Then the Land Transportation Office had its first female chief in the person of Assistant Secretary Virginia Torres, it was a tumultuous period, to say the least.
Cash rich LTO which is under the DOTC, was racked with rumors of deals disadvantageous to government and it seemed that mighty supplier would be staying put under the soft-spoken, demure Virgie whose headbands matched her pastel outfits.
She was therefore an easy target for a massive demolition job by her detractors and some suppliers who deemed it necessary to get her out of the powerful post. But they did not reckon with the tenacity of the lady chief who stood pat on her goal to follow the “matuwid na daan” thrust of her provincemate from Tarlac, then newly-elected P-Noy.
She was not a “kaklase” (classmate) but simply a trusted friend and yes, she was an occasional “Kabarilan” ( she is a sharp-shooter like P-Noy, a hobby she picked up from her father who was a close friend of Senator Ninoy Aquino ) and she rose from the lowest ranks of the LTO to her top post today.
Torres recalls how she started as a casual employee, a “go-fer”” (go for coffee, go for this and that) for her bosses, to clerk and up the ranks through hard work and honesty. She learned fast and soon found herself head of the Tarlac City LTO. Her track performance there earned her the attention of then Congressman Noy and when it came to choosing a new LTO chief, she was “it.”
Now she tells her co-workers in the LTO to do their best no matter how menial their present jobs are.
“I always tell them, look at me, who would have thought I would rise above all the hardships I went through? But I did and now I would like to do my utmost to have an LTO we can all be proud of.”
Torres had to endure months of vilification on her clean-up campaign and her firm stand against long-entrenched suppliers short-changing the government; but she has emerged stronger in her determination to service the public better and more efficiently. She had no compunction returning the defective license plates delivered to them and now the advent of new-technology, simpler, but tamper-proof plates will be available to the impatient motorists.
LTO is also now on an earnest drive to implement its rules and regulations for the safety of motorists aside from streamlining its services and making them more efficient.
Take the strict implementation of the standard helmets for motorcycle riders and passengers. LTO has swooped down on stores selling “toy” helmets with fake quality seals on them (the store owners peel them off Christmas lights packages and stick them on the helmets). And now, it is mandatory for all vehicles on the streets to have their own pair of reflectorized Early Warning Devices (EWDs) for their own safety and that of oncoming motorists. LTO is in no joking mood and will implement these safety measures, Torres said.
She also appealed to everyone to refrain from dealing with “fixers” in all LTO offices throughout the country.
“We have clear and simple signs how to get your licenses, new or simply renewed. No one needs a ‘fixer’ anymore!” Asec Virgie stressed at our Bulong Pulungan media forum at the Sofitel last Tuesday. Having gone through the ranks, nothing escapes her in the daily operations of the agency and if you want her to lose her cool, report an anomaly in the services of her office. She will take immediate action and see the case to the end. And woe to the erring employee or official!
It was a very electrifying lunch hour for us members of the forum. She was chatty, extremely candid and very sincere in what she had been tasked to do at the LTO. What a nice subject to start the Women’s Month! More power, Asec Virgie Tores! Go slay the dragons!
Now, I had a very pleasant visit to the 81-year old Adamson University at San Marcelino street near my home in Paco recently. At the mini art gallery which was exhibiting works of show business folks who paint in their spare hours, we met Fr. Gregorio Bañaga Jr., CM, Adamson University president .
The Catholic Educators Association of the Philippines (CEAP) is also his area of responsibility and in the course of our conversation over lunch, he urged all those running for elected posts, to articulate their respective programs on how to improve the quality of education, especially for the economically disadvantaged.
He added that the national attention, as well as the political campaign, should focus on human capital development, particularly on providing quality education to the poor. This is very much needed to bolster the competitiveness of the Philippines and to sustain its robust growth trend, he explained.
“We at Adamson believe that providing quality but affordable education is the best way for the Philippines to break away from the vicious cycle of poverty and to help Filipinos realize our collective aspirations of economic development,” said Fr. Gregg, as he is fondly called.
“We must invest in our people, especially the needy who make up a sizable sector of our society, if they are to contribute to our economic development and to our lofty aims of transforming the Philippines into a First World nation,” he explained.
Adamson is already doing its part, Fr. Gregg noted. Since its foundation that is being celebrated this month, the university has developed a reputation for offering quality program in chemistry and engineering and many others. Under the leadership of Fr. Gregg, Adamson was granted autonomous status by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). And, the University was recently granted ISO 9001:2008 Certification for Management System by TUV Rheinland on January 18, 2013.
Fr. Gregg is also depending on the CEAP to teach students Christian values and instill in them a sense of care and empathy toward others. The CEAP is a national organization with a membership of more than 1,200 colleges and universities. The university has a student population of about 15,000 and boasts of well-equipped classrooms and laboratories, a museum, a huge theater for the performing arts, a big library, an art gallery and other facilities to produce well-rounded graduates.
Adamson was founded in 1932 by George Lucas Adamson, a Greek immigrant to the Philippines. His family ran the school until 1964, when they turned over the University to the Vincentian Fathers of the Congregation of the Mission (CM). Their patron saint - and that of Adamson - is Saint Vincent de Paul, who lived in the 16th century and dedicated his life to serving the poor.
Adamson U has a long list of alumni who have distinguished themselves in the fields of engineering and chemistry and other fields. One of them is healer Fr. Fernando Suarez who graduated from the university with a chemical engineering degree. He practiced his profession before he answered his calling to serve God as a priest.