Abaya faces graft complaint over ‘useless’ MRT 3 coaches

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FORMER Transportation officials led by ex-secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya have been sued for graft before the Office of the Ombudsman over the P3.8-billion contract of Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 with China’s Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co. Ltd. for 48 trains.

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The graft complaint was filed by three groups supportive of President Rodrigo Duterte, namely: Anti Trapo Movement represented by Leon Peralta, Melchor Magdamo of Liga ng Eksplosibong Pagbabago and United Filipino Consumers and Commuters, represented by Rodolfo Javellana Jr.

The groups’ legal counsel is former MRT-3 general manager Al Vitangcol, who was fired by then President Benigno Aquino 3rd in May 2014 over a supposed conflict of interest, as a company connected with a relative of his wife had won the MRT-3 maintenance deal.

“Dalian failed to deliver the requirements of the contract, thereby causing undue injury to the Filipino people and the government. The non-operational Dalian-made coaches likewise resulted in lost farebox revenues amounting to millions of pesos,” the groups said in a joint statement.

In a recent Senate probe into the MRT-3 problems, it was revealed that the 48 light rail vehicles (LRVs) supplied by Dalian couldn’t be used for the next three years because of the lack of a signaling system and the need to improve the railway system particularly its power supply.

“These LRVs should have been delivered way back; tested way back. But what happened? The LRVs were delivered here without an engine and apparently these LRVs do not fit our rails. There have been a lot of excuses, and Mr. Vitangcol has been made the fall guy of the Liberal Party,” Magdamo told reporters after filing their complaint, referring to Aquino’s political party.

Other respondents in the complaint were former undersecretary Jose Lotilla, bid committee members Rene Limcaoco and Julianito Bucayan, bid secretariat head Catherine Gonzales, project implementation team head Roman Buenafe and former MRT-3 director for operations Deo Leo Manalo.

The contract for the purchase of 48 LRVs was awarded to Dalian Locomotive in October 2013. At that time, Vitangcol was serving as MRT-3 general manager.

Vitangcol, however, washed his hands off any liability over the Dalian deal by arguing that then Transport secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd centralized bidding for all contracts at the department headquarters. The policy, Vitangcol said, was carried over by Abaya, who succeeded Roxas in 2012.

“The procurement of [the Transport department]is centralized, meaning even if I was sitting as MRT-3 general manager, I can’t put government projects up for bidding and award government contracts,” Vitangcol said in an interview.

“Wala po akong pakialam sa kontratang ito [This deal does not concern me]. Who signed the notice of award? It was [bids committee chairman]Lotilla, approved by Secretary Abaya. Who signed the notice to proceed? It’s [bids committee chairman]Lotilla and again approved by Secretary Abaya,” Vitangcol added.

Vitangcol further claimed that Transport officials visited the Dalian plant in China back in 2010 or three years before the bidding for the purchase of 48 LRVs for the MRT-3 expansion project.

“Dalian knew ahead of everybody that there is going to be a bidding for this project and our [Transport] officials even went to Dalian’s China plant on Dalian’s invitation. The question remains, why would our officials go to Dalian as early as 2010?” Vitangcol argued.

Dalian beat 12 other bidders for the project. Its closest competitor, China South Rail Company, was disqualified over its failure to submit a requirement called a certificate of reciprocity.

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