You’re in your car- or near it – and in a flash, it’s hooked to a tow truck and dragged away. Faced this nightmare?

Stories of this sort abound particularly in the territory of Bonifacio Global City. Just this week of January 2016, a hair-raising tale made the rounds where a man recounted how abusive tow truck personnel hauled his vehicle as he stood nearby. The deed was compounded with what appeared to be grave threats. Watch the video as it unfolds near the Fort Strip:

Know your legal remedies in the face of abuse

Tow trucks are mandated by regulations to follow strict protocol. One such regulation promulgated by the MMDA, states that should the owner be in or nearby the vehicle, the towing company is to honk first to give the owner a chance tovacate. Standard Operating Procedures also require courteous behavior.

Arm yourself. Print this snippet of the Memorandum and keep it in your car.

MMDA Resolution No. 02-33 dated August 29, 2002 named: Approving and Adopting the Revised MMDA Guidelines for Towing and Impounding Operations in Metro Manila.”

The memo alleges that “stalled” and illegally parked vehicles” are to be towed and impounded accordingly. And by “stalled” they mean any motor vehicle and/or their attachment, which for any cause, is unable to proceed under its own motive power and is on a public road, street or thoroughfare and dilapidated/junked vehicle in Metro Manila. While “Illegally parked vehicles” is defined as vehicles parked in prohibited areas by law or city ordinances designated by the MMDA and other Local Government Units or LGUs.

The resolution clarifies key issues:

  • The towing company should be listed as legal and registered with MMDA annually
  • MMDA, on the other hand, will issue numbered stickers to tow trucks
  • The towing company or agency shall be held responsible for losses/damages incurred while towing the vehicle/s.
  • Attended illegally parked vehicles shall not be towed but the driver shall be immediately issued a TVR
  • Unattended illegally parked vehicle shall be towed and issued a TVR immediately upon arrival at the impounding area
  • Flat-tired vehicle must be moved to the emergency lane on its own, if not, it will be towed. In either case, TVR will be issued.
  • Changing of flat tires on the roadway is not allowed.
  • Stalled or illegally parked vehicle as a result of an empty fuel tank, may be towed to the nearest gasoline station, however, the towing fee should be paid to the tow truck in accordance with the number of kilometers from the point of origin to the gasoline station and a TVR shall be issued to the driver.
  • “Illegally parked vehicles that are already clamped to the tow truck shall not be subject for intercession by the owner of the vehicle or by the representatives of the company’s two truck.
  • If the vehicle is unattended, the tow truck driver shall blow the truck’s horn five (5) times twice in a row with a space of 1 minute in between. If the owner does not respond, the vehicle shall be towed. 
  • If the tow truck has no authority to operate, towing service in Metro Manila, the towing incident shall be considered an unlawful or illegal act, and the tow truck operator shall be charged for colorum operation. The traffic enforcer shall issue a TVR to the tow truck operator through the driver for such violation and shall impound said tow truck.

What Charges Can You Levy Against Arbitrary Towing

First, you can sue for civil and criminal damages in case the vehicle is ruined in the face of rough handling. The towing company shall be held primarily liable.

Social media is rife with video recordings of severe handling by towing agencies.  This is inexcusable. Art 327 of the Revised Penal Code prescribes the repercussions for damage to property arising from malicious mischief.

Did the towing personel threaten you? You may throw in a suit for Grave Threats.  The prior video demonstrates menacing aggression from agents who overstepped their authority. Commit Art 282 to memory:

Grave Threats under Article 282 of the Revised Penal Code- the act threatened to be done is a crime e.g. to kill, to burn or destroy property, to box or to inflict injuries

1. Conditional: the accused makes a demand so that he will not do what he threatened, such as a demand for cash or another condition which may not be unlawful. E.g. “I will take your car if you will resist me”.

2 Unconditional- there is simply a declaration to do wrong or harm amounting to a crime. E.g.: “Your face annoys me. I might as well tow your car for that”

3. But if the threat was made in the heat of anger and the accused did not persist, it is Light Threats. E.g: In a heated quarrel the accused uttered: “ I will take all your cars because you have body odor” but did not do anything more. Nonetheless if he draws a weapon, such a spanner or crow bar, and moves towards his opponent, the crime is grave threats.

 

The heaviest charge comes last and with penalties akin to that prescribed for homicide. Analyze the circumstances of the towing. Was the taking of the car totally bereft of legal basis? Did the the company have no authority to tow. Were all protocols ignored? You may have grounds to task all those involved with Carnapping:

The elements of carnapping, as mentioned in People vs. Calabroso, 340 SCRA 332, are as follows:

1.) Actual taking of the vehicle
2.) The offender intends to gain from taking the vehicle
3.) The vehicle belongs to another person, not the offender
4.) The taking was either without the owner’s consent, by means of violence or intimidation or the use of force on things

The taking of a vehicle is completed the moment the carnapper is in possession of it, even if he has the opportunity to dispose of it (People vs. Ellasos, 411 Phil 139.) “Gain” doesn’t necessarily mean profit; even if the taking was for a joyride it’s still considered carnapping (Villacorta vs. Insurance Commission, GR 54171, October 28, 1980.)

Let thank sink in. The law construes gain as any form of benefit. The sale, joy riding or even delightful destruction  of the vehicle by the suspect falls under the definition of gain.

RA 6539 or the Anti Carnapping Law provides for a penalty of 14 years in prison

 

Section 14. Penalty for Carnapping. Any person who is found guilty of carnapping, as this term is defined in Section two of this Act, shall, irrespective of the value of motor vehicle taken, be punished by imprisonment for not less than fourteen years and eight months and not more than seventeen years and four months, when the carnapping is committed without violence or intimidation of persons, or force upon things; and by imprisonment for not less than seventeen years and four months and not more than thirty years, when the carnapping is committed by means of violence against or intimidation of any person, or force upon things; and the penalty of life imprisonment to death shall be imposed when the owner, driver or occupant of the carnapped motor vehicle is killed in the commission of the carnapping.

WheninManila provides a detailed look at the alleged shenanigans and goes further with a list of accredited MMDA towers. Click here to read the article.

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