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By Lily O Ramos

MANILA – The Department of Tourism (DOT) is extending its full support to the Caticlan airport expansion project which, upon completion, is expected to accommodate 1.2 million passengers annually from its present capacity of 700,000.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

OPERATORS and drivers of public utility jeepneys in Pavia, Iloilo invited their counterparts in Sta. Barbara town to join their newly-minted group if they want to continue the privileges under the Perimeter Boundary Ordinance (PBO) of Iloilo City.

Sangguniang Bayan Member Otoniel Gonzaga said in an interview over Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Councilor Perla S. Zulueta that the Pavia Jeepney Drivers and Operators Association (PJODA) are willing to accept drivers and operators who ply the Sta. Barbara based jeepneys    

Gonzaga said they have long invited their counterparts in Sta. Barbara to settle their dispute over two major routes in Iloilo City.

The formation of PJODA upset four Sta. Barbara jeepney groups claiming they have lost substantial income because of the new route.

Sta. Barbara jeepney drivers said they lost the “first town” privilege under the PBO because of the presence of Pavia jeepneys traversing the LaPaz and Diversion Road routes.

Under the PBO, 50% of jeepneys operating from towns right next to the city are allowed to ferry passengers into the metropolis.

For second towns, such as Sta. Barbara, only 15% of jeepneys in each association are allowed to enter Iloilo City.

The Sta. Barbara jeepney groups petitioned for a temporary restraining order (TRO) with prayer for injunction against the operation of PJODA.

Executive Judge Antonio Natino granted a 72-hour TRO for the petitioners while hearing the main motion for an injunction. Natino later lifted the TRO and trashed the petition.

Gonzaga said they still have room for Sta. Barbara jeepneys who want to join PJODA.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board granted 100 slots each for the Pavia-LaPaz and Pavia-Diversion Road routes, he added.

“There is still room for more or less 50 units per route. If they want to join us and enjoy the privileges we have,” Gonzaga said.

Gonzaga said the Pavia route has more than enough passengers because several barangays in New Lucena and southern portion of Iloilo City pass through their town.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Guimaras issued a preliminary injunction against an order of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) banning passenger pumpboats from plying their route when Public Storm Warning Signal No. 1 is hoisted.

In a writ of preliminary injunction issued October 21, 2009, Judge Merlyn Deloria of Guimaras RTC Branch 65 ordered the PCG to stop the implementation of Paragraph 6(a) of Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 01-09.

Issued in February 5, 2009, the PCG circular prohibited vessels of 1,000 gross tons or below, such as passenger pumpboats, from sailing when Storm Signal No. 1 is hoisted “within the point of origin or route or point of destination.”

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Guimaras headed by Atty. John Edward Gando filed a petition for declaratory relief against the PCG policy.

The petitioners claimed that the circular stranded more than 1,000 passengers and affected the economy of the island province when a typhoon struck last June 24-25.

IBP-Guimaras said MC 01-09 also “brazenly violated the due process requirement, right to property, the liberty to travel and equal protection of the law under the Constitution.”

The writ of preliminary injunction also ordered the commander of PCG-Iloilo City station to exercise “sound discretion” if pumpboats can travel despite the storm signal No.1 raised in the departure and destination points.

The RTC also ordered the PCG-Iloilo City station to coordinate with weather bureau PAGASA as regards the forecast position, radius of wind and route of the storm subject of PSWS No. 1.

The PCG must also coordinate with the motor banca association on the responsibility of the crew when sailing during typhoons.

The court, however, required the petitioners to post a P100,000 bond before the writ is enforced.

“The order means that the PCG can allow passenger pumpboats can sail despite a storm signal No. 1 if the sea is clear and the wind is calm. If the weather is very rough despite the absence of a storm signal, the PCG can prohibit boats with 1,000 gross tons or below from plying their route. The PCG is trained on sea navigation thus they are experts in determining the situation,” Gando said in a telephone interview.

Gando said the preliminary injunction will take effect while the court discusses the constitutionality of the PCG memorandum circular which is the main issue raised by IBP-Guimaras in its petition.

“If the court sees that the circular violates our constitutional rights, it can issue an injunction against the MC No. 01-09,” he added.

As regards the P100,000 bond, Gando said he will meet with Guimaras Gov. Felipe Hilan Nava on how to raise cash for the said bond.

Gando said Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, PCG commandant, had promised Guimaras Rep. JC Rahman Nava to issue a new memorandum circular that will address the case of the island-resort “but it has yet to be realized.”

“If that circular is issued, we will withdraw the petition as the case will be considered moot and academic,” Gando said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE new transport group in Pavia, Iloilo will shorten the travel time and cut expenses of passengers from said town, said Sangguniang Bayan member Otoniel “Bing” Gonzaga.

In an interview with cable TV show Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Iloilo City Councilor Perla Zulueta Sunday, Gonzaga said he helped form the Pavia Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association (PJODA) because of the clamor of their constituents.

Gonzaga, chair of the committee transportation committee of the Pavia municipal council, said some of their townmates take 2 to 3 rides each day to reach their destinations.

“Students who take the Sta. Barbara jeeps have to alight at SM City and take another ride or two to reach UP, Iloilo Doctors College (IDC) and John B. Lacson Maritime University in Arevalo district. With the Pavia-Iloilo City jeeps, they will cut short their trips,” Gonzaga said.

With the establishment of PJODA, public utility jeepneys from Pavia can travel all the way to IDC and the Iloilo Terminal Market area under the Perimeter Boundary Ordinance of Iloilo City.

Jeepneys based in Sta. Barbara are opposing the new jeepney group as it will affect their own trips and income.

PJODA members are formerly Sta. Barbara-Iloilo jeepneys who applied for amendments to their franchises.

Pavia jeeps are entitled to traverse the Pavia-LaPaz and Pavia-Hiway (Diversion Road) routes.

Gonzaga said a total of 39 jeepneys were assigned to the Pavia-LaPaz route.

Iloilo City Councilor Erwin Plagata, committee on transportation chair, said they conducted hearings on Pavia route and invited representatives of Sta. Barbara jeeps to get their sentiments.

Plagata said the City Council has the responsibility to assign specific routes to jeeps from other towns “to protect the city loop jeeps and give order to our traffic.”

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

PASSENGERS from Sta. Barbara, Pavia and other towns in Iloilo were stranded after the Sta. Barbara-based public utility jeepneys held a five-hour strike Monday morning.

The Sta. Barbara Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association (SBJODA) are protesting Municipal Ordinance 2009-04 of Pavia which set the guidelines for the application of franchise for Pavia-Iloilo City route.

The ordinance sanctions the creation of the Pavia-Iloilo City route, which Sta. Barbara drivers believe will affect their income.

SBJODA president Oting Jallorina said the Pavia-Iloilo City route will diminish their passengers and even cut short their route.

The new route will traverse Pavia, Diversion Road in Mandurriao district to Iloilo Doctors Hospital in Molo, Iloilo City. The Pavia jeepneys will then pass by Iloilo Fishing Port Complex and go back to Pavia.

Before the creation of the new route, Sta. Barbara jeepneys ferried passengers from Pavia and those bound for Diversion Road and LaPaz area.

Pavia Sangguniang Bayan Member Otoniel Gonzaga, chairman of the committee on transportation, said they created their own jeepneys group and route to serve their own constituents.

Gonzaga said they observed that their townmates get stranded when other provincial jeepneys go on transport strike.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) regional office has approved the creation of the new route.

Atty. Porfirio Clavel, LTFRB regional director, said drivers of 69 jeepneys that previously operated on the Sta. Barbara route applied for amendments on their franchises to Pavia-Iloilo City route.

Jallorina said the municipal council of Pavia and LTFRB did not invite their group to deliberate on the new route.

Clavel said they don’t hold consultations or public hearings on amendments to existing franchises.

Gonzaga said they invited Sta. Barbara jeep operators and drivers during the hearing on the ordinance.

Jallorina said the new route will also strip them of the car pass privilege under the Perimeter Boundary Ordinance (PBO) of Iloilo City.

The PBO’s car pass system allows 50% of jeepney groups in towns adjacent to the city to ferry passengers to within the metropolis.

Jallorina said if the Pavia jeeps operate, only 15% of Sta. Barbara jeeps can avail car passes and enter the city.

“That will mean reduction of trips and passengers which will affect our income,” Jallorina said.

The conflict was eased when the municipal government of Pavia agreed to review the ordinance by referring it back to Gonzaga’s committee.

TWO commercial airline plans to launch international flights from the new Iloilo airport, according to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). 

DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza announced the plan during the groundbreaking of the P124-million secondary access road to the new airport in Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area. The groundbreaking of the access road was held at Brgy. Tabucan, Cabatuan last week. 

“The Iloilo Airport is now complete. Darating na ang international flights,” Mr. Mendoza said. 

Mr. Mendoza said Cebu Pacific airlines is planning to launch its Iloilo-Hongkong flights while Korean Airlines which will mount South Korea-Iloilo flights.       

Mr. Mendoza said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the establishment of an international desk which will be administered by the Customs Immigration and Quarantine. 

He said the influx of direct international flights to Iloilo will bring in more investors to the area. 

“This could be achieved because of the potentials of the area near the airport to become and industrial zone which will eventually becoming an economic zone,” Mr. Mendoza said.

The Regional Development Council (RDC) in Western Visayas had lobbied for international flights to the Iloilo Airport. 

Two Western Visayas airports already accommodate international flights – the Godofredo P. Ramos Airport in Caticlan, Malay, Aklan and the Kalibo International Airport in Kalibo, Aklan.

The RDC’s Regional Project Monitoring Committee of RDC-Western Visayas said the Iloilo airport can generate P280,000 from terminal fee collections daily from international flights.

The airport currently serves 16 outgoing domestic flights daily, with an average volume of 90 passengers per flight.

Iloilo airport began operating June 14, 2007 in lieu of the old Mandurriao airport in Iloilo City which had been in service for over 70 years. 

The new airport is officially designated as a Class 1 principal (major domestic) airport by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. 

The new Iloilo Airport can accommodate aircraft as large as the Airbus A330 because of its longer runway.

The airport is located along Tomas Confesor Highway, a major highway traversing Panay Island.

The new secondary access road project will serve as an alternative route to the new airport for passengers from northern and central Iloilo and the provinces of Antique, Capiz and Aklan. 

The proposed road is 3.2 kilometers long from the national highway. It will be a two-lane with 5.5 meter width asphalt concrete pavement. 

The project covers an area of 64,944 square meter and will traverse five barangays of Cabatuan: Tabucan, Tiring, Talanghauan, Ga-ub, and Duyan-duyan. 

The new road network is expected to help reduce traffic at the main access road during peak hours. It will save at least 15 minutes travel time for passengers from northern Iloilo.

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

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

THE top official of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) branded its regional office in Western Visayas as corrupt, thus, all its personnel must be investigated.

LTFRB Chairman Alberto Suansing said that aside from corruption charges against Atty. Rommel Duron, LTFRB hearing officer, he also received reports on alleged shenanigans of other LTFRB officials and personnel.

“Most of the personnel in LTFRB Western Visayas are corrupt and that is based on the reports we have been receiving,” Suansing said.

Suansing said their investigation will not only focus on the complaints lodged by taxi operators against Duron but also on other officers and rank and file employees.

Suansing said they will also go over inventories of transport franchises and transactions in LTFRB-6.

He said they are also monitoring the actions of Atty. Porfirio Clavel, LTFRB-6 regional director.

Suansing said they might release the initial findings on the complaints against Duron next week.

The Association of Taxi Operators in Panay and Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Associations accused Duron of extortion by charging operators fees in excess of the regular P810 franchise payment.

Clavel said he welcomes any probe on their office saying Suansing was just being concerned with the regional office.

“Like a father to his children, Chairman Suansing is only making sure that everything is in order in the regional office. We welcome the investigation,” Clavel said.

Clavel earlier said he will tell what he knows about the goings-on inside LTFRB regional office at 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

PERSONNEL of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) are refrained from issuing any statement relative to the alleged graft case filed against a ranking official.

Atty. Porfirio Clavel, LTFRB regional director, said the LTFRB central office issued the gag order after ordering a probe on Atty. Rommel Duron, regional hearing officer and technical services department chief.

“Maybe the central office is already conducting an investigation on the allegations against Atty. Duron reason why it issued the gag order,” Clavel said.

Clavel earlier said he will reveal everything he knows regarding Duron’s case at the proper forum.

Duron is facing administrative and criminal cases filed by taxi operator Salvacion Ruiz and the Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Associations (Aptoda).

Ruiz claimed that Duron made her pay P33,000 for her franchise application when the regular fee is only P810, based on the official receipt issued to her.

Another taxi operator, Tony Caram also surfaced and alleged that he paid P35,000 to casual driver Henry Mamon for his franchise application.

Caram said Mamon is detailed to Duron’s office and may have an involvement in the alleged racket.

Caram’s statement became the basis of administrative and criminal cases filed by the Association of Taxi Operators (Atop) in Panay against Duron and Mamon.

Duron had denied the allegations against him saying he did not directly deal nor meet the complainants.

Mammon claimed in his affidavit that Atop officials pressured him to pin down Duron in the administrative and criminal cases.

Clavel said he did not renew Mamon’s appointment as casual driver for conduct unbecoming, act of dishonesty and insubordination.

Clavel said Mamon’s continued interviews relative to Duron’s case was basis for the non-renewal of his appointment.

Aptoda and Atop began Tuesday its series of protest actions against Duron by tying yellow and black ribbons in taxi units of their members.

Genie Primalion, Aptoda liaison officer, said the ribbons symbolize their despair on the slow development of the complaints filed against Duron and Mamon.

The taxi groups will also mount a protest rally and noise barrage at the LTFRB regional office.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

SEVERAL taxi groups will stage protest actions against the alleged extortion committed by some Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB-6) officials and personnel.

Genie Primalion, spokesperson of the Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Associations (Aptoda), said they will take their cause against LTFRB hearing officer Rommel Duron and other personnel in the streets.

Primalion said they are dismayed by the slow progress in the complaint they filed against Duron with the LTFRB central office.

Primalion said taxi groups under the Aptoda umbrella will issue statements against the LTFRB and hold protest rallies at the agency’s regional office in Jaro.

Drivers will also wear black armbands as a sign of unity against the alleged extortion activities.

Aptoda is one of the complainants in the administrative cases against Duron.

The cases stemmed from the revelations of taxi operator Salvacion Ruiz who accused Duron of extorting P33,000 from her in exchange for the approval of her taxi franchise.

Duron denied meeting Ruiz or demanding money from her in excess of the regular P810 processing fee.

Duron said he is the target of black propaganda by some quarters in the taxi operators.

The Association of Taxi Operators in Panay also filed administrative and criminal cases against Duron with the Office of the Ombudsman in Visayas.

They are also planning to lodge disbarment cases against the said LTFRB official.

Clavel: I will reveal what I know…

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AMIDST the controversy swirling around his office, Atty. Porfirio Clavel, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB-6) regional, would rather reveal everything he knows in the appropriate forum.

Clavel said he will spill everything he knows inside his office when asked by concerned authorities, especially their central office.

“When the right time comes, I will reveal everything that I know. That will happen in the right forum,” he said.

Clavel said he tried to keep his silence in an effort to maintain impartiality as accusations of extortion are leveled against LTFRB hearing officer Rommel Duron.

“The integrity of this office where I am the head servant matters most, that is why I refrain from making public statements as much as possible,” he said.

The LTFRB regional head said casual driver Henry Mamon, who was also dragged in the alleged extortion racket, sought his help when taxi operator Tony Caram threatened to file cases against him.

Clavel said he told Mamon that he cannot show any impartiality now that the matter has been brought to the attention of their head office.

“I told him (Mamon) that I cannot show any preference to anyone because I must maintain first the integrity of this office. We have to let due process take its course on this,” Clavel said.

Clavel also denied ordering Mamon to go to the garage of Forbes Taxi to meet the officers of the Association of Taxi Operators in Panay (Atop).

What can he recall is to suggest to Mamon to approach persons who have access to Atop to help in his case.

Clavel also denied guaranteeing Mamon’s continued employment with the LTFRB if he agrees to pin down Duron in the extortion case.

He said he did not receive any call or text from Atop officers when they met Mamon July 29 at the Forbes Taxi garage.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

TOP officers of a group of taxi operators denied pressuring an employee of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in order to ease out an official linked to graft.

Atty. Joseph Vincent Go, counsel for Association of Taxi Operators in Panay (Atop), said the statements of Henry Mamon, a casual driver of the LTFRB regional office, in his sworn affidavit are all lies.

Mamon claimed in his affidavit that Go, operator of the Light of Glory taxi fleet, and Atop president Perfecto Yap, Forbes Taxi owner, tried to induce him to turn the tables on Atty. Rommel Duron, LTFRB hearing officer.

Duron is facing graft charges filed by taxi operator Salvacion Ruiz with the LTFRB central office. The complainant said the LTFRB official made her pay P33,000 for her taxi franchise when the assessment fee is only P810.

Mamon said in his affidavit that Go and Yap convinced him to pin down Duron in exchange for the renewal of his appointment aside from financial assistance. The offer was made during a meeting with the two Atop officials July 29, 2009 at the Forbes Taxi garage.

Mamon said the pressures, including death threats and calls he received from unidentified persons, are part of a conspiracy to oust Duron from the regional office.

He said some quarters in the transport sector don’t want Duron to take over the helm of LTFRB-6 when regional director Porfirio Clavel retires from service.

While Go admitted meeting Mamon on the said date and place, he denied pressuring the latter by offering money or employment.

Go said they only explained to Mamon that he is the least guilty in the alleged racket inside the LTFRB and he can help in the case by telling everything he knows.

Go said he told Mamon that they wanted to file cases against Duron to pressure him to resign “because we don’t want to deal with someone who is perceived to be corrupt.”

“We did not induce him to tell lies or make up stories for him to utter. We just told him to tell the truth,” Go said.

Go said it was Mamon who was trying to convince his client, taxi operator Tony Caram, not to file cases against him.

Caram also accused Mamon, who is assigned as Duron’s driver, of taking P35,000 from him for his taxi franchise some four months ago.

Caram’s statement, in effect, corroborated Ruiz’s claims which prompted Atop to file charges against Mamon and Duron.

Go said Caram told Mamon not to disturb him anymore as he is committed to press charges against the driver.

Yap also denied Mamon’s claims saying it was the latter who went to his garage in his continuing effort to convince Caram not to pursue the case.

Yap said he was surprised to learn that Mamon was in his garage along with LTFRB administrative officer Janet Solinap.

Yap said they want Duron out of LTFRB for his rude ways and alleged extortion activities.

He said their experience with Duron is the basis for the cases they filed against the latter.

Atop said they will also ask authorities to conduct a lifestyle check on Duron.

Go said he is planning to file libel or perjury charges against Mamon for his “malicious statements.”

Atop yesterday filed administrative and criminal cases Duron and Mamon with the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas in Cebu relative to the alleged extortion in the LTFRB office.

DIVERSIONARY TACTIC

The Alliance of Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (Aptoda), which helped Ruiz expose the alleged racket in the LTFRB, said Mamon is trying to divert public attention   

Genie Primalion, Aptoda spokesperson, said the real issue is the alleged extortion committed by LTFRB personnel on unsuspecting franchise applicants.

“They are just trying to divert our attention to this so-called grand conspiracy against Atty. Duron. This conspiracy thing came out when Mrs. Ruiz exposed what she experienced at the LTFRB,” Primalion said.

Primalion said Duron might be fond of reading fiction novels, particularly conspiracy theories.

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.

Atty. Duron denies charges 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Tara Yap 

AN official of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and a taxi operator traded barbs over processing fees for new franchises and taxi meters.

Businesswoman Salvacion Ruiz and Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (APTODA) filed a complaint with LTFRB central office against Atty. Rommel Duron, LTFRB-6 hearing officer.

Duron said the accusations against him stemmed from conflicts with other taxi operators on the new metering system.

Ruiz claimed in her complaint-affidavit that Duron required her to pay P35,000 for a certificate of public convenience for her new taxi unit.

After processing the document and borrowing money from a lending firm, Ruiz said she went to Duron’s office June 5, 2009 to submit her application and pay the fees.

Ruiz alleged that she paid the money to Duron who gave her a P2,000 discount. Instead of P35,000, she only gave P33,000 to the hearing officer but she got no receipt for the payment.

Ruiz said Duron told her to return June 11 with a picture of her taxi and to secure her franchise.

On June 11, Ruiz returned to the LTFRB office to give the photograph of the taxi. She said Duron told her to install a receipt issuing meter which she can buy from an outlet near the office for P16,500.

Ruiz said she asked if she can install the usual taxi meter because she does not have enough money for the new meter.

The complainant said Duron shouted at her in front of other people and embarrassed her.

Ruiz then learned from APTODA president Benjie Clavel that the installation of the digital taxi meter has been deferred.

On June 15, another confrontation occurred between Duron and Ruiz, Clavel and APTODA adviser Jeffrey Celis at the office of Atty. Porfirio Clavel, LTFRB regional director.

The complainant confronted Duron about the P33,000 she paid and his actions last June 11.

Atty. Clavel mediated and told Ruiz to return the following day to get her CPC. She later learned that the processing fee for the franchise was only P810 based on the receipt issued to her.

Ruiz said she filed charges for graft and corruption, conduct unbecoming of a public officer and abuse of trust and confidence against Duron. 

GANGED UP

In a phone interview, Duron said his accusers are conspiring against him.

Indi na matuod, daw gina pulihan nila ako (That is a lie. They are ganging up on me),” Atty. Duron told The Daily Guardian.

Duron firmly denied the allegations hurled against him byRuiz and Benjie Clavel.

He also refuted demanding P35,000 from Sualog-Ruiz.

“Indi ko na siya kilala.  Nga-a mangayo ako sang kwarta sa indi ko kilala?” Duron said.

He said that he works in the government and his office is a public trust.

As regards shouting at Ruiz June 15, Duron said there was no intention to embarrass her.

“If she was offended, I am asking for her forgiveness,” Duron said. 

Duron said, however, that he may have raised his voice while discussing the taxi meter with Ruiz. 

He claimed that he was a bit upset having to explain over and over again that regular taxi meters are not permitted for new taxi franchises. He said he may have raised his voice but it was not his intention to humiliate Ruiz.

Atty. Duron said the complainant is just sourgraping. He said he does not understand why Ruiz is still complaining when her franchise was approved June 16.

He also accused APTODA president Benjie Clavel of pushing Ruiz to file the complaint because of their past differences on the issue of the digital taxi meter receipt. 

He also said that there’s a bigger man behind the accusations against him but declined to identify that person.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

IT WILL be business as usual in Iloilo City despite threats of a transport strike next week.

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said major transport groups in the metropolis will not join Monday’s nationwide transport stoppage initiated by Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operators Nationwide (PISTON).

Treñas said he got assurance from the Iloilo City Alliance of Drivers Association (ICADA), Alliance of Panay Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (APTODA), Association of Taxi Operators in Panay (ATOP) and the Iloilo City Alliance of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association (ICAJODA) that they will not the strike.

Nick Dalisay, ICADA president, said they went to the City Mayor’s Office Wednesday to assure Treñas that they will continue ferrying passengers in the city.

Dalisay said it would be premature to join the strike because the latest fare increase granted by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) is still provisional.

Dalisay said they are awaiting the LTFRB to decide on their main petition for the fare hike. 

Dalisay said they don’t have enough funds to support their members during the two-day strike, July 13-14.

“Because of the crisis, we were not able to gather funds to buy rice and food which we distribute to our members when we go on strike. While we join the cause of other groups, the two-day strike is too much for us, we will go hungry,” he added.

PISTON is calling for the repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law and suspension of the 12% value added tax on petroleum products.

The militant group is also calling for the suspension of Department of Transportation and Communication Order N0. 38 and 39 which increased administrative fees such as licensing fees and penalties on traffic rule violators.  

Treñas said he will meet transport groups to help solve their grievances and try to postpone the strike.

Treñas said he will not allow the city to suffer economic losses because of the strike. He added that he will find ways to meet protesting transport groups.

The mayor said he can use his emergency powers to facilitate smooth transportation of passengers and goods in and out of the city.

“We can allow tricycles and trisikads to ply city streets. We can also suspend the car pass system on provincial jeeps to allow them to ferry their passengers and cargoes in the city. Or we may opt to suspend the perimeter boundary ordinance as a drastic measure,” he said.

Treñas said there is no need to deploy government vehicles to ferry employees and stranded commuters during the strike because city streets will be opened to provincial public utility jeepneys. (With reports from LCPendon)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

A GROUP of lawyers will ask the Regional Trial Court to stop the policy of suspending pump boat trips every time a storm signal is hoisted in the island and Iloilo.

Atty. John Edward Gando, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Guimaras president, said they will file a petition for declaratory relief against the policy imposed by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

The IBP suit seeks to stop the enforcement of Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 01-09 which suspends the operation of sea vessels of 1,000 gross tons and below when Public Storm Warning Signal (PSWS) No. 1 is raised in the origin, route or destination of boats.

Vice Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, PCG commandant, issued the memorandum June 5, 2009 in response to sea mishaps during stormy weather.

Gando said their petition will also ask the RTC to issue a temporary restraining order and injunction against the PCG regulation.

Gando said the cancellation of pump boat trips plying Iloilo-Guimaras route June 24-25 stranded more than 1,000 passengers and affected the economy of the island province.

“Small banks in Guimaras who rely on cash from the Iloilo branch of the Land Bank of the Philippines were affected. Many residents of Guimaras were stranded in Iloilo City amidst the rain and cold. Some of them failed to attend their classes and report to work. This regulation deprives Guimarasnons of their basic rights,” Gando said.

Gando said Guimaras is only 1.3 miles from Iloilo City, a distance that can be traveled 10-15 minutes away.

He said the local PCG station can determine if boats should be allowed to travel despite PSWS No. 1 in Iloilo and Guimaras.

“If the sea and wind are calm and fine despite the Storm Signal No. 1, pump boats should be allowed to ferry passengers to avoid stranding the passengers. What we want to happen is for the local PCG commander to judge or determine if the boats will be allowed to set sail,” Gando said.

IBP-Guimaras also passed Resolution No. 02-09 denouncing the PCG memorandum and Tamayo. It also authorized Gando to lead the filing of appropriate cases against the agency “for redress of grievance.”

The group said MC 01-09 is only applicable on vessels with travel time of more than two hours “and must not apply to the exceptional case of Guimaras-Iloilo route.”

The resolution also said that the PCG regulation caused “untold inconvenience to the stranded passengers, particularly tourists, students, businessmen, professionals and individuals who take the Iloilo-Guimaras route.    

MC 01-09 also “brazenly violated the due process requirement, right to property, the liberty to travel and equal protection of the law under the Constitution,” the resolution said.

“The Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Guimaras Chapter cannot just kiss the abusive hand of the concerned government authorities that strangle the aforementioned rights and kills the economy of the Province of Guimaras,” the resolution said.  

Gando said they will file their petition Friday. The respondents are Tamayo, Department of Communication and Transportation (DOTC) Sec. Leandro Mendoza and Capt. Eduardo Fabricante, PCG-Iloilo station chief.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE taxi receipt scheme proposed by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) will burden taxi drivers, according to the Association of Taxi Operators of Panay (ATOP).

 

In an interview over cable TV program Serbisyo Publiko hosted by Councilor Perla Zulueta and Radyo ng Bayan’s Rene Monteclaro, ATOP legal counsel Joseph Vincent Go said the taxi receipt system was initially meant for tourists. The system was supposed to cover Metro Manila only.

 

Later, the LTFRB decided implement the receipt scheme in the whole country to raise more taxes, said Go, who owns the Light of Glory taxi service.

 

The taxi receipt system, which became mandatory this month, requires taxi operators to install a receipt issuing meter in their units.

 

But the scarcity of accredited meter suppliers in Region 6 prompted the LTFRB regional office to allow the issuance of manual receipts for the meantime.

 

A receipt issuing meter costs from P12,000 to P18,000, according to the LTFRB and taxi operators.

 

“Before, the operators paid a minimum tax rate because it is difficult to compute our gross earnings. Under the new system, government will now tax the daily earnings of the driver. The tendency now is for the operators to increase the boundary or rents for each unit so we can cope with the taxes,” Go said. 

 

Go said there is 90% possibility that they will increase their boundaries.

 

Citing their conversation with regional officials of the Bureau of Internal Revenues, Go said tax collectors doubt if the meters are tamper proof.   

 

“BIR will not be able to collect the right amount of taxes if drivers tamper the meters. And this system will also promote ‘transactions’ between the driver and passengers which sometimes lead to arguments,” he added.

 

Taxi operators will also spend an estimated P1,200 per month for the thermal paper that will be installed in the meter.

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