Fuel tanker hijacking linked to poll fund-raising – solon

DEEP-rooted syndicates engaged in the hijacking and pilferage of fuel tankers have been brought into play by a number of crooked local politicians to help raise illicit campaign funds for the forthcoming elections, a member of Congress said.

“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 Rep. Arnel Ty, a member of the House energy committee.

The corrupt local politicians benefitting from the booty are the same officials giving mafia-like protection to gangs seizing fuel tankers around Metro Manila and Central Luzon, according to Ty, who represents sales professionals grouped under the LPG Marketers’ Association (LPG-MA).

“We are counting on newly-appointed Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla and incoming National Police chief Alan Purisima to take swift and resolute actions to suppress the entrenched gangs,” said Ty, also a member of the House public order and safety committee.

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

The National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) previously filed criminal charges against a Bulacan local official’s son after he was caught red-handed running a large illegal fuel refilling station in Valenzuela City.

The culprit’s father is now campaigning for higher office, according to the CIDG’s Anti-Fraud Division.

Meanwhile, Ty warned that 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, the lawmaker 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,” Ty said.

He added: “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.”

Ty is principal author of House Bill 5052, the proposed Act Establishing the Regulatory Framework for the Safe Consumption and Operations of the LPG Industry.

The 55-member House committee on trade and industry has already endorsed the bill for plenary debate and approval.

The measure shields consumers as well as lawful industry participants from fraudulent refillers and traders, hoarders, and illegal importers of second-hand and substandard cylinders.

It also sets the minimum fair standards of business conduct for all LPG industry participants, from importers and refiners down to neighborhood dealers.

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