MRT-3 mess the worst kind of corruption

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First of Three Parts

If working-class Filipinos had a capacity for quick mobilization to protest the injustice done to them, without the help of the elites, there would have already been street actions by now on the scale of the EDSA I and II revolts against President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd, the transport and communications department, and its former and present secretaries.

The corruption allegedly involving the maintenance of Metro Rail Transit-3 (MRT-3) is the worst kind of graft.

It has been directly causing the daily suffering of hundreds of thousands of commuters in metropolitan Manila: queuing for hours to get a ride in its jam-packed trains, risking life and limb with the regular occurrence of accidents and derailments.


Before Aquino hoodwinked Filipinos with his tuwid na daan rhetoric, even those with cars would use the MRT-3 for its speed and convenience. But now that they have to line up and wait for hours just to catch a train, many have had no choice but to use their cars again—contributing to the horrendous traffic along EDSA.

I applaud Ombudsman Conchita Morales-Carpio for finally investigating the MRT-3 anomalies, and I am confident that she will withstand the tremendous pressure that is bound to be brought against her.

The corruption she will uncover is very likely to lead directly to the offices of DOTC Secretary Emilio Abaya and his predecessor Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who has had the gall to have started his campaign for the 2016 presidency this early (read about it in my column this Wednesday). These people are top members of the inner sanctum of President Aquino, and so the situation now begs the question that the Ombudsman needs to ask: Did the President know of the corruption at MRT 3 and did nothing about it?

Why shouldn’t it be derailed? Memo that only 2.5 pieces of rail replacement available. Inset: MRT-3 car derailed in August.

Why shouldn’t it be derailed? Memo that only 2.5 pieces of rail replacement available. Inset: MRT-3 car derailed in August.

Why do MRT-3 trains keep breaking down that the train system needs to be shut down for hours at times; why do the trains stop in the middle of the tracks, and why are the trains derailed and jump off the tracks?

Why are there fewer trains now compared with the previous years such that its carrying capacity has decreased, causing the long queues of commuters at the stations?

Why were there no such incidents and queues before, from 2000 to 2011?

The reason is quite simple, and I was astonished when I learned its details, shocked at why we Filipinos allow such anomalies that torture the working class daily, and outraged that mainstream media hasn’t gone to town against this scandal.

The P1.2 billion reason
The reason involves the P1.2 billion—so far—in maintenance contracts given by the DOTC starting October 2012 to two firms that appear to have close ties with President Aquino’s political allies.

These outfits – first PH Trams and then APT-Global – turned out either to be bumbling amateurs in light-rail vehicle maintenance, or decided to skimp on the necessary spare parts to keep the trains running efficiently.

They didn’t import and stockpile the high-quality spare parts needed for the light-rail vehicles and the replacements for the tracks. Parts were, instead, cannibalized from the other cars that were put out of operation, so that only 50 out of the 73 cars operating in 2011 are running now.

One evidence of this is a September 4, 2014 report to the DOTC official in charge of the MRT-3, Renato San Jose, which read:

“When Global-APT JV assumed as (sic) the Temporary Maintenance Provider of MRT 2 on 4 September 2013, there were twenty nine pieces of Stock Rails replacement. Since then, the said number has gone down to two and a half (2.5) pieces. Furthermore, the latest Rail Replacement Summary as of 06 August revealed that in at least two instances, Global APT JV has used old rails instead of new ones.”

This is one reason why the trains’ speed has had to be slowed down: parts of the track had worn out and should have been replaced, but hadn’t because there were no replacement rails. The result: fewer trains have been running, requiring commuters to queue for hours to ride the jam-packed, not to mention, dangerous trains.

Capital costs are huge for a train maintenance operator since the spare parts needed have to be ordered in advance because of the minimum six-months’ time for these to be manufactured and shipped to the country from abroad.

Light-rail system parts aren’t exactly items one could buy at the hardware store or ordered at amazon.com: They’re things made of high-grade steel which mostly only the original builder can provide, and on a “per-order” basis.

A unit of the giant manufacturing Japanese firm Sumitomo that built MRT-3 with Mitsubishi Corp. in the late 1990s, when it maintained the system until September 2012, had a six-months’ inventory of the usual parts needed to be replaced.

Manual signaling system
There is a second reason why the MRT trains’ speed had to be reduced. Its signaling system – its computerized, sensor-based network that manages railway traffic in order to prevent trains from colliding – had been built more than a decade ago by a unit of the Canadian aircraft manufacturer Bombardier Inc. The firm informed the DOTC in 2010 that the system had to be upgraded, as there were no longer parts for it since it had become outdated.

The upgrade would have cost P185 million, and included in the maintenance contract. It wasn’t. Why? Was it too big a cost that would eat into the contractors’ profits?

Bombardier engineers who were initially hired by PH Trams to maintain the signaling system reportedly left in a huff in 2013 when they stopped receiving their due fees.

The result: There’s an inadequate signaling system that train operators have resorted to a manual method, using “walkie-talkies’ bought from Ace or True Value, to report their positions, a process that requires much slower train speeds.

Out of the total cost for maintaining the MRT in the past ten years, 60 percent was used for buying spare parts for the cars and rail-tracks, as well as for maintaining the computerized signaling system, while the remaining 40 percent was for management and labor costs.

These means that if the two maintenance operators who got the P1.2 billion contract from the DOTC had not purchased the parts needed for the trains’ maintenance, they could have easily pocketed the 60 percent that should have been used for their parts inventory, which means a huge P742 million income. The Senate committee that has been investigating the MRT problems should subpoena these firms’ books.

What makes this kind of corruption so outrageous is that the grafters were as dumb as they were so arrogant. They thought they could make money by taking over the contract of a world-class, experienced engineering firm that built and had maintained the system for a decade, and that they didn’t need to import the high-grade precision-engineered spare parts for the trains.

I can just imagine what a top DOTC and Liberal Party official told his accomplices: “Pukpok lang naman ang mga kailangan sa mga bakal na gulong at riles na iyan, hindi na kailangang mag-import tayo ng spare parts kaya malaki ang kita natin. Magagaling naman ang mga Pinoy na mekaniko. [A little pounding is all that’s needed on the steel wheels and the rails. We don’t really need to import the spare parts, so we’re going to make a killing on this. And Filipinos are good mechanics.]

Because of such arrogant stupidity and insatiable greed of Aquino’s people, hundreds of thousands of Filipino commuters have been suffering every day going to and from their workplaces.

Continued next week.

tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
FB: Rigoberto Tiglao

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49 Comments

  1. Aquino’s tendency to protect and defend his allies and appointees at all costs is really starting to show its most detrimental effects on his supposed bosses, the Filipino masses. The MRT possible extortion case is not being investigated properly simply because the people involved are in his inner circle.

  2. Aquino administration doesn’t care about the Filipino commuters of going to their work everyday. How frustrating it is that Pnoy’s tuwid na daan is merely a show..tsk tsk

  3. Dina Dela Cuesta on

    The Aquino cabinet and its allies are so focused on politicking for 2016 that they continue to fail the more than half a million ordinary Filipinos who rely on the MRT to go to their jobs everyday. This really highlights this Administration’s priorities. Such a shame.

  4. How infuriating. While corrupt administration allies are busy prosecuting other officials for crimes they themselves have been also committing, the general public has to put their lives literally in the hands of death by riding the MRT. There’s an easy solution to this problem and yet our government refuses to do something about it.

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  6. Maximo Macatuggal on

    I recall that MPIC offered to rehabilitate our MRT3 at no cost to the govt, but they rejected it. now we are suffering with a costly and unguaranteed rehabilitation that may lead into corruption.

  7. Bernardo Bernabe on

    aba magaling talaga itong mga nakaupo sa DOTC! balita ko nga naextend yung contract nung maintenance contractor na yan eh. Baka kualng pa yung pondo nila? bigyan naman sana nila tayo ng serbisyo na nararapat sa atin na commuter! kinakahoy nila paunti unti yung mga parts e. sa junk shop na ba ang tuloy nito? madaming pera ang nasasayang. sana maintindihan nila.

  8. The public and media will surely catch on if PNoy is corrupt. But so far he is untouched and still enjoys high popularity despite drops in his approval ratings. The public and mainstream media with no agenda know their leaders well. In the same way they knew about GMA’s and her family’s scale of corruption. Sadly you are tainted as being her lackey and hence lack credibility to be heard. Just remember that GMA’s approval ratings are no match to PNoy’s at any point in their terms, including an unprecedented 9-time credit rating upgrade for the country, yes thanks to PNoy’s daang matuwid.

    • So you are basically saying that just because he is “untouched” and still has high rating it means that he is way better than GMA?

      GMA may have been corrupt, but she did her part. I am not saying that what she did was O-K im just saying that Pnoy is no better than GMA. Pnoy’s daang matuwid only applies to his enemies, but to his allies — I DO NOT THINK SO. What has he done to Abad, Abaya and Purisima? Instead of making them go through his “daang matuwid” he basically defended them!

  9. Why shouldn’t they be arrogant? They have the full weight of the LP behind them, headed by a President who has complete blind trust on his partymates/appointees? Despite the recent breakage of two rails, not to mention other incidents that preceded it, the DOTC continues to cultivate its fiction, even posturing that they are prepared to take over the entire MRT. They like to say they are saving us money yet turned down an offer by the MVP group of companies of free coaches for purchased ones that will incur additional expense to make them compatible with the current system.

  10. Less the bloggers in this forum forget, it is the nation known as the Philippines they are referring to. The land that the Marcoses and their cronies raped for so many years and yet to this day (almost 30 years after the 1st people’s power movement), not one single Marcos has ever been indicted, convicted and imprisoned for plundering the nation’s coffers! We can all dream of sending so-and-so politician to jail for stealing the people’s money and even that exercise is nothing but a farcical show of justice kuno.

  11. Mr. Tiglao, when are you and the BAYAN Muna make comments about the BINAY corruption??????? The OBVIOUS corruption of the BINAYS was never made mention by you. MAGKANO ba ang iBINAYad sa iyo ni Binay para tumahimik? Mukha ka yatang PERA. Malaki yata ang perang ibinibigay ni BINAY sa inyo at ang mga kasamahan mong columnist at reporters para huwag bangitin ang corruption nina Binay. Ano ba ang ginawa mo para sa bayan at para kang babaeng putak ng putak wala naming principyo dahil nabayaran kayo.

  12. Thank you Mr Tiglao for exposing this odious anomaly. This clearly explains the mystery behind the unusual frequency of MRT breakdowns and glitches. Unbridled corruption, plain and simple. Tuwid na Daan has gone to ravenous wolves and pigs and crocodiles. O tempora, O mores !

  13. gabriela silang on

    so absolutely mystifying is the non-reaction or better yet nonchalance of most mrt riders. malfunctioning is almost a daily occurrence yet you can hardly hear people complain..columnists and some broadcasters ventilated the issue in details months back yet it seems such is not enough to move people to action. shall we wait for a major accident to happen before we start asking from these officials to account for their misdeeds?

  14. all these gov’t people especially appointed by the morally weak president are evil to the detriment of the millions of the Filipinos. They deserve the worst kind of death penalty ever conceived. ‘Grabe ang kasakiman ng kaluluwa ng mga eto, kung may kaluluwa pa ang mga eto’

  15. muriel magtanggol on

    Dapat sa mga yan, mula sa kaitaasan, ay Itali ang mga yan sa riles ng MRT! Isali yung mga kamag anak na nangongotong pa sa Czech suppliers kaya mas lalo tayong nawalan ng tren! Mga walang awa sa taong bayan…ito ba ang produkto nang tinatawag ng bayang” hero” ? Tanggalin na natin yan sa ating kaisipan, dahil ngayon, alam na nating huwad na bayani yan! Mas malalim na corruption lang ang dinulot sa bayan! Dapat umikot sina Bonifacio at Rizal sa kanilang libingan!

  16. mr tiglao, tama lahat ang sinabi mo. Papanong ipapaliwanag ni mr Abaya kung
    bakit niya hinayaang mailipat sa phTram ang kontrata ng pag mementene ng
    MRT mula sa kilalang Somitomo. na may sapat na kakayahan, track record
    at kapasidad financial. Samantalang ang PhTram na naging Global ay
    isang napakabago o kakaregistrong kumpaniya, na ayon sa Sec record
    nito ay wala pang 1million ang paid up capital. Ang mga direktor o nagmamayari
    kilalang kaalyado ng liberal at ang isa ay malapit na kamag-anak ni Vitangcol,
    at yung isang nanungkulang direktor ay sabay din may katungkulan sa bangko
    PhilExim, na dahil sa anomalyadong kontrata ay dagling nag retire sa PhilExim
    bank bilang EVP, nito lang nag daang Mayo2014, at nakakapagtakang nabigyan
    pang ng retirement bonus at pension mula sa nasabing bangko, Hindi
    maikakaila na hindi na binigyan o sadyang di binigyan ng due dilgence
    ang PhTram na isang mandatory bago bigyan ng aprobal ang isang
    napakalaking kontrata tulad nito. Ito’y hayagang at walang kahihiyang
    pagnanakaw at pagsindikato sa Pondo ng MRT.

  17. Diyos na mahabagin! Wala bang kaluluwa ang mga kurap na mga kaibigan ng Presidente? Paano kung may aksidente uli at mga mahal natin sa buhay ang mamatay? Sino naman ang nagbenta ng spare rails na yan? Alangan namang di alam ng Global APT JV management ang pambabakal. Parang may corruption frenzy na, naulol na ang lahat sa ganid at unahan na sa pagkurakot. Tuwid na daan…sa impierno!

  18. Problem is, social media is already saturated with news of the truth. It’s the masses that need to know this and sadly, they never will. I just hope this isn’t all for naught.

  19. Question is… why people are not seeing the reality? Why are we not up in arms? why are we taking this sitting down?

  20. Since Secretaries Roxas, Abaya, et al, will never resign out of delicadeza, the MM commuters will continue to risk their lives riding the dilapidated MRT trains. And God forbid, these shameless officials have no qualms if many will be hurt before finally resigning. PNoy’s rule is replete with blunders but still he has the temerity to ask for a second term? No way! After his term, he will go straight to detention for grave violations of the constitution.

  21. Juancho M. Vila on

    This is the real picture of D.O.T. C. The most corrupt government department. The reason is there are so many lawyer politicians in this agency with no expertise at all but only political connection and they are assigned to managed a highly technical department or government agency .One consultant observed in the D.O.T.C is the risk aversion mentality in the top management is always the factor that delayed the implementation of D.O.T.C projects. You remove all this political appointees and lawyers in D.O.T.C and appoint someone who cat hit the ground running and this department will move. Their “PPP” is nothing but all “Puro Power-point Presentation” .

  22. Juancho M. Vila on

    This is the real picture of D.O.T. C. The most corrupt government department. The reason is there are so many lawyer politician in this agency with no expertise at all but only political connection and they are assigned to managed a highly technical department or government agency .One consultant observed in the D.O.T.C is the risk aversion mentality in the top management is always the factor that delayed the implementation of D.O.T.C projects. You remove all this political appointees and lawyers in D.O.T.C and appoint someone who cat hit the ground running and this department will move. Their “PPP” is nothing but all “Puro Power-point Presentation” .

  23. I couldn’t understand why in spite of all these corruptions happening around, it appears that people accept them just as that. It seems nobody cares anymore, instead of raising a howl to all these shenanigans happening around us.

  24. APT – Global is an incompetent maintenance company. They also have a 500 Million peso contract (a facility) with another agency of DOTC that is now useless just after 2 years. The person you always see speaking for APT – Global is a bully and a corrupt person. I even don’t understand why this company is still hired by the DOTC when they are facing a case about that 500 Million peso contract.

  25. Good work, Mr Tiglao. You are the best in this business, and I mean that. Now, why don’t the NPA take care of this people. Oh yes, they have to get clearance first from the US embassy.

  26. Who among you are not corrupt? John 8:7 “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

    This is exactly what is happening in our country. Regardless who the President will be, there are still those people who are against for whatever reason.

    If I have to solve the corruption in our country, we have to support those who are proponent or pushing for it. There should be a mechanism for check and balance. The compositon of the anti-corrupt team should be assess for integrity.

  27. Kailangan na siguro ang REVOLUTION . Sa mga mahilig na magbintang , mayroon ba sa inyo na gustong sumama ?

  28. The best maintenance engineers are available down south. The engineers of Atlas Consolidated Mining & Devt Corp have more than enough talent, intelligence and experience to handle the maintenance for MRT. I just wondered why they were not asked to bid on the MRT maintenance project.

  29. ANother great article explaining what happened. Any expertise that was in the system was overruled by graft and corruption. Removing a good maintenance provider to replace him with a novice whose only qualification is that he is a relative, is criminal.

  30. The only heros for me, at this time , are the tireless writers . Columnist work so hard to put together a thoroughly researched story , so we may be clear of the details. I believe reporters altruistic goals, are to reach enough educated readers , ( with money ) to fund movements , organize meetings and contribute ideas to stop corruption .

  31. Good point Mr. Tiglao, whoever sit as a President if surrounded by corrupt officials same story will prevail. If the President will bow or got into the hoodlum worlds then he will be eaten by system, rather than changing the system. We need conscience and discipline, these are inseparable words, all officials elected or appointed are corrupted, because of peers friendship or money talking. We are more vulnerable because even Aquino ride on to corrupt officials who are known to be a Balimbing politicians. We need 2 party system to avoid double face politician hitching on the wagon of benefits not by delicadeza, we need moral and spiritual to transform these rotten corrupted institution. Anybody sits easily corrupted and destroyed by greed of money. New President but same old dogs,same old faces calling the shots.

  32. jose hernani m. parco on

    “if there is more than one way to do a job, and one of those ways will end in disaster, then someone will do it that way”!
    whatever can go wrong will go wrong, at the worst possible moment!

    and this is exactly what they’ve been doing for so long it’s too routine and we are so used to it by now! so should we be blaming again or just carry on kasi puwede na ‘yan?! DOTC, doing other things contrary to sense and reason!

    • Manuel C. Diaz on

      President BS Aquino should be charge first!He is the most incompetent President voted by incompetent voters!

  33. Yes, greed is insatiable, yes insatiable. Greed exposes the riding public to preventable disasters and injuries. These MRT fiascos will not happen without PNoy’s abetting and enabling governance, and Baluktot na Daan which goes nowhere, but to the pockets of the corrupts and plunderers.

  34. To be fair, incompetence ( not withstanding corruption ) is also what its about. It is everywhere in society. A very simple example is any supermarket, see how often they run out of something & then they re order. The filipino cant seem to understand about keeping up the supply. You might think your training is world class in this country but you only fool yourselves. The level of total uselessness is rife here in every single thing, but you filipinos wont accept it. My wife hates it when i tell her about these things & that in england this doesnt happen, her answer is in england in england, if england is so good go back to england & that is the answer of most filipinos, so as i have said on here many times you get what you deserve & your country is a shambles because no one says anything so you are getting what you deserve. You are like an ostrich, a threat comes so it burries its head in the sand, the threat is still there, so un bury your heads.

    • I agree with your wife – if you don’t like the Philippines and its system you should go back to England. Your contempt for filipinos is so obvious and I wonder why you married one. You think England is so great and forward thinking but I beg to differ. You pay taxes to support the lavish lifestyle of a monarchy that does nothing for your populace but create scandalous news and affairs.

  35. I heard that the budget for maintenance of our MRT/LRT system is bigger than the budget of the Hong Kong trains system which is bigger and more extensive. This can easily be verified and if found true should merit an investigation why it is so. More so comparing the efficiency of their system in Hong Kong to ours.

  36. then this 2 maintenance contractors should be held liable and be prosecuted and sued and pay the MRT the short cuts they made in maintenance, prosecuting them will also reveal how they got the contract with limited experience. why is there no investigation and filing of charges being sought? its the whole laid back system and culture of ours, plain and simple. when this kind of anomalies are observed, the citizens and the justice system should not wait but immediately conduct and investigation but our padrino and lazy system takes over immediately that’s why. there is really no justice in this country except for the few and elite as usual it never changed, I thought it would after the people power revolution but it did not. It would have been better under the Marcos regime. He was corrupt too but also get things done. what is the difference with the corruption during Marcos time post marcos era? the same! and yet worst now because nothing much have been done. Marcos by the way started the MRT, plus he ordered the construction of San Juanico bridge and connect more other islands this way had he continued.

    • You make some good points but part of the problem is that you still don’t have a clear view of the facts and cannot come up with a satisfactory solution because of it.

      You say Marcos is better? How can you say that? The rapacity of the Marcos administration is undeniable. You say things got done during the Marcos era? Actually this is false. He was in power 20 years and while there was some economic growth early on it was almost completely erased by the political upheaval in his final 3 years where the economy contracted by a lot. If you consider the following Cory Aquino years which were just as bad a direct result of Marcos then you can blame Marcos for 26 years of no growth. GDP per capita on a relative basis to the US was higher in 1980 than in 2000. In 1960 the Philippine GDP per capita was the same size as Malaysia’s. Today it is 1/4 that of Malaysia’s. Malaysian GDP per capita grew to 4X more. To understand this you must account for population and the power of compounding interest over time.

      There is a president who was clearly better than any of the other presidents of the last 50 years: GMA.

      But people keep complaining about her. They are deluded. Not surprisingly they are the same ones who seem to accept the MRT problems as a matter of course and the lies of the current administration and its self-righteous exhortations to “sacrifice”. They get what they deserve.