of Section 7 or Republic Act 4136 or the anti-colorum law and violation of Inter-Agency Task Force rules.

Ramos was told by LTO Law Enforcement Service chief, lawyer Clarence V. Guinto that should he fail to appear before LTO investigators, his vehicle will be placed under alarm pending investigation to bar its registration in the future.

The Police Regional Office 5 (PRO5) headed by Brigadier Gen. Bartolome R. Bustamante cited an LTO report which said that the vehicle in question—an Isuzu Forward truck with plate no. CTJ-694-illegally transported commuters/passengers of colorum vans from Ragay, Camarines Sur to Tagkawayan, Quezon. Bustamante said they are assisting the LTO investigation even as he ordered officers manning QCPs in the region to strictly scrutinize vehicles including closed trucks and vans to prevent a repetition of the incident.

Tagum said their investigation showed the viral incident allegedly took place in Del Gallego, Camarines Sur last Saturday.