Bare Truth by Rose de la Cruz
Bare Truth

Why the special treatment for a hit-and-run?

Jun 15, 2022, 12:26 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz

Columnist

I have not written (by choice) a police/crime story since my days covering the police beat for the Philippines Daily Express (where I wrote for 8 years until it was shut under the Cory administration). I think I still have it in me to be analytical and cynical about actions/reactions of government officials towards criminals, just like the recent viral hit-and-run incident in Ortigas.

Going by newspaper accounts, the latest official action/reaction was the Department of Justice placing the driver—whose identity the authorities would still not divulge except for the sleuthing and investigative news outfits efforts to identify—who ran over the security guard in Mandaluyong, who skipped proceedings by the Land Transportation Office and for which an immigration Lookout Bulletin Order—directing immigration officials to take note of, but not stop, his departure through airports and seaports. (I wonder why not a hold departure order?)

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters Tuesday: "Yes, the DOJ has issued the ILBO at noon today." As of Tuesday afternoon, Guevarra said that upon checking, there is "no record of departure” from country of (Jose Antonio Valmonte—complete name supplied by investigative reporters) San Vicente after the incident.

This was after the prosecutors of Mandaluyong City, following the request of the Philippine National Police as complainants, requested for an order to be issued.

Prosecutor General Benedicto Malcontento said Tuesday that police have filed a frustrated murder complaint against Jose Antonio San Vicente — the registered owner of the SUV involved in the hit-and-run incident — before prosecutors.

He said the complaint has been set for preliminary investigation, and the counsel for the respondent already received the complaint on Monday. Preliminary investigation could lead to an indictment or to a dismissal of the complaint.

Malcontento stressed that the complainant, in this case the police, must "trigger the request" for an ILBO.

"We are awaiting for these procedural requirements," Malcontento added.

Can’t be barred from leaving

In this case, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra will issue the potential ILBO. But this order cannot bar a subject from leaving the country in the way that a court-issued hold departure order can.

The lookout order only sets up a mechanism to alert the justice secretary or the prosecutor general if the subject attempts to leave the country.

Prosecutors handling the preliminary investigation of the complaint may also request for a precautionary Hold Departure Order. Like an HDO, only courts can issue this.

A court can issue a PHDO if it determines that there is a high probability that the person to be charged with a crime will leave the country to evade arrest and prosecution. The HDO is a power inherent to courts and may be issued against an accused—or someone facing charge before the court.

At this point, San Vicente remains a respondent in a criminal complaint undergoing a preliminary investigation.

‘Continuing crime’

Police Lt. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr., PNP OIC, told DZBB on Tuesday that they want Vicente arrested as he insisted that it is a “continuing crime.”

The Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that a warrantless arrest may only be done if the person has committed, is actually committing, or is attempting to commit an offense; if a crime has just been committed; or if the person is an escaped prisoner. It has been several days since the video of the hit-and-run went viral.

In an earlier Philstar.com report, the Free Legal Assistance Group — commenting on a separate case of an artist arrested without a warrant over a supposedly continuing crime — said the Supreme Court provides that the term “continuing” is intended for determining proper venue or jurisdiction of a crime such as kidnapping.

To recall, the viral dashcam footage uploaded on Facebook shows security guard Christian Joseph Floralde directing traffic along Julia Vargas Avenue and St. Francis Street when a white Toyota RAV 4 registered to San Vicente struck him. Instead of stopping, the driver of the vehicle ran over Floralde again after the guard dropped to his knees. He then sped away.

The 31-year-old security guard is still in the intensive care unit of the VRP Medical Center in Mandaluyong. Per reports, he sustained head injuries and fractured ribs.

Similarly, Star columnist Ramon Tulfo, wrote that since Friday, the driver of the SUV which ran over the security guard in Mandaluyong on June 5, has not surrendered.

The driver of the Toyota RAV 4 (plate number NCO 3781) continues to elude arrest for abandoning his/her victim.

“The police and Land Transportation Office (LTO) refuse to name the culprit, but I got the identity of the vehicle owner: Jose Antonio San Vicente Sr. He lives in Ayala Heights, a gated community, in Quezon City.

But sources said it could have been his son, Jose Antonio Jr., or somebody else behind the wheel of the runaway vehicle,” Tulfo said.

San Vicente Sr. is a much too decent man to have run away, I gathered from some of his friends and teammates in the practical shooting circles. San Vicente Sr. is an active enthusiast of practical shooting, a sport using handguns and shotguns. He has even represented the country in practical shooting competitions in other countries, Tulfo added.

Jose Antonio Sr. has sent surrender feelers, but he didn’t mention if it’s him who’s giving himself up or if he is turning over his son for investigation.

What’s dumbfounding is that the government agencies – like the LTO and the police – refuse to reveal the identity of the hit-and-run vehicle. In other instances, the identity of a crime suspect would have been immediately revealed by the authorities.

Untouchable?

People can’t help asking: Is it because the suspect is scion of a rich family? Are the San Vicentes so influential they are untouchable, Tulfo asked.

The incident calls to mind the village guard in Parañaque who was beaten up severely by several men and made to kneel down in front of his oppressors. The leader of the bullies, a son of Congressman Arnolfo Teves of Negros Oriental, was not arrested by the police after the incident.

In this country, rich people get away with murder; poor people go to jail or even get shot for urinating on a wall in public.

It is a sad commentary of people’s apathy toward the plight of others in this metropolis; Metro Manila has become like New York, especially in its subway where one could get beaten up by thugs and nobody in the crowd would lift a finger to help.

PNP OIC warns SUV owner of dire consequences

Police Lt.Gen. Vicente Danao Jr. warned San Vicente of dire consequences if he does not surrender.

Danao warns of “dire consequences. if you understand what I’m saying, I hope it won’t reach to the point where you will become a Saint Vicente.”

Danao, in a press briefing at Camp Crame on Monday, June 13, revealed that the owner of the white Toyota RAV4 (plate number NCO 3781), identified by the Mandaluyong City Police as Jose Antonio San Vicente, had a previous record for reckless driving at the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

“This is not the first time that he has a case of reckless imprudence so mayroon na ito (he has [a prior case]) according to LTO,” Danao said but refused to give more details of the suspect’s previous case.

The lawyers of the San Vicente family reportedly argued that it was not Jose Antonio who was the owner of the SUV but his father, whose identity remains unknown to authorities. The lawyers reportedly said that it was only Jose Antonio who was driving the vehicle when the incident happened last June 5, and the suspect opted not to reveal himself for fear of “public humiliation.”

Danao blasted the San Vicente family’s alleged reasoning as he insisted that the suspect should “man up” and face the charges filed against him. He even accused the suspect of being a drug suspect for his failure to cooperate to authorities.

“Regardless if it’s the father or the son, nakabangga ka ng tao at imbes na hintuan mo lalo mo pang sinagasaan. Anong klaseng utak ‘yan? (You bumped a human being and instead of stopping, you tried to kill him. What kind of mentality is that)?” Danao said.
“[The] natural courses of a decent man who is in his right senses [is to] definitely surrender immediately. Bakit ‘di sumurrender? Ikaw ay china-challenge ko, Mr. San Vicente. Ayaw mo sumurrender tama? Isa lang ang sasabihin ko sayo, baka adik ka (Why didn’t you surrender? I am challenging you, Mr. San Vicente. You don’t want to surrender, right? There is only one thing that I will say to you, you might be an addict),” he added.

The Mandaluyong police have filed against San Vicente cases of frustrated murder and abandonment of his victim before the City Prosecutor’s Office last June 6.

Danao also urged the LTO to revoke the license of San Vicente, saying it should have been suspended the first time that he had a reckless driving case.

“Driver’s license is only a privilege, it is not our right. Kahit ako, if you abuse it dapat i-revoke (Even for me, if you abuse it, then it should be revoked). Are we going to wait na kayo ang babanggain ng taong ito? (Are we going to wait until it’s one of you who will be hit by this person?)” Danao said.

LTO revokes San Vicente Jr.’s license

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) revoked on Monday, June 13, the driver’s license of Jose Antonio San Vicente Jr., the driver involved in the hit-and-run incident in Mandaluyong City, after failing to comply with LTO’s show cause order.

The LTO said San Vicente is “perpetually disqualified” from securing a driver’s license and driving a motor vehicle. San Vicente was held liable for reckless driving and for violating Section 55 of RA 4136 for abandoning the scene and the victim.

The owner and the driver of the vehicle received an order for comment and explanation on June 6 regarding the hit-and-run incident caught on a dashcam, but the driver “failed to comply with the order.”

He also “failed to comply” with the final show cause order “received by the family helper” on June 7.

The LTO said San Vicente’s behavior as a driver was “unacceptable” for disregarding the law and LTO’s authority, citing that he was already involved in three apprehensions for reckless driving in 2010, 2015, and 2016.

His license was initially placed under preventive suspension for 90 days, and his vehicle with plate number NCO 3781 was “placed under alarm, preventing him from conducting any and all transactions with the LTO while under investigation.”

Guards of Ayala Heights refuse cops’ entry

Security guards of Ayala Heights, a gated posh subdivision in Quezon City where San Vicente lives blocked the cops to enter.

Authorities have a right to file a case of obstruction of justice against the guards of the village San Vicente lives.

According to Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo, the Mandaluyong Police Department is already preparing a complaint against the Diliman, Quezon City neighborhood where the suspect Jose Antonio San Vicente lives. Despite having the authority to enter the subdivision, Fajardo claims that they were stopped by its guards.

“Hindi sila pinapasok ng guwardiya doon dahil walang sumasagot sa tawag nila, kaya hindi na nagpumilit ang ating kapulisan. Subalit when they insisted and the security guards manning the base ng subdivision doon, they still refused to allow our officer na makapasok, kaya nga pinag-aaralan ng PNP kung magsasampa ng obstruction of justice,” said Fajardo.

San Vicente’s subdivision has yet to issue a statement on how their security officers safeguarded the suspect. It should be noted that the San Vicente camp had already sent surrender feelers, but they have yet to come out and surrender to authorities.

Because the victim is already in the Intensive Care Unit due to the severity of his wounds, the suspect is facing a range of charges that might cost a lot more. Meanwhile, Senator-elect JV Ejercito has offered a prize of P50,000 to anyone who can help arrest the culprit.

A report on Vera Files showed that the behavior of the Sanvicente family of not turning over the son but running to a politician for help, even having the subdivision guards bar the police from visiting their home in Ayala Heights is typical of how the rich violators react.

Eventually, San Vicente’s parents will be forced to turn over their son to the authorities as their choices run out in evading the law. If they truly have protectors, they can resort to an amicable settlement with Floralde, but the victim should refuse. Jose Antonio V. Sanvicente must be prosecuted and jailed.

The report contrasted the San Vicente case with that of Kian Lloyd delos Santos almost five years ago, who died at the hands of the police (which was captured on video) even after his pleas to be spared as he had an exam the next day, were ignored.

“If Kian were the son of rich Filipinos who live in a gated subdivision, can afford a Toyota RAV4, run for mediation to a senator when in trouble and have protectors in the high echelons of government, he could still be alive today.”

There are two kinds of laws in the Philippines: one for the rich, another for the poor.

My take

Sad but true. There are laws favoring and protecting the rich. And laws crushing the rights of the poor.

I hope this incident will not happen again. I tend to agree with Gen. Danao that only a man who is out of his mind (because of drugs) can bump a law enforcer and then run over him while lying maimed on the road. Drugs make one callous and unfeeling.

What I can’t understand is why the parents would tolerate such a crime and hide the child from the arms of the law.


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