Bautista gains industry support amid corruption allegations

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Bautista gains industry support amid corruption allegations
Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista has filed cyber libel complaints against the head of a transport organization as well as a journalist for allegedly making false corruption allegations.
  • Various port stakeholder groups expressed strong support for Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista amid corruption allegations
  • The groups dismissed accusations against Bautista as baseless and lacking in concrete evidence
  • The controversy originated from allegations made by former Land Transportation and Regulatory Board employee Jeffrey Tumbado
  • Tumbado later recanted and apologized to Bautista and others but maintained issues within the Board needed investigation
  • Bautista has denied involvement in corruption and filed cyber libel complaints against the head of a transport organization as well as a journalist

Various port stakeholders’ groups have expressed their support for Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista in the face of allegations of corruption.

Eight groups issued a joint statement on October 20, dismissing the accusations as baseless and devoid of concrete evidence. They are the Alliance of Concerned Truck Owners and Organizations, Alliance of Container Yard Operators of the Philippines, Association of International Shipping Lines; Philippine Liner Shipping Association, Philippine Multimodal Transport and Logistics Association, Inc.; Philippine Ship Agents Association, Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines, and United Portusers Confederation of the Philippines, Inc.

According to the groups, they “find it absurd” that Bautista would be implicated in allegations of corruption within the Land Transportation and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), an attached agency of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), “by a so-called whistleblower who has not offered any tangible, hard and incontrovertible proof to substantiate his claim.”

Former LTFRB employee Jeffrey Tumbado in an October 9 press conference led by the transport group Manibela claimed there was corruption at LTFRB, notably in the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program, hinting at involvement by officials in DOTr and Malacañang.

As a result, LTFRB chairman Artemio Guadiz III was suspended by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.

But on October 11, Tumbado recanted his allegations in an affidavit, citing impulsivity and external influence as factors. He issued a public apology to Bautista, Guadiz, and the Office of the President. Yet, Tumbado maintained issues within the LTFRB require further investigation.

The port stakeholder groups are unsatisfied with Tumbado’s apology.

The groups said Bautista “is being made a victim of trumped up charges to derail his plans to transform the maritime industry into a highly competitive sector vis-a-vis its global counterparts.”

They commended Bautista’s appointment as Transport Secretary in June 2022, noting there is finally “an entrepreneurial leader at the helm to help us navigate a stronger future for our industry as it faces unique local and global challenges.”

They lauded his vision and efficiency in streamlining the maritime industry within a short span of 15 months.

“He has the vision, courage, strength, prudence, and integrity to be our partner in forging a strong maritime transportation system that would ensure safety, security, and environmental sustainability through the efficient use of our navigable waterways and proper management of our ports,” they added.

Bautista has consistently denied any involvement in corrupt activities and has filed October 17 cyber libel complaints against Manibela president Mar Valbuena and journalist Ira Panganiban.

“We stand solidly behind Secretary Bautista and support him in whatever he plans to do to protect his name and in all his efforts to continue serving not only the maritime industry but the whole country,” the groups added.