LTO chief a burden to Aquino, says Drilon
Even though President Benigno Aquino III has stood by her, the controversial Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief, Virginia Torres, is facing fresh calls to resign from Mr. Aquino’s own Senate allies.
Sen. Franklin Drilon said Wednesday that Torres has become a “burden” to the President because of her alleged involvement in the violent takeover of Stradcom Corp., the LTO’s IT provider, last December.
“We are here to help the President. Maybe we should just resign if the people think that we have become a burden already. Not that we have committed a mistake,” Drilon, Mr. Aquino’s Liberal Party ally, said in a statement.
Though Torres has not been found guilty of the graft charges filed against her over the takeover, the situation has adversely affected the Office of the President, Drilon said.
“I’m not saying she’s guilty, but in this government, perception is very critical,” he said.
“The people think that it is already affecting the leadership of President Aquino,” the senator said.
Torres returned to her post last Tuesday after a two-month leave during which Mr. Aquino came under increasing criticism for refusing to fire her.
In her first day of work, Torres rebuffed calls for her to resign. She said quitting would be a slap on the face of government.
While it’s the President’s call to decide her fate, Torres should stop issuing “self-serving statements” since these do not help her or the President, said Sen. Francis Pangilinan, another of Mr. Aquino’s party allies.
“She should zip up and just focus on doing her job. Less talk, less mistakes,” he said.
“And for any appointive official who may feel that he or she may already by a liability to the President, resignation is always an option,” Pangilinan added.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada advised Torres to “rethink” her position.
“She should not give additional burden to the President. The President has a lot of headaches already solving the problems of the country,” Estrada said.
Torres, said to be a shooting buddy of Mr. Aquino, went on a two-month leave at the President’s request.
A fact-finding committee formed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had recommended Torres’ suspension to give way to an inquiry into her alleged involvement in a corporate dispute at Stradcom, the LTO’s information technology provider.
Last December, a rival group of Stradcom stockholders, claiming to be the new company management, forcibly took control of the company’s offices inside the LTO’s Quezon City compound, which led to the suspension of LTO services for several hours.
Resigned Transportation Secretary Jose de Jesus reportedly asked the President to “discipline” Torres for allegedly showing bias for the faction that raided Stradcom, headed by businessman Bonifacio Sumbilla.
Stradcom has filed graft charges against Torres and seven others over the takeover.
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna party-list member Teodoro Casiño on Wednesday called for a House probe of the contract dispute between the LTO and Stradcom which he believed led to De Jesus’ resignation.
Casiño said Congress has to exercise its oversight function to verify whether De Jesus—who declared he was resigning for personal health reasons—had quit after the President reportedly rejected his recommendation to continue the LTO’s contract with Stradcom which Torres had wanted to rescind.
“There is apprehension that the stage is simply being set to bring in a new set of cronies who will take over the automation project with even more onerous provisions,” he said.
Casiño said the Stradcom contract had “defects” which the House committee should review as part of the investigation “to remedy the problem in a manner that is advantageous to the public.”
“It would seem careless and even dangerous for the government to simply terminate the contract and throw the LTO back to the dark age of manual operations,” he said.
Torres has said that the LTO is reviewing the contract with Stradcom which expires in 2013. She said finding a replacement for the IT service provider was at the top of her agenda. With Gil C. Cabacungan
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