POSTSCRIPT / June 14, 2011 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Noy’s action on Ping resignation clarified

DOTC MEMO: Reporting that Secretary Jose “Ping” de Jesus resigned “in disgust” from the Department of Communication and Transportation adds a little drama to a news story. The problem is that it is just not true.

Saying that President Noynoy Aquino told De Jesus to change his recommendation for keeping the Stradcom Corp. automated system at the Land Transportation Office and not going back to manual operations makes for newsy intrigue. The problem is that it is not true.

But it is true, as confirmed by documents and information from DoTC officials, that De Jesus wrote a memorandum for the President warning of dire consequences, including the slowing down of processing time, if the LTO drops Stradcom’s computerization and goes manual.

Contents of his memo dated May 23, 2011, were disclosed yesterday in a story by Charlie V. Manalo in theTribune.

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INTEGRATED AUTOMATION: The department reassessed the integrated automated system after the President inquired what benefits were being derived by the public and the government under the Build-Own-Operate contract between the DoTC-LTO and Stradcom.

In his memo, De Jesus said the automation at the LTO, “is now in its full-blown stage, with available databases, application systems, processes and infrastructure that enable LTO to process transaction online and verify, retrieve and update records real-time.”

The project’s main components are: motor vehicle registration system (MVRS), driver’s licensing system (DLS), law enforcement and traffic adjudication system (LETAS), revenue collection system (RCS), and financial administrative system (FAS).

The system links the LTO main office with 287 field offices nationwide, except in some places in Mindanao, as well as with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Bureau of Customs, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, and insurance companies.

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VOLUMES UP: Computerization has enabled the LTO to issue yearly some 10 million driver’s licenses, 5.5 million of them to professional drivers. It has registered nationwide around six million motor vehicles, whose number increases by 10 percent annually.

Fees collected from licensing, registration and other services run up to P13 billion annually. From these earnings, Stradcom is given P140 million every month for services rendered.

There have been complaints that Stradcom collects fees for related services of third parties such as emission testing centers, the MMDA and the LTFRB.

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TORRES RETURNING: Although these fees are not mentioned in its contract (but they are neither explicitly prohibited), Stradcom collects from the third parties some P600 million annually. The receipts for such services are issued not by LTO but by Stradcom.

Stradcom is trying to collect P1.1 billion in back payments, but DoTC Asst. Secretary Virginia Torres, who is LTO chief (on leave), stopped payment until the corporate infighting for control of the IT service provider is resolved.

Torres is expected to go back to work later this month. The public is watching how President Aquino, her shooting buddy, will dispose of the charges filed against her by detractors.

It was the Department of Justice, not De Jesus, that recommended the filing of charges against Torres. As she is a presidential appointee, De Jesus merely endorsed the recommendation to Malacañang.

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RESIGNED, NOT FIRED: My information is that President Aquino did not order the DoTC to change its recommendation in its assessment report on Stradcom, although sources quoted by the Tribune said that the President wanted the report rewritten.

The President basically wanted to know, my sources said, how the Stradcom contract due to expire in 2013 benefits the government and the public.

The same sources said De Jesus was not fired, contrary to a story written by a public relations practitioner holding a key position in another broadsheet (not the Tribune).

In fact, the President was reportedly surprised when De Jesus sought a meeting with him last May 30, a Monday, in Malacañang and handed his resignation letter. The Secretary said he wanted to rest and pursue a more quiet life.

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BENEFITS OF SYSTEM: But my sources said that except for the inaccuracies noted earlier, the Tribune story was substantially correct in its quoting of the DoTC memo.

The department report said that the Stradcom system provided an audit trail showing vehicle history, license history and violations history that can be accessed online.

It noted that the automated system made possible connectivity with other government agencies and private entities, resulting in faster processing time, authentic and valid information, and the elimination of human intervention.

A person can request online for certifications of vehicle records and violations records. The LTO is also on its way to renewing licenses of overseas Filipino workers and gaining international recognition of the licensing process quality through ISO 9001:2000.

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USEC TALKS: The Tribune quoted De Jesus as saying in his memo that going back to manual mode will be tedious and counterproductive.

“LTO will regress and the transacting public will suffer,” De Jesus said, adding that all the benefits of the automated system at LTO will be negated if the contract is terminated before its expiry date.

Apparently, De Jesus’ memo did not sit well with the President, according to one of the four undersecretaries who resigned with De Jesus as quoted by the Tribune.

The day after De Jesus turned in his resignation, all his undersecretaries also quit. They were Glicerio Sicat, Dante Velasco, Ruben Reinoso and Aristotle Batuhan.

One of them interviewed by the Tribune said that “Aquino, by claiming there are no benefits with Stradcom’s automated system, is contradicting himself as he himself lauded the LTO for its efficiency in delivering services.”

“(President) Aquino credited the LTO for a very efficient system when he renewed his license on his birthday last Feb. 8,” the Tribune quoted the source as saying.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 14, 2011)

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