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Sunday, December 10, 2023

OTS chief goes on leave, insists he’s not resigning

Office for Transportation Security (OTS) administrator Ma.O Aplasca has filed a leave of absence a day after Speaker Martin Romualdez called for him to step down over the numerous recent “nefarious activities” by security officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

But in a statement read by OTS Deputy Administrator Jose Briones at a Senate hearing on the agency’s 2024 budget, Aplasca said he will not resign, adding he had done nothing “but cleanse my office of corrupt personnel.”

The former police general—and House of Representatives sergeant-at-arms—said he was surprised by the Speaker’s comment against him following the series of thefts involving OTS security screening officers at the country’s main airport.

The most recent incident had a female OTS personnel caught on video swallowing three 100 US dollar bills stolen from a Chinese traveler departing Manila.

“Why am I now being attacked? For going after corrupt officials?  I think it should be the other way around. The corrupt officials should instead be asked to resign. The case involving stealing the 300 US dollar bills is still being resolved, and yet mauna pa mawala yung mga nag-imbistiga (those investigating would be dismissed first)? There must be something wrong somewhere.” said Aplasca.

The OTS chief stated he is taking full responsibility for what his office does and fails to do and will discuss the matter with his boss, Transportation Secretary Jimmy Bautista, and President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Senator Grace Poe later commented on Aplasca’s decision to take a leave.

“Of course, there’s always command responsibility, so General Aplasca is setting an example that he’s voluntarily taken a leave, but it’s good that we continue the investigation so that we know who really is involved,” said Poe, who presided over the hearing on the  Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) proposed P214.3 billion budget for 2024.

The OTS is an attached agency of the Transportation department.

“As mentioned, he (Aplasca) just took over a year ago but some of these employees have been there since like years ago and this individual involved has been there since 2016 and General Aplasca was only appointed last year,” Poe pointed out.

During his term, Aplasca said the OTS has investigated 68 administrative cases for violation of various disciplinary and administrative policies, leading to 11 personnel being dismissed.

He explained that the problem of OTS is “systemic and cultural, requiring both short-term and long-term initiatives.”

Aplasca also discovered anomalies in recruitment and promotion, which were exposed by Senator Raffy Tulfo.

He said he stands against public humiliation for the sake of his family, “who has been hurt more than ever over such insensitive, malicious, and personal attacks.”

On Monday, Romualdez urged Aplasca to submit his courtesy resignation before the House of Representatives tackles the budget of his office.

He said the OTS chief should submit his resignation under the principle of command responsibility to make way for a full revamp at the airport security office.

The lawmaker emphasized that a top-to-bottom overhaul is needed to prevent atrocious activities and misconduct at the airport, which is bad for the country and the economy.

Romualdez also recommended a complete reorganization of OTS and suggested that the DOTr replace the entire OTS workforce, rehiring only those who would pass a strict vetting process based on their honesty, efficiency, and integrity.

He also called on Secretary Bautista to closely watch his own backyard, as he has heard of “nefarious activities,” aviation glitches, power equipment malfunctions, and disruptions taking place at the airport.

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