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Taxi operators, drivers fuming mad on Suansing’s action

By Tara Yap

A GROUP of taxi operators and drivers is not satisfied with the recommendation of an investigating panel of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to just relieve controversial regional officials.

They were seething with discontent that they also charged LTFRB chairman Alberto Suansing of covering up the alleged systemic graft and corruption happening inside LTFRB-6.

This developed as the LTFRB panel headed by Atty. Manuel Mahipus recommended the relief of LTFRB 6 Regional Director Porferio Clavel, regional hearing officer Romel Duron and administrative officer Janet Solinap.

The panel was tasked to investigate the alleged extortion committed by Duron on taxi franchise applicants.

The investigating panel expanded its probe on other purported graft in LTFRB-6, according to Suansing.

But the Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (APTODA) is not contented with the panel’s recommendation.

APTODA president Benjie Clavel said Suansing whitewashed the issue.

“Ginatakpan niya lang ang tanan nga kabutigan (He is covering up the truth),” Clavel said.

Clavel said that Suansing is defending Duron when the LTFRB chairman made pronouncements that Duron is not directly involved in the graft and corruption charges.

“Hambal ni Suansing, wala direct involvement si Duron maskin nag testigo si Salvacion Ruiz nga siya mismo naka hatag sang P30,000 kay Duron para sa taxi franchise (Suansing said that Duron is not involved even though Salvacion Ruiz testified that she herself gave P30,000 to Duron for the fee of the taxi franchise),” Clavel explained.

“Kami na ang ga pangita hustisya pero si Duron ang gin hatagan sang hustisya (We are the ones looking for justice, but Duron is one who is given justice),” Clavel pointed out.

Clavel also said that Suansing had to find a reason to relieve regional director Porfirio Clavel to divert attention away from Duron, whom they want to be permanently removed from LTFRB.

Director Clavel was relieved for violating a memorandum which only allows 150 units per year to be granted a franchise. An investigation by a 5-men team found that Director Clavel gave a franchise to more than 150 units.

However, Clavel said that it is Duron’s responsibility as the latter heads the technical working committee and is the regional hearing officer. 

“The applications pass by Duron before (these go) to director Clavel,” Clavel said.

Clavel also said that they do not know why Suansing gave Solinap relief orders as she has nothing to do with the allegations of graft and corruption charges.

Meanwhile, Clavel and the rest of the aggrieved taxi operators and drivers are appealing to Suansing to permanently remove Duron not just from LTFRB 6, but LTFRB itself.

“Wala si Suansing naluoy sa linibo nga ging tonto ni Duron. Dapat, pahalinon  gid si Duron sa LTFRB (Doesn’t Suansing feel sorry for the thousands of people who was fooled by Duron? Duron should be removed from the LTFRB),” stressed Clavel.

Duron could not be reached at his office. Text messages to his cellphone asking for his comment were unanswered.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE mess besetting the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) regional office may have stemmed from the power struggle between its two top officials.

LTFRB Chairman Alberto Suansing said allegations of graft and corruption against Atty. Rommel Duron, LTFRB-6 hearing officer, surfaced when the latter applied for promotion as regional director of Western Visayas.

The current LTFRB-6 regional director is Atty. Porfirio Clavel who vowed to reveal what he knows about the alleged graft and corruption happening in his office.

Suansing said the panel that is looking into the accusations against LTFRB officials is hoping to finish its probe this week.

But Suansing said the investigation does not only cover Duron but all LTFRB officials and personnel.

“It is not only Duron who is the subject of complaints. I also received complaints against Clavel and other personnel. Based on the reports I received, even the plain utility worker might be involved in these alleged graft and corruption. That is the reason why the panel is investigating the whole regional office,” Suansing said.

Suansing said he ordered Clavel and Duron to continue discharging their duties and functions.

“But if this issue affects our operations in your region, we will not hesitate to revamp the whole regional office,” Suansing said.

The Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (Aptoda) and Association of Taxi Operators in Panay (Atop) had dumped administrative and criminal cases against Duron and former casual driver Henry Mamon for alleged extortion and misconduct.

The Archdiocese of Jaro also joined the fray after Archbishop Angel Lagdameo lent support to Atop and Aptoda.

An ecumenical service will be held today at Jaro Cathedral with Lagdameo delivering a homily on the evils of graft and corruption.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Catholic Church has joined taxi operators in their struggle against alleged graft and corruption in the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

Bengie Clavel, president of Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (Aptoda), said they got favorable endorsement from Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo relative to their drive to cleanse the LTFRB.

Officials of Aptoda and Association of Taxi Operators in Panay and complainants against LTFRB officials met Lagdameo over the weekend to discuss their problem.

Clavel said churches under the Archdiocese of Jaro will deliver homilies during masses that will focus on graft and corruption in government.

“The clergy understood our position and the church agreed to help us by way of prayers and masses to give us strength in our crusade,” Clavel said.

Aptoda and Atop accused Atty. Rommel Duron, LTFRB hearing officer, of graft and corruption for overcharging franchise applicants in their office.

Duron denied the allegation saying he is a victim of a grand conspiracy between the taxi groups and LTFRB regional director Porfirio Clavel.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) cautioned taxi operators against seeking help from rebels in resolving their differences with LTFRB.

Major Lowen Gil Marquez, chief of the AFP’s Civil Service Relations, said transport operators should bring their complaint to the proper forum.

“They should not seek help from the New People’s Army (NPA) because we have a criminal justice system in place. Bringing their concerns to the NPA will only compound their problems,” Marquez said.

Marquez said the so-called Independent Alliance of Transport Operators (IATO) might be trying to stir the situation by dragging the NPA into the fray.

IATO issued an open letter addressed to the NPA to help bring justice to Duron’s alleged victims.

Aptoda and Atop denied any links with IATO nor do they support a bloody end to the issue.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A TAXI group that filed graft cases against a top Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) official said they welcome the help of any entity in their crusade, even from the New People’s Army (NPA).

But Genie Primalion, spokesperson of the Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (Aptoda), said they will not seek the blood of Atty. Rommel Duron, LTFRB hearing officer.

“We are not calling for the death of Atty. Duron nor do we endorse any death sentence on him. All we want is for him to resign from office,” Primalion said.

Primalion was reacting to the open letter of the Independent Alliance of Transport Operators (IATO) requesting the NPA’s Coronacion Chiva “Waling-Waling” Command to intervene in the LTFRB issue.

IATO asked the rebels to bring justice to the complainants who sued Duron and former LTFRB casual worker Henry Mamon.

Primalion said they have no connection with IATO nor do they know the personalities behind the said transport group.

Still, Primalion said they thank IATO for supporting their cause which they expect to shake and ease Duron out of the LTFRB.

Primalion said IATO might have links with the NPA reason why it asked the rebels’ help.

“We have our own direction by way of Ombudsman and Civil Service Commission cases we filed against Duron,” he added.

Primalion said only the NPA can answer the requests of IATO relative to the LTFRB controversy.

Aptoda and the Association of Taxi Operators in Panay heaped administrative and criminal cases against Duron for allegedly overcharging taxi operators applying for franchise with the LTFRB.

The complainants claimed that Duron and Mamon collected P30,000 to P40,000 for each taxi franchise when the actual fee is only P810.

But Duron and Mamon said the accusations against them are part of a conspiracy among taxi operators and those who want them out of LTFRB.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A LETTER purportedly written by a transport group asked the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, to help the victims of alleged graft and corruption inside the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

In an open letter addressed to the Coronacion Chiva “Waling-Waling” Command of the NPA, the Independent Alliance of Transport Operators (IATO) asked the rebels to bring justice to the complainants who sued Atty. Rommel Duron, LTFRB hearing officer, and Henry Mamon, former LTFRB driver for corruption at the government office.

The IATO said the transport sector has lost hope and trust in LTFRB Chairman Alberto Suansing and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) whom the group accused of protecting Duron and company.

The transport group said only the revolutionary movement can help the transport sector achieve justice.

Duron and Mamon are facing extortion and graft cases filed by the Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association and Association of Taxi Operators in Panay.

The complaints stemmed from the allegations of taxi operators Salvacion Ruiz and Tony Caram that Duron and Mamon made them pay P30,000 to P40,000 for their taxi franchise when the regular fee is only P810.

Operators of vans for hire and other public utility vehicles are reportedly preparing to come out and dump more cases against Duron and Mamon.

Duron and Mamon had denied the accusations saying the issue stemmed from his insistence to implement the installation of receipt issuing taxi meters.

Duron said taxi operators, in connivance with LTFRB regional director Porfirio Clavel, opposed the use of the digital meters.

Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office (PRO-6) director, said they will first verify the existence of the letter before reacting on the issue.

“We cannot react on this because we have procedures to follow. And we have to cross check the information with other intelligence units,” Cuevas said.

Cuevas said complaints against any person, be it in the public or private sector, should be lodged with the proper forum.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

PERSONALITIES involved in the alleged irregularities at the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) exchanged taunts and accusations when taxi groups mounted at picket at the agency’s regional office in Jaro, Iloilo City Wednesday.  

Atty. Rommel Duron, LTFRB hearing officer who is accused of extorting P33,000 from a taxi operator, went out of his office, flashed a V sign at the protesters while smiling.

Whatever the V sign meant was not clear but protesters belonging to the Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (Aptoda) and Association Taxi Operators of Panay (Atop) said Duron might be expressing victory against the cases against him.

Genie Primalion, Aptoda spokesperson, said Duron might be bragging that he will survive the slew of criminal and administrative cases filed against him because of his closeness to LTFRB national chair Alberto Suansing.

Duron said he was happy to see the taxi drivers and operators outside their office. He even advised them to eat well drink lots of water because they might get exhausted in the middle of the rally.

Duron also challenged taxi operators Perfecto Yap and Joseph Vincent Go to join the protesting drivers to show that they are also concerned with their personnel. He said the protesters were given money to join the rally.

Go, who joined the rallyists, said the taxi transport sector is united in their crusade against the alleged excesses of Duron. He also hit Duron for calling them “Intsik” (Chinese) when the latter challenged them to join the rally.

Around 40 taxi units joined the picket and noise barrage at the LTFRB office.

TAXI METER

Meanwhile, Duron said LTFRB regional director Porfirio Clavel should also be investigated for his refusal to implement the installation of digital taxi meters that issue receipts.

Duron said the LTFRB central office did not defer the new metering policy.

“It is only here in Western Visayas that Director Clavel acceded to the request of some taxi operators to delay the use of taxi meters issuing receipts. I have proof that he gave in to the operators instead of enforcing the law,” he said.

Clavel said he is willing to be investigated because he is the head of the LTFRB regional head.

Clavel said any complaint against him is welcome, particularly in relation to the controversy raging in his office.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

TWO employees of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) denied accusations they were extorting money from taxi operators even as they accused a group of taxi operators of pressuring them to spill the beans on Atty. Rommel Duron, LTFRB regional hearing officer.

Bernie Bernabe and Henry Mamon executed their respective affidavits relative to accusations against Duron that he mulcted P33,000 from taxi operator Salvacion Ruiz for her franchise application.

Bernabe sworn and subscribed his affidavit July 29, 2009 before Iloilo City Prosecutor Nora Causing-Española while Mamon executed and subscribed his affidavit August 3, 2009.

The Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (Aptoda) earlier tagged Duron, Bernabe and Mamon as the persons behind the extortion on operators applying for franchise with the LTFRB.

Bernabe recounted how he met Ruiz’s brother Oliver Sualog and his wife sometime May 2009 when the couple inquired how they can secure a certificate of public convenience (CPC) to operate a taxi service in Iloilo.

On June 4, 2009, Bernabe said Ruiz went to him and introduced herself as Oliver’s sister. Ruiz said her brother told her to look for Bernabe at the LTFRB office to help her in applying for a franchise.

“I then inquired from Atty. Duron, the chief of the Technical and Evaluation Division, whether Salvacion Sualog-Ruiz can apply for a CPC to operate a taxi service in behalf of her brother Oliver Sualog. Atty. Duron told me that she can apply in her brother’s behalf as long as Salvacion can secure a special power of attorney (SPA) to represent her brother,” Bernabe said in his affidavit.

Bernabe said he told Ruiz to install a meter that issues receipts. He even told Ruiz to ask Donna Ratilla, operator of GDR taxi, where she can get such meter.

Bernabe said Ruiz assured that she will comply with the requirement.

On June 5, Bernabe said Ruiz returned with the SPA and other documents needed for her franchise application.

“Salvacio S. Ruiz submitted to me her papers, then I filled up the assessment and evaluation form, showing the amount of P810 which she was going to pay to the cashier as application fee for the certificate of public convenience to operate a taxi service,” Bernabe said.

Bernabe said he brought Ruiz to Duron for the approval of her assessment.

“Atty. Duron then told her to pay to the cashier her application fee and that she must install a taxi meter equipped with (a gadget) issuing receipt. Salvacion S. Ruiz said thank you to Atty. Duron and went to the cashier and pay her application fee of P810,” he added.

Bernabe said the last time he saw Ruiz was on June 11 at the LTFRB office where he reminded her to install a receipt issuing taxi meter.

PRESSURED?

Mamon recounted in his affidavit his meeting with taxi operators last July 29, 2009 at the garage of Forbes Taxi service owned by Perfecto Yap.

Yap is the president of the Association of Taxi Operators in Panay (Atop) which earlier threatened to file administrative suits against Duron.

Mamon, an LTFRB casual driver for 10 years, said he received a call 6pm of July 29 from a certain Janet Solinap who told him to go to the Forbes garage on orders of LTFRB regional director Porferio Clavel.

“I told Ma’am Janet (Solinap) that I will just go to the LTFRB office. But Ma’am Janet told me not to go to the LTFRB but instead go to the garage of Forbes Taxi,” he said.

Mamon said Solinap told him that the meeting was for his own good and that the taxi operators will save him.

Mamon refused to go saying he has no companion. Solinap told him that she and a certain Benjie Gomez will accompany him to Forbes Taxi.

Mamon told Solinap that he will think it over then hanged up the phone. A few minutes later, Solinap again called him telling the latter that Clavel was looking for him.

He said he and his wife will go to Forbes taxi office which Solinap agreed to.

“Together with my wife Herma Mamon, I left my car in front of San Jose College and I drove the car of Ma’am Janet Solinap going to the garage of Forbes Taxi,” Mamon said.

While on their way to Forbes, Mamon said he heard Solinap talking to a certain Benjie Gomez via phone and informed him that they are on their way to the garage.

When they arrived at the garage, Yap was not home yet so they waited at the office.

Minutes later, Mamon said Atty. Joseph Go, Light of Glory Taxi operator and Atop legal counsel, arrived at the Forbes Taxi office.

After the usual niceties, Mamon said Go explained the purpose of their meeting.

He recalled Go’s statement: “We are businessmen. Our only purpose is to pressure Atty. Duron to resign with your help. We will teach you and prepare your affidavit. Pin down Atty. Duron and we will save you and help you in your office and financially help you. All you have to do is testify against Atty. Duron and we will save you.”

Mamon said Go convinced him to agree but he did not answer. Minutes later, Yap arrived with dinner which they ate in another room. Benjie Gomez also arrived and joined the group.

Mammon said in his affidavit that Go continued to convince him to testify against Duron through a prepared affidavit.

He said Go told him that the affidavit will be “85% truth and 15% lies.

“Pointblank, Pitong Yap asked me if I am with them or with Atty. Duron,” he added.

Mamon said Yap asked him “What will you do Henry if Director Clavel will not renew your appointment?”

Mamon said he asked for an assurance from Clavel.

“Ma’am Janet (Solinap) called Director Clavel if he is coming to the garage. Pitong Yap and Atty. Go also called Director Clavel,” he added.

But Clavel did not show up at the meeting because he was already home and the heavy rain prevented him from leaving.

After two hours, the meeting broke up and they went home.

The Daily Guardian tried to get the comments of Go and Yap but to no avail.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) central office will begin its probe on the graft charges against the hearing officer in its Western Visayas office.

LTFRB Chairman Alberto Suansing said he assigned Atty. Manuel Mahipos of their legal department to look into the complaints against Atty. Rommel Duron, LTFRB-6 hearing officer and technical services head.

Suansing said he designated Mahipos as the lead investigator upon receipt of the complaint filed by taxi operator Salvacion Ruiz and the Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (Aptoda).

Suansing said the investigation will first gather facts surrounding the complaint and will visit the LTFRB regional office to talk to the complainant and Duron.

The LTFRB head said the investigation will be impartial to give both parties the chance to air their sides.

“The investigation will be fair to both sides so we will reach the truth regarding this matter,” Suansing said.

Ruiz and Aptoda accused Duron of allegedly mulcting P33,000 from her in exchange for the franchise of her new taxi unit.

Ruiz said she later learned from the LTFRB’s official receipt that the processing fee for her franchise application is only P810.

Ruiz said Duron initially charged P35,000 from her but he gave her a P2,000 discount during actual payment.

Duron denied the allegation saying Aptoda wants to ease him out of office because of the digital taxi meter issue.

Duron said he does not know the complainant nor did he demand P35,000 from Ruiz.

Duron went on leave of absence the past few days after the LTFRB central office received the complaint against him. He declined to comment further as the investigation is about to begin.

Atty. Porfirio Clavel, LTFRB regional director, said he welcomes the probe to ferret out the truth in the issue against Duron.

Clavel said it is better if their central office conducts the probe to ensure impartiality and fairness.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE public transport sector in Western Visayas is not keen on reducing their fare despite the continuous oil price rollbacks.

 

Atty. Porfirio Clavel, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) regional head, said this is the initial reaction he gathered in a series of consultations with transport group of Region 6.

 

Clavel said transport groups are amenable to a 50-centavo fare reduction if the price of diesel fuel hits P22-24 per liter.

 

Diesel fuel, which is used by public utility jeepneys and buses, presently costs P26-28 per liter.

 

“If the price of diesel fuel goes down to P22 per liter, they are willing to reduce the fare from P7 to P6.50 for the first five kilometers. This is the general sentiment of the transport sector as I went around the region for consultations,” Clavel said.

 

The public transport sector in Metro Manila lowered this month the minimum fare from P7.50 to P7.

 

The LTFRB national board ordered the fare slash due to the sudden and dramatic drop of oil prices in the world market from the “atrocious amount” of more than $140 per barrel to as low as $35 to $39 for Dubai crude.

 

The price of diesel in the Philippines also dropped to P23 per liter from a high of P49 last year.

 

The last fare slash took effect in Western Visayas last year when the LTFRB granted a provisional 50-centavo rollback from P7.50 to P7 for the first five kilometers.

 

October 2014
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