Pathricia Ann V. Roxas | INQUIRER.net | October 10, 2017

The Senate leadership has backed the filing of charges against former officials involved in the purchase of 48 "overweight and incompatible" China-made light rail vehicles (LRVs) for the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), Senator Grace Poe said as she lamented the P526 million budget on the project that "went down the drain."

In a statement on Tuesday, Poe insisted that the government should run after former officials of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) who "made a mockery of the ordeals of the riding public in the guise of MRT's well-publicized capacity expansion."

In a bid to prepare raps against former DOTr officials, Poe said she also sought the support from other senators.

According to Poe, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III and Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, chair of the Senate finance subcommittee defending the agency's budget, concurred.

"Parang tapon na nga ang pera na yan. Kaya nga dapat managot yung mga dating pumasok diyan. Why are we prolonging the agony?" Poe said late Monday night during the plenary debates on the DOTr's proposed P70.4 billion budget for 2018.

The senator, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services that initiated a probe into the MRT mess, said P526 million has so far been paid by the government to Dalian Corp., out of the P3.8 billion deal.

But out of the 48 LRVs delivered, Poe said only 29 have signaling system installed, while the DOTr was still in the process of running tests on the other trains.

Apart from the signaling system, she said 48 trains weigh "not less than 49,000 kilograms each," which is way above the required 46,300-kg.

"It's just common sense. You haven’t even filled it with passengers yet the train is already overweight and our rails might not be able to take it," said Poe.

She said these findings are "grounds for canceling the order" and possible return to the Chinese company which manufactured the trains, as in the case of Singapore.

"Malaki nang pagkakamali ito. Para bang ang ginagawa natin, meron tayong sapatos na hindi kasya, puputulin natin yung paa natin para magkasya doon. Huwag na lang nating isugal kasi kung hindi talaga maipipilit, it's better to move on," she said of DOTr's plans to make the Dalian trains work.

The senator noted DOTr's earlier remark that it was considering returning the incompatible coaches to China. The trains could have been operational by mid-2017 which would accommodate more passengers, Poe said.

"It will be a costly and long litigation but we should have a contingency working in another way to procure while there's ongoing litigation," Poe said, referring to a possible bidding and subsequent purchase of reliable trains which she admitted may take years to complete.

Told that the DOTr was still finalizing the charge sheet, Pimentel said the accountability of past officials is "obvious" considering the overweight train.

Ejercito, meanwhile, said "we cannot go on wasting people's money."