LTO chief faces more questions on licenses deal

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THE troubles of Land Transportation Office chief Virginia Torres did not seem over on Monday, when a bloc of congressmen raised the Iglesia ni Cristo connection to the agency’s supplier of drivers’ licenses.

Camiguin Rep. Pedro Romualdo, a senior member of the House committee on good government, and Dasmariñas City Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said they were filing a petition to investigate why Amalgamated Motors Philippines Inc. had been allowed to continue supplying the drivers’ licenses even though its contract with the LTO expired in 2003.

Amalgamated Motors is controlled by the family of Estrada-era Justice Secretary Filemon Cuevas, an Iglesia member like Torres.

“This is illegal,” Romualdo said, citing the Government Procurement Act mandating a new round of public bidding once a government contract has expired.

Bayan Rep. Teodoro Casiño said he was supporting the Romualdo-Barzaga initiative. He said Amalgamated Motors had been allowed to continue its business with the LTO on the basis of “quantum meruit,” a legal principle that allows the continuation of a service even without a contract.

According to unconfirmed media accounts, the LTO budget for drivers’ licenses in 2002, the last full year of Amalgamated Motors’ contract, amounted to P386 million.

Torres’ impending reinvestigation follows a report from the House committee on transportation and communications, led by Southern Leyte Rep. Rogelio Mercado, urging Malacañang and the LTO to immediately release the P1.2 billion payment to the agency’s information technology contractor Stradcom.

Torres has refused to release the amount, held in escrow by the court, citing an ongoing intra-corporate dispute over Stradcom’s true ownership.

Over in Quezon City, Regional Trial Court Judge Dalmacio Santos threw out the inter-pleader petition filed by the LTO in the civil suit between Stradcom and the group of Bonifacio Sumbilla and Aderito Yujuico.

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