A year ago, former Transport secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya haughtily declared before Congress that he was answerable to God and nobody else.
The filing of graft charges against him this week must have been a jarring reminder that he lives in the real world, governed by the laws of men, and that he is answerable, not only to God, but also to the rest of us, the people he failed to faithfully serve.
At a Senate hearing last year, Abaya disavowed any responsibility for the deterioration of the MRT 3 commuter train service—even though he had signed the questionable P4.2-billion maintenance contract with an untested, undercapitalized and unqualified company that allowed the train system to deteriorate to a point where breakdowns and service interruptions are the rule rather than the exception.
Abaya also suggested that it was all right for public officials to sign contracts on behalf of the government without doing due diligence.
Testifying during the hearing, Abaya admitted he was not aware that PH-Trams CB&T that won the maintenance deal for MRT 3 was only two months old and had no more than P500,000 in capitalization. He signed the contract anyway because he was just new on the job and trusted his predecessor, Manuel Roxas II, and his people who had decided on the contract.
“There was a presumption that the organization, that the bureaucracy was doing its job,” Abaya said.
Abaya’s testimony also insinuated that it was all right to do a shoddy job as long as you could fix it down the road.
Speaking once again about the maintenance contract, Abaya said he was advised not to interfere in the bidding process because “the eventual appeal” would be brought to his office anyway. With the prospect of a trial, we look forward to finding out, under sworn testimony, who gave Mr. Abaya such poor advice.
Finally, Abaya told senators it was all right for Cabinet members to make serious mistakes that hurt and even endanger the public simply because they are still learning the ropes.
Questioned about his ignorance of the PH-Trams deal, Abaya said at the time he signed the contract, he was busy familiarizing himself with air and sea transportation issues, and the MRT was the least of his concerns.
Yet later on in his term, he also signed a contract to buy 48 light rail vehicles from a Chinese company that are unusable because they are not compatible with the MRT system’s signaling system.
In the face of all this foolishness, we are gratified that the Office of the Ombudsman has finally seen fit to file graft charges against Abaya and other parties involved in the anomalous contract that has clearly disadvantaged the Filipino people. They must be made to pay—in this world before the next one.