FORMER Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) Administrator Melquiades Robles on Sunday responded to reports that the Office of the Ombudsman had asked the Sandiganbayan to indict him and 12 others after finding probable cause for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
In a statement, Robles said the maintenance contact entered into by LRTA with the joint venture of CB&T Philippines Corp., PMP Inc. and Gradski Saobracaj GRAS (CPG) was “completely aboveboard” and that there was nothing irregular in the reduction of janitorial personnel contracted by the LRTA in 2009.
The former LRTA chief added that the reduction of personnel of the service providers was legal and made after the transit authority determined that not all contracted janitorial personnel were needed for the work required.
“The reduction is allowed by law as a deductive variation order, meaning payment of less than the contracted price; this even saved the government money and was ultimately beneficial to the riding public, “ Robles said.
“Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, allows variation orders upward or downward. Since contracts with the government can no longer be changed once approved, such variations are reflected in the payment vouchers with the contractors, which are in the possession of the Ombudsman, in this case,” he explained.
Robles said minutes of the negotiation meeting on January 6, 2009 between the LRTA and CPG show that the parties agreed to reduce janitorial personnel by 87, leading to monthly savings amounting to P864,084.
“The proof of the propriety of this action, which was ratified by the entire LRTA Board, is the renewal of the same janitorial contract with the same contractor, with the same conditions, since its approval in 2009 until this year,” he added.
Three LRTA administrators and their respective boards after Robles have since ratified and extended the same contract, with was also subjected to a special audit of the Commission on Audit, the former administrator said. Since the basis of the charges was 2009 post-audit findings, Robles added, it should also include the previous and most recent administrators and board members of the ruling party, not just career employees.
He said reports that the janitorial contract was worth P400 million were inaccurate since the deal was only worth P3 million a month.
After the contract was signed in 2009, Robles stayed on as LRTA administrator only until August 2010 and could not have paid that much during his term.
Robles said he found it “suspicious” that while the Senate and the public are demanding that the current leadership of the Department of Transportation and Communications be charged over the failure of the country’s rail systems, it isonly he and his managers who are being charged by the Ombudsman.
Robles, a member of Buhay party-list, is a known critic of the Aquino administration.
Recommended for indictment in the charge sheet in a resolution released by the Ombudsman last Tuesday, apart from Robles and the joint venture contractor, were former LRTA officials Federico Canar Jr., Dennis Francisco, Evelyn Macalino, Marilou Liscano, Elmo Stephen Triste, Eduardo Abiva, Nicholas Ombao, Roger Vaño, Maynard Tolosa and Juliet Labisto.
NEIL A. ALCOBER