Abaya to be sued for MRT mess—Poe

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya

ANGELES, Pampanga—Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya will be made to face charges for the problems of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), according to Sen. Grace Poe.

Poe said the Senate subcommittee on public services, which she heads and which conducted hearings into the MRT’s problems, will be submitting a report in which it will recommend the filing of charges against Abaya and other officials responsible for the MRT’s woes.

Abaya was liable for “negligence of duty,” the presidential aspirant told a student forum at the Angeles University Foundation here Friday.

No cases have been filed against Abaya but Poe seems to consider him the root of the MRT’s problems.
“The problem with the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is its leadership or [the] lack of it,” she said.

Poe earlier criticized Abaya for his “incompetence and shortsightedness.”

“He should be charged. He is responsible,” she said.

Amid calls for his resignation, Abaya said it was President Aquino alone who can decide whether he should be replaced.

Poe earlier called on the President to fire Abaya on grounds of incompetence but Mr. Aquino said Abaya would stay on until the end of the President’s term.

Poe, who is pursuing her candidacy for the country’s top post despite serious disqualification issues against her, also expressed frustration that as a lawmaker she could only conduct inquiries, hold hearings and make recommendations but cannot “fire incompetent officials or take action” like the executive.

The Poe committee held an emergency hearing at the Senate early this month following reports that the maintenance service provider of the MRT 3 had withdrawn from the contract that it had been awarded.
The loss of the maintenance provider, she said, would increase the risk for more than 600,000 daily commuters.

An Inquirer report had said that the Korean-based Busan Transport Corp., the minority partner in a consortium with four Filipino firms in the consortium that won the P3.8-billion, three-year MRT 3 maintenance contract, was backing out for fear of lawsuits over the way the contract had been awarded.

But Busan has apparently not withdrawn. The President castigated the press reports about the alleged withdrawal and stressed that the Korean company would maintain the MRT for the next three years.
The consortium had won the contract last month and was scheduled to take over from the previous maintenance provider last Jan. 6.

The MRT 3 recently received 48 new light rail vehicles (LRVs), which was part of the capacity expansion project of the DOTC.

The deal with Busan also covers the overhaul of 43 coaches over the period covered by the agreement and the replacement of the signaling system within 24 months.

Poe said the DOTC should have tested the LRVs before these were accepted. She said the rail tracks should be changed to carry four units per train, instead of the current three units.

The chemical components of the vehicles should have also been assessed, she said.

Attempts to bid out the MRT 3 contract in September 2014 and January 2015 failed because no bidders participated. The DOTC said it had to resort to an alternative mode of procurement in accordance with the provisions of the Government Procurement Reform Act of 2003, because of the urgent need to address the railway’s maintenance requirements and the rail system’s core problems of obsolescence and complete wear-and-tear.

Politicians and militants have been demanding the dismissal of Abaya for failing to address the major problems besetting the MRT 3, including the frequent breakdowns and the inadequacies of its coaches and station facilities.