(UPDATE – 6 p.m.) The militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on Monday brought along 25 boxes of documents in support of its complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against past transportation officials, led by ex-DOTC secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, in connection with the controversial maintenance for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3.
MRT3 has been mired in one operational debacle after another for years owing to maintenance lapses and shortcomings.
The complaint filed by, among others, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr, Bayan Muna Chairperson Neri Colmenares, AGHAM Secretary General Maria Finesa Cosico and Train Riders Network members Angelo Suarez, Maria Donna Miranda and James Relativo, alleging anomalies and violations of the procurement law.
Aside from former transportation secretary Abaya, among those named as respondents were former transport undersecretaries Rene Limcaoco, Catherine Gonzales, Edwin Lopez and MRT-3 general manager Roman Buenafe.
The complaint claimed that the then Department of Transportation and Communicaion under Abaya improperly awarded the MRT maintenance contract to Korean firm Busan Transportation Corporation in 2015 after a succession of failed bidding procedures.
The Busan contract was later taken over by a special purpose company named Busan Universal Rail Incorporated (BURI).
“The contract was awarded to a joint venture that is financially and technically unqualified to provide the necessary maintenance,” Reyes said.
The results, Reyes added, were plain to see in the sloppy performance of the MRT that continued to deteriorate as the months went on, risking the safety of the riding public and the continued viability of the railway operation.
This complaint by Bayan is separate from a similar action filed last month by the current leadership of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) also against Abaya and former DOTC officials.
Reyes said: “Hindi pabor sa publiko ang pinasok na kontrata ng gobyerno, nagbigay ng kontrata sa isang grupo na hindi financially and technically qualified para mag-provide ng maintenance service. Ang nangyari nga po, naging negosyo lang itong maintenance. Merong pinaboran, may kumita, at may milyon milyon ang nagdusa (This government contract put the public at the losing end, favoring a group that was not financially or technically qualified to provide such a maintenance service. What happened was: Somebody got favored, somebody made money, but millions of commuters suffered).”
Even President Rodrigo Duterte came out expressing apology for the MRT woes, after a recent mishap where one wagon decoupled from it’s two other peer wagons in midtrip at Makati City: “It would indicate sabotage or somebody did it intentionally … Well, that is one angle that they are trying to determine. But this is not an excuse actually … apologies, maybe, to the public for the inconvenience caused.”
DOTr has likewise engaged the National Bureau of Investigation to look at the possible angle of sabotage after the decoupling incident.
For his part, Abaya issued the following statement: “It is unfortunate that attempts to punish past efforts to put in place much-needed equipment and maintenance have been put in a bad light by complaints such as these. That being said, I recognize my responsibility to explain our efforts, and will do so once called by the Office of the Ombudsman. We have nothing to fear and nothing to hide. We are ready to face these with a clean conscience and the facts on our side, as we have done in a previous complaint filed against us.”