De Lima stands by DoJ probers of Stradcom case
MANILA, Philippines—Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Tuesday brushed aside claims by Virginia Torres that a panel that recommended the suspension of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief for supporting the takeover of the agency’s IT provider by a hostile faction had been biased.
“It is lamentable that instead of reacting or responding fairly or professionally to the recent issuance of the report and recommendations on the Stradcom takeover, the LTO official involved and one of the factions involved would rather cast aspersions on the integrity and sense of impartiality or objectivity of the committee,” De Lima said.
The justice secretary told a news conference she was “standing by the integrity and competence” of Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan, chair of the fact-finding committee and its members.
She also stressed that contrary to the claims of Torres, the LTO chief was given due process throughout the investigation.
Less than forthright
De Lima said Torres was “less than forthright” when the latter said she was denied due process.
She said Torres had initially appeared before the committee and said she was submitting herself to its jurisdiction.
But the LTO chief later ignored summons and simply sent three letters and later asked for the termination of the hearings, De Lima said.
“She was accorded due process,” she said, adding that Torres was not required to file a counteraffidavit because the committee was engaged in gathering facts and was not conducting a preliminary investigation.
De Lima approved the Baraan panel’s recommendation that Torres be suspended for her failure to stop the forcible takeover of the Stradcom office inside the LTO compound in Quezon City last December 2 and December 9 that stemmed from an intracorporate controversy.
The investigation also determined that Torres had shown partiality in the issue, by siding with one faction of Stradcom led by Aderito Yujuico and Bonifacio Sumbilla in their attempt to take control of the facility.
Yujuico and Sumbilla were former business partners of Stradcom president Cezar Quiambao.
De Lima said the Baraan panel’s report had been endorsed to President Aquino and Transportation Secretary Jose de Jesus and that it would be up to them to decide whether they would adopt the recommendations.
De Jesus had asked the justice department to investigate the liability of LTO officials in the forcible takeover of the Stradcom office as the incident stalled the services of LTO for several hours nationwide.
De Lima also said Baraan and the committee could not have sided with any of the factions in Stradcom as they were not investigating the intracorporate controversy. Moreover, the justice department has “no jurisdiction” over this particular issue, she added.
Takeover is issue
“The issue is just about the takeover. The issue was purely factual. What did Asec. Torres or any other LTO official do or not do to address that takeover? So that’s the core factual issue. The second factual issue was does the evidence show that she and other LTO officials were involved in that takeover? Those questions were sufficiently addressed in the report and recommendation of the committee,” De Lima said.
Under a P2.8-billion contract that the LTO signed in 1998 with Stradcom, the American consortium electronically connected all the agency’s 250 district offices and operated a database of registered vehicles and license holders.
Stradcom also handles the interconnectivity systems between the LTO, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. The contract expires in 2013.
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