Group files complaint vs LTO execs using Duterte’s FOI order

Lian Buan
Group files complaint vs LTO execs using Duterte’s FOI order
The Anti-Trapo Movement files a complaint against LTO chief Edgar Galvante and bids and awards committee chair Romeo Vera Cruz for not releasing documents on the bidding for the production of drivers' license cards

MANILA, Philippines – For not releasing copies of bidding documents, executives of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) face a complaint filed by a group invoking President Rodrigo Duterte’s executive order on freedom of information (FOI) in the executive branch.

Anti-Trapo Movement (ATM) went to the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, April 3, to sue LTO chief Edgar Galvante and LTO bids and awards committee (BAC) chairman Romeo Vera Cruz for not releasing to the group meeting records, motions, and resolutions related to the bidding for the production of drivers’ license cards with 5-year validity.

ATM said they sent a request to Vera Cruz on February 24 and re-sent the same request on March 23. 

“The BAC Secretariat stated that any release of BAC documents is subject to the approval of Vera Cruz and promised to release the same on March 27, 2017,” their complaint-affidavit reads.

Leon Peralta, ATM founding chairman, told reporters that they had not received copies of the documents as of April 3.

For that, they filed complaints against Vera Cruz and Galvante for violations of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials (Republic Act 6713), the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 (RA 9485) and Duterte’s EO Number 2.

Questions on bidding

ATM is citing a report by Philippine Star columnist Jarius Bondoc which carried the grievances of Banner Plasticard Incorporated, which was prohibited by the LTO from bidding over several non-compliance issues.

Banner was supposedly the lowest bidder at P750 million to produce the license cards.

Pero ang na-pre-qualify nila is higher by almost P100 million, kaya nagtataka kami bakit hindi nila pinili ang lowest bidder, at nagpunta sila sa highest bidder. So may issue dito, gusto naming malaman ano ang big reason para panalunin ang highest bidder. Matatanggap ‘nyo ba ‘yun na ganun lang kasimple? Dapat tingnan natin ano ang big reason?” Peralta said.

(The one they pre-qualified is higher by almost P100 million, that’s why we are wondering why they did not choose the lowest bidder and they went with the highest vidder. There’s an issue here, we want to know what’s the big reason they would favor the highest bidder. Would you accept a simple explanation? Let’s look into it, what’s the big reason?)

The government procurement law or RA 9184 mandates that government contracts should go to the lowest qualified bidder. However, in August 2016, Duterte pronounced he would not follow this rule because it breeds corruption.

Pahabulan ng presyo. Sige, bababaan mo ‘yung presyo mo. ’Yung iba, nagpapabili ng 100, ipabili ito ng 20, eh ‘di yun bilhin mo sa akin ‘yung made in – alam mo na. Huwag muna ngayon kasi may alitan,” Duterte said then.

(It’s a race for the lowest price. Okay, lower your price. The others are buying for 100, they will buy only worth 20, so what you buy for me is – you know. Let’s not get into it first because of the dispute.)

“It is now clear that the LTO-BAC is hiding something that they do not want the public to know. It is likewise obvious that the LTO is on its way to award the said project to their favored one,” Peralta said.

Duterte’s FOI

Under Duterte’s EO on FOI, agencies under the executive branch should be able to respond to requests within 15 working days. It could be extended to 20 days if there’s a need for extensive search.

If a request is denied, it may be appealed within 15 days and the agency shall respond within 30 days.

It has been 26 working days since the ATM filed its request with the LTO.

If the case prospers, it could be a litmus test for Duterte’s FOI policy. (READ: FOI: What you need to know)

LTO’s Galvante has not responded to Rappler’s request for comment. – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.