Plunder charges may be filed against officials of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) over the allegedly anomalous procurement deal for vehicle license plates, according to Sen. Richard Gordon.
He said the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, which he chairs, continues to gather evidence sufficient for the panel to recommend the filing of plunder complaints, but based on the previous hearings on various alleged irregularities in the two agencies, there appears to be enough to charge certain officials for the heinous crime.
“The act of making people suffer – whoever causes damage to third parties and other agencies – that (violates the) anti-graft law. Now, since a huge amount of money is involved, they (officials) may be liable for plunder. That’s what we’re looking at now,” Gordon told dzBB over the weekend.
The threshold for plunder – a non-bailable offense – is P50 million.
He said officials from both the Aquino administration and the present government committed various violations of the law starting in 2013 when the DOTr – then called Department of Transportation and Communications – opened the bidding for the procurement of plates without appropriation.
Former transportation secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and undersecretary for legal affairs Jose Perpetuo Lotilla then signed a multi-year contract with joint venture PPI-JKG without securing a Multi-Year Obligational Authority from the Department of Budget and Management.
The Commission on Audit called the procurement transaction “irregular and illegal” and disallowed an advance payment to PPI-JKG worth P478 million.
A Supreme Court restraining order finally halted the production of plates for both motor vehicles and motorcycles in 2016.
He said PPI-JKG then could not deliver their vehicle plates because another supplier, Trojan – to whom LTO consistently awarded the contracts for the supply of license plates since 2018 – monopolized LTO’s Order Management System and the digital signature, which is an important feature of the new plates.
The issuance of license plates has been further delayed, he lamented.
“For three years, we did not have plates that continued until the new administration, and the people continue to ask for plates from the government. This is all the fault of the LTO and DOTr,” Gordon said.
Reporting by Irvin Chua