SENATORIAL candidate Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Wednesday demanded a congressional investigation into the P3.81-billion “sweetheart deal” the government signed with a Korean-Filipino joint venture for the long-term maintenance of the Metro Rail Transit-3 without a public bidding.
Romualdez also questioned why the contract between the Department of Transportation and Communications and the consortium of Busan Transportation Corp., Edison Development & Construction, Tramat Mercantile Inc., TMICorp Inc. and Castan Corp. does not contain provisions to ensure against “hidden fare hikes.”
“The DoTC should justify the award of the contract as they failed to meticulously observe the bidding process, particularly since it involves a big amount for the maintenance of the system. Congress should also guarantee that no provisions for hidden fare hikes are included,” Romualdez, who heads the independent minority bloc in the House, said.
Romualdez slammed the government’s lack of compassion (malasakit) in failing to protect and champion the public interest in the sweetheart deal.
“The sweetheart deal is obviously inimical to the interest of the government and the taxpayers,” he said. “Congress must seriously look into this.”
“It is incumbent upon the government to spend taxpayers’ money wisely. We should not condone wasteful spending for MRT3 without really improving its service since commuters still have to cope with higher fares, longer queues, and frequent breakdowns that threaten public safety,” Romualdez said.
The government earlier announced that the P3.81-billion deal will take effect in January and run for three years, and said it resorted to a negotiated contract because two previous public biddings had failed.
But Romualdez rejected the DoTC’s claim that the “emergency situation” justified doing away with the regular bidding process, saying that the government must ensure transparency in awarding contracts.
He called on the public to elect leaders next year who care about the people’s interests.
“This government lacks compassion for the people. In the coming elections, we should elect compassionate leaders,” Romualdez said.
Also on Wednesday, a consumer group asked President Benigno Aquinom III why, if he had been raised well by his father, the late Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., he chose to ignore his advice to never break promises that he made.
Elvira Medina of the National Council for Commuter Protection referred to Aquino’s 2013 campaign promise that the LRT would extend to Cavite by the end of 2015 or the President and Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya would have themselves run over by a train.
“[The President] even included the name of his father, Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. [in his speech] so the people, the commuters are really asking if the President’s words will come true,” Medina said.
In that speech, Aquino also recalled: “My father told me that if I made a promise, I need to make it happen.”
“The word of the President shouldn’t be taken as a joke. It cannot just be taken lightly as the train issues are affecting millions of commuters every day,” she added.
The Palace on Monday has since then said that the President’s promise was merely “an aspirational statement.”
“The President was speaking with a sense of urgency when he announced his desire to see the project within two years,” Coloma said. “Any reasonable person would understand this to have been an aspirational statement. Despite the delays, the government continues to pursue the project.” With John Paolo Bencito
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