Former LTO chief Virginia Torres dies; 63
BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—Former Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Virginia Torres, one of President Aquino’s controversial friends, died at a Pampanga hospital on Saturday following a heart attack.
Torres, 63, died at 2 a.m. at The Medical City Clark in the Clark Freeport, where she was taken after complaining of dizziness and chest pain on Dec. 31.
Mr. Aquino was spending the holidays at the presidential Mansion in Baguio City since New Year’s Eve when news about Torres’ death reached him.
Family members said Torres was in good spirits during the Christmas week.
They organized a two-day wake at Torres home at the Baltazar subdivision in Paniqui town in Tarlac province before she would be transferred to her hometown La Paz, also in Tarlac.
Torres’ friendship with Mr. Aquino had been considered the “Achilles heel” of the President, who espoused a “daang matuwid (straight path)” governance.
She had been linked to irregularities when she served as LTO chief but had not been prosecuted until her retirement in October 2013.
Torres, however, left the agency on the heels of a cell phone video footage of her playing a slot machine in a casino. A Malacañang memorandum circular prohibits government personnel from entering and playing at gaming establishments.
In August last year, Torres was again in the spotlight when she allegedly tried to coerce Bureau of Customs officials into releasing P100 million worth of seized sugar from Thailand.
Torres said she had put up a sugar enterprise since her retirement from the LTO.
She had reportedly dropped Mr. Aquino’s name and hinted that the proceeds from the sale of the sugar would go to the ruling Liberal Party’s election campaign kitty.
Torres, who felt hurt by the new controversy, had denied using the name of the President or saying that the money would be used in the May elections.
She, however, had admitted to the Inquirer in a phone interview that she had dropped by the Intelligence Group office of the Bureau of Customs to seek the release of the seized shipments.
Initially she said the smuggled items belonged to her friend Philip Sy, but later admitted that they both owned the shipments.
Asked about the issue, Mr. Aquino said in press conference in September: “She sent a text message to a friend to complain that the accusations against her were too much for her to take. So, she is considering suing her detractors. That is her right because she believed all the claims against her were false. Her reputation was besmirched.”
Before she was appointed chief of the LTO in 2010, Torres headed the LTO in Tarlac. She was known to be a shooting buddy of Mr. Aquino. Reports from Tonette Orejas and Jo Martinez-Clemente, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Inquirer Research
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