LAWYER Aristotle Batuhan took his oath of office before President Benigno Aquino III as undersec-retary for legal, administration and comptrollership of the Department of Transportation and Communications(DOTC) with marching orders to review all the big contracts entered into by the previous administration.
Batuhan, who took his oath in Malacañang at 1 p.m. yesterday, will review in the next 100 days the contracts in 19 government agencies attached to the DOTC.
Among the agencies are Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), Maritime Industry Authority, Philippine Ports Authority, Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA), Cebu Port Authority (CPA), Manila International Airport and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
“We’ve received information that several contracts were being fast-tracked without observing the law. There will be an audit of contracts entered into by all the agencies attached to DOTC,” Batuhan said.
He said even if the attached agencies have their own charters, they are under DOTC in terms of coordination.
He cited as an example the LTFRB, which has an anti-colorum campaign. The DOTC will review the policy in the issuance of franchises to public utility vehicles.
“We want to make an accounting of all the assets of these government agencies,” Batuhan said.
Batuhan, one of the volunteer campaigners for Aquino for the May 10 elections, was also tasked by DOTC Sec. Jose “Ping” de Jesus to review all the midnight appointments issued by President Gloria Arroyo to officials of the 19 agencies.
“We want to make sure that everybody who is on board the Aquino administration will follow policies,” Batuhan said, citing the appointments Arroyo made on March 5, 6, 7 and 8, since the prohibition started on March 9.
Batuhan said Cebuanos can expect him to perform well and with honesty and dedication.
He said he will ensure transparency in the DOTC, as instructed by de Jesus, by ensuring all contracts will be available online.
Meanwhile, Batuhan said he is in favor of a mass transport system in Cebu, regardless of whether it is Light Rail Transit (LRT) or a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), as long as it is advantageous to the government and will be approved in a public hearing.
The LRT was proposed by Rep. Eduardo R. Gullas (Cebu, 1st district) while the BRT is backed by Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south).
The two have been debating the mass transit system since the DOTC, through then undersec-retary Guiling Mamon-diong, conducted a public hearing for the LRT system last year.
Batuhan said he has no problem with either of the two.
Batuhan, who ran but lost twice to Osmeña’s ally, former congressman Antonio Cuenco, said he decided not to run for congressman in the last elections because he did want to oppose Osmeña, a partymate in the Liberal Party.
“From the beginning, I had a good relationship with Tomas. I ran against Cuenco and not against him,” Batuhan said.
Batuhan is a partner of the Batuhan, Blando and Concepcion Law Office in Makati City and an external counsel of the Ayala Corp. and its subsidiaries, such as Manila Water and Ayala Land Inc.
The DOTC secretary sits as chairman of the MCIAA and CPA, but can also designate an undersecretary or assistant secretary as alternate chairman.
Batuhan said he will accept the additional assignments if he will be designated by de Jesus to see how the two agencies are performing.
“We at the DOTC are eyeing Cebu port modernization and a better management at Mactan airport,” Batuhan said. (EOB)