DOTr to pursue plunder charges vs Abaya over MRT3 mess

Aika Rey
The Department of Transportation is also eyeing plunder charges against officials not indicted by the Office of the Ombudsman

MRT MESS. Former transportation secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya attends a Senate hearing on issues hounding the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) on May 15, 2017. File photo by Lito Boras/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Tuesday, June 26, said it plans to pursue plunder charges against former transportation officials tagged in the P4.2-billion Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) maintenance contract.

In a statement on Tuesday, Transportation Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Procurement Reinier Paul Yebra said they will consult with the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) on the matter.

The pronouncement came after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales indicted  former transportation secretary Joseph Emilio “Jun” Abaya for graft, for allegedly giving “unwarranted benefits, advantage, and preference” over the maintenance contract awarded to Busan Universal Rail Incorporated (BURI).

“The DOTr will consult with the Office of the Solicitor General as it intends to pursue plunder charges against the indicted personalities, as well as include in the case other officials and personalities exculpated from the Resolution, in efforts to promote accountability and transparency,” Yebra said.

The Office of the Ombudsman cleared former interior secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas IIformer budget secretary Florencio “Butch” Abadformer finance secretary Cesar Purisimaformer energy secretary Jericho Petillaformer science and technology secretary Mario Montejoformer defense secretary Voltaire Gazminformer public works and highways secretary Rogelio Singson, and former socioeconomic planning secretary Arsenio Balisacan.

The DOTr also filed a similar plunder complaint tagging Abaya and other Aquino Cabinet secretaries in November 2017, but this was later junked by the Ombudsman.

The Office of the Ombudsman has the original jurisdiction over plunder cases.

“We assure the public that the DOTr will get to the bottom of these anomalous contracts, and go after the people who sacrificed the welfare of MRT3 riders in the name of personal interests,” Yebra said.

The DOTr and leftist group Bayan filed separate complaints against Abaya and former transportation officials in late 2017. The Ombudsman consolidated these complaints into one.

In November 2017, the DOTr terminated its contract with BURI, and formed the MRT3 Maintenance Transition Team to temporarily take over. A new company has yet to be chosen.

Since the year started, the MRT3 has broken down 59 times and experienced a record low of 6 running trains back in February. Ridership was cut to around 200,000 from the average daily ridership of 463,000 in 2017. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.