Ex-transport chief Abaya faces graft over MRT maintenance deal

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 23 2017 10:39 AM | Updated as of Oct 23 2017 03:43 PM

MANILA - (UPDATED) The Department of Transportation lodged Monday graft charges against some 30 former officials led by former secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya in connection with an allegedly anomalous contract with the service provider of MRT-3. 

The government last week notified MRT service provider Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) that it will terminate the firm's P3.8 billion contract due to chronic service interruptions in the main railway of the capital. 

Led by Transport Undersecretary Reinier Paul Yebra, the DOTr legal team filed a 29-page complaint alleging that BURI's contract was "anomalous"and "irregular." 

Yebra explained that Busan Joint Venture (JV) bagged the deal for maintaining the MRT systems, overhauling the trains, and replacing the signalling system on December 21, 2015. 

But on the same day, Camille Alcaraz, chairperson of the bids and awards committee (BAC), requested the Securities and Exchange Commission to facilitate the registration of a "special purpose company" consisting of Busan JV members.

In January 2016, BURI was incorporated, leaving Busan JV barely 5 percent of the shares. From thereon, BURI maintained the railway instead of Busan JV, said Yebra. 

"Anomalous in the sense that the contract was awarded to Busan JV but it was being implemented by BURI which is a very different entity. That's the truth that we want to get out there," he said. 

"Bakit ganoon ang nangyari? There is a violation there. The procurement laws, the implementing rules and regulation and we want to find out the truth that is why we initiated the truth."

DOTr's complaint added that BURI is "a newly formed corporation who does not only lack the required years of experience, but more importantly has not, for all illegal intents and purposes, joined the bidding at all."

Yebra said the deterioration of MRT-3 could be blamed on BURI's poor performance. He noted that since 2016, an average of 2 to 3 service interruptions hit MRT daily while 7 derailments were recorded between April and October 2017. 

Aside from Abaya, the graft complaint tagged BAC's Alcaraz, former undersecretaries Edwin Lopez for operations and Rene Limcaoco for planning, and former MRT General Manager Roman Buenafe. 

Also included in the charges were BURI executives Eldonn Uy, Elizabeth Valsco, Belinda Tan, Brian Velasco, Chae-Gue Shim, Antonio Borromeo, Jun Ho Hwang, Elpidio Uy, William dela Cruz and Eugene Rapanut. 

BURI is "confident that it will be able to answer and negate any charges against the company or its officials," the firm's legal counsel and spokesperson, Atty. Charles Mercado, said in a text message to ABS-CBN News. 

Abaya, for his part, reiterated that the maintenance deal complied with the procurement laws. 

"Our decision has always been guided by our conscience and our compliance with procurement laws and laws with regard to the procurement of the maintenance provider. We look forward to clear our name before any appropriate body," he said in a text message to ABS-CBN News. 

Other major respondents declined to give a statement.

Roughly half a million people ride the MRT-3 daily and poor maintenance has been blamed for chronic service interruptions.

The train system, which runs through one of Metro Manila's busiest thoroughfares, bogged down about 10 times in the past week, from October 16 to 22. 

It also limited its operations on Monday after a stray diaper was caught in its power line. 

With Jacque Manabat and Joyce Balancio, ABS-CBN News