Sunday, December 3, 2023

Ex LTFRB Aide Jeffrey Tumbado’s Flip-flops over Graft Charges

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In a stunning turn of events, Jeffrey Tumbado, a former official of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), has once again recanted his previous statements, setting off a whirlwind of accusations and counter-accusations within the government. Tumbado’s credibility is now in question as he flip-flops on his allegations of corruption against high-ranking officials.

Tumbado initially made headlines by accusing his former boss, suspended LTFRB Chair Atty. Teofilo Guadiz, of engaging in corrupt practices related to the grant of special franchise permits to public utility vehicle (PUV) owners. The allegations hinted at the involvement of officials within the Department of Transportation and Railways (DOTR).

The accusations levied by Tumbado suggested that up to five million pesos changed hands within the agency to secure operating permits for PUV operators. While Guadiz was explicitly named, there were insinuations of involvement by other DOTR officials.

DOTR Secretary Jimmy Bautista was swift to respond, warning that he would take legal action against those who smeared his name. In a turn of events, he did file charges against Mar Valbuena, a key figure in the transport group Manibela, and media personality Ira Panganiban, a former ABS-CBN host now working as an editor for a motoring magazine. Panganiban maintained that his comments were part of his journalistic duties.

Notably, it remains unclear whether Tumbado was included in Bautista’s legal complaint, with most news outlets only identifying Valbuena and Panganiban as respondents.

The scandal has quickly gained traction, capturing the attention of lawmakers, including senators, who are eager to delve deeper into the allegations of corruption. Reports suggest that two congressmen were also implicated, allegedly reaping as much as 30 million pesos every month.

The allegations have extended beyond the central LTFRB office, with claims that regional directors were required to generate substantial sums, contributing up to 30 million pesos monthly from PUV and PUJ operators.

Tumbado’s credibility took another hit when, after initially making allegations, he recanted, attributing his initial statements to external influences. However, he has now shifted his stance once more, stating that he was pressured by various groups, including family members, to recant. He has alleged that several officials approached him, including Guadiz, who asked for a second chance to clear his name.

Amid this whirlwind of accusations, Congress has announced its intention to investigate the corruption allegations. It remains uncertain whether officials from the DOTR or even Tumbado will testify in the hearings.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. suspended Guadiz following Tumbado’s initial revelations. Mercy Paras Leynes has been appointed as the Officer-In-Charge (OIC) of the LTFRB while an internal investigation is conducted.

As the nation watches the scandal unfold, the central question remains: Who is telling the truth in this ever-evolving web of allegations and recantations?

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