DOJ eyes swift resolution of LTO chief's carjack case

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 21 2011 02:24 PM | Updated as of Feb 21 2011 10:24 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has ordered the immediate resolution of the criminal complaint against Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Virginia Torres and others in connection with allegedly facilitating the registration of stolen vehicles.

The complaint was lodged at the Department of Justice in 2009, prior to de Lima's assumption to the department.

A report by Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (PNP-HPG) head Chief Superintendent Leonardo Sspina is being cited in news reports as containing such information, as well as other officials and personnel of the LTO and the PNP who are also reportedly slapped with similar complaints in relation to alleged car theft.

“I was able to confirm this morning that there is indeed a case with us filed by the PNP versus Virginia Torres, et al. (i.s. number xvi-inv-09e-00328) I just checked the status. It is already for resolution so it's just a matter of a few days mayroon nang resolution," de Lima said.

“I instructed the prosecutor general to immediately instruct the handling prosecutor to resolve the case," de Lima added.

Reports from Camp Crame state that the case against Torres is in connection with the alleged illegal registration of a Mitsubishi Pajero while she was LTO head in Tarlac City.

The justice secretary refused to give further details of the case, stressing that when the resolution is out it may reach her office for review. She assured that the case will be resolved "without fear or favor."

Torres, an ally of the administration, is said to be a shooting range "buddy" of President Benigno Aquino III.

De Lima revealed President Aquino called her to validate the reported pending case against Torres.

The Justice department is also wrapping up its fact-finding probe into the December 9, 2010 takeover of the Stradcom Corporation building inside the LTO compound in Quezon City, which disrupted operations nationwide for at least 6 hours.

Stradcom Corporation is the information technology service provider of the LTO.

De Lima ordered the fact-finding probe to find out if anybody should be held liable for tensions that erupted in said facility.

The fact-finding committee, led by Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, also looked into Torres's stepping in to take control of operations amid tensions between two warring factions, each claiming to be the legitimate Stradcom management team - the group of Cezar Quiambao and the group of Bonifacio Sumilla.

Quiambao’s group accused Torres of bias in favor of the other.

De Lima, co-chairperson of the joint Department of Interior and Local Government-Department of Justice (DILG-DOJ) task force tasked to look into the spate of carjack incidents, revealed the task force will hold another important meeting this afternoon in Camp Crame.

The justice chief bared that said meeting will discuss data collated by the technical working group.

De Lima bared they have names of alleged LTO and other officials involved in the proliferation of carjacking.

“Talagang mayroon kaming information, mayroong ebidensya on that na nafafa-facilitate talaga yan through the connivance ng mga compromised LTO officials and personnel kasi mahirap nang i-market ang mga carnapped vehicles kung hindi nakakakuha ng panibagong registration papers," de Lima said.

"Ba't nakakakuha sila? Dahil nga may mga kakutsaba within LTO. Kasi kung di na nakakakuha yan ng mga bagong registration papers saka mga bagong chassis numbers, etc... hindi na dapat yan nama-market," she added.

"May mga pangalan na, mayroon na ring mga kaso pala - administrative cases – against LTO officials. inaalam lang namin yung mga exact status," she said.