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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Former DOTC chief Abaya to face Senate probe on MRT contracts


Former Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya will, on Monday, face a Senate inquiry on the procurement contracts for additional coaches and maintenance of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT).

According to Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, the hearing was originally scheduled for Thursday, May 18. However, Abaya explained to her that he would not be able to attend the Thursday hearing because of a scheduled trip with his family.

The senator agreed to move the hearing to Monday, but made it clear that she would issue a subpoena should the former Transportation Department chief fail to appear.

“Pero ako naman ay nakikiusap dahil pagkakataon niya ito na madepensahan ang kaniyang sarili kung totoong wala siyang pagkululang,” she told Super Radyo dzBB on Sunday.

“Ngayon kung may pagkukulang siya, kahit ano pa man ang gawin mo, i-suspend mo man ‘yang hearing na ‘yan, gawin mo man sa isang taon o kailan pa, hangga't hindi mo pinagbayaran ‘yan sa pagkakamali na ‘yan, uulit at uulit ‘yan, kaya sana ay pumunta siya."

"Sapagkat kung magbabakasyon siya—lahat naman tayo kailangan natin ng off-time, sige—pero obligasyon mo muna sa taumbayan na sagutin mo ang mga tanong dahil hindi kami makakagawa ng solusyon at aksyon kung hindi natin alam at hindi tayo natuto sa ating mga pagkakamali.”

Graft complaint

Last May 3, Poe filed a resolution that called for an investigation on the MRT-3's maintenance and expansion project contracts, entered into by the government when Abaya was DOTC secretary.

In her resolution, the senator pointed out that among the contracts the government entered into was the procurement of Dalian coaches, with each coach worth P3.8 billion.

Poe also told dzBB that she wanted to find out why Abaya was spared from graft charges two years ago over the alleged irregularities in the MRT’s interim maintenance contract.

“[B]akit hindi naisama si Sec. Abaya? Eh, siya naman talaga ang pumirma sa mga kontrata na ‘yon. Hindi ‘yan maapruba hangga’t ‘di pumapayag ang secretary, so may kakulangan talaga dito. Pasensya na. Baka naman puwede natin makausap ang Ombudsman,” she said.

Nevertheless, Abaya is facing a graft complaint, filed last May 5 by civil society groups for the allegedly “disadvantageous” contract for the procurement of MRT-3 train carts worth P3.7 billion.

Aside from Abaya, the complaint also included former DOTC Bids and Awards Committee chairman Jose Perpetuo Lotilla and members Rene Limcaoco and Juanito Bucayan, overall head of secretariat Catherine Jennifer Gonzales, head of Project Implementation Team Roman Buenafe, MRT-3 director for operations and several John and Jane Does. They were accused of violating Section 3(e) and (g) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The Anti-Trapo Movement of the Philippines, Liga ng Explosibong Pagbabago, and United Filipino Consumers and Commuters filed the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman, assisted by their legal counsel, former MRT-3 General Manager Al Vitangcol III



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