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/ 02:21 AM January 08, 2016

Joseph Emilio Abaya was serving his third and last term as representative of the first district of Cavite when he was named transportation secretary in August 2012, replacing Mar Roxas, who was tapped to head the Department of the Interior and Local Government after the death of Jesse Robredo.

When Abaya was appointed to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Rep. Romero Quimbo described him as a “perfect fit” for the DOTC, one who belongs to what he called a “new breed of leaders” who get the job done without calling attention to themselves.

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The opposite view seems to be the sentiment toward Abaya lately as he has been under fire, especially on social media, over worsening conditions in the country’s mass transport system, particularly the Metro Rail Transit  Line 3 (MRT 3), while some critics, like presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe, have called for his removal.

In November last year, following delays in the delivery of new coaches for the MRT and the rehabilitation of elevators and toilets, Poe said the country “deserve(s) a better DOTC chief.”

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In the same month, at the height of the “tanim-bala” (bullet-planting) issue at the country’s airports, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano filed a complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman calling for the suspension or dismissal of Abaya for neglect of duty and command responsibility.

Also named in the complaint were Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Jose Angel Honrado, Office for Transportation Security Administrator Roland Recomono and the Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group head, Pablo Balagtas.

Abaya was also criticized when he said that the tanim-bala issue had been “blown out of proportion,” pointing out that the number of passengers who were caught with ammunition merely comprised 0.004 percent of the total number of passengers who pass through the terminals of Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

In August, Abaya also drew flak when he said that Metro Manila’s deteriorating traffic condition “is not fatal.” He later apologized and admitted that his remark came across as “reckless and insensitive.”

Abaya was among the officials named in a graft complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman in May 2014 in connection with the alleged anomalous award of a P1.1-billion train ticketing contract to AF Consortium.

He was also among those initially included in the graft probe of the allegedly anomalous maintenance contract for MRT 3 awarded in 2012, but the Ombudsman did not find probable cause to charge him and some transportation officials during the preliminary investigation.

Former MRT General Manager Al Vitangcol III and five others, however, were charged with graft in the Sandiganbayan. Inquirer Research

Source: Inquirer Archives

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