Where governance is done with a sliver of sanity, reforms are carried out immediately after realizing that a particular policy approach is a figurative train wreck, with grievous impact on the well-being of the governed. Admittedly, the history of governments and institutions is littered with acts of grievous folly and recklessness. But this is the 21st century, remember? We are past those paroxysms of institutionalized folly Barbara Tuchman wrote about. Such acts of folly are now deemed as outliers and not the norm.
Modern policies cannot be unhinged from real-world needs.
So after it was laid bare that the policy directions and schemes of Mr. Aquino’s flunkies at the DOTC are aimed at owning the MRT 3 100 percent—and not directed at improving and modernizing one of the most decrepit urban rail systems in the world—one has to wonder what kind of warped reasoning drive those policy directions and schemes.
From what tortured universe, the public is now asking, are they crafting their policies re the MRT 3, the public face of metropolitan mass transport, the train line of EDSA, the urban rail system that carries half a billion commuters a day? The public gets exasperated from asking that question again and again and wants a breather from the incompetence of the MRT apparatchiks. But the MRT woes have been piling up. Only recently, another glitch took place, rekindling the public trauma over the MRT’s technical integrity.
The fresh source of the public exasperation over the scheming of Mr. Aquino’s DOTC flunkies was the revelation that the House version of the P2.6 trillion national budget for 2015 contained a P54 billion budget for the MRT 3. But it was not about the game-changing, life-saving priorities of the MRT 3, which can be summed as:
• Funds for new trains and coaches
• Funds for spare parts and components sourced through competitive tenders from internationally recognized suppliers
• Funds to ensure that the MRT 3 gets the best service and maintenance provider that the world can offer.
• Funds to ensure that the trains do not run amuck and plunge into literal train wrecks
You know what the P54 billion budget in the House version of the 2015 budget was all for? Quick answer: It was for the buyout of MRT bonds owned by the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines by the DOTC. So that the DOTC, which has gained the notoriety of literally running the MRT 3 to the ground and blaming others for its epic failures, can take full control of the MRT 3.
Did you say it is just like putting arsonists to run the fire department? Something like that or worse than that.
And why in God’s name would the DOTC want to take full control of the MRT 3? The answer is none. There is no coherent answer.
These are the facts. The 11-member MRTC board is government controlled: seven seats for government (the national treasurer, four for LBP and 2 for DBP) and four for the private partners. The DOTC is the puppet master and whatever its decision is relative to the MRT 3 affairs, it is the decision adopted by the seven government board members.
It is a de facto DOTC control. The DOTC’s decisions are carried without dissent. The MRTC board chair, Tomas de Leon of the LBP, quakes on his boots at the sight of his DOTC bosses and Liberal Party patrons. Using P54 billion to purchase the MRT bonds of the LBP and the DBP – in the wake of the crying and urgent need to buy new trains and coaches and make the MRT rides safe – is breathtakingly insane.
Unless, of course, the sights of Mr. Aquino’s DOTC flunkies are on the billions of pesos in MRT funds. With LBP and DBP out, they will take full control of the decision-making process (operations) and the billions of pesos in MRT funds. There is a 2016 election to bankroll and the DOTC’s plan to take full control of the MRT 3 funds may just be part of that election-related fund-raising operations.
This thesis sounds plausible given the fact that the cronyism that tainted the award of the MRT 3’s service and maintenance contracts post-Sumitomo had identified Pangasinan-based LP operatives as perpetrators and central characters.
But as they say, even the best-laid plans often go awry. The DOTC failed to anticipate that in a bicameral Congress, the budget goes through two approvals. The recent Senate vote on the budget scuttled the scheme of the DOTC to use the P54 billion to buy the MRT bonds of the LBP and the DBP.
Here is a summary of the Senate budget vote.
The Snate version of the budget scrapped the P54 billion House-approved allocation for the bond buyout, technically named the EBVO. The ZSate, this is the tradition, does not offer lengthy explanations even when it scraps jumbo allocations approved by the House. But this was made clear by the Snate decision on the P54 billion, which was mostly carried over in the bicameral conference committee report
The senators voted that the takeover is a bad idea, or a stupid idea.
The senators would rather allocate funds for upgrading the MRT 3 than give in to the ownership lusts of Mr. Aquino’s DOTC flunkies.
A part of that P54 billion can be used to buy MRT bonds but limited to the high-interest ones.
Maybe they have heard the statement of one of the private partners of the MRT loud and clear. The P54 billion will retire bonds not improve the service and maintenance and the operations of the MRT 3. The P54 billion will not be funding commuter’s welfare but the aggrandizement of DOTC apparatchiks.