Bayan fears dismissal of graft raps vs Abaya could set bad precedent
MANILA, Philippines — An activist group fears that the dismissal of a graft case against past administration officials involved in the anomalous Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) maintenance deal implies that it is OK for unqualified companies to work with the government.
According to Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), this decision from the Office of the Ombudsman to scrap the complaint faced by former Transportation secretary Jun Abaya also gives an idea that there is no problem with lumping a P4 billion contract to the maintenance provider even if a specific project has been specified.
Earlier, the Ombudsman cleared Abaya and 16 other public and private respondents charged for the MRT-3 maintenance contract given to a joint venture of the Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) worth over P4 billion. The complaint was filed by Bayan and other concerned groups last 2017, for allegedly committing graft and violating procurement laws.
“It means it’s okay to have a joint venture bagging a government contract where 96% of shareholders of the JV have no prior experience and track-record in rail maintenance so long as a 4% token shareholder from Korea provides the technical expertise,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said.
“It means it’s okay to enter into a lump sum contract of P4 billion without any bill of quantities that specifies how many parts and equipment will be purchased for the maintenance of the train for a given period. The Ombudsman decision reiterated that this was a ‘lump sum’ contract, worth P4.25 billion, without this important safeguard,” he added.
In the decision, the Office of the Ombudsman reasoned out that the problems faced in the MRT-3 maintenance happened during the implementation stage of the contract — hence, these were not done during the procurement stage, which was the focus of the complaint.
Furthermore, the Ombudsman said that the procurement processes appear to be above-board.
In the maintenance contract duration, several accidents occurred along with the MRT-3’s stations — from a woman who had her arm severed at Ayala Station to a car being detached from the train head and with a train overshooting past the terminal station in Taft Avenue.
Bayan says this would only encourage unqualified companies to work with the government for big projects — at the public’s expense.
“The decision of the Ombudsman encourages unqualified companies to enter into big-time government contracts without fear of being held liable. It places the taxpayers again and the government at the losing end,” Reyes said.
“Galing talaga ng hustisya sa atin. Ilang daang libo ang nagdusa sa palpak na serbisyo ng MRT 3 noon, pero walang ni isa ang mananagot,” he added.
(Justice is really very good in our country. Several thousand were badly affected by the faulty MRT-3 service before, but no one would be held liable.)
WHAT WENT BEFORE: Abaya and the MRT contract
The Department of Transportation filed a separate graft complaint against Abaya and other officials for allegedly conspiring to award the contract to Buri.
The maintenance firms are said to be linked to Marlo dela Cruz, an incorporator of MRT-3 maintenance providers PH Trams, and Global APT, Buri. Dela Cruz was believed to be allied with the Liberal Party, the political party of former President Benigno Aquino III and his Cabinet members, including Abaya. [ac]
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