VJ Bacungan | CNN Philippines | December 1, 2017

Malacañang denied on Friday that it was passing on the blame for the problems on the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3).

"With all due respect to Vice President Robredo, the MRT-3 issue is not about covering up shortcomings," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a statement. "The Administration has faced the MRT-3 mess squarely."

Roque's statement came after Vice President Leni Robredo said on Thursday that the complaints filed against Cabinet officials of former President Benigno Aquino III, Robredo's partymate, were targeted at scapegoats.

"Sa akin, kapag may nagkasala, tama lamang na sampahan ng kaso," the Vice President said in an interview following the 154th birth anniversary commemoration of Andres Bonifacio in Caloocan City.

[Translation: For me, if there's someone at fault, it's only right that cases be filed.]

"Iyong atin lang ninanais, sana iyong pagsampa ng kaso ay base sa datos na maayos," she added. "Hindi siya ginagawang dahilan para lang maghanap ng scapegoat para sa mga bagay na hindi nagagawa."

[Translation: What we're hoping is that the cases filed are based on solid data. We hope that it's not being done to find scapegoats for things that are not being done.]

But Roque said the filing of the cases is to make the officials accountable for allegedly turning the government into "a bottomless cash cow entering into one anomalous procurement project."

"We cannot simply sweep the sins of incompetence and corruption under the rug with the harsh reality of half a million daily suffering riding public staring us in the face," he said.

The Transportation Department filed on November 21 a plunder complaint against former Transportation Secretaries Joseph Abaya and Mar Roxas, along with seven other ex-Cabinet officials, for their involvement in the allegedly anomalous ₱3.8-billion maintenance contract with Busan Universal Rail, Inc. (BURI) for the ailing MRT-3.

Abaya and BURI officials also face graft charges.

The Transportation Department said although the maintenance contract was awarded to Busan Joint Venture in December 2015, an entirely different entity, BURI, was formed in January 2016 and tasked to implement the contract allegedly on orders of Abaya and other transport officials.

On November 6, the government temporarily took over the MRT-3's maintenance and terminated its contract with BURI, citing its poor performance in maintaining the trains.

Meanwhile, the Transportation Department said on Wednesday that is eyeing Japanese firm Sumitomo Corporation, which maintained the MRT-3 from 2000 to 2012, to take over the rail line's maintenance by as early as April 2018.