Palace hails Ombudsman decision to indict Abaya over MRT mess

By Azer Parrocha

June 25 2018, 7:34 pm

MANILA -- Malacañang on Monday welcomed the Ombudsman’s finding of probable cause to charge Joseph Emilio Abaya, former Secretary of the now defunct Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), with graft in connection with the anomalous PHP4.2-billion Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) maintenance contract.

The other respondents are former DOTr Undersecretaries Edwin Lopez, Rene Limcaoco and Catherine Jennifer Francis Gonzales; former MRT-3 General Manager Roman Buenafe, Camille Alcaraz (Assistant Secretary for Procurement), Ofelia Astrera (Vice-Chairperson, MRT3 Bids and Awards Committee), Charissa Eloisa Julia Opulencia, Oscar Bongon, and Jose Rodante Sabayle.

Also included in the indictment are private respondents Eldonn Ferdinand Uy of Edison Development and Construction, Elizabeth Velasco of Tramat Mercantile Incorporated, Belinda Tan of TMI Corporation, Inc., Brian Velasco of Castan Corporation, and Antonio Borromeo, Jun Ho Hwang and Elpidio Uy from Busan Universal Rail, Inc. (BURI).

“It’s about time and we appreciate that,” Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a press briefing in Cagayan De Oro.

Roque said that if new cases were not filed against Abaya, he himself would release the “documentary evidence” from whistleblowers, which will prove that officials during the Aquino administration received kickbacks from the MRT-3 contract.

Kung naaalala ninyo po eh kung hindi ito nakasuhan eh talagang isa-isa po naming ire-release iyong mga dokumento (If you recall, if cases were not filed, we would really release the documents one by one),” Roque said.

Since nandiyan na po ang desisyon ng Ombudsman, it’s about time po na magkaroon ng pananagutan lalo na doon sa mandarambong naman ‘no ng pondo para sa MRT (But since there is an Ombudsman decision, it’s about time that bandits of the funds meant for the MRT are held liable),” he added.

The Ombudsman’s special panel of probers found that Abaya and the others “extended unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference to the contractor” when it awarded the project to Busan JV (Joint Venture), an ineligible and unqualified entity.

It also found irregularity in the award when Busan JV was allowed to simply submit a Certificate of Registration of BURI as a Special Purpose Company (SPC) instead of a valid JVA.

Meanwhile, Malacañang welcomed the Department of Transportation, Land Transportation Office (DOTr-LTO) announcement that it has already produced 387,000 motor vehicle plates that are now being distributed by batches to various LTO regional offices nationwide.

Roque said this meant that car owners who had registered their vehicles from July 1 to October 31, 2016 can start claiming their license plates starting the first week of July.

“The LTO will notify vehicles owners of the dates they may claim their LTOs,” Roque said.

As for the plates registered before July 21, 2016 Roque said that LTO is awaiting for the Commission on Audit (COA) resolution on the disallowance. (PNA)