INTERIOR Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd should be made to answer for the problems now besetting the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3because it was during his time as Transportation secretary when negotiations for various procurement contracts were done.
“[Now Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio] Abaya is just Mar’s ‘yes’ man,” a former official of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) who left the agency for a better job in the private sector told The Manila Times.
The source’s disclosure came as militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)
assailed an Office of the Ombudsman resolution clearing top DOTC officials of any wrongdoing in an allegedly anomalous maintenance contract between the agency and PH Trams Corp.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said the initial probe conducted by the Ombudsman Field Investigation Office (FIO) included 21 respondents, including the DOTC secretary, the entire Bids and Awards Committee [BAC] that included Undersecretaries Jose Lotilla, Rene Limcaoco and Raphael Santos, as well as the entire DOTC Negotiating Team that dealt with PH Trams.
“Now lo and behold, only one government official has been charged. Only former MRT GM [General manager] Al Vitangcol is being made accountable as a member of the BAC and as end-user of the contract. Either Vitangcol is genius scammer able to pull off the multimillion-dollar deal without the knowledge of the entire DOTC, or DOTC officials are just hopelessly incompetent,” Reyes added.
The Ombudsman cleared Abaya because he was appointed just two days earlier when he signed the contract as head of the DOTC.
“If the Ombudsman is saying that Abaya was new to the DOTC and therefore did not know that the contract was anomalous, why not investigate Mar Roxas who was DOTC secretary when the contract was negotiated? Is it only mere coincidence that two of Vitangcol’s co-accused have links to the Liberal Party headed by Roxas and Abaya?” the Bayan leader asked.
According to The Manila Times source, there had been offers from the private sector, particularly from the Metro Pacific Group of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, for them to take over operations of MRT 3 but all were rejected.
“Ang sabi ni PNoy at Mar, papayamanin pa ba natin sila [President Aquino and Roxas said, ‘Why do we have to make them rich’]?” the source said.
The former DOTC official added that Roxas was apprehensive about the entry of Pangilinan’s group and was “cautious” that reports of corruption in the past administration might continue.
“It was Roxas’ mistake. He lacked foresight due to their fears of [former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria [Macapagal-]Arroyo. He imposed his own plans that eventually resulted in this mess,” the source said.
In a previous interview, Abaya himself admitted that the only issue that was raised by Roxas against the role of the private sector “is that the buy-out might tend to give a whitewash of the sins of the past.”
“We will make sure that it won’t happen again,” he said.
Subhead: No ‘sacred cows’
Also on Monday, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said there are no sacred cows or “untouchable” officials in the Aquino government and that anyone who may be found to be involved in various anomalies should face the law.
“There is no concept of ‘untouchable.’ The filing of cases from the DOJ [Department of Justice] and the executive are based on evidence. The Ombudsman is a separate and independent constitutional body,” Coloma pointed out.
For Bayan’s Reyes, the clearing of Abaya and other top DOTC officials was “one for Ripley’s.”
“Why clear the other members of the BAC including chairman Lotilla when it was the BAC that issued the resolution for a negotiated contract with an interim maintenance provider after the extended contract of the previous maintenance provider was set to expire?… The questionable maintenance deal could not have been accomplished without the knowledge of the top DOTC officials, including the department secretary and the Bids and Awards Committee,” he said.