Graft case filed vs. Abaya, others over questionable train ticketing project
MANILA, Philippines – A consumers’ group filed a graft case against Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya and other officials for supposedly giving undue advantage to a bidder for a unified ticketing system project.
In their complaint-affidavit filed before the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, the National Federation of Filipino Consumers filed graft charges against Abaya, Transportation Undersecretary Jose Perpetuo Lotilla, Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco, and Undersecretary Catherine Jennifer Gonzales.
Abaya is also the acting president of President Aquino’s Liberal Party. Lotilla is the chair of the Bids and Awards committee, while Limcaoco and Gonzales are members.
According to the complaint, the officials violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when they awarded as winning bidder AF Consortium, which offered the winning bid of P1.09 billion.
The award was for the P1.72-billion project called the Contactless Automated Fare Collection System, set to replace the manual ticketing system of the Metro Rail and Light Rail Transits.
The group’s lawyer, Atty. Jayson Luna, said the project should not have been awarded to the consortium because the MRT Corporation (MRTC), which is 50 percent owned by AF Consortium, has a legal dispute with government over the procurement of new MRT trains at the time of the bidding process. The case has since been junked by the Makati Regional Trial Court.
According to the instructions to prospective bidders, having disputes with government is a ground for disqualification.
Also, the MRTC has an ongoing arbitration dispute with the Philippine government in Singapore over the equity payment rentals on MRT3, the complaint read.
“It is clear as day that the respondents, in conspiracy, gave unwarranted benefit and preference to AF Consortium, despite its very blatant violations…” it added.
The petitioner also noted that AF Consortium will not be able to pay the remaining P809.112 million after paying an initial amount of P278.991 million to government.
According to the affidavit, the consortium would pay the remaining balance over a period of 10 years and only if the transaction volume of ridership through stored value or single journey cards reaches 750 million per quarter.
But the petitioner claimed the transaction volume of the MRT and LRT reaches 324 million per quarter only, or 1.2 million riders daily.
“That they awarded the contract to AF Consortium despite the unrealistic and bloated figures from AF Consortium undeniably shows Respondents’ conspiratorial act to grant undue preference and benefits to AF Consortium…” the complaint read.
Abaya is also under fire for allegedly sitting down on allegations that MRT General Manager Al Vitangcol extorted $30 million from a Czech train manufacturer in exchange for a contract on the additional MRT coaches.
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