Land Transportation Office (LTO) Chairman Virginia Torres was not fired, she retired.
This was how Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda and Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya explained on Monday why Torres is leaving LTO.
Lacierda and Abaya were reacting to a front-page story in The Manila Times written by Dante A. Ang, the papers emeritus chairman on the reported firing of the LTO chief.
Ang wrote that Torres was asked by the President Benigno Aquino 3rd to file her resignation during a meeting in Malacañang.
Ang said Aquino told Torres to resign and cite as reasons “various threats to her life.”
That is not the way it happened, according to Lacierda and Abaya.
Abaya said Torres told President Aquino of her decision to retire after 33 years of government service
”I have spoken to Asec (Assistant Secretary) Virgie Torres. She met with the President and I also had the chance to meet with her after,” Abaya said.
”She has volunteered to file for retirement since she is already eligible to retire,” he said.
The LTO is an attached agency of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), which Abaya heads.
Lacierda said the President allowed Torres to leave the LTO at the end of October, and her replacement had not been discussed.
Torres became the center of controversy last August, when two videos showing her playing a slot machine at a casino circulated online. State officials are barred from gambling establishments.
A clamor for Torres’ resignation rose, and the DOTC is investigating the incident.
In a radio interview, Torres announced her retirement to put an end to issues plaguing the agency.
Abaya denied that speculations swirling around her was the reason for her retirement.
”It’s her own personal decision to file for retirement. Of course it is but proper that you don’t inquire into her reasons for filing for retirement when she is eligible to do so,” Abaya told The Times.
Ang said it was Torres who brought the suit to uncover the real stockholders of Stradcom, LTO’s information technology services provider.
Asked what will happen to the interpleader case and the P3 billion in payment to Stradcom that has been held in escrow, Abaya said, “Not quite sure yet of the legal implications of her retirement on the other issues you raised.”
Lacierda said lauded Torres for her achievements at LTO. “She has been part of our administration since Day 1. She has been doing her job as head, we commend her for that,” he said.
‘I had given my best’
In a radio interview, Torres confirmed that she is leaving the LTO and that she had spoken with Aquino on September 30.
“I had given my best. I am not sad and I have no regrets. I’ll step down with dignity. I already informed the president. I’m staying only until the end of the month],”she said.
She also denied that her retirement was prompted by problems besetting her agency, particularly the long delay in the production of new license plates.
“I told the President I was resigning this month. To bring peace at LTO. It was not because of death threats or anything, that’s not true,” she said.
Torres expressed hope her successor “would continue the reforms I have made.”
The casino video, Torres said, was ”done with malice” and was actually a “set up.”
“I do not know who’s behind the video. I have forgiven them all for all,” she said.
Among those being floated to replace her are former anti-corruption agency head and now Marina Deputy Administrator Nicasio Conti and 1-UTAK party-list Vigor Mendoza.
But the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (Piston) quickly warned that Mendoza would not be a good choice.
Piston said Mendoza was a lawyer for the Aquinos in the Hacienda Luisita land dispute.
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz lauded President Aquino for letting Torres go.
Cruz said public officials should be strictly prohibited from engaging in all forms of “vices”.
Torres is considered as one of Aquino’s “Kabarkada”, “Kaklase” and “Kabarilan” (KKK).
“If she was not caught playing, she will not resign,” Cruz said.
“That is good. Engaging in all forms of vices is not good. It ruins people’s integrity and sometimes it ruins one’s life and family,” he added.
Earlier, Cruz has asked Torres to resign and not wait for Aquino to “kick her out” of the LTO.
(Publisher-Editor’s note: The Manila Times stands by Dr. Dante Ang’s report.)