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Alvarez grills DOTr officials: Country or self?

/ 05:07 PM September 09, 2016
Rep. Pantaleon "Bebot" Alvarez. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez on Friday grilled the officials of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on their possible conflict of interests during their stint as undersecretaries with deep business background.

Speaking during the budget hearing of the DOTr’s proposed P55.478 billion in 2017, Alvarez grilled the following undersecretaries on whose interests they serve in government: Undersecretary for Railway Noel Kintanar, Undersecretary for Air Operations Bobby Lim and Undersecretary for Land Transport Anneli Lontoc.

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Kintanar served as Assistant Vice President and Executive Director of Ayala Corp before he was appointed undersecretary.

Lontoc was an undersecretary for the Land Transportation Office before she served as Transportation Undersecretary in 2006.

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Lim served as Country Manager of the International Air Transport Association.

“I want to know whose interests are you serving in the DOTr,” said Alvarez, who served as Transportation Secretary under the Arroyo administration.

When the undersecretaries said they serve the interests of the commuters, Alvarez shot back: “Huwag na tayo magbolahan dito (Let’s not fool ourselves here).”

Alvarez said in the previous administrations, officials of private corporations get appointed in government to serve the interests of the corporation.

These officials also go back to private practice in the corporation after serving their terms in government, Alvarez said.

“Ganito ang ginagawa ng mga private corporations. Every administration, maglalagay sila ng tao nila diyan sa departamento, kung saan nandun ang negosyo nila. Pagkatapos ng administrasyon ng isang presidente, babalik uli sa mother corporation,” Alvarez said.

(Private corporations practice this. Every administration, they will put their personnel in a certain department where their business lies. After a president’s administration, they will go back to their mother corporation.)

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He alleged that this was done by the following officials of the Aquino administration: former Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, former Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, former Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and former Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson.

READ: Almendras rejoins Ayala to head infra arm

“Ginawa yan ni Secretary Almendras, ginawa yan ni Secretary Singson, Abaya. Ginawa yan ni Secretary Singson. Sa Ayala, si Almendras. Si Secretary Purisima. Mag-prangkahan tayo rito,” Alvarez said.

(Secretary Almendras, Secretary Singson, Abaya, Secretary Singson, Almendras for Ayala and Secretary Purisima practiced that. Let’s be frank.)

“We want this administration to succeed.. I want to make sure lahat kayo (all of you) will be working in the interest of the government,” he added.

Alvarez grilled Lim if he was able to visit all the airports of the country.  When Lim said he has only visited the airport in Davao City, Alvarez shot back: “How will you address the airports in the country if you have not visited them?”

Alvarez then turned his ire on Lontoc to complain about a friend who purchased a new car but has yet to receive the plate and the Certificate of Registration (CR) and Official Receipt (OR).

The Supreme Court recently stopped the release of 700,000 license plates seized at the Bureau of Customs due to alleged nonpayment of taxes and customs duties.

The supply for the license plates was part of Land Transportation Office’s P3.8-billion Motor Vehicle License Plate Standardization Program won by the joint venture Power Plates Development Concepts Inc. and J. Knierem BV Goes. But the Commission on Audit disallowed the deal for being irregular and illegal.

READ: SC stops release of 700,000 seized license plates

“Worried ako diyan, nung kampanya yan palagi binabanggit ng ating presidente na aayusin. Magfi-first 100 days na, wala pa ring nangyayari. Walang plaka, walang lisensiya, walang OR/CR (I’m worried about it, during the campaign, the President has repeatedly vowed that he would fix it. His first 100 days in office is approaching, yet nothing is happening. There is no plate and license, no OR/CR),” Alvarez said.

“Mayroon po kaming sasakyan na in-acquire (We acquired a vehicle) three months ago. Hanggang ngayon, ang (Until now, the) dealer cannot provide the OR/CR. Bakit ganun? OR/CR na nga lang, hindi pa mabigay (Why is it like that? It’s just OR/CR, yet they cannot release it),” he added.

For his part, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade took the mic and gave an impassioned speech that he would not allow any of his officials to have self-interests in the DOTr.

“Hindi ko papayagan na may conflict of interest. Kung ako ay may conflict of interest, susuko ako. Pag makaka-amoy ako ng conflict of interest, hindi na kailangang magkaroon ng hearing, sisibakin ko yan (I won’t allow conlict of interest to exist. If I have a conflict of interest, I will yield. If I sense a conflict of interest [among my personnel], there will be no need for a hearing, I will sack them),” Tugade said.

“I would not surround myself with people with conflict of interests. If I see conflict of interests, sisibakin ko yan (I will sack them),” he added.

Alvarez himself was haunted by the ghost of a graft case involving conflict of interest.

According to a Newsbreak report, Alvarez when he was general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority headed the technical committee and was a member of the bidding committee which awarded the built-operate-transfer contract to Philippine International Air Terminals Co Inc. (Piatc) to build the Ninoy Aquino International Airport-International Passenger Terminal 3.

Alvarez was accused of having financial interests in Wintrack Builders, the services of which Piatco engaged with in excavating the site of the terminal. Alvarez’s wife was an incorporator of Wintrack.

In an ambush interview after the budget hearing, Alvarez said all those charges were made up.

The Office of the Ombudsman in 2001 has dismissed the case.

The Sandiganbayan in 2010 has also cleared Alvarez in a graft case involving the alleged anomalous procurement of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport-International Passenger Terminal 3 to a consortium in 1996 even though the consortium failed to meet the legal qualifications. RAM/rga

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TAGS: conflict of interests, Department of Transportation, DoTr, Speaker Pantaleon "Bebot" Alvarez, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade
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