DOJ chief irate over Stradcom dispute

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 09 2011 04:49 PM | Updated as of Mar 10 2011 12:49 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima slammed one of two warring factions in Stradcom Corporation, the sole information technology (IT) service provider of the Land Transportation Office (LTO), for accusing the Department of Justice (DOJ) fact-finding panel that looked into the December 9, 2010 Stradcom facility takeover in Quezon City of bias.

The group of Bonifacio Sumbilla, which is figuring in an intra-corporate row against the group of Cezar Quiambao, accused the panel, headed by Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, of favoring Quiambao's group when it "refused to address the prejudicial question of who has legal, controlling stocks in Stradcom."

The Sumbilla group alleged the panel of coming up with "presumptive findings based on erroneous and baseless claims of ownership by Quiambao."

"It is lamentable that, instead of reacting or responding fairly and responsibly on the report of Stradcom takeover, one of the factions involved would rather cast aspersions on the impartiality of the committee, especially Usec. Baraan. I'd like to put it on record that I am standing by the integrity of the committee and the committee chair," de Lima said.

The justice chief, who endorsed the fact-finding report in full to Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose de Jesus and President Benigno Aquino III, maintained that the panel did not touch on the intra-corporate dispute between the Sumbilla and Quiambao groups, but only looked into the accountability of LTO officials for allowing the takeover to happen.

The takeover incident caused LTO operations nationwide to be paralyzed for at least 6 hours.

"There's no way for them to side with either of the groups or factions involved in the controversy, the legal issue, the intra-corporate controversy, was not the concern of the committee. That was not the issue at all because, in the first place, the DOJ or the committee does not have the jurisdiction to resolve that controversy," de Lima said.

"The issue was purely factual: what did Asec. (Virginia) Torres or any other LTO official do or not do to address the takeover? That's the core factual issue. Second, do the evidence show that she or other LTO officials were involved in that takeover?" she added.

The panel's recommendations included the dismissal from service of LTO chief Torres and the filing of administrative charges against her for "actions and inactions" which showed her alleged leanings towards the Sumbilla group.

De Lima said Torres was "less than truthful" when she claimed she was not accorded due process in the fact-finding probe.

"She appeared, she was questioned. When she appeared, she was submitting to the jurisdiction of the committee and then later ayaw na niya and she was saying i-terminate na ang proceedings. So there was due process," de Lima said.

"Nalulungkot lang ako na may nagpapalaki ng issue na ito and instead of articulating their sentiments fairly, they go out to discredit. And of course, I will not allow that. Kaya ako nagsasalita dahil hindi ko gusto na tinitira nila yung committee members instead of addressing the issues," she said.

The DOJ fact-finding report's recommendations will be acted upon by Secretary de Jesus, the LTO being an attached agency of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).