Julliane Love De Jesus | INQUIRER.net | November 20, 2017

Different groups filed on Monday a graft complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against former Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya and several others over the questionable P3.8-billion maintenance contract for the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3).

The complainants—Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., Bayan Muna Chair Neri Colmenares, TREN members Angelo Suarez, Donna Miranda and James Relativo, and AGHAM secretary general Feny Cosico—personally went to the Office of the Ombudsman to file the complaint.

The complainants filed the complaint against Abaya and others for violation of Section 3 of the Anti- Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019) and violation of Section 10 of the Government Procurement Reform Act (Republic Act No. 9184).

Aside from Abaya, those named as respondents in the complaint for graft and violation of the government procurement law were former MRT General Manager Roman Buenafe, former Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco, Catherine Gonzales, Edwin Lopez, Ofelia Astrera, Charissa Eloisa Opulencia, Oscar Bongon, Jose Rodante Sabayle, Maria Cecilia Natividad, Eldonn Uy, Elizabeth Velasco, Belinda Ong Tan, Brian Velasco and Chae Gue Shim.

The filing of the complaint came amid several technical glitches that hounded the MRT-3, which had caused inconvenience to commuters. Recent incidents involved a 24-year-old woman, whose arm was cut off in an accident at the Ayala Station, and the disconnection of a North-bound train, which left passengers walking off the tracks.

In the 23-page complaint, the groups said Abaya and others' "act of awarding the maintenance contract to the joint venture of Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) caused undue injury, and was grossly disadvantageous, to the government and to the riding public."

"Looking at the current condition of the MRT-3 system and the worsening state of the rails and light rail vehicles, the public residents could have prevented these great inconveniences and undue injuries to the riding public had not conducted a negotiated procurement which clearly zeroed in and favored the joint venture of Busan," the complaint stated.

Reyes slammed the officials responsible for ensuring the maintenance of MRT-3, which has an average of 560,000 passengers daily. He lamented how the maintenance of the MRT-3 appeared to have become a "lucrative business, not an essential service to the people."

"It is the reason why the MRT has deteriorated to the horror ride that it is today… May pinaboran. May kumita. Milyon ang nagdusa," Reyes said.

Colmenares said it is about time somebody goes to jail over the MRT-3 mess.

"Napakahaba na ng pagdurusa ng ating mga commuters dyan sa MRT. Panahon na siguro na may makulong dito. Dito sa Pilipinas, parating mayroong krimen pero walang kriminal," the former party-list congressman said.

Cosico, meanwhile, said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) should open its doors to all stakeholders and discuss ways to address the problem in the train system.

"Noon pang 2015, may findings na ang Agham na five times risky ang pagsakay sa MRT-3… kaya ang challenge namin sa DOTR magkaroon ng Transportation Summit na kung saan lahat ng stakeholders, mga scientists at engineers na pwedeng mag-aral pano natin aayusin yung MRT-3 system ay mailatag na," Cosico said.