Senator Grace Poe is calling on the Senate to probe "carnapping of vehicles disguised as towing" and establish stricter regulations to address the menace this poses to vehicle owners with Senate Resolution 708.
The proposal comes in the wake of increased complaints of illegal towing activities perpetrated by syndicates who dupe and violate property rights of unsuspecting vehicle owners.
In the resolution, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are being urged to "initiate a crackdown on fly-by-night operators and criminal syndicates that unlawfully tow and charge exorbitant fees." As of May 2014, the MMDA has only 24 accredited towing truck units.
Incidentally, we photographed an attempted towing operation along Tomas Morato in Quezon City. It involved one of the tow trucks of BLAMP Towing Services, an MMDA accredited towing company. However, the specific tow truck UWM-943 had a different license plate from the accredited vehicle #013 (EBP-633).
She also called on authorities to conduct a strict compliance check on towing firms nationwide to ensure adherence to the law.
A specific incident cited: "on June 7, 2014, a towing firm identified as SMD Towing Services hauled a vehicle parked in SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City without putting a notice, to the terror of the driver without knowing whether his car was towed or carnapped. The custodian in charge of that day refused to identify himself and was not wearing an identification card, in violation of Section 4.8.1 of the Guidelines on Towing and Impounding Operations in Metro Manila issued by the MMC."
It added that, "The custodian also failed to present the company's authority from the local government and the MMDA and the subsequent local ordinance to substantiate its claim that it has authority to tow and impound vehicles."
The Senator further went on to remind legitimate towing companies to exercise utmost care when dealing with vehicles being towed as these have been purchased by citizens with their hard-earned income.
The resolution pointed out to several instances where towing company employees improperly towed vehicles using excessive force resulting in expensive repair bills. The incidents referred to included a Range Rover SUV improperly towed in BGC on May 2, a Mitsubishi Lancer being jumped on by employees of Goldwin Towing Services. A fire in March that engulfed at least 50 cars at the private impounding lot of Southern Crest Towing Services in Pasay City was also mentioned in the document.
Mitsubishi Lancer being jumped on by employees of Goldwin Towing Services in Quezon City
The Range Rover Sport SUV being towed in BGC in the video below posted by Youtube user amadeusiom is an example of such improper towing activity.
The resolution says that if the towing is illegal, then it can be considered as a case of car theft, a violation of Republic Act 6539 or the Anti-Carnapping Act of 1972". The penalty for 'carnapping' or car theft is imprisonment between 14 years and 8 months to 17 years and 4 months or up to 30 years if done with violence or intimidation.
While the Senator's press release recommends "A tow truck has to blow its horn to try to get the attention of the car owners, who are advised to verify the legitimacy of the towing operations with the MMDA." We advise motorists to park their cars in properly designated parking areas to avoid being towed.