• Palace: Filing of charges vs Abaya for MRT mess ‘long overdue’

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    MALACANANG welcomed on Tuesday the filing of charges against former Transportation secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and 10 others in connection with an alleged anomalous P3.8-billion contract for the maintenance of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), saying it was “long overdue.”

    “The filing of graft charges against former secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and other officials from the then Department of Transportation and Communications…is long overdue. Our people, especially the long suffering commuters of MRT who would experience daily train breakdowns during their travel, surely welcome this development,” Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said during a press conference.

    “Public office, as we often hear, is public trust.  Let this be a good reminder to all public officials to perform their official functions with competence, integrity and compassion for they are accountable in all their action,” he added.

    Abella, meanwhile, called on the Office of the Ombudsman “to show its true independence in fighting corruption in the corridors of the power.”

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    Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, an appointee of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd, had been repeatedly criticized by President Rodrigo Duterte for her supposed selective justice.

    Abaya was also appointed by former President Aquino to the now defunct DOTC.

    In a 29-page complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, the Department of Transportation (DOTr), represented by Undersecretary for legal affairs and procurement Reinier Paul Yebra, charged Abaya, along with 10 former transportation officials and 10 incorporators of Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI), for violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

    The DOTr alleged that Abaya and the other officials conspired in awarding the maintenance deal to BURI on December 23, 2015 despite the company’s failure to present a joint venture agreement (JVA) executed between parties in violation of the provisions of Republic Act 9184, the Government Procurement Reform Act.

    The complainant said that instead of requiring the firm to submit the JVA, then Department of Transportation and Communications assistant secretary and Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) head Camille Alcaraz wrote to the Securities and Exchange Commission on the same day the contract was awarded to BURI, requesting the SEC to facilitate the registration of a special purpose corporation consisting of the members of Busan for the implementation of the contract.

    Based on the DOTr’s records, BURI was incorporated on January 4, 2016 consisting of five companies: Tramat Mercantile Inc., TMI Corp. Inc., Edison Development and Construction, Castan Corp. and Busan Corp.

    Aside from Abaya and Alcaraz, named respondents were former undersecretary for operations Edwin Lopez, former undersecretary for planning and head of the negotiating team Rene Limcaoco, former undersecretary for procurement and administration and vice head of the negotiating team Catherine Jennifer Gonzales, former MRT-3 general manager Roman Buenafe, former assistant secretary and BAC vice chairman Ofelia Astrera and BAC members Charissa Eloisa Opulencia, Oscar Bongon, Jose Rodante Sabayle and Maria Cecilia Natividad.

    Also charged were BURI incorporators Eldon Ferdinand Uy, Elizabeth Velasco, Chae-Gue Shim, Antonio Borromeo, Jun Ho Hwang, Elpidio Silvestre Uy, William de la Cruz and Eugene Rapanut.

    Last week, the government notified BURI that it would terminate the firm’s contract due to service interruptions in the railway system. CATHERINE S. VALENTE
     

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