ADMINISTRATION standard bearer Manuel Roxas II insisted Thursday that Senator Grace Poe had nobody but herself to blame for her misfortunes, and denied having a hand in an alleged conspiracy to take her out of the presidential race.
“Wasn’t it her lawyer who filed her papers? Is she the one who took oath as an American citizen? It’s her responsibility to explain herself there. I’m not the one to blame here,” Roxas said in a radio interview in Cebu.
Roxas, who repeatedly tried to convince Poe to be his running mate earlier this year, insinuated last week that she was not a natural-born Filipino citizen, after Poe blamed Roxas, a former Transportation secretary, for the problems hounding Metro Manila’s commuter train system.
Earlier this week, Poe accused Roxas and Vice President Jejomar Binay of being behind a conspiracy to remove her from the 2016 presidential race by having their people file disqualification cases against her.
Roxas again denied Poe’s allegations.
“I understand her feelings. She’s hurt, but I would like to be clear that I am not involved in this, I don’t have any connections, and I don’t have any single knowledge of her disqualification,” Roxas said.
“It’s part of the process. I don’t know personally the lawyers she’s referring to who filed cases against her, these law groups. So instead of blaming other people, she should answer these [allegations,]” Roxas said.
Poe traced Roxas’ connection to the powerful Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco law firm—with former Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz acting as his adviser when he ran for vice president in 2010, and acting as his lawyer in his election protest against Binay.
Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the chairman of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, was also a member of the law office, also known as “The Firm,” and voted to disqualify Poe.
On the other hand, Poe said, it was UNA president and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco and lawyer JV Bautista who first raised the residency and citizenship issues against her.
In the same radio interview Thursday, Roxas said Poe and her camp can avail of all the legal remedies available to them, including taking her case up to the Supreme Court.
Roxas said Poe should learn to respect the rule of law instead of casting doubt on independent government institutions.
Roxas’ spokesperson, Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo denied Poe’s accusations, calling them unfounded.
“The Liberal Party coalition will not allow itself to be party to any activity involving the disqualification of Secretary Mar’s opponents. Any insinuation to the contrary is baseless and malicious,” Quimbo said.
“We cannot stop people from [having] those perceptions but there is no truth to those claims. If our intentions is to use the process, we could have done that when it was absolutely in our control,” he added.
Two weeks ago, Roxas blamed the administrations of former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos for “the original sin” of approving a MRT contract that was disadvantageous to the government.
“This is a contract that started out in original sin. The contract itself was anomalous and the contract binds the government to continue this program,” Roxas told a conference of US ivy league alumni.
Roxas said the MRT contract that was drafted during the time of President Corazon Aquino and awarded during the time of Ramos allows only the operator to buy new trains even with an assurance of 15-percent return on investment.
“You tell me whether that’s anomalous or not,” Roxas said.
But businessmen who were present at the event said Roxas was apparently not aware that the contract originally guaranteed a 21-percent ROI when it was first bid out in 1991 and was actually brought down to 15 percent by Ramos.
“We were shocked that [Roxas] blamed the mother of his boss [President Benigno Aquino III] and FVR for the MRT contract,” said a businessman who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.
“It was very obvious that he does not understand the facts behind the MRT case. In fact, 15 percent was not anomalous but advantageous to the government because the Philippines was paying 25-year bonds during that time at 18 percent,” said the businessman who was privy to the forging of the train contract.
“The MRT was actually getting less than what the Philippines was already paying then, given that the MRT-3 project also had a similar 25-year term. Roxas doesn’t understand the issue,” the businessman said.
“In fact, we know that the problems with the MRT only started after the DoTC took over maintenance of the train system,” he added.
The DoTC entered into a Built-Operate-Transfer contract with MRT Corporation in 1995 after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the project.
The MRTC, a private consortium of companies which includes Ayala Land, Metro Global Holdings, Greenfield Development, Anglo-Phil Holdings, Ramcar Inc., among others, owns the system until 2025, and is in charge of operation and maintenance, while DoTC assumes all administrative functions such as regulation of fares and operations.
In 2012, DoTC took over maintenance of the MRT when Roxas appointee Al Vitangcol suddenly terminated the contract of the Sumitomo, which had been servicing the MRT from the start, and replaced it without bidding to PH Trams, an unqualified maintenance provider that was incorporated after DoTC awarded them the project.
DoTC was questioned by the Commission on Audit for attempting to use about P4 billion of public funds in the Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP) to purchase trains for the privately-owned MRT3.
The CoA in 2012 discovered the anomaly and ordered DoTC to return the money, but the DoTC still purchased the Chinese trains from Dalian Locomotive, a manufacturer without experience in double articulated light rail vehicles.
The first train body was delivered by Dalian behind schedule, without engines and therefore incapable of undergoing the required testing.
Senate President Franklin Drilon on Thursday also denied insinuations that the Liberal Party somehow influenced the Comelec 2nd Division to disqualify Poe.
“There are some people who said that it was influenced by the Liberal Party. That is not true,” Drilon said in an interview.
Drilon said the three Comelec commissioners—Al Parreño, Arthur Lim and Sheriff Abas decided “out of their own perception based on the law and facts.”
Drilon said if the LP has intention to disqualify Poe, LP Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV could have voted against Poe in a petition filed before the Senate Electoral Tribunal to disqualify the senator.
He said it was just “by some stroke of chance” that the commissioners who voted against Poe were appointees of President Aquino.
The camp of Binay, the opposition United Nationalist Alliance standard bearer, also denied a hand in the disqualification cases filed against Poe.
“The UNA, as a matter of principle and as the party of the accredited political opposition, upholds and respects due process and the rule of law. UNA is not in any position nor is it inclined to influence the deliberations, decisions and rulings of constitutionally mandated institutions,” UNA vice presidential candidate Senator Gregorio Honasan II said in a press statement. With Macon Ramos-Araneta, PNA
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