Speaker raps transport execs: Whose interests are you serving?
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Friday sharply reminded transportation officials to serve only the interest of the people and to be wary of big corporations that put their representatives in key government positions to protect their interest.
“I want to know whose interest you are serving in the Department of Transportation (DOTr) because it seems that in every administration, big corporations put their people where their businesses are,” Alvarez said during the hearing on the DOTr’s proposed P55.4-billion budget for 2017.
“After the administration of one President, these [officials] would return to their mother corporation,” said the former transportation secretary under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who named former Aquino Cabinet officials Jose Rene Almendras, Rogelio Singson, Joseph Emilio Abaya and Cesar Purisima who were connected to private companies before being appointed to government.
“We will look at your budget and see if it’s clean and clear of any interest of your principals. Let’s be frank and blunt about this,” Alvarez said.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade assured the Speaker that he had personally picked the team in the DOTr and was confident about their expertise and integrity.
“I need them to guide me,” Tugade said.
“But if I ever see any conflict of interest, I will not wait for an investigation. I will fire them immediately because I am here to serve the nation and the President,” he added.
“I will not surround myself with people who have vested interests. If I see conflict of interest, I will not take that sitting down,” Tugade said.
Alvarez also grilled other transportation officials, including Undersecretary for Aviation and Airports Roberto Lim who admitted to visiting only one airport more than two months since assuming his post.
When Lim, in response to Alvarez’s question, said that the country has 80 airports, the Speaker asked how many he had visited.
“I have been to Davao, so far,” Lim had answered and said he has been in office for “about 70 days” when Alvarez asked how long he had held his position.
“Seventy days and Davao only? How will you address the problems of the airports if you have not visited them?” asked a visibly irked Alvarez.
A contrite Lim replied: “As of now, what I am doing now is I’m in the office.”
“We are deliberating your budget. You should know the status of every airport in this country,” the Speaker said. He later added: “It’s better you visit the airports so you get a clear picture.”
Undersecretary for Rails and Toll Roads Noel Kintanar and Undersecretary for Roads and Infrastructure Anne Lontoc also got an earful from Alvarez who complained about the delay in the release of official receipts for car registration and license plates, among other services.
Speaking to reporters after the budget hearing, the Speaker said he was not pleased with the answers he got.
“I’m not satisfied with their performance so far. They are in their first 100 days. We should be experiencing changes already, like in the release of licenses and plates. But there are no commitments so far,” he said.
“The time frame should be yesterday. They should have done this yesterday,” Alvarez added.
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