>MANILA, Philippines – Land Transportation Office chief Virginia Torres may have failed to exercise due diligence when she reportedly signed tampered documents for a stolen vehicle during her stint as LTO head in Tarlac City in 2009, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said yesterday.
“Maybe she did not exercise due diligence,” he told Palace reporters in a chance interview at Malacañang when asked about his take on the charges against Torres and 25 others before the Department of Justice (DOJ) in connection with the alleged questionable registration of a stolen Mitsubishi Pajero.
The charges are based on a report prepared by Philippine National Police’s Highway Patrol Group head Chief Superintendent Leonardo Espina.
Robredo said while “it is ministerial, I guess the staff should explain they did not do due diligence” in this matter. He believes the “appropriate action is to ask people under her to explain what happened.”
He could not categorically state whether Torres – who was handpicked for the LTO’s highest post by President Aquino, her shooting buddy – was culpable or negligent, since she has to sign so many papers. “Very likely she presumed that all the documents were regular, in as much as I don’t think she’s in a position to really examine all the numbers,” Robredo said.
He said Torres still has to explain all the circumstances to the DOJ, such as the Pajero’s serial number actually belonging to a motorcycle.
“In fact, I think she has to explain that this was registered during the time of Lia Nilos, the LTO director she replaced. This was only flagged when they transferred the vehicle from one owner to another owner,” he said, adding that the Pajero was registered three or four years before the transfer of ownership “and she was not yet LTO chief” of Tarlac at the time.
Robredo said “what is clear is that the document has problems” and there has to be someone criminally charged for the anomaly, whether it would be Torres, her staff, or her predecessor.
“I suggest they do an internal investigation insofar as LTO is concerned. Right now, there are 17 LTO personnel with pending cases, three of them have retired already, 14 of them are still with LTO,” he said. “And some of them have not even been relieved from their posts. This (anomaly) will continue.”
Malacañang is unfazed by reports that Torres is facing charges before the DOJ.
“We’re not bothered, we only inquired and (Justice Secretary Leila) de lima confirmed (the charges). It was a long time ago, and it involved a registration case. Right now, we just inquired about the case,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
He said Torres enjoys the presumption of regularity in the performance of her functions as LTO chief. “There is a constitutional due process and presumption of regularity. She is innocent until proven guilty, there is that presumption of innocence,” Lacierda said.
Lacierda said while Torres was Aquino’s personal choice, he will ask the Palace search committee why it failed to look into the cases against Torres. – By Delon Porcalla