LTO chief being bullied

IT IS easy to understand why Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Assistant Secretary Virginia Torres accused the agency’s IT provider Stradcom Corp. of being engaged in “childish tantrums” to jeopardize the government’s campaign to institutionalize reforms in the agency.

The long-standing partnership between LTO and Stradcom is already reportedly on the brink of collapse, and this was the reason why Torres accused by Stradcom for allegedly conspiring with a group that took over the firm’s building last week.

But Torres has denied the allegation. “I’m not the villain here. I am (just) trying to institute reforms” in the LTO, she said.

It was actually government that is apparently being sabotaged since she maintained a tough stance to review the status of the company, which is reportedly embroiled in an intra-corporate war. Stradcom used to be dominated for a long time by businessman Cezar Quiambao, until it was reportedly grabbed by the Yujuico and Sambilla group.

Torres was even pinpointed by Stradcom as having led a joined a “private army” which later turned out to be members of the Crisis Management Group of the Philippine National Police. As a result, Torres and the Quezon City police became the conspirators in the news.

Obviously, Torres would be an easy target for some people who are desperately trying to lord it over the agency, instead of Transportation and Communication Secretary Jose De Jesus, an untouchable in the Aquino Cabinet, Torres said she was merely implementing an order from her boss to ensure that the data base on vehicle registration and drivers licenses, which are kept in the building, remains unharmed.

Although an insider, Torres was a mere middle-level manager until she was personally tapped for the job by the President. The biggies in the LTO obviously thought she can be easily bullied.

“(But) my job here is to improve the services of the LTO. We can only be effective if we can have a comprehensive review of all the agency’s operations. We cannot just allow the law to be violated and we
must ensure that the welfare of the taxpayers is being protected,” she said in a statement.

I presumed that Torres found some inconsistencies – if not gross irregularities, in the 10-year concession period given to Stradcom which would have expired in 2009.

Militant groups have already pointed out that there were rampant incidents of multiple registrations, registration of carnapped vehicles, duplicated car plates, among other illegal activities in the agency. It is but proper to review the government’s contract with Stradcom, and determine if there were some glitches that could have been used by syndicated groups that managed to operate in the agency.

Even before the takeover of new players in Stradcom, Torres already announced in July that she will revise the memorandum of agreement with Stradom. Secretary De Jesus, on the other hand, actually threatened to revoke the contract if necessary.

Methinks this is one glaring case why government should just allow too much dependency on the private firms, particularly those that are being controlled by people influential to Malacanang in the past.

For a start, the LTO should immediately defer hard validation of smoke emission registration while government is preparing it’s own system.

I’d like to believe that Torres was sincere in carrying out that President’s order to improve the services of the LTO.

Right now, she is just an innocent bystander who is being sideswiped by two racing vehicles. The harassment, however, goes with her job. Joel Paredes

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