• Abaya’s arrogance, Poe’s failure

    Ben D. Kritz

    Ben D. Kritz

    MOST of the public relations and other “corporate communications” people I know are gnashing their teeth in frustration these days, as current events are making it next to impossible to attract any attention to “normal” news.

    One agency that is almost certainly not at all discouraged by the lack of notice is the Department of Transportation and Communications. In ordinary times—that is, in weeks in which the public and the media is not consumed with continuing outrage at the treasonous behavior of their own government—DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya would be rightly pilloried for the arrogant way he is treating inquiries into the unilateral and arbitrary light rail fare hike authorized by his office last month.

    On Tuesday, Abaya—with great reluctance, one must suppose—deigned to put in an appearance at the hearing of the Senate subcommittee on Public Services chaired by Senator Grace Poe, after having snubbed two previous ‘invitations’ to explain the fare increase.

    Abaya’s appearance, however, was an insult to the Senate body and the citizens in whose interests the hearings are being held. Knowing full well the subject of the hearings and the information being sought, Abaya purposely did not bring with him the concession agreement between the government and the Ayala-Metro Pacific consortium which now controls the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA), wherein a schedule of fare increases over the next two years is key condition.

    Abaya or his DOTC minions might explain the omission as an unintentional slip (that was the excuse I was given when I inquired about it), but that puts the Secretary in an even worse light; if it were me, I would prefer to be regarded as arrogant and uncooperative rather than as a brain-addled doofus who can’t remember the fundamental reason he is attending a meeting.

    What was most disappointing about the abortive appearance of the DOTC chief was the manner in which Senator Poe addressed Abaya’s critical ‘oversight,’ which is to say she didn’t address it at all. He should have, at a minimum, been handed a subpoena for the required documents, and perhaps even cited in contempt for his transparent attempt to thwart the committee’s investigation. The Senator, however, who has in recent times shown intellectual depth and a feisty streak not indicated by her colorless pre-Senate career and frightening campaign slogan (Anak ni FPJ!), let the matter slide, instead settling for diffidently reminding Abaya to “step up to the challenge” of fixing Metro Manila’s rapidly deteriorating light rail system.

    By agreeing not to subject the LRTA concession agreement to public scrutiny, Senator Poe in a sense has validated the autocratic and self-serving way Abaya runs the DOTC, and has done the public a disservice. As was pointed out in The Manila Times’ special reports on the fare hike controversy and utility rate increases in the past couple of weeks, concession agreements are seen as the biggest source of trouble in public-private partnership projects and the fundamental reason the Philippines has some of the highest costs for basic services in Asia. Vague and inconsistent guidelines together with an unjustifiable regard for the ‘confidentiality’ of these agreements have allowed concessionaires to run roughshod over the regulators and pass their costs on to consumers whether those costs are legitimately incurred in the course of providing the public service or not.

    Issues with concession agreements are also key factors affecting the work that must be done to pass one of President B.S. Aquino 3rd’s priority legislative measures, the bill to rationalize tax and fiscal incentives for investment. A sober inquiry is thus necessary for two critical reasons: The public must be assured that a framework will be put in place that guarantees that they will receive fair value for the costs that they are asked to shoulder, while investors must be assured that projects will be developed and regulated according to an equitable and consistent set of rules. That is not happening now thanks to Abaya’s stubborn (and so far largely successful) effort to prevent public oversight, which Senator Poe, for reasons that she certainly ought to explain to her constituents, has just abetted.



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    1. Calvin Reckenpop on

      Oh, wow, I thought I was the only one thinking it: Why is everyone, even Chiz Escudero, gingerly dancing around Abaya? Why are they so terrified of him? Why don’t they subject him to a thorough grilling like they do other ‘suspects’, with accompanying subpoena of pertinent documents. Would it have anything to do with his being the President of the almighty Liberal Party? Are all these probers hedging their bets in the eventuality of a dominant LP emerging in the next administration (not an unlikely scenario). This only lends credence to the observation that all these Senate investigations are for building pogi points.


      • neil tristan yabut on

        eh kaso nga he did not bring the document detailing the justification for the price hike. nagbabasa ka ba? and no one is officially charging abaya fro wrongdoing.. yet, the senate cannot charge individuals, at most they can detain them for contempt.

    3. The only reason that Abaya is in that powerful position despite his many boo-boos is because of his influence and his shameless ass-licking on the power that be. There are too many incompetent and arrogant cabinet secretaries swarming this administration, yet we Filipinos are just too patient with them thus allowing them to treat the citizen as 2nd class citizens.

    4. as i expected, poe-llamansarez is nothing but media hype and just one of the lackeys of the liberal party and boy sisi. just imagine what the senate did to jun binay when he did not attend several hearings. jun binay was manhandled by the senate as contrasted to the way poe-llamansarez aberya este abaya. poe did not even give aberya este abaya a dressing down for wasting money and time of the people. so you want poe-llamansarez to be the next president?? better think again. i would.

    5. Again as i commented on another article on the manila times, why are you so surprised. Havent they always treated you the people like second class citizens. Who are you or anyone to question us, thats their attitude, it always has been & will be for a long time yet as they just wont hold each other accountable. No one at any level in the philippines ever takes responsibility for anything. Its not my fault, it was his fault, but they dont know who his is. & its in every single walk of life in this country. From litter dropping or bad driving, how many filipinos will tell another filipino he is being stupid or is doing something wrong. I stopped 2 young guys haveing a motorcycle race in our subdivision a few weeks ago & on questioning them one said he doesnt have a drivers licence so i took his keys off him & told him he wasnt riding that motorcycle without a licence, now what did our hoa do, nothing. As in everything in this country people in charge are useless. Even my neighbour who saw this didnt come out & stand with me as no filipino will do that & thats one big reason your country is in the state its in now. Look at japan or most any european coutry & see how it runs so much better than your country & then ask yourselves why & dont look for a get out look for the truth.

      • dustin,
        I do what you do, i am a filipino. but sadly i must admit not many people do it, and it pains me knowing it. but as more people get educated, properly informed, seeing other people feel the same way, there’s more than a good chance tye right attitude will spread. take for example driving in the streets. even educated people don’t know what courtesy is. accountability is what’s mostly missing, and it’s in the way people go about their everyday lives. I learned how to talk to people when they are not doing something good. i complain a lot, but i make sure that people understand why i complain, and mostly i win them over. it’s kinda like an art, and rewarding as well. because they come to the realization, and at the same will carry with themselves their experience with me. this is my own little way of making an impact. to those who are upset i let them be, at least they know people are angry, and they wouldn’t like every people be angry at them.

    6. Many of these guys are, as the saying goes, in over there heads. Abaya in particular strikes the people he is supposed to be serving as imperious and aloof. It is a miracle this country is progressing at the rate it is, given the sad state of infrastructure that is under his control. Starting with the infamous NAIA … can you imagine what levels of growth we would be at if he only moved with conviction and a solid plan?

    7. Grace Poe is just like this President who will support their party (LP) no matter what , just to exonerate themselves from this administrations failures. And remember Comelec reported that the PCOS count of her vote was more than what Filipinos actual votes , and so if it was not rigged, then why would the PCOS will reveal different count , way more than the actual votes , Was the PCOS pre-programmed?

    8. Sorry to say that the lady senator’s good intentions re subect of this colunm is no match to the “evil genius” of the KKK members.