• The MRT mess is a pork scam lite


    In the pork barrel scam, one thing stood out. The cohorts of Janet Napoles in both chambers of Congress repeatedly allocated their SAROs to the Napoles NGOs in exchange for hard cash. The first duffel bag of cash emboldened the legislators to tell Napoles, “more, more, more,” and “Ma’am Janet” giddily obliged.

    Discretion, adherence to the law and sound judgment were jettisoned through repeated acts of channeling SAROs into the Napoles NGOs. There is a term for such practices under the government procurement and bidding rules. They are called “repeat orders.”  Only, they were of the most fraudulent kind.

    At the executive branch, there were deals that stunk of the Napoles pork scam.

    These were the MRT maintenance contracts worth over P1 billion which had been awarded by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC)  in 2012 and 2013.  The words “shady” and “ad hoc” seem to be the kindest terms you can apply to these DOTC awards. They were serial awards of brazen sleaziness and recklessness, acts that civil society cannot square off with the supposed graft-fighting, corruption-busting government of Mr. Aquino.

    Below is the ghastly chronology.

    We are all familiar with the named Al Vitangcol 3rd, the MRT general manager recently fired for cronyism and incompetence.  We now know that in 2012, the DOTC awarded a P517 million MRT maintenance contract to a consortium led by a company called PH Trams. PH Trams was all of these things:

    • It was a new company

    • It was undercapitalized

    • It had no experience whatsoever in maintaining MRT systems, an undertaking that requires the highest of technical skills

    • In late 20122, the Securities and Exchange Commission certified that PH Trams was not registered with the SEC

    Despite all of these negatives, which in the ideal world would not have even allowed PH Trams to do janitorial and maintenance work, the DOTC awarded to the PH Trams-led consortium the P517 million MRT maintenance contract. The consortium was named PH Trams and CB and T. We are talking here about a MRT system valued at P30 billion.

    The worse was yet to come. It was later revealed that three PH Tram incorporators, including Arturo Soriano, Wilson de Vera and Mario de la Cruz, were all cronies of Vitangcol, the then MRT GM. Soriano is an uncle of Vitangcol’s wife who mysteriously got out of PH Trams just before the company he founded got a half a billion peso maintenance contract. Standard-issue Third World sleaze, zero class act.

    De Vera and Vitangcol had been exposed by an ambassador as partners in a shake-down operation, an international black eye for a government supposedly dedicated to taking the right path.

    After the contract of the PH Trams/CB and T lapsed, with nothing to show for it except decrepit trains that were a danger to human lives, the DOTC, one would assume, shuld have learned from the experience and not commit the same mistake of dealing with the likes of PH Trams again. Instead of learning from the PH Trams affair, the DOTC segued into another dubious award.

    The current maintenance work of the MRT covers a P685 million contract which would end in August this year. The awardee and winner in a bidding is a company called Autre Porte Technique Global Inc., or APT Global. It is a fancy-sounding name that invokes track records, solid corporate pedigrees and competence.

    You want to know who allegedly signed the maintenance contract on behalf of APT Global? Mario de la Cruz, the same shadowy character who helped establish the PH Trams. Yes, de la Cruz, the Vitangcol crony. There is no ghastlier segue than this one. In this version, Napoles is the DOTC and the favorite clients are the Vitangcol cronies.

    Ok, where is the conspiracy angle?

    President Aquino should look into allegations that the Japanese maintenance provider until 2012, TES-P-Sumitomo, was eased out of the maintenance contract—despite its decent record—to pave the way for the no-bid award to PH Trams, which until November 2012 was not registered with the SEC. The exit of Sumitomo marked the start of the shoddy maintenance work highlighted by train stoppages, serious accidents, two-hour wait for rides, the MRT system falling into utter shabbiness and rot.

    The culprit? The “Incorporated in Pangasinan” maintenance providers.
    The DOTC has turned down proposals to have an independent, technical audit of the MRT systems to find out where the technical failures and weak links are.

    Despite the plea from experts that the MRT system is now plagued by  “metal fatigue” and cannot be efficient under its current state. The DOTC is clearly afraid that the Vitangcol crony firms would be unmasked of their full bogusness by an independent technical audit.

    The dubious maintenance awards were kept hidden from the MRTC, the private operator, despite an obligation under the Build Lease Transfer agreement to have the private operator review the maintenance contracts. MRT personnel, this is DOTC at its most petty and absurd, would not even allow the MRTC people entry to the depot and maintenance sites. Was the DOTC afraid that the MRTC knew the cast of characters in those fancy-named companies that snagged the more than P1 billion maintenance contracts and expose them as such?

    President Aquino will not mention the MRT mess in his SONA. How will he? How can he? The MRT mess is essentially a story of coziness, cronyism and impunity which would not mesh with his spiels on competence and integrity in government.



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    1. Johnny Ramos on

      It is very obvious that a relative of pnoy is the mystery of vitangcol cronies. You can see allies of pnoy like congressman Erice justifying all the moves of vitangcol. Belmonte and Drillon did not lift a finger to a full press to investigate these mess.

    2. For the maintenance contract of MRT to be awarded without bidding to an inexperienced and underfunded PH Trams, either DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya is corrupt, or he is incompetent. No wonder, the breakdowns of trains of MRT are getting more often. This incompetent crony of BS Aquino should resign; if he doesn’t, the Pork King should kick him out.

      • Manuel C. Diaz on

        Abaya is highly qualified multi-talented,multi-degreed individual, US Educated idiot and a moron. He is not incompetent but brilliant buccaneer. He is corrupt to the core.

    3. Dapat pag investigator jounalist kayo alamin bakit nakoha nila ang contract, siguro naman pasado sa qualification, financial, cost and iba pa nasa 9184 procurement law
      and your are focusing on character, tama ka ang ph tram ay new, but indi and cb &T, so qualified ata, dotc will not allow yan , kasi may twg/bac/coa at mga boses, kasi may paper trail, pero after yung lambastik mo na sulat, tapos na pro promote mo lang pala
      ang mga hapon, yan ang investigador napolist, dapat alamin morin bakit sinibak ang mga hapon for ten years maintenance na ginawa, walang mga upgrade ginawa sa mrt
      nasa contract ata yan,

    4. Yes you are right in all you say about this Marlen Ronquillo, but so what, thats how it is here in the philippines. No one is ever held accountable. Who in the dotc gave the final nod for these idiots to maintain the mrt. They should be held accountable, but in this country no one is ever held accountable. Its never anyones fault. I always say tell me any organisation in this country that is run correctly. I mean & i keep saying this to show how useless this country is from the simplest of things. You buy a brand new car. Yet you wont get number plates for about 3 months. In england where i come from if you are driving & you lose a number plate you can go & get one made up in about 15 mins. Its so simple, but in any other country in the world where anything is simple here its so complicated. So if they cant get that right how on earth do you expect them to get something very complicated & technical right. From the top to the bottom the elite are useless & corrupt & it wont change, thats how they want it. Keep the masses under educated so they wont say anything. Its so easy to fool filipinos, its done everyday in the philippines. Try doing that with foreigners & they will cause a big stink about it. You people need to stand up & be counted & at last people like you marlen are starting to do that, please keep it up for this country & help it get better.

    5. Mon Magbanua on

      Now, the Secretary of the DOTC must be held responsible for all the billion peso mess at MRT. Why did he allow it to happen? Under the principle of command responsibility and accountability, why is he too silent? Is the silence a prelude to a very honorable act of resignation like what the usually honorable Japanese leaders have been doing when there are just mere allegations of wrong doing in their jurisdictions? With the messy developments that are going on at the DOTC and DILG (where the Hon. Secretary have so much powers, there are only 2 possibilities that have happened; either he is too stupid not to know things happening under his very noses or that he allowed all those messy corrupt deals to happen to fill his pockets. Where does he fit then?

      • Manuel C. Diaz on

        What resign and live a very lucrative racket? Never happens in Islas de Ldrones aka Philippines!