LTO top official has 10 days to counter graft charges

THE Office of the Ombudsman (Visayas) has ordered Regional Director Roland C. Ramos of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) Regional Office VI to file his counter-affidavit to criminal and administrative charges in connection with the repair and renovation of the agency’s general services office, toilet and finance records room last year.

In a three-page order, Deputy Ombudsman Paul Elmer M. Clemente directed Ramos to rebut the allegations made by complainant Felizardo Valdez Jr. and his witnesses that he falsified documents to make it appear that the agency awarded a contract to repair and improve the building which he actually used as his apartment with his family.

The LTO disbursed the amount of P468,335.96 on December 20, 2018 to a contractor identified as 3rd Dragon Builders Innovation for the work done just over one month after Ramos issued a notice to proceed for the project.

However, Valdez said the supposed work done by the contractor never took place as the project was undertaken by him and some LTO employees between the months of August and October 2018 with the promise that they would be reimbursed for their expenses.

Valdez submitted sales receipts from construction materials suppliers as evidence that the deliveries had taken place as early as August 2018.

Valdez said that an LTO employee, Romeo Muega, had also provided materials for the project and paid for carpenters who did the actual repair and improvement work. Muega was never paid for the materials and salaries of the carpenters, he said.

Valdez also submitted a joint affidavit of two carpenters who admitted that it was Muega who hired them and paid for their meals and wages while the construction work was going on.

Ramos denied the allegation, saying that the transaction was in order.

He described Valdez as a “fixer” who had connived with Muega in the past in facilitating applications for drivers’ licenses without a need for the applicants to actually take the examinations conducted by the LTO.

Muega used to administer the drivers’ license examination in the agency.

Ramos said he had since reassigned Muega to another division in the regional office.

In particular, Valdez accused Ramos of violating Section (e) of R.A. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for “causing undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence” for the criminal aspect.

Administratively, Ramos was also charged for conduct prejudicial to the best interests of the service, gross neglect of duty, grave abuse of authority and gross dishonesty.

Valdez said it was impossible for the project to be completed in just 38 days, which is what the documents for the procurement and implementation of the project showed.

Based on the documents, the LTO signed a contract with 3rd Dragon Builders and Innovation on November 9, 2018 to finish the project for a duration of 90 days.

But on December 17, 2018, the contractor issued a certification that it had completed the project, which was made the basis for the payment made by the LTO on December 20, 2018.