At the regular “Straight Talk with Daily Tribune” last Thursday, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade waxed hot about achievements of his department and the earnest push to achieve success, gentleman as he is. He refused to pin the blame on anybody for the past deplorable state of public transportation due to government neglect.
“The DoTr complaint filed before the Ombudsman said the yellow administration of Noynoy turned the MRT-3 into a “fundraiser” for political aims.
Now, Tugade, for instance, takes pride in the smooth daily run of the Metro Rail Transit System Line 3 (MRT-3), a fact “which is rarely reported.”
In the former regime, the MRT-3, which was a yellow cash cow, posed daily threats to the lives of commuters with its frequent breakdowns and even derailment.
A classic social media video of its horrendous state saw the train traveling with its doors wide open similar to an old dilapidated bus on EDSA.
Through the discussion during the forum, it was clear the MRT-3 is one of Tugade’s biggest headaches. It is now undergoing rehabilitation for more than one year, primarily on the signaling system which his young undersecretary TJ Batan described as a state similar to the MRT-3 trains speaking Visayan when the other light rail transit units speak Tagalog. Former Cabinet members of Noynoy were charged with complicity in the anomalous maintenance deal that resulted in the deplorable condition of the MRT-3.
The main transgression of those implicated was, as government officials, they never raised an objection to an ongoing anomaly to protect the interest of the public as members of the bid committee.
The main accused in the plunder raps filed by the Department of Transportation (DoTr) were former Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer in the previous election Manuel Roxas II.
Former secretaries of the Departments of Budget and Management Florencio Abad, of Finance Cesar Purisima, of Energy Jericho Petilla, of Science and Technology Mario Montejo, of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin, of Public Works and Highways Rogelio Singson and the National Economic and Development Authority chief Arsenio Balisacan were also named involved.
Abaya, Roxas, Abad and Petilla are big guns at the yellow LP, which is now bankrupt in terms of public confidence.
What is particularly revolting about the former condition of MRT-3 was that the Manila Light Rail Transit System Line 1 that was a project under former President Ferdinand Marcos and which started operations in 1984 still moves people efficiently and did not suffer the predictable dysfunctions that had been the malady of MRT-3 commuters.
The DoTr complaint filed before the Ombudsman said the yellow administration of Noynoy turned the MRT-3 into a “fundraiser” for political aims.
“(The accused) set into motion a grand scheme of turning the DoTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) as a bottomless cash cow, entering into one anomalous procurement project after the other, in order to amass, accumulate and acquire ill-gotten wealth by taking advantage of their official position, authority and influence to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the Filipino people,” the complaint said.
Roxas served as head of the agency which was his first Cabinet appointment under Noynoy and in whose watch the controversy over the Inekon extortion cropped up.
The allegation of corrupt practices came from then Czech Ambassador Joseph Rychtar.
Despite the allegations coming from a politically disinterested source like Rychtar, no serious investigation was ever made, except for the perfunctory effort of selective justice gatekeeper Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales who charged fall guys in her complaint.
Rychtar accused officials of the former DoTC under Roxas of extorting $30 million from Czech train supplier Inekon for a contract to supply coaches for MRT-3.
A key personality that Rychtar mentioned in his allegations of extortion was businessman Wilson de Vera who tuned out to be an LP operator.
Rychtar’s charges initially involved former President Noynoy Aquino’s sister Ballsy and brother-in-law Eldon Cruz, with his other relatives and LP officials, who recounted to have visited the Czech Republic to consummate the payoff.
The extortion attempt was scuttled after the terms of reference that the DoTC should have used to favor Inekon in the bid came in too late.
Rychtar said the LP syndicate also tried to follow up on the foiled mulcting in his local residence through former MRT-3 general manager Art Vitangcol and some other LP men.
Rychtar then said Abaya scolded him on the phone for exposing the controversy and implicating Ballsy and Eldon.
Rychtar later on found himself being ganged up on by Noy’s men and threatened with investigations by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Ombudsman.
Morales, after all what happened, formed an investigating panel to look into Rychtar’s allegations of corruption, but when she was confronted after nothing happened for so long, the blame fell on Rychtar for refusing to “shed light on the matter.”
Morales refused to act even if the irregularities resulted in the daily sufferings of commuters.
Things have now vastly improved which all happened as a result of a dedicated and clean administration under President Rodrigo Duterte’s leadership.