MANILA — The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed graft and plunder complaints against former Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya over government's P4.2-billion MRT-3 long-term maintenance contract with Busan Joint Venture and Busan Universal Rail, Inc (BURI).
In a Jan. 31, 2019 resolution that Ombudsman Samuel Martires just approved on Nov. 9, 2020, the Ombudsman likewise cleared public and private respondents Edwin Lopez, Rene Limcaoco, Catherine Jennifer Francis Gonzales, Roman Buenafe, Camille Alcaraz, Ofelia Astrera, Charissa Eloisa Julia Opulencia, Oscar Bongon, Jose Rodante Sabayle, Eldonn Ferdinand Uy, Elizabeth Velasco, Belinda Ong Tan, Brian Velasco, Antonio Borromeo, Jun Ho Hwang and Elipidio Silvestre Uy.
The resolution just came to public light this week.
“Wherefore, the motions for reconsideration filed by the indicted respondents are granted,” the special panel said in the resolution approved by Martires.
The Ombudsman stressed in the resolution that the problems which hounded the MRT-3 railway operations appeared to be in the implementation stage which involved issues absent during the screening, negotiation and bidding processes.
It was also noted that based on records, the Busan Joint Venture and BURI had already been penalized for problems that cropped up in the implementation of the project through deductions in payments they received and the subsequent pre-termination of the contract.
“Considering the scope of the allegations in the complaints focused only on respondents’ acts during the procurement process for the MRT-3 long-term contract, which process, based on the preceding discussion, appears to be above-board, this office has no recourse except to reconsider its finding of probable cause against said respondents and dismiss the complaints against them,” the resolution read.
The MRT-3 maintenance contract entered into by the Aquino administration in 2016 was terminated by President Rodrigo Duterte’s government in 2017.
The graft complaint against Abaya and other individuals was filed by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan while the plunder complaint was filed by officials of the current Department of Transportation (DOTR), both in 2017.
In 2018, former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales issued a resolution finding probable cause to file one count of graft against Abaya and the other respondents before the Sandiganbayan.
In the same resolution, Morales dismissed charges against Aquino administration officials and several other individuals, namely Mar Roxas, Florencio Abad, Cesar Purisima, Carlos Jericho Petilla, Mario Montejo, Voltaire Gazmin, Rogelio Singson, Arsenio Balisacan, Maria Cecilia Natividad, Chae-Gue Shim, William dela Cruz, Eugene Rapanut, and Mario Pilapil dela Cruz.
Motions for reconsideration were then filed by Abaya and the other respondents.
Abaya said in his appeal that he had no supervision nor control over the Bids and Awards Committee and that there was no conspiracy to ensure the award of the contract to Busan JV.
The DOTR, meanwhile, insisted on the presence of the elements of plunder noting that Roxas, who was interior secretary, and Abaya were identified as the main alleged plunderers.
In the resolution approved by Martires, the dismissal of the charges against Roxas and other respondents ordered by Morales was upheld.
Bayan Secretary-General Renato Reyes expressed in a Facebook post his disappointment over the dismissal of the complaint.
“Here’s some irony for you. Ombudsman Carpio-Morales, an Aquino appointee, indicted Aquino’s former DOTC officials. Ombudsman Martires, a Duterte appointee, dismissed the complaint,” Reyes said.