SENATOR Grace Poe said Monday former Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya was remiss in his job when he signed for his department a P3.8-billion contract with a new maintenance company that resulted in the many problems hounding Metro Rail Transit 3.
“Yes, I can see he committed some blunders and and he even admitted them,” Poe said.
“He was the one who said he did not know what he entered into. He just fully trusted the previous DoTC officials that he said were doing their job well.”
Abaya’s revelation that he signed the contracts for MRT 3 without going through the “nitty gritty” was the biggest disclosure in Monday’s hearing of the Senate committee on public services led by Poe.
“Perhaps that’s the biggest revelation here: He allowed the entry of a maintenance contract to replace Sumitomo but he did not know the details of this [contract],” Poe said.
“He said he merely signed because, as he said, he was just new there… the past secretary [before him] and the latter’s people decided on the contract.”
Testifying during the hearing, Abaya told Poe’s committee he was not aware that PH-Trams CB&T that won a maintenance deal for MRT 3 was only two months old and had no more than P500,000 in capitalization, but he signed the contract anyway.
Sumitomo was the MRT 3’s maintenance provider from 2000 to 2010. After Sumitomo, the government awarded an interim maintenance contract to PH Trams-CB&T.
“Secretary Abaya, are you aware that PH-Trams was incorporated just a few months before actually winning a bid?” Poe said.
“Did you know that it has a small capitalization, about P625,000, when you gave the contract for more than 50 million [pesos] a month? It had been incorporated for only two months and yet it won a contract? Were you not surprised?”
Abaya replied that, being new, he did not know those facts. He also said he was advised not to interfere in the bidding process since the “eventual appeal” would be brought to his office anyway.
He also said it was the CB&T that was invited to join the bidding for the MRT 3 maintenance service because of its track record.
Asked by Poe if the DoTC had already decided to award the contract to PH-Trams, Abaya said he was not aware of it because at the time he was occupied with familiarizing himself at the DoTC.
“I was orienting on air, on sea. That was my last concern,” said Abaya who was Transport secretary under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.
Pressed by Poe if he agreed and approved the maintenance contract although he did not know the background of PH-Trams and the particulars, Abaya said yes.
“Because there was a presumption that the organization, that the bureaucracy was doing its job,” Abaya said.
“Just imagine, Ma’am, if I came there as a doubting Thomas, being careful that I won’t sign anything, MRT 3 would have stopped on October 19. No maintenance provider, [and] Sumitomo would have packed its bags, that I could not explain to our people.
“I guarantee you that no one made money out of this. There is no truth to the allegations. All these actions are above board and our conscience are clear. I can answer the Lord and tell him that we did our jobs well.”
Abaya said he was a good soldier but only answerable to the Lord and not to anyone else.
Poe said it was the responsibility of Abaya to scrutinize the contract. While the contract was approved by his predecessor at the DOTC, he was the one who signed it and that closed the deal.
It was under Abaya’s leadership at the DoTC that the department bought 48 light rail vehicles from China’s Dalian.
According to the Department of Transportation, these coaches will remain unusable for the next three years because of problems compatibility in the signaling system.
Abaya said that under the contract’s terms of reference, all 48 LRVs should have “full compatibility.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon warned the Transport department against terminating the MRT-3 maintenance contract with Busan Universal Rail Inc.
Meanwhile, Deo Manalo, MRT 3 director for operations, said that by the end of the year the long lines of passengers in the train stations would be a thing of the past.
He said the MRT system would be able to accommodate more passengers by December 2017 when the power upgrade for additional trains was completed.