Abaya admits not knowing MRT-3 maintenance firm was just newly incorporated
Saying he was then just new on the job and did not want to be a “Doubting Thomas,” former Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya admitted at a Senate inquiry on Monday that he approved a contractor for the job of maintaining Metro Rail Transit (MRT)-3 trains without knowing it was just newly incorporated and had a small capitalization.
Abaya was referring to PH Trams which along with the much experienced CB&T won the negotiated bid to maintain and repair the MRT-3 trains in 2012 until August 2013.
After PH Trams, the maintenance service contract was awarded to Global APT until 2014. It has since been given to the consortium Busan Universal Rail Inc. (Buri). The various changes in maintenance providers had led to many glitches at the MRT-3 and allegations of inefficient management and maintenance had prompted the Senate inquiry.
Abaya also admitted before the Senate committee on public services that his predecessor, then Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas, was the one who extended temporarily the maintenance contract of Sumimoto and TES Philippines.
Sen. Grace Poe, who led the Senate inquiry into the efficiency mess that continues to this day at the MRT-3, asked Abaya whether Roxas did not give the Metro Rail Transit Corp. the go-signal to rebid the maintenance service contract and that was why the bidding came too late and prompted the interest of PH Trams.
Abaya initially said he did not know because at that time he was still a congressman.
“Exactly, what you’re saying is this—You really didn’t know and you just trusted the organization. You didn’t want to come in as a Doubting Thomas. Therefore, you just approved it in good faith,” Poe said.
Abaya replied: “It was the right thing to do for a public servant, ma’am. Because if I didn’t do that, imagine the flak the government would get.”
Abaya also said he approved the contract of Phil Trams without knowing the firm’s background because “there was a presumption that the… bureaucracy was doing its job.”
“…(I)f I came there as a Doubting Thomas, being careful that I won’t be signing anything, the MRT-3 would have stopped on October 19 (2012),” he said, adding that at that time Sumimoto would have packed its bags.
He said he didn’t want to sign a contract with Sumimoto because it did not want to guarantee the trains.
“I assure you, ma’am, there is no invisible hand in the Department of Transportation and Communications. I would not have allowed it during my term,” Abaya also said.
Poe had told Abaya that PH Trams only had P625,000 in paid-up capital and was just incorporated two months before it snared the P517.5-million contract with CB&T.
To reporters later, Poe said this was the “biggest revelation” at the hearing that Abaya admitted PH Trams to come in and change Sumimoto but he did not know the background of PH Trams.
“[Abaya] just signed it because he said he was just new [in the job] but the past secretary and his officials were the ones who decided on this,” she said, referring to Roxas.
Asked whether she will invite Roxas at the next hearing, Poe said she has not considered it yet.
But while she said she did not want to mix politics in this issue, this could not be helped because of the nonappearance of a certain Marlo dela Cruz, an incorporator of both PH Trams and Global APT and Buri.
Poe said she would investigate Dela Cruz, who is reportedly allied with the Liberal Parry where both Abaya and Roxas were members, because the latter won in the bids to maintain MRT-3 trains even without track record and small capitalization.
“If [Dela Cruz] has nothing to hide, he should have appeared here,” Poe also said.
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