WHEN President Aquino once asked rhetorically in a State of the Nation Address where inept and corrupt public officials got the gall to do what they do, he should have turned to his side and directed the question at Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.
The Cabinet secretary that Mr. Aquino once held up as an example of a new breed of leaders has been nothing but a disgrace after he took over the Department of Transportation and Communications in 2012.
Since then, we have seen our commuter train services deteriorate right before our eyes—with millions of commuters paying the price. Workers who opt for other modes of transportation must suffer traffic snarls that have become so bad that they cost the economy an estimated P3 billion a day.
Under Abaya’s watch, the country’s main international airport has moved from being the world’s worst to perhaps its most dangerous, with airport personnel regularly shaking down travelers by planting contraband in their luggage—until public outrage put a temporary stop to the corrupt practice. Chaos and indifference rule in the agency that issues driver’s licenses and license plates, with backlogs going beyond a year.
Last week, the Senate subcommittee on public services led by Senator Grace Poe recommended the filing of charges against Abaya and other transport officials for negligence and inaction over the MRT mess and highlighted anomalous supply and maintenance contracts that Abaya approved.
“In the course of the inquiry… the subcommittee observed the badges of negligence and inaction of the Department of Transportation and Communications officials led by Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya indicating insensitiveness, callous indifference, and act(s) disadvantageous to the commuters, the Filipino public and the government,” said the draft report submitted to the committee chairman, Senator Sergio Osmeña III.
Abaya shrugged off the report, saying he was not worried because his conscience was clear and that all contracts under his watch were clean and fair.
“We strictly followed the procurement law at DoTC. Many complained because we were too strict. We are confident that there was nothing irregular about the procurement, that we leveled the playing field and that we violated no law,” he said in Filipino.
This was not the view of Osmeña, who said Abaya should hang his head in shame.
“The facts enumerated in the subcommittee report of Senator Poe are undisputed,” he said in a text message to reporters.
“The sufferings of the riding public are undisputed. The gross mismanagement of the DoTC is not disputed. The report of the Hong Kong MRT on the horrendous state of MRT3 is not disputed. Abaya should at the very least hang his head in shame,” Osmeña said.
We agree with the senator, but suggest the President, too, should hang his head in shame for inflicting Abaya upon us for the last four years. How thick do you have to be to do that and keep a straight face?