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LTO chief caught on video inside casino; Palace tosses case to DOTC chief


Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/ RICHARD REYES

MANILA, Philippines — Land Transportation Office chief Virginia Torres is under fire after a video surfaced on YouTube showing her playing slot machine at an undisclosed casino.

Malacañang has already ordered Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya, Torres’ superior, to “look into it.”

LTO is an attached agency of the Department of Transportation and Communications that is headed by Abaya.

“The one who has responsibility to impose any sanction is with the heads of departments, bureaus and offices. I spoke to Secretary Jun Abaya, and we referred the matter to him because I was given a copy (of the circular) and as of now, he said, (he) will look into it,” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

Memorandum Circular No. 8 issued by the Office of the President in 2001 prohibits heads of agencies and departments from staying or playing in casinos.

The circular says that the following persons are not allowed to stay and/or play at the gambling casinos: government officials connected directly with the operation of the government; members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP); and persons under 21 years of age.

The circular mandates “all heads of departments, bureaus and offices, government-owned or controlled corporations and local governments, including the PNP (Philippine National Police) and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), to remind officials and employees under them regarding this prohibition and to impose the appropriate sanctions and penalties in case of violation thereof.”

The 36-second video was posted on August 13 to the video-sharing site, YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Hmjlm0XIL8).

However, the Palace is not keen on asking Torres to take a leave of absence while the investigation is ongoing.

“There is such a thing as due process,” said Lacierda, when asked if Torres would be sacked because of this infraction.

“Secretary Jun Abaya will provide (her) due process, will look into it first. Of course, she will be asked (first). That’s the process–you can’t just fire her immediately. There’s a process for looking into this. So this one is also being investigated by, or being looked into, by Secretary Jun Abaya,” said Lacierda.

Lacierda said he wasn’t aware if DOTC or LTO had already come up with penalties for violating the circular, as it has mandated heads of agencies to provide appropriate sanctions and penalties in case of violations.

“So you would have to refer to the respective agencies in relation to memorandum circular number 8,” he said, adding: “Did you issue any administrative order within your agencies in response to memorandum circular number 8?”

Told that it was Aquino who had appointed Torres to the LTO, Lacierda said: “We haven’t talked to the President about that but Secretary Jun Abaya, since he is the superior of Assistant Secretary Virgie Torres, will be the one to look into this.”

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Tags: casinos , DoTC , Edwin Lacierda , Emilio Abaya , ethics , gambling , Land Transportation Office , Malacañang , Virginia Torres

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