By Aurea Calica | The Philippine Star | August 17, 2014

MANILA, Philippines - Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya is not under fire due to the accident at the Metro Rail Transit’s Taft Avenue station in Pasay City on Wednesday, Malacañang clarified yesterday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said they were awaiting the results of the investigation that would be out by Tuesday.

“On the changes at the Department of Transportation and Communications, President Aquino has not mentioned anything. What we are trying to ensure is safety. The President wants the safety of thousands of MRT passengers ensured,” Valte said.

The train that slammed the barrier at the station last Wednesday was finally removed from the crash site on Friday.

Valte said nobody wanted the incident to happen “and it’s very unfortunate.”

“So, hopefully, they will meet the deadline of the investigation on Tuesday and come out with the results for the safety and peace of mind of those riding the MRT,” Valte said.

On calls to temporarily stop the MRT-3 operations, Valte said Abaya promised to do that if the safety of the riding public would be compromised.

But so far it was determined that it was safe to continue train operations.

A team composed of representatives from the Light Rail Transit Authority and the Office for Transportation Security started examining the footage from the closed circuit television as well as the black box-like device of the train.

Abaya said the team would also examine the testimonies of the two drivers and eyewitness account of passengers and bystanders, and conduct simulations and interview control center personnel.

He also clarified the inquiry being conducted by the DOTC was separate from the probe by the Philippine National Police.

Abaya earlier said the DOTC was exploring the possibility of human error in the mishap.

Frederick Parayno, vice president for technical services of MRT Holdings, which owns the train, said Abaya should not be too quick to blame the drivers of the derailed MRT train.

Parayno said the DOTC has been repeatedly warned of possible accidents at the MRT due to poor maintenance.

Parayno discarded the human error theory, saying the cause of the accident can be attributed to poor maintenance of the system by the newly appointed maintenance provider APT Global and its predecessor PH Trams.

“It is the maintenance logs that the DOTC should look at, not the black box. The black box will not reveal much. The black box will only tell you the speed at which the train was running and where it stopped. It will not answer the more important questions relating to maintenance that may have caused the accident,” Parayno pointed out.

“Of course we have to wait for the conclusion of the investigation, but authorities should also explore the possibility that it was not just human error,” he added.

In the 12 years that Sumitomo was the maintenance provider, Parayno said there was never any incident like what happened last week.

Sumitomo was the maintenance provider of the MRT from 2000 to 2012. It was replaced by an interim maintenance provider appointed by former MRT general manager Al Vitangcol in 2012 before Global APT won the bid in 2013.

Vitangcol figured in a bribery scandal involving a Czech firm that sought to supply coaches for the MRT.

Parayno also revealed that since 2012, when the maintenance provider was changed, they had written DOTC several times requesting for a technical audit.

“As the owners of the train, we also want to be sure that the trains are being maintained properly. In the past, with Sumitomo, we would get regular reports of their technical audit so we were confident of the proper functioning and safety of our trains. When the maintenance providers were changed, not only have we not received a regular technical audit report, we have never been allowed to see or even have a third party conduct a technical audit,” he said. – With Paolo Romero