26 “Red Plate” violators face graft charges

Lawyer Marco Buena, Ombudsman Mindanao spokesperson, said out of around 470 vehicles apprehended by the anti-graft body's Oplan Red Plate around Mindanao from August 2006, the 26 are those whose explanation did not satisfy graft investigators.

He said Tuesday cases were monitored to have decreased but they are taking a closer look with a plan to implement a new monitoring scheme.  

He said they are now at the stage of filing preliminary investigation and administrative hearings.

Buena said the unauthorized use of government vehicles constitutes a violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Law for a penal offense and also Republic Act 6173 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Government Employees for an administrative offense.

He said the Ombudsman will be the complainant of the cases and there will be no need for others.

He said most of those scheduled for filing of formal charges are mostly heads of offices of government agencies around Mindanao. But he refused to give the names of the respondents. He said there is greater responsibility for heads of offices, like regional directors and mayors, to comply with vehicle use requirements.

Buena said unlike before, violators are now liable for criminal offense because they cause undue injury to the government.

Those found guilty, he said, could be imprisoned for 6-15 years.

He said the identification of violators out from their sighted cases is slow because they have to coordinate with the Land Transportation Office.

The Ombudsman used a no-contact policy in monitoring abuses. The policy bars them from conducting checkpoints with other agencies, which could have been easier for identification of vehicles.

He said they will elevate the campaign to a higher level as they have gained a positive feedback from the public.

He said users of government vehicles should be faithful in securing their trip tickets to avoid being reported and avoid using the vehicles out from what has been authorized.