Media corruption in LTO?

By David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Oct 05 2011 01:52 PM | Updated as of Oct 06 2011 12:39 AM

LTO chief, beat reporters clash over xerox machine, media-fixers

MANILA, Philippines - Land Transportation Office chief Virginia Torres is ordering the eviction of the LTO Tri-Media Association from the LTO press office after the Commission on Audit questioned their use of a photocopying machine for business purposes.

Speaking to ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda", Torres said the COA resident auditor called her attention as to why the LTO Tri-Media Association was using a xerox machine for business.

She said the auditor also asked if there is an existing agreement or contract between the LTO press and the agency to use the press office.

"The COA asked - is it proper na yang opisina na yan ay gobyerno ang magbabayad ng electric bills, water and supply? I think it is not proper. Ang sabi ko sa kanya, titignan ko po yan kasi inabutan ko na lang yan. I found out na wala silang renta. Of course, kahit na walang renta, kung sila naman ay binigyan ng pagkakataon o kontrata ng ibang administrasyon ng mga ASEC [assistant secretary] ay OK lang, but there was none," Torres said.

She added: "The computers, all supplies, coupon bonds - all come from the LTO. They have an aircon, computer, mga gamit sa isang opisina..."

Torres said the LTO Employees Union had complained about the media association's use of the xerox machine to make money.

She said she also received reports of the association being used for "fixing" activities inside LTO.

The LTO chief said she is giving the association until the end of the month to vacate the press office so it could be used by the LTO's licensing division. She said she will discuss with the LTO management committee if the media could be transferred to another office.

Taking revenge?

Meanwhile, the president of the LTO Tri-Media Association accused Torres of taking revenge against LTO reporters after they exposed anomalies inside the agency.

LTO Tri-Media president Angie dela Cruz said Torres knows that reporters have been using the press office for the past 5 years.

She said Torres had been friendly with the media in the past and had approved the use of the xerox machine inside the press office after she said she had no additional funds.

"Lahat ng project namin ay alam ni Asec Torres dahil nai-inform ko siya. She said: 'Angie, mag project-project kayo diyan para makatulong sa inyo dahil wala akong budget pang meryenda. Pang meryenda niyo yan at gastusin,'" she quoted Torres as saying.

She also said she wrote a letter to Torres about transferring the copy machine inside the press office, which the LTO chief said should be addressed to the general services section (GSS).

Dela Cruz said the media group would never have put up a photocopy machine inside the office if it had not been given permission.

She said Torres started turning against the media after they wrote about the LTO chief's involvement in the Stradcom intra-corporate dispute. Torres has refused to pay P1.2 billion in fees to Stradcom, LTO's official IT provider.

Dela Cruz, meanwhile, denied that their group is involved in fixing activities. She also accused one of Torres' staff, Philip Mendez, of asking for P15,000 for all applications for special plates. 

Bribes?

In the interview, Torres also revealed that she had been giving monetary support to the LTO Tri-Media Association.

"Wala kaming fixed na binibigay sa kanila. Kung minsan lang, pag naglalambing sila. Ako naman, ayos lang sa akin yun. Eto inuulit ko po hindi ito ganti kasi wala naman akong dapat iganti sa kanila,. There was never an instance that they wrote anything against me," she said.

She also revealed that other LTO officers had been giving money to the media.

For her part, dela Cruz clarified that the financial support they got from Torres was for a basketball tournament.

"Nagkaroon kasi kami ng NTC basketball, naglambing kami kay Asec na tulungan kami. Siya mismo ang tumawag sa tao na tutulong sa uniform namin pero hindi nakarating yung sapat na tulong kaya humingi kami ng tulong sa regional director dahil walang tutulong sa amin," she said.

Asked if they are receiving anything from Stradcom, she said the only thing they got from the IT provider are computers.

"Yung mga computers. Yun ang binigay sa amin dahil sila ang IT provider ng LTO," she said.