SECRETARY Joseph Emilio Abaya and other officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) involved in the P3.8-billion motor vehicle license plates procurement deal may be liable for plunder as a result of the Commission on Audit (COA) finding that the transaction was irregular and illegal.
Leo Romero, counsel of private bidder Marianing and Sons Development, over the weekend said a notice of disallowance issued by COA on July 13, 2015 is enough to justify the filing of criminal and administrative complaints against the government officials who took part in the anomalous deal.
Romero was among those invited by the Senate blue ribbon committee, which is investigating the Motor Vehicle License Plate Standardization Program (MVLPSP) of the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
The COA, in its notice of disallowance, ordered the LTO to return to the government the P477.9 billion it initially paid to Knieriem BV Goes and Power Plates Development Concept Inc. (JKG-PPI), the license plate supplier.
The commission also enumerated a number of violations committed by the DOTC.
“The findings of fact by the Commission on Audit disallowing the payment of P477.9 to the bidder is enough evidence to support criminal and administrative cases against officials involved in the deal,” Romero said in an interview.
Aside from Abaya who signed the Bids and Awards committee (BAC) resolution recommending the award of contract and approved the contract agreement, plunder and other graft-related cases may also be filed against DOTC Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Jose Perpetuo Lotilla, BAC chairman; Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs Jaime Fortunato Caringal; LTO chief Alfonso Tan Jr.; Rene Limcauco; Julianito Bucayan Jr.; Ildefonso Patdu Jr.; Asuncion Manigas; Sheila Rondriguez; and JKG-PPI.
Tan, Limcaoco, Bucayan and Patdu are members of the BAC that recommended the award of the contract to JKG-PPI.
Romero said there were other violations committed in the license plate deal that were not included in the COA findings and he expressed hope that the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee, headed by Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, would bring these out.
Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto said with COA’s disallowance order, the LTO should suspend its MVLPSP program.
Recto added that the LTO should stop charging motorists for new plates since there were already findings of irregularities in the license plate contract.
“To begin with, they had no authority to bid out that P3.8 billion project. What they did is illegal because there was no funding for that project in the 2013 budget,” he said.
The senator’s observation was also one of the eight violations cited by COA in its notice of disallowance.