MANILA – Actress and former beauty queen Maria Isabel Lopez, under fire for removing security barriers for the ASEAN lane for VIPs last weekend and then bragging about it on social media, turned up at the Land Transportation Office (LTO) Thursday, apologetic but without a position paper.
This prompted LTO officials led by Director Francis Almora to direct her to prepare her paper for submission within the day.
The agency was expected to hand down a decision on Lopez’s driver’s license, which the Metropollitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) wanted revoked. MMDA, which oversaw traffic implementation during the ASEAN week when 21 world leaders and thousands of delegates had to be secured, had wanted Lopez barred from ever applying for a new license, saying she not only violated traffic rules but had recklessly endangered herself and the foreign guests.
The breach in ASEAN Lanes – Lopez had claimed several others followed her example when her car shifted lanes so she could speed past traffic restrictions and security checks – could have exposed the foreign guests to danger from terrorists, said MMDA. She herself could have been in danger if the security units of foreign VIPs mistook her as a threat to their principal, officials said.
However, a contrite Lopez told the LTO and media Thursday she was “not ISIS” or “a terrorist” and sought leniency.
LTO is to decide whether or not to suspend or cancel Lopez’s license within five days.
According to Almora, the charges against Lopez – reckless driving, disregard of traffic signs and violation of the Anti-Distracted Driving Act – should normally draw only a fine especially if it’s a first offense.
However, because of the security breach in connection with the 31st ASEAN Summit, it’s the LTO that’s being asked to handle Lopez’s case.
Lopez told Almora she had seen some buses and taxis earlier entering the ASEAN Lane so she presumed that she could also use it. However, her own social media posts had indicated she knew about the restrictions and appeared to relish having gotten some MMDA people to think she was an ASEAN VIP, too, posting a widely shared video where she was whooping it up.
At the LTO, Lopez insisted she should not be singled out. She noted she did not have a single violation as a driver before.
Earlier, she asked for consideration, saying she is a senior citizen and needed badly to take a bladder break.
LTO said it will check out other videos on social media.
Almora said, “Ide-determine po natin kung si Ms Lopez ay proper person to hold a license or drive a motor vehicle. Consistent po yun sa Republic Act 4136.”
In a social media post, Lopez sounded contrite: “I am apologizing to the people inconvenienced. It was a lapse in judgement on my part.
“Maganda naman at meron tayong due process. I know that I did those actions. I’m willing to take the consequences of my actions, penalty. Yun na nga lang sana matimbang nila nang maigi ang buong pangyayari. At sabi ko na lang kay director Almora, sana naman wala pa naman akong driving violations, sana naman kung anumang penalty yung ipapataw sa akin, bigyan nyo naman ako ng konting senior citizen discount.”
WATCH NEWS5’S VIDEO REPORT: