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Senators Poe, Binay ask: Why was Abaya spared from graft raps?

MANILA, Philippines–They may be on opposite sides of the political fence but Senators Grace Poe and Nancy Binay are wondering why Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya—a key ally of President Aquino—was spared from the graft charges filed by the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged anomalous maintenance contract for MRT-3 in 2012.

The two senators pointed out that Abaya, the secretary general of the administration Liberal Party, had signed the MRT contract.

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Poe said she welcomed the decision of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to indict former MRT general manager Al Vitangcol and five others “on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of our countrymen who suffer the indignity of riding the MRT every day under such deplorable conditions brought about by their almost heinous criminal indiscretions.”

“This should serve as a severe warning to the current MRT administrators to get their act together and that ineptness prompted by illegal motives shall be dealt with severely,” Poe said in a statement.

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As per the Ombudsman’s findings, Vitangcol used his authority to forego a public bidding in awarding a maintenance contract worth $1.5 million a month to Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. (PH Trans), whose incorporators included a relative of his wife.

Charged with him were five PH Trans incorporators and his uncle-in-law, Arturo Soriano, currently the provincial accountant of Pangasinan. Poe said she respected the decision of the Ombudsman to indict Vitangcol and “his cohorts.”

Selective justice

Poe said she had not read the full text of the Ombudsman resolution and would like to “find out the reason Secretary Abaya was not included despite having allegedly signed the contract presumably with full knowledge of the facts and the applicable law surrounding such anomalous procurement of services.”

In a radio program, Binay said she was not surprised by the decision to spare Abaya, adding that this was proof of what her family had been saying—that the Aquino administration’s brand of justice was “selective.”

 

‘A puzzlement’

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“It’s a puzzlement why Secretary Abaya, who signed the contract, was not included in the case. This is evidence of selective justice,” Binay said.

Binay said it would be sad if the Ombudsman were also implementing selective justice in its rulings. She noted that this instance of an LP member being spared from a case was not the first time.

Binay cited the Ombudsman’s dismissal of the case involving an alleged anomaly in the construction of the Iloilo Convention Center. In that case, Senate President Franklin Drilon, the LP vice chair, was cleared of wrongdoing.

Asked why she had doubts about the credibility of the Ombudsman, Binay pointed to the revival of the case against her mother, former Makati City Mayor Elenita Binay, which had already been dismissed.

She was referring to the graft cases against her mother in connection with the alleged overpricing of hospital beds at the Ospital ng Makati.

The senator also noted that the Ombudsman had twice suspended her brother, Makati Mayor Junjun Binay.

Mayor Binay was suspended in March in connection with the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Building II and again last week for the supposedly overpriced Makati Science Hall.

She said there were many instances when it was only the Binays the Ombudsman “was looking at.”

Housing funds

Binay also questioned why the Department of Interior and Local Government under Secretary Mar Roxas received P2.48 billion in housing funds in 2014 and 2015 when it was not competent to deal with housing matters.

“The competency of the DILG to handle housing matters was questioned several times during budget deliberations in the Senate and the House but the department continued to get funds for housing,” Binay said.

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