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Video of LTO chief at slot machine last straw for Aquino

LTO chief Virginia Torres in a YouTube video. YOUTUBE GRAB

BALI, Indonesia—That 36-second YouTube video did her in.

President Benigno Aquino III finally decided to let go of Assistant Secretary Virginia Torres of the Land Transportation Office, a member of his inner circle, after a short video clip surfaced last August showing her in front of a slot machine in what appeared to be a casino.

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A 2001 Palace circular bars executive officials from going to or, worse, playing in casinos.

“On the basis of the last incident and that was very clear,” he told reporters here Monday night when asked if the decision was a hard one for him.

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Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya on Monday said Torres had “volunteered” to retire following a meeting with Mr. Aquino, who then clarified in the evening here that “I don’t think I forced her to.”

Recalling his conversation with his province-mate from Tarlac, Aquino said, “I did not need to give any explanation. She understood.”

“I told her the lay of the land, quoted certain things and she agreed with the end point,” he added.

The President described Torres’ retirement as the “better route” in light of the controversies hounding her.

“Less stress for her, less stress for her family and perhaps, better for the agency so it could attend to everything it has to attend to rather than, somehow, get its focus diverted,” Aquino said.

The President admitted that he didn’t buy the accusations thrown at the 60-year-old Torres, one of his shooting range buddies.

“I didn’t believe them, for instance, the accusations that she was favoring someone, that there was corruption—I couldn’t see her doing that or that she could do that,” he said.

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But with the casino controversy, Aquino said, “Is that still a necessary activity for me to get into, the defense of her, something like that?”

Among Torres’ critics was Aquino’s own party-mate, Senate President Franklin Drilon, who called for her resignation in 2011. The Department of Justice then recommended the filing of administrative charges against her in connection with the dispute over the LTO’s information technology service provider.

In letting go of one of his closest friends in his administration, the President said he did not “salt being rubbed on an injury.”

“Let’s give the person some dignity,” he said.

Aquino said he would leave it to Abaya to decide who would replace Torres after she retires at the end of the month.

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TAGS: casino, Graft and Corruption, Land Transportation Office, Nation, News, Virginia Torres
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