COTABATO CITY, Philippines - The government is mulling the possible pre-termination of the Land Transportation Office's contract with IT provider Stradcom Corp. due to several irregularities.
In a press conference, President Benigno Aquino said LTO chief Virginia Torres and Department of the Interior and Local Government Jesse Robredo discovered several anomalies in Stradcom's processes including excessive charging of "interconnectivity fees" and registration of fictitious vehicles.
"(Resigned Transportation Secretary) Ping de Jesus has a memo recommending what to do with Stradcom contract. I understand they are already coming up with terms of reference kung either expiration of contract of Stradcom or pre-termination," he told reporters.
Stradcom is the LTO's exclusive provider of information technology services. It maintains the database of all vehicles registered with the LTO, and the millions of driver's license holders in the country. The company signed a build-operate-own (BOO) contract with LTO in 1998.
Aquino said it was Torres that informed him that Stradcom earns P1.3 billion in fees yearly, or about P13 billion for the past 10 years.
"Asec Torres is responsible for calling to my attention the issue of Stradcom and LTO. Stradcom, I found out, has something like P1.3 billion that people are paying for every year. It's like a tax. Question is - what kind of service are we getting?" he said.
Aquino said Stradcom's database cannot identify if a vehicle that is being registered is actually carjacked.
He said the modus operandi of criminal syndicates is to buy wrecked cars and then use the cars' vehicle registration numbers for carjacked vehicles.
He said some 11-16 LTO employees in Mindanao are already facing charges for being in cahoots in the registration of carjacked vehicles.
What's worse, he said the Stradcom database also allows the registration of a vehicle even if it is completely fictitious. Robredo earlier revealed that he was able to register a fictitious car through a fixer.
"Secretary Robredo informed me may allegedly dumaan sa digitized, na-register fictitious vehicle. They just thought of a fictitious number and vehicle and had it registered without anyone looking at the vehicle," Aquino said.
The President said he already had questions about Stradcom's work after getting faulty information on the bus used in the Manila hostage crisis last year.
He said that after the hostage crisis, he asked the LTO to check on the certificate of registration of the bus after receiving allegations that the travel agency that brought in the Hong Kong tourists was not registered. He said Stradcom submitted several letters about the details of the Hong Thai Travel bus because some of the entries were clearly wrong.
"Yung pinadalang data nakalagay 'Engine displacement zero. Size of tires front, zero. Size of tires rear zero. So binalik ko sa kanila. Yung nag-encode, nagbabasa, lahat ng kasama sa process. Ano ba naman itong data na ito? Pero may number of certificate of registration. So they gave me back the data. The 2nd letter may engine displacement na pero yung size of tire front 2cm, rear 4cm. There is no bus that will have a 1-inch tire. On the 3rd letter, sabi ko ano ba itong sina-submit niyong kalokohan na ito?" he narrated.
The President also defended Torres amid calls by some sectors that she resign for her alleged involvement in the failed Stradcom takeover.
He said Torres shut down smoke emission centers that had inflated the figures of actual number of vehicles being tested every day. Time-and-motion studies conducted by LTO showed that the smoke emission centers can only accommodate up to 80 vehicles per machine a day instead of the 300-600 vehicles being reported.
"Baka yan ang sector na nagrereklamo kay Virgie Torres," he said.