This Department of Justice Advisory on Preventive Measures Against Carnapping ("Advisory”) seeks to give guidance to the public on the crime of theft or forcible taking of motor vehicles which continues to plague innocent citizens today. Recently, we have seen incidents of carnapping characterized by the increasing brazenness of criminals and even accompanied at times by extreme violence. While law enforcement officers exert all efforts to combat this menace, the public should likewise do their share in preventing themselves and others from being victimized.
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
The 2011 Comprehensive Report on Carnappingl (“2011Comprehensive Report") by the Philippine. National Police ("PNP") Highway Patrol Group ("HPG") discloses that between January and April of this year, 286 cases of carnapping have been reported. This translates roughly to one or two carnapping incidents in the Philippines per day. These statistics, however, pale in comparison to the number of carnapping incidents during the same period in 2010, when 684 cases were reported. It is also alarming that carnapping syndicates have become more sophisticated in their criminal enterprises. Aside from high-powered rifles, they also employ deceptive paraphernalia like fake police uniforms and license plates. Funding for their operations has also apparently ballooned, as evidenced by their high-end get-away vehicles and well-placed hideouts.
According to the 2011 Comprehensive Report, carnappers usually
employ three methods of carnapping:
1. Stolen while parked unattended (" SWP")
2. Stolen at gunpoint with intimidation ("SAGI") and
3. Failed to return ("FTR").
To cover all other instances not included in the foregoing categories recorded by the HPG, a fourth classification is useful: "stolen by other means" ("STM").
SWP covers instances where the perpetrator steals a parked and unattended vehicle. SWP can be staged in a variety of places: malls, private parking lots, open streets, and even private home garages. SWP perpetrators have various tools at their disposal: picklocks, glass cutters, hammers, and other equipment for breaking into a vehicle. They also count on owners leaving doors unlocked, with the keys inside. In most instances, they operate when no one is present to witness their acts.
SAGI covers instances where the perpetrator forces or intimidates the owner to yield his vehicle using a gun or some other weapon.
PTR covers instances where the perpetrator borrows a vehicle, usually from a car rental agency, and fails to return it within the agreed time and thereafter absconds with it.
STM covers other instances of carnapping aside from SWP, SAGI and FTR. STM embraces such modus operandi as: (1) "Bukas Kotse", where carnappers chance upon a vehicle, usually with the driver inside (for access to the keys), and attempt to open vehicle doors. If any doors are unlocked, the perpetrators would immediately enter the vehicle, and then take possession of it or the valuables inside, and (2) "Bump and Rob", where perpetrators lure a driver or occupant into stepping outside the vehicle by faking a collision or other accident. Once the driver or occupant steps out, conspirators would rush inside the vehicle and take possession of it.
The 2011 Comprehensive Report likewise identifies cities as the most carnapping-prone areas. This, however, should not be taken to mean that carnapping incidents do not occur elsewhere; they only occur relatively less frequently.
The National Capital Region is still the hotspot for carnapping incidents, registering 81% of all carnapping cases nationwide. Within the region, Quezon City ranks the highest in terms of reported incidents (165 cases in 2010, 65 cases in 2011), followed closely by Manila (94 cases in 2010, 40 cases in 2011) and Makati (43 cases in 2010, 21 cases in 2011).
III. SUMMARY OF THE LAW
Republic Act 6539 ("R.A. 6539"), otherwise known as the Anti-Carnapping Law of 1972, defines carnapping 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."
It should be emphasized that carnapping is not confined to cars. Carnapping covers the taking of any motor vehicle, which Section 2 of R.A. 6539 defines as "any vehicle propelled by any power, other than muscular power, using the public highways, but excepting road rollers, trolley cars, street sweepers, sprinklers, lawn mowers, bull , dozers, graders, fork-lifts, amphibian trucks and cranes if not used on public highways, vehicles which run only on rails or tracks, and tractors, trailers and traction engines of all kinds used exclusively for agricultural purposes."
The penalty for carnapping depends on the manner the crime was committed, regardless of the value of the vehicle carnapped. If carnapping is committed without violence against or j
intimidation of persons, or without force upon things, the law imposes the penalty of imprisonment ranging from 14 years and 8 months to 17 years and 4 months.
If carnapping is committed by means of violence against or intimidation of persons, or with force upon things, the law imposes a penalty ranging from 17 years and 4 months to 30 years.
However, if the owner, driver or occupant of the carnapped vehicle is killed or raped in the course of the carnapping or on the occasion thereof, the penalty of reclusion perpema is imposed, which is imprisonment of 20 years and 1 day to 40 years. This case is known as a special complex crime (i.e., the rape/killing on the one hand combined with the carnapping on the other), which renders the several crimes not capable of being prosecuted separately.
What if the victim did not die as a result of the assault of a carnapper on occasion of a carnapping? The perpetrator will be held liable for carnapping (by means of violence against persons), and may be prosecuted separately for attempted or frustrated murder or homicide.
The number of modes of committing carnapping indicates that it is, in essence, a gime of opportunig. Its perpetrators prefer the path of · least resistance — a key left in the ignition, an unlocked door, a lone motorist traversing a dimly lit road, an unsuspecting victim about to drive the car into the safety of his or her home’s garage. Thus, in view of all the foregoing, the following advisory points are issued:
1. EXERCISE BASIC SECURITY MEASURES, AND MAKE VIGILANCE AND CONSCIOUSNESS OF SURROUNDINGS SECOND NATURE.
Exercise simple but effective security measures. Cultivate the practice of automatically locking doors and rolling up windows while inside a vehicle. These little habits, once acquired, will go a long way towards eliminating the easiest opportunity for carnappers to enter your vehicle. Avoid leaving keys in the ignition or anywhere else inside your vehicle when stepping out, even for a few minutes. A few minutes are enough for a sharp-eyed carnapper to get into your vehicle and drive it away.
Be alert and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Note the behaviour of persons near your vehicle before you alight from or enter it, as criminals accosting you may simply be waiting for you to unlock the door. Leaving valuables inside your vehicle, in plain view, is highly discouraged. These may tempt not only carnappers but robbers as well. People with valuables in plain view are also more vulnerable targets for carnappers as these items suggest the financial status of the vehicle’s owner.
2. AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, AVOID DIMLY-LIT AND UNFREQUENTED AREAS, AND ALWAYS BE CAUTIOUS WHEN DEALING WITH STRANGERS.
Dimly lit or secluded areas, or areas of poor visibility, afford carnappers the perfect cover. Therefore, when parking or stopping, avoid these areas as much as possible. Especially during evenings, prefer areas with adequate lighting (such as gasoline stations and 24/7 convenience stores or other establishments) and, as much as possible, within view of the public or a busy street.
Always be cautious when dealing with strangers. This includes being wary of hitchhikers, people flagging down your vehicle to ask for assistance, and even those who look like officers. Carnappers have become creative in their pretenses and ruses, such that the best way to prevail against them is to be vigilant and cautious at all times. Many incidents have been reported where carnappers pretend to be police or military officers, taking advantage of the public’s natural impulse to respect and defer to authorities. In these cases, always remember that not even authorities can force you to step out of your vehicle if there is no legal justification for it. If you were flagged down without any readily obvious reason, be on guard. If you absolutely need to step out of your vehicle, make sure you do so without compromising your security.
3. INVEST IN DETERRENTS, SUCH AS A STEERING WHEEL LOCK, A CAR ALARM, OR A SLOT IN A SECURED PARKING SPACE.
It is also advisable that you employ deterrent measures. These would include purchasing steering wheel locks, car alarms, and a slot in a parking space that is well-lit, secured, and sufficiently guarded. These measures make your vehicle a difficult, and therefore less attractive, target for carnappers.
4. KEEP YOUR WIT S ABOUT YOU WHEN YOU FIGURE IN AN APPARENT ACCIDENT; NEVER DISCOUN'I` THE POSSIBILITY THAT IT IS MERELYA RUSE.
The "Bump and Rob" modus operandi, as discussed above, has
become more and more common. Thus, the PNP advises that if you are
bumped by another vehicle, do not step out immediately. Observe your
surroundings, as well as the demeanor of the occupants of the other
vehicle. Take note of the other vehicle's plate number and its description,
and familiarize yourself with its driver's face. Then, without alighting,
signal to or communicate with the other driver for him to follow you to a
police station or, at the very least, a secure or busy area. If you absolutely need to step out, take your keys and valuables with you.
In case you figure in an accident, it is prudent and wise to be on guard and to always entertain the possibility that it can be a ruse, especially if the circumstances of the supposed accident would suggest so. Thus, always keep your wits about you; while dealing with the supposed accident, never let your guard down in case attempts to forcibly take your vehicle are made while you are distracted. Always think twice before stepping out, and never lose sight of the need for you to secure yourself and your vehicle at all times.
5. TRUST YOUR IN STINCTS.
If anything or anyone makes you uneasy or uncertain, such as an approaching stranger or a suspicious looking vehicle, it would be better to trust your instincts and drive away, or at least take necessary precautions for your safety.
6. BE VIGILANT AND AWARE ABOUT CARNAPPING; ALWAYS KEEP EMERGENCY CONTACT NUMBERS HANDY.
Always be informed about the various modus operandi of carnappers. Take note of carnapping hotspots. Once you know these details, you will have an idea on what to guard against and how to avoid them. Share what you know with family and friends so that they can protect themselves too. Information is key, and in this regard, should be a life-saver as well.
Store police numbers in your mobile and memorize one or two for good measure. Below are some numbersz you can call:
|117||Philippine National Police (Emergency Hotline)|
|(632) 723-04-01||Philippine National Police (Non-Emergency)|
|PNP Task Force Limbas/ Anti- local 4359 Carnapping For Highway Robbery & Other Motor Vehicle Related Crimes|
7. VALUE YOUR LIFE ABOVE ALL ELSE; IN CASE YOU ARE CON FRON TED BY A CARNAPPER, YIELD YOUR VEHICLE AND REPORT THE INCIDENT AT THE FIRST CLEAR OPPORTUNITY.
If you become a victim of carnappers - especially of SAGI or STM- and you are face to face with your assailant, remember that your life is more important than your vehicle. The latter can be recovered, or replaced, but your life or those of your loved ones cannot. Therefore, suppress your instinct to ward off carnappers and just yield your vehicle. Do not forget that while only one carnapper confronts you, there may be many others lurking around, ready to aid their co-conspirator if you attempt to resist. As we have seen, carnappers will not hesitate to take your life if it will guarantee tl1en1 their haul. The best remedy is for you to report the incident immediately at the first clear opportunity and to allow our law enforcers to resolve your case in due course.
This Advisory is issued by the DOJ in line with its thrust to take a proactive stance and a dynamic approach in criminal justice concerns. All are enjoined to disseminate and faithfully observe this Advisory.
LEILA M. DE LIMA