LTO license plates scam; Brillantes is finally sued

Finally, the administration of ex-President Benigno Aquino III is over.  Several Aquino hirelings have already been charged with corruption even before the ex-president stepped down.  Many more are expected to face criminal raps soon. 

Aquino appointees involved in anomalies but who can be ousted from office only by impeachment may find themselves in trouble, too.  Impeachment, as provided in the Constitution, actually works.  It happened last May 2012. 

Several days ago, former Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. was accused of graft and plunder before the Ombudsman for approving, back in December 2014, a contract with Smartmatic-TIM for the rehabilitation of 81,000 precinct count optical scan machines, or what are commonly called automated voting machines. 

Brillantes was the election lawyer of ex-President Aquino III during his 2010 campaign.  After the election, Aquino appointed Brillantes to the Comelec.  In turn, Smartmatic is the controversial South American supplier of the automated voting machines used by the Comelec in the last two elections.

Hours after the polling precints closed on May 9, 2016, Smartmatic altered the computer system which processes information provided by the voting machines, without permission from the Comelec commissioners or the candidates.  This alteration seems to be the reason why vice presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos suddenly lost his million-vote lead over his Liberal Party opponent Leni Robredo a day after election day. 

Also, 20 Smartmatic foreign executives involved in the canvass were discovered to have billeted at the Novotel in Cubao, Quezon City, which likewise housed the national campaign headquarters of the LP.  Why they were staying in the same hotel as that of the LP campaign nerve center, and why aliens were allowed to intervene in the elections in violation of election laws, are questions the Comelec and Smartmatic have avoided answering.     

The contract was awarded to Smartmatic on Jan. 30, 2015, a few days before Brillantes, Lim, and Yusoph retired in February 2015.  It was clearly a midnight deal.

Although the Smartmatic contract is worth P240 million, it was not subjected to the requisite public bidding.  In April 2015, the Supreme Court declared the contract void because it failed to comply with that legal requirement.         

Included in the complaint before the Ombudsman are ex-Commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph, incumbent Commissioners Christian Lim and Al Parreño, and Smartmatic officials Marlon Garcia, Cesar Flores, and Elie Moreno.  It is not known if the foreign executives of Smartmatic have been prevented from leaving the Philippines, now that cases are being filed against them.

  Another anomaly committed by Aquino’s underlings involves license plates for cars and motorcycles approved by the Land Transportation Office.  A Filipino-Dutch consortium called J. Knieriem B.V. Goes and a local company called Power Plates Development Concept, Inc. got the P3.8-billion contract for the supply of the license plates.  Soon thereafter, the LTO paid them P477.9 million in advance.

The Commission on Audit, however, disallowed the contract for being illegal, and ordered the return to the government of the P477.9-million advance payment made by the LTO to both companies. 

At about that time as well, a partial delivery of license plates—300,000 pairs for cars and 400,000 for motorcycles—arrived at the Manila pier, but they were held by customs authorities for non-payment of the P40 million due as duties.  Last April, however, Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina decided to donate the license plates to the LTO.  That would have meant P40 million less in the national coffers.

Sensing the anomaly, party list representative Jonathan de la Cruz and another congressman filed a suit in the SC questioning the planned donation.  Just recently, the SC issued a temporary restraining order stopping Lina from carrying out his plan.  The petitioners are represented by Atty. Leo Romero, a seasoned public interest lawyer.   

If crusaders like De la Cruz and Romero did not question this large-scale anomaly, the Filipino people would have been robbed once again under the Aquino administration.  

Other anomalies under President Aquino III worth questioning before the Ombudsman include the special treatment which then Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima gave to drug lords detained at the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa.  The drug lords had amenities such as air-conditioned rooms, access to mobile phones and the internet, a jacuzzi, a recreation den, and daily catered food.  They even had firearms! 

How prison rules prohibiting such special treatment were violated with impunity is a question de Lima has not answered.   

It was also under de Lima’s watch that funds of the Department of Justice meant for witness protection were spent for other purposes.  The CoA had already invited de Lima’s attention to the anomaly, but no explanation for the irregularity has been publicly made.

Another set of anomalies that should arouse public attention pertains to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.  When the MMDA was still under ex-Chairman Francis Tolentino, a set of traffic lights meant for Metropolitan Manila found their way to Legazpi City in Bicol.  Tolentino has not explained why this happened.  He was defeated in the recent senatorial elections. 

The CoA also disallowed some P900 thousand which the MMDA, also under Tolentino, spent to spruce up a small rotunda near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, despite knowledge on his part that the rotunda was going to be demolished to give way to road expansion.       

Last year, a policeman lamented that some high-ranking public prosecutors in the Pasig City prosecution office set him up in a criminal case for swindling.  Although the investigating prosecutor stated in his resolution that the policeman is clearly innocent, a criminal case was still filed against the cop.  Notices for the policeman were deliberately sent to the wrong address, and criminal charges were filed against the cop even before the period to appeal from the resolution had lapsed.   

 According to the policeman, now that the Aquino regime is over, a surprise at the Ombudsman may yet await those city prosecutors.

Topics: Victor Avecilla , LTO license plates scam; Brillantes is finally sued
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