Five alleged victims of the so-called car "rent-sangla" scam withdrew their complaints against the alleged culprits in the reportedly widespread modus during Friday's second preliminary investigation hearing at the Department of Justice (DOJ) on several complaints for large-scale estafa.
Three of them namely Michael Maniquiz, Cerelina Santos, and Rosemarie Maniquiz, were warned by Assistant State Prosecutor (ASP) Aristotle Reyes of the possibility of facing perjury charges for "conflicting" affidavits submitted to the panel.
The original complaint-affidavits of the three named respondent Mae Cruz as the one who victimized them into entering into an agreement where a monthly rental was offered for their vehicles, only to find out that they fell into the car rental modus.
Their affidavits of desistance submitted on Friday, meantime, alleged that they were merely "forced by the Philippine National Police Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) to file the complaints," according to Reyes.
"Naiintindihan ninyo itong desistance? So kasalanan pa ngayon ng HPG kung bakit nagkaroon ng case dito? Eh bakit nakalagay dito, pinilit kayo ng HPG na ilagay pangalan ni Mae Cruz? Yung mga sasakyan ninyo, brand new, pinagkatiwalaan ninyo sa taong hindi ninyo kilala, nawala, it ended up in the impoundment of the HPG. Hindi ba natural lang na imbestigahan ng HPG yan bago irelease?
"Kaya kayo pinag-execute ng affidavit. Nabanggit ninyo si Mae Cruz na pinagkatiwalaan ninyo ng sasakyan. Sa affidavit ninyo sasabihin ninyo humingi kayo ng tulong sa HPG para ma-locate yung sasakyan, tapos ngayon sasabihin ninyo pinilit kayo ng HPG? Ano ba yan perjury ito, ha. Huwag kayo basta basta gawa gawa ng affidavits na hindi ninyo naiintindihan dinadala nyo dito sa DOJ; hidi ito lokohan, seryoso ito," Reyes warned during the hearing.
Two other complainants, Charlie Macaraig and Aries Magarang, also executed affidavits of desistance withdrawing their complaints against respondents Ameche V. Francisco and Rafaela Anunciacion, et al., respectively, stating that they were no longer willing to pursue the charges.
The panel of prosecutors will evaluate the desistance vis a vis the earlier complaint-affidavits filed by the five withdrawing complainants, and will make a ruling on whether they should be held liable for the "conflicting" sworn statements.
To date, 9 complainants in the case have executed affidavits of desistance.
Friday's preliminary investigation hearing was the second on the complaints referred to the DOJ by the PNP HPG Unit 4-A against Tychicus Nambio, Rafaela Anunciacion, Marilou V. Cruz, Bienvenido Cruz, Roberto Cruz, Jeffrey Reyes, Edgardo S. Ramos, Alfredo Ronuillo, Ravenal Quizon, Eleanor Constantino Rosales, and Lorena Adriano.
Nambio and Anunciacion were present in the hearing; Anunciacion was able to submit seven sets of counter-affidavits to refute the charges against her.
Nambio failed to submit his counter-affividavit due to non-receipt of the DOJ summons after he changed his address. He, along with other respondents, was given up to April 10, the schedule for the next hearing, to submit the same.
The complaints alleged that respondents recruited car owners with the end goal of victimizing them through the scam, with interested car owners offered a P25,000 monthly rental for sedan, P35,000 monthly rental for AUVs, and P45,000 monthly rental for SUVs.
After the conclusion of the agreement, the vehicles will be taken.
Unknown to the car owners, their vehicles were brought to different cities and municipalities, and loaned/pawned to individuals who also did not know of the scam. The loans ranged from P200,000 for sedan; P300,000 for AUVs and P400,000 for SUVs with a promise of a 5 percent monthly rebate or return of investment.
Apart from Reyes, the members of the DOJ panel of prosecutors handling the preliminary investigation of the complaints are Senior Assistant State Prosecutor (SASP) Rosanne Balauag, chairperson; SASP Rex Gingoyon; ASP Rodan Parrocha; ASP Bryan Cacha, Jr.; ASP Anna Devanadera; ASP Jovyanne Escaño-Santamaria; Associate Prosecution Attorney (APA) II Wendell Bendovall; APA II Joan Garcia; and APA I Marc Tariga.