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All-purpose LP cash cow




Sen. Grace Poe should be barking up the wrong tree when she pounded on the Department of Transportation (DoTr) for the degraded state of the Metro Rail Transit-3 as records the Daily Tribune obtained showed the problems hampering the train systm go all the way to the previous administration of President Benigno Aquino.

Railway systems shouldn’t be allowed to be destroyed just so they can be fixed later

DoTr then known as the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) was headed by Manuel Roxas, the Liberal Party’s presidential candidate for the 2016 elections and Aquino’s anointed.

Poe, Senate committee on public services chairman, asked why the MRT 3 had seemingly worsened despite the repairs being done on its facilities.

“Almost weekly, the MRT encounters a glitch. Why does it seem the trains are getting worse while they are being repaired?” Poe said in a statement.

A DOTr statement said not only should all the rehabilitation and repair works have been done years ago but, “the system should not have even been allowed to degrade into its current state.”

“Railway systems shouldn’t be allowed to be destroyed just so they can be fixed later,” the statement read.

“We admit that we are playing catch up in fixing and repairing MRT-3 since it was neglected and it fell into disrepair the past years. While we are fervently working for the rehabilitation and restoration of MRT-3, we are asking for a little more patience and understanding from commuters,” DoTr Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan said.

“The program to repair MRT-3 is moving on fast in response to the order of President Duterte and Secretary Art Tugade to provide a more comfortable life to each Filipino,” Batan said.

LP fingerprint all over
Records showed that MRT-3 has been turned into a cash cow by those in power during the previous regime.

The allegation of corrupt practices in the MRT-3 system initially came from a hard to impeach source who was former Czech Ambassador Joseph Rychtar who revealed in 2013 an extortion try on Czech train supplier Inekon.

Rychtar’s allegation was that DoTC officials under Roxas tried to extort $30 million from Czech train supplier Inekon over a contract to supply coaches to MRT 3.

The government did a perfunctory investigation into Rychtar’s allegations primarily linking MRT general manager Al Vitangcol, who was eventually eased out.

A key personality that Rychtar mentioned in his extortion allegations was businessman Wilson de Vera who was known in political circles as an LP operator. De Vera ran for mayor of Calasiao town, Pangasinan province, under the Liberal Party in 2013 but lost.

Rychtar’s charges initially involved Presidential sister Ballsy and brother-in-law Eldon Cruz with other presidential relatives and LP officials who visited the Czech Republic in 2011 or a year after Aquino was inaugurated.

The extortion attempt was scuttled after the terms of reference being set up for DoTC to use to favor Inekon in the bid came too late.

Persistent mulcters
Rychtar said the LP syndicate also tried to follow up on the foiled extortion in his residence in the country through Vitangcol and several individuals identified with the LP.

Rychtar involved high level DoTC officials including former Transport Secretary Joseph Abaya who he accused of scolding him on the phone for exposing the controversy and linking Ballsy and Eldon in it.

The Aquino administration who was then accused of employing selective justice to protect allies, instead of looking into the allegations of corrupt government practices, went instead after Rychtar who was threatened with investigations including from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Ombudsman.

Then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales formed an investigating panel to look into the allegations of corruption but later on abandoned the probe citing Rychtar’s refusal to “shed light on the matter.”

MRT-3’s deterioration was also the result of pure neglect and abuse as funds for it was also tapped to augment the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) which the Supreme Court ruled as illegal in 2014.

Senator Nancy Binay during the Senate DAP hearings revealed P4.5 billion of allocations for the purchase of new train coaches were diverted to the Palace money pool.

Form then on, wear and tear started to pull down the efficiency of the train system.

Plunder vs LP stalwarts
The DoTr had filed plunder raps against Abaya and Roxas as a result of the anomalous MRT-3 deals.

Former secretaries of Department of Budget and Management Florencio Abad, Department of Finance Cesar Purisima, Department of Energy Jericho Petilla, Department of Science and Technology Mario Montejo, Department of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin, Department of Public Works and Highways Rogelio Singson and the National Economic and Development Authority Arsenio Balisacan were also named involved.

Abaya, Roxas, Abad and Petilla are LP big guns aside from holding the strategic government posts.

The DoTr complaint before the Ombudsman said the Aquino officials turned MRT-3 into a “fundraiser” for political aims of the LP.

“(The accused) set into motion a grand scheme of turning the DoTC 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.

High-grade in 2 years
Batan said with the comprehensive rehabilitation underway and ahead of schedule, MRT-3 is expected to return to its original, high-grade state by the third quarter of 2021.

After breaking down in 2014 and previous maintenance service provider Busan Universal Rail Inc’s (BURI) failure to repair it, MRT-3’s wheel lathe machine was finally repaired in March 2019 through the coordinated efforts of the maintenance transition team and Sumitomo-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (Sumitomo-MHI).

With the recent repair of the wheel lathe machine and the upcoming replacement of all mainline tracks, MRT-3 trains will be running more smoothly and with less vibration, Batan said.

Excess vibration is a bane to the proper functioning of any mechanical and electrical equipment, and is one of the major root causes of MRT-3 train breakdowns in the past.