Palace tosses LTO chief issue to DOTC
MANILA, Philippines - Malacanang on Tuesday said it is leaving the fate of Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Virginia Torres – who was caught on video playing in a casino – to her mother unit, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
“The DOTC will be looking into it as far as I know,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
The LTO is one of the agencies under the DOTC.
In a text message to The STAR yesterday, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the investigation on the video of Torres is progressing.
“Definitely that is an issue that we cannot sweep under the rug. We don’t sweep issues in DOTC under the rug,” Abaya said. He added that the agency will also not leave any stone unturned on the alleged $30-million extortion try on a Czech company interested in the supply of new trains for the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3).
Torres’ alleged gambling acts that went viral in social media are in violation of Civil Service rules and the Palace-issued Memorandum Circular No. 8.
Government officials are banned “from entering and playing in casinos” under Memorandum Circular No. 8 which was issued in August 2001.
Last month, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Torres cannot be relieved without undergoing due process.
“Secretary Abaya will provide the due process. We’ll look into it first. Of course, she will be asked. That’s the process, you cannot just axe immediately,” he said in a press briefing.
Memorandum Circular No. 8 also states that heads of agencies could impose the necessary penalty on erring personnel.
Torres said she went to the casino after having dinner with a friend, and that she only played the slot machine out of curiosity.
“While waiting for the bill to be settled, I saw the slot machine on the lower floor and out of curiosity, I sat in front of one machine and marveled at the lights and read the instructions,” she was quoted in a report posted on ABSCBNnews.com.
The report also quoted Torres as saying that she immediately left when the bill was paid and that the incident occurred “way back.”
Meanwhile, Torres is apparently unconcerned over the growing public clamor for her resignation amid the viral video showing her playing in a casino.
Employees said it was business as usual for Torres at the LTO yesterday.
She attended a public presentation forum on the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 10586, otherwise known as the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013, according to LTO spokesman Jason Salvador.
Torres could not be reached for comment.
Earlier, the LTO chief had denied rumors that she was leaving her post.
She said she could have been misinterpreted when she thanked LTO employees during their flag-raising ceremony last July 8.
She said on that day she marked her third year in office and she only expressed gratitude for the employees’ support.
She said she was aware that like all presidential appointees, she could be replaced anytime.
Torres said she would stay on in the agency for as long as the President wants her there.
She had faced several challenges to her leadership of the agency, among them the much publicized rift with the LTO’s IT provider Stradcom Corp., whose contract with the agency had expired recently.
Ombudsman awaits report
The Office of the Ombudsman said it is merely waiting for a report to be submitted regarding the alleged gambling activities of Torres.
Ed Diansuy, media affairs division director of the Office of the Ombudsman, yesterday said though they are aware that the DOTC is conducting an investigation on the incident, no formal complaint against Torres has been filed with their office yet.
“If a complaint will be filed, then we can confirm it if anyone checks or asks about it. However, we can’t discuss the details,” Diansuy said. - With Lawrence Agcaoili, Rhodina Villanueva, Rainier Allan Ronda