CEBU CITY, Philippines - A revamp looms at the Land Transportation Office-Central Visayas (LTO-7) amid allegations of irregularities in car registrations.
Two division chiefs were ordered transferred to Tagbilaran City in Bohol and Toledo City in western Cebu to improve the quality of service in their departments, said Raul Aguilos, LTO-7 director.
He said a copy of the memorandum reassigning LTO-7 operations chief Jose Ruperto Remullo to LTO office in Tagbilaran and LTO-7 administration chief Gonzalo Baybay to Toledo was submitted to LTO chief Reynaldo Berroya.
The reshuffle will be implemented as soon as he receives a go-signal from Berroya, he added.
?There is a minor revamp that is being instituted in the regional office to create a management team to have an effective management. I am waiting for the approval of Asec (Assistant Secretary) Berroya, maybe on Monday or Tuesday, the revamp will be implemented. I believe I will be effective if there are new faces working with me,? he said.
Tagbilaran operations chief Joel Maloloy-on will take over Remullo's post in LTO-7 office while Macario Getaruelas will replace Baybay, Aguilos said.
The revamp was based on the recommendation made by some LTO-7 officials. The operation and administration divisions are considered crucial due to the nature and functions of the two offices, said Aguilos.
The revamp came in the wake of the investigation conducted by a four-man team who was sent to Cebu by Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza to look into the questionable issuances of vehicle registrations.
Based on initial findings, the government lost about P400 million in tax collections to several misdeclared and undervalued cars that were registered in Cebu in 2007.
Lawyer Teofilo Guadiz, head of the investigation, said they also found out that five Mitsubishi Pajeros that were carnapped in Manila ended up being registered in LTO-Cebu City.
He said they asked Alita Pulga, head of the registration division of LTO Cebu City, to explain how but she did not cooperate with investigators.
Pulga denied the allegations and was surprised by the initial findings of the investigators from the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC).
?I really felt downhearted. I felt bad to read in the papers that I did not cooperate in the investigation. I was never informed by investigators from the central office about the registration of five carnapped vehicles and I couldn't do that. I am strict on documents and I won't sacrifice my career for registering carnapped vehicles,? she told Cebu Daily News.
Pulga said the DOTC investigators did not mention about the ?carnapped? vehicles.
She also did not receive any letter from the central office asking her to explain about the questionable registration of carnapped vehicles, she said.
She said her office would have verified with the operations division of the Bureau of Customs the photocopied import documents on vehicles before issuing a certificate of stock report.
As to the case of the controversial Ferrari 2006 model allegedly owned by Revillame, Pulga said the certificate of payment was genuine.
Pulga said she furnished Berroya the certified true copies of the import documents covering the Ferrari's registration to ascertain their authenticity.
The DOTC investigators, which recently wrapped up its probe on car smuggling activities in Cebu, saw indications of a ?grand collusion? among LTO officials and unscrupulous importers.
Guadiz said he would submit his report to Mendoza within the week and identify the LTO officials who allegedly connived with unscrupulous importers.
LTO-7 chief Aguilos said he has created a regional management board to assess and review the existing systems at the LTO office in Cebu.
?Re-shuffling or revamp still remains an option but I have to wait for the final report of the DOTC. What we are doing now is just a minor revamp in the regional office,? he said.
Aguilos, who took over as LTO-7 chief last week amid allegations of fake car registration in Cebu, considers his new assignment as a big challenge that he will face squarely and fairly.
He said the registration of imported vehicles will no longer be done in the district offices since the new policy provides that all registrations will be done in Metro Manila.
The director warned his personnel that they would face administrative sanctions if they accept registration of imported vehicles.
He also said he will meet with Customs officials to find a solution on how to address the allegations that car smuggling in Cebu has become rampant.
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said smuggling is a ?syndicated? operation that uses Cebu as an entry point of hot cars after the anti-smuggling operations in Subic Bay port intensified.
?Our situation here is that we are not in the position to monitor these things. It's a national syndicate that is working. It (smuggling) is not because of the Cebuanos. I think it's a syndicate (that is behind these operations) and that they all know each other,? he said.
Local officials like him, he said could not address the problem due to lack of access to line agencies involved.
While he was not privy to any information on smuggling activities in Cebu, Osmeña said he could only suspect that the illegal operations involved personnel from the Bureau of Customs and the LTO.
?I don't think there are LGU officials involved. Maybe LTO. There has to be some involvement. How do we get these cars registered?? he asked.
Osmeña said there was an instance that some customs personnel had asked P20,000 from the city government to facilitate the shipment of donations from Kaoshiung City in Taiwan.
He failed to mention specifics of the alleged extortion, but Osmeña said that he brought the matter to the attention of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
?Imagine they are asking something from us as if we are smuggling something,? he said.
Osmeña said he welcomed the ongoing investigation on the alleged smuggling activities in Cebu.
But he said these illegal activities would not affect Cebu City's image as an investment destination.
?Reports on rampant smuggling will not affect the image of Cebu. (The proliferation of) drugs, guns and explosives yes, but not car smuggling,? he said. /with reports from Reporter Doris C. Bongcac