Tugade quits LTO post over clash with DOTr ‘methods’
MANILA, Philippines — Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Jose Arturo Tugade is stepping down from his post effective June 1, citing differences in “methods” with the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
“Even as DOTr and LTO both aim to succeed in serving the public, our methods to achieve that success differ,” Tugade said in a statement on Monday.
His resignation came on the heels of a shortage in the supply of driver’s licenses and vehicle plates that prompted the LTO to issue paper-printed permits instead.
Tugade earlier blamed the DOTr’s Special Order No. 2023-024, which was issued in January, requiring all procurement activities worth P50 million and above to be done by the DOTr central office.
The move was intended to avoid controversial deals entered into by the LTO previously, including the P3.8-billion contract for the supply of 15 million license plates that the Senate investigated in 2021 for alleged anomalies.
Tugade had said that the agency already monitored the critical level of plastic cards inventory as early as November 2022, prompting him to constitute the committees that would have procured the materials.
However, this was affected by the DOTr order, which outlined an internal policy to streamline administrative and procurement processes within the department and its attached offices. It covers operating units such as the LTO, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3), Philippine Railways Institute, and the regional offices.
Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, on Monday said that whatever leadership changes that the LTO is going through should not distract the DOTr from addressing its most pressing concerns — shortage in vehicle plates and driver’s licenses.
She expressed concern over the little time that the LTO has left for it to solve a looming shortage of plastic licenses as it undergoes another organizational shake-up.
She called on the upcoming LTO leadership to focus on solving the shortage of license cards and vehicle plates.
In his six-month stint as head of the LTO, Tugade initiated various programs and policies in the agency, including the implementation of a price ceiling on driving school fees and the digitalization of motor vehicle renewal, among others.
Despite these, he said, “the many achievements of the LTO… have been overshadowed by the shortage in the plastic cards for the driver’s license” that was still under procurement with the DOTr.
“It is for this reason (as head of the agency), despite having no fault or negligence in my office, I hereby tender my irrevocable resignation effective June 1, 2023,” Tugade said in his letter to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. dated May 22.
Tugade, son of former Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, stood firm that his office was “not remiss of its duties” and his resignation was intended to show the administration’s brand of leadership that holds officials accountable to the people.
“Further, so that (Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista) will have a free hand to choose who he can work best with,” Tugade said.
In response, Bautista said the department extended its “appreciation” of Tugade in his work as the assistant secretary in charge of the LTO.
“His pursuit of service innovations at LTO benefited the public, for which this office is grateful,” Bautista said in a statement, adding that they would soon submit to the Office of the President their recommendation of an LTO chief “who can display the same fervor.”
Based on the timeline of events that Tugade included in his letter to Marcos, he said he immediately ordered an inventory of the LTO’s license and motor vehicle plates supply upon assuming office on Nov. 17, 2022.
By the first week of December last year, the LTO was able to forecast that the driver’s licenses would run out by the end of April or early May, while motorcycle and motor vehicle plates were expected to last only until June and July this year.
On Jan. 10, Tugade said he issued an office order addressed to LTO Executive Director Giovanni Lopez to start the procurement process, but a week later, the DOTr issued the department order reducing his signing authority to P50 million.
“My predecessor had a signing authority of up to P1 billion,” Tugade noted.
“Had we been able to continue with our procurement activities, we would have sufficient plastic cards right now,” Tugade said in a press briefing.
As of Monday, Tugade said the DOTr had committed to finishing the procurement of the materials on June 26.