Quiet protest at the DOTC
Friday’s press conference at the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) began with the reading of statement issued by resigned DOTC secretary Jose P. de Jesus downplaying any rift with President Aquino. “My loyalty to and friendship with the (Aquino) Family cannot be shaken,” said de Jesus, who issued the invitations the day before for the so-called “press lunch” but failed to make an appearance.
But by the time the presser was over about two hours later, it began to look like the department and its top officials had staged some sort of de-facto protest over Malacanang’s alleged slights against de Jesus over L’Affaire Virginia Torres of the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
First, three of the department’s five undersecretaries announced they were also leaving when de Jesus steps down on
June 30. On the surface, all had plausible reasons for quitting at the same time: their appointments were co-terminus with de Jesus’ stay. However, they also expressed reluctance to continue working at the agency if asked by the new DOTC secretary, saying they’ll just help in their individual capacities from their new jobs.
The revelation the three top officials are leaving soon came as a big surprise, and prompted one reporter to ask if this was some kind of orchestrated move to express sympathy with the outgoing secretary. They denied it, of course, but few were convinced.
Second, the DOTC officials, wittingly or not, somewhat implied that Malacanang was dragging its foot in initiating an investigation into allegations that Torres acted improperly in helping one of two rival factions of the shareholders at Stradcom, an information technology service provider of LTO, seize control of the company’s operations center.
The Department of Justice had recommended in March 4 to the Office of the President, which has the power to hire or fire her, to ask her to take a leave of absence and conduct an investigation into her actions. While she voluntarily went on a 60-day leave (and is due to come back mid-July), no investigation has yet been initiated. Malacanang has vowed to send two lawyers to help the DOTC conduct an impartial investigation but has not yet made good on the promise, according to DOTC spokesman and undersecretary Dante Velasco.
“At the DOTC, we
took steps to initiate an investigation and sought the assistance of Malacanang but that assistance has not come yet,” he said.
For many, that seems to be a confirmation of the widespread perception that Aquino is reluctant to move against Torres. She’s known to be very close to the president and is one of his many sports shooting buddies. When a reporter asked Velasco if that is indeed the case, he replied: “You are reading much more into what is being said.”
Perhaps, not really. Shortly after the press conference, Aquino’s media handlers in Malacanang were already said to be moving to minimize the potential fallout from the event.—Newsbreak
TAGS: Inside Track