Ombudsman junks graft raps vs Abaya, others over MRT3 maintenance deal
MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed the graft charges against former Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and several others over the government’s P4.2 billion Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) maintenance contract with Busan Joint Venture and Busan Universal Rail, Inc (BURI).
In its 51-page decision, the Office of the Ombudsman cleared Abaya and 16 other public and private respondents: Edwin Lopez, Rene Limacaoco, Catherine Jennifer Francis Gonzales, Roman Buenafe, Camille Alcaraz, Ofelia D. Astrera, Charissa Eloisa Julia Opulencia, Oscar B. Bongon, Jose Rodante Sabayle, Eldonn Ferdinand Uy, Elizabeth Velasco, Belinda One Tan, Brian Velasco, Antonio Borromeo, Jun Ho Hwang, and Elpidio Silvestro Uy.
According to the Ombudsman, the problems hounding the MRT-3 railway operations appear to be in the implementation stage of the long-term maintenance contract, involving issues that were not present during the screening, negotiation, and bidding process.
“Based on the records, the Busan JV/BURI had already been penalized for the problems that cropped up in the implementation of the project through deductions in their payments under the contract and subsequently, pre-termination of the contract,” the Ombudsman said.
“Considering that the scope of the allegations in the complaints focused only on respondents’ acts during the procurement process for the MRT-3 long-term maintenance 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,” it added.
Meanwhile, in the same decision, the Ombudsman upheld the earlier dismissal of charges of plunder and violation of procurement law charges against former Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas, Florencio Abad, Cesar Purisima, Carlos Jericho Petilla, Mario Montejo, Voltaire Gazmin, Rogelio Singson, Arsenio Balisacan, Maria Cecila Natividad, Chae-Gue Shim, William dela Cruz, Eugene Rapanut, and Mario dela Cruz over the same MRT-3 maintenance contract.
In 2018, then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales found probable cause to charge Abaya and the other respondents for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Back then, the Ombudsman’s special panel of investigators found that the respondents “extended unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference” to Busan Universal Rail Inc. of Busan Joint Venture (Busan JV) despite being “ineligible” and “unqualified.”
It stressed that “Busan JV was not technically, legally and financially capable to undertake the MRT3 long-term maintenance contract.”
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