DOTC chief should answer for MRT 3 mess – Poe
THE Senate will most likely recommend filing of criminal charges against Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio “Jun” Abaya in connection with the problem-riddled Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3.
Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the public services sub-committee on transportation, said the panel is completing the report on its investigation into MRT 3 accidents and malfunctions. The report is based on the three resolutions filed by Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th and Nancy Binay in 2014.
“I believe that he [Abaya] is really responsible [for the MRT 3 mess]and there is a big possibility that he will be included [in the recommendation], but it will be better if we just wait for the committee report,” Poe said in a news conference on Friday in Angeles City, Pampanga.
The sub-committee will present its report before the 16th Congress adjourns in June. The report will include recommendations for filing of graft-related cases against several transportation officials.
Poe admitted that she was disappointed by the exclusion of Abaya from the list of individuals charged with graft over an allegedly anomalous MRT 3 maintenance deal.
While she hailed the filing of criminal charges against former MRT 3 general manager Al Vitangcol 3rd and five others, she said she was not happy that top transportation officials were spared.
Vitangcol was indicted at the Sandiganbayan after the Office of the Ombudsman found sufficient evidence to show that he conspired with PH Trams Incorporators for the awarding of the $11.5-million maintenance contract without public bidding. Five PH Trams executives were also charged.
Poe noted that based on the information gathered from a series of hearings held by her committee, Abaya should have been among those charged because he signed and approved the contract.
She recently asked the Transportation chief to produce the P3.8-billion negotiated contract between the government and the Korean-Filipino consortium chosen to take charge of the maintenance operations of MRT 3 after his announcement that the firm would no longer back out.
The senator wants to review the contract with Busan Transportation Corp. to find out the different provisions under the deal and to determine if it is still the original contract.
Poe said she has been receiving information that the contract has been revised to stop the contractor from withdrawing.
The Senate hearing on MRT 3 was triggered by a series of train derailments, including an incident that happened at the train system’s Taft Avenue station in Manila that injured 12 passengers.
The MRT 3 serves 13 stations and passes through the cities of Pasay, Makati, Mandaluyong, San Juan and Quezon.
Also on Friday, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. called on the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the alleged midnight deal entered into by Abaya for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) System.
Marcos said he finds it distressing that the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) proceeded with the awarding of the P3.8-billion maintenance contract despite numerous questions over the agreement, including its awarding without bidding.
“The deal for me is highly questionable mainly because it was done without bidding. Secretary Abaya justified it by saying it was because they were under an emergency but some sectors have alleged that it was just a scheme to do away with the bidding,” he said.
The senator said the Ombudsman should step in and determine if the awarding of the contract was legal.
The Ombudsman has the power to investigate and prosecute on its own any act or omission of any public officer or employee, office or agency.
Marcos pointed out that an investigation is needed since there were also questions over the allegedly anomalous maintenance contracts entered into by the DOTC with PH Trams from 2012 to 2013.
The DOTC awarded the P3.8-billion three-year maintenance contract for MRT 3 with the joint venture company of South Korean group Busan Transportation Corp., Edison Development and Construction, Tramat Mercantile Inc., TMI Corp. Inc. and Castan Corp.
But Marcos said several groups have questioned the competence of the consortium.
The awarding of the contract was dubbed a midnight deal because it was entered into in the last few months of the Aquino Administration and its funding had long been planned and appropriated under the 2014 and 2015 national budgets.
“The Office of the Ombudsman should take the initiative here because it is not only the integrity of our procurement processes that is at stake but the safety of our commuting public. We cannot just let the lives of our people be put in the hands of a group of people who are inexperienced on this. This is very disturbing,” Marcos said.