OMBUDSMAN-Visayas is now enforcing and monitoring government vehicles to ensure that it is being used prudently, judiciously and efficiently, so as not to produce wastage in government resources.

Along this line, the Ombudsman aggressively pursued a case against a high ranking official who violated the COA Rules regarding the use of government vehicles for purposes other than official.

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Already meted with a penalty was Mariano Martinez, former General Manager of the Cebu Ports Authority (CPA), for using the official vehicle of the CPA in transporting his daughter to and from school. He was meted a penalty of six months suspension, a report from the Ombudsman office said.

The enforcement is in line with the issuance of Administrative Order 239 of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the Task Force “O-Plan Red Plate” initiated by Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez.

“For the Ombudsman-Regional Office 6, a number of our O-plan Red Plate cases were reported through text messages by concerned citizens,” said Gutierrez.

In year 2007, the Ombudsman received 160 reports on abuse in the use of government vehicles. Two of these were upgraded to a formal case while 47 in 2008, the Ombudsman said, adding that one was upgraded to a formal complaint.

The Ombudsman said the significant decrease in reports of abuse of government vehicles may be attributed to our intensive campaign in 2007 where many agencies were caught violating the law and were given a warning.

This proactive approach resulted to positive response from the concerned agencies which now use Trip Tickets for their travel and their vehicles now also bear office name or logo and “For Official Use Only” sign, the Ombudsman said.

To intensify our campaign, an Inter-Agency Task Force on O-Plan Red Plate was created with partner agencies are the Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission, Land Transportation Office, Philippine National Police and Philippine Information Agency, said the Ombudsman.

The operation of the Task Force will not be limited to Iloilo City but the whole Western Visayas to ensure a wide coverage and greater impact, it said.

Deputy Ombudsman Pelagio S. Apostol created and launched first the Inter-Agency Task Force O-Plan Red Plate in Central Visayas and then in Western Visayas on March 30, 2009 which one year after, a significant impact was observed in the proper use of government vehicles.

This can be attributed to the active support of the people of Western Visayas in this campaign.

During the simultaneous operation conducted in the six provinces of Western Visayas, 110 red plate vehicles spotted and many of which were now upgraded to a formal case and under administrative adjudication.

Since Holy Week will be observed and people are expected to go to their respective provinces, the possibility of using government vehicles for personal use is not remote. Hence, the Regional Office is appealing to the public to be vigilant and report any incidence of violation to our Text OMB Hotline number 09178898662.