MANILA — Malacañang on Tuesday welcomed the filing of plunder complaints against former government officials before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged anomalous contract for the maintenance of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), stressing that “those accountable will be held liable”.
“We must stress that the great suffering of the riding public as (a) result of the failure to deliver on the responsibilities of public office, such as the case of the current state of the MRT-3 system, carries consequences and that those accountable will be held liable,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said during a Palace briefing.
“It is the height of injustice that Filipino taxpayers have to pay PHP54 million per month, on top of a PHP1.8-billion fixed fee for other services, to an unworthy contractor incapable of delivering the reliable system,” he added.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) filed plunder raps against nine cabinet members of former president Benigno S. Aquino III, which included former Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and former Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Manuel Roxas II.
Roxas served as DOTC secretary prior to his appointment as DILG secretary.
Also charged were former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) secretary Florencio Abad, former Department of Finance (DOF) secretary Cesar Purisima, former Department of Energy (DOE) secretary Jericho Petilla, former Department of Science and Technology (DOST) secretary Mario Montejo, former Department of National Defense (DND) secretary Voltaire Gazmin, former Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) secretary Rogelio Singson, and former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) secretary Arsenio Balisacan.
DOTr also named former DOTC undersecretaries Edwin Lopez, Rene Limcaoco and Catherine Gonzales as respondents.
\A certain Marlo dela Cruz, Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) members, and officials of the former MRT-3 maintenance contractor, the Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) were also included in the complaint.
In the 64-page complaint, Roxas and Abaya were accused of using the MRT-3 maintenance program as a “cash cow”.
“(They) set into motion a grand scheme of turning the DOTC as a bottomless cash cow, entering into one anomalous procurement project after the other, in order to amass, accumulate and acquire ill-gotten wealth by taking advantage of their official position, authority and influence to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the Filipino people,” the complaint read.
The complaint alleged that Roxas and other Liberal Party stalwarts “eased out” Sumitomo Corp., which has been maintaining the MRT since the 1980s, and “replaced it with their own dummy corporations”.
The complaint noted that a day after Abaya replaced Roxas as DOTC chief, he awarded the PHP517.5-million MRT maintenance contract to PH Trams-CB&T.
According to the complaint, this was the start of the “rapid deterioration of MRT’s trains, tracks, signaling, power supply and stations”.
The complaint also alleged that the respondents later “rigged the entire bidding process to ensure that BURI was able to secure the project despite the fact that its submissions for the eligibility and technical components of the project were severely lacking and that it is not a technically, legally and financially capable contractor that may manage and operate the project”.
The BURI contract covers the general overhaul of 43 Light Rail Vehicles (LRV), the total replacement of the signaling system, and other additional maintenance works.
The government terminated BURI’s contract last Nov. 6, citing poor performance and failure to comply with the contractual requirements of a complete and up to date Computerized Maintenance Management System, among other reasons.
In the meantime, Roque said he is hoping that the Ombudsman would prioritize the investigation of the MRT-3 mess for the sake of the riding public.
“Well, inaasahan ko naman na dahil meron nang pormal na reklamo ay mapapabilis na ‘yung proseso. Naintindihan ko siguro na ang Ombudsman has the duty to investigate, even on its own and even on the basis of anonymous complaints, kaya napakadami niyang iniimbestigahan (I am hoping that with the formal complaint, the process would be expedited. I understand that the Ombudsman has the duty to investigate, even on its own and even on the basis of anonymous complaints, that is why they have a lot to investigate),” he said.
“Pero ngayon naman po siguro, dahil nakikita na ng Ombudsman ‘yung aberya na nangyayari sa ating taong-bayan dahil dito sa palpak na MRT natin, baka naman mabigyan na ng kaukulang prayoridad ang imbestigasyon ng bagay na ito (But now that the Ombudsman sees how the people are troubled by the frequent MRT breakdowns, perhaps they would finally give priority to the investigation),” Roque said.