Malacanang defends plunder charges vs Aquino Cabinet men not meant to cover up MRT fiasco
Malacañang on Friday told Vice President Leni Robredo that the string of cases filed against officials of the previous administration over the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) mess was to make them accountable and not to cover up President Rodrigo Duterte’s failure to fix the country’s busiest railway.
In a statement, Roque said the Palace found Robredo’s remarks “unfortunate.”
“With all due respect to Vice President Robredo, the MRT-3 issue is not about covering up shortcomings,” he said.
On Wednesday, Robredo said that accountable officials must be charged, but the filing of charges should have a concrete basis and not merely as a scapegoat to cover shortcomings.
“Ako, mahirap magparatang, pero sa akin, kapag may nagkasala, tama lamang na sampahan ng kaso. Iyong atin lang ninanais, sana iyong pagsampa ng kaso ay base sa datos na maayos. Hindi siya ginagawang dahilan para lang maghanap ng scapegoat para sa mga bagay na hindi nagagawa. Dapat kung mag-file ng kaso, ito ay base sa ebidensya na mayroon talagang pagkakasala na ginawa. Ang nakakatakot lang, baka ginagawa ito para magpasa ng blame sa iba. Ito iyong dapat hindi pinapayagan,” Robredo said during a media interview at the sidelines of the 154th birth anniversary ceremonies of Andres Bonifacio in Caloocan City.
But Rqoue said: “The Administration has faced the MRT-3 mess squarely. The President has even apologized over a recent train mishap and transport officials admitted that while they cannot solve the problems overnight they are working double time to restore the convenience and reliability of the MRT-3 by getting a proven maintenance firm and buying needed parts.”
Since the government took over the MRT-3 maintenance operations from Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) in the first week of November, the mass rapid train system was hit with numerous technical glitches, including the decoupling of trains.
However, Roque pointed out that the problems plaguing MRT-3 were the result of incompetence and corruption of former officials during the term of former President Benigno S. Aquino III.
He said the filing of charges against those responsible was only expected in order to hold them accountable for their misdeeds.
“These officials facilitated the negotiated procurement of long-term maintenance contracts to BURI, which per the Supplemental Complaint Affidavit filed by the DOTr, turned the DOTC as a bottomless cash cow entering into one anomalous procurement project,” Roque said.
“We cannot simply sweep the sins of incompetence and corruption under the rug with the harsh reality of half a million daily suffering riding public staring us in the face,” he added.
On November 21, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) filed plunder charges against nine former Aquino cabinet members, 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 Secretary Florencio Abad, former Department of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, former Department of Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, former Department of Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo, former Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, former Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson, and former National Economic and Development Authority secretary Arsenio Balicasan.
In the 64-page complaint, Roxas and Abaya were accused of using the MRT-3 maintenance program as a “cash cow.”
The complaint alleged that Roxas and other Liberal Party stalwarts “eased out” Sumitomo Corporation, 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 government terminated BURI’s contract last November 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. (PNA)