By Louis Bacani | Philippine Star | July 6, 2015
MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang on Monday dismissed allegations that the Aquino administration is protecting Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya in connection with the maintenance contract for the decrepit Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3).
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government is sparing no one in the MRT-3 fiasco.
"Walang konseptong 'untouchable', ang pagsampa ng mga kaso mula sa DOJ (Department of Justice) at ehekutibo ay batay sa ebidensya," Coloma said in a text message to reporters.
Coloma also noted that the Office of the Ombudsman, which cleared Abaya from charges, is a government body not influenced by the administration.
"Hiwalay at independiyenteng constitutional body ang Ombudsman," he said.
On Sunday, Sen. Grace Poe questioned the decision of the Ombudsman not to file charges against Abaya, saying she couldn’t understand why the transportation chief was cleared when he was also a signatory to the MRT-3 maintenance contract.
“I would like to read in full the text of the resolution to find the reasons why Abaya was not included despite having allegedly signed the contract presumably with full knowledge of the facts and the applicable law surrounding such anomalous procurement of services,” Poe said in a statement from the United States.
Last week, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales indicted former MRT-3 general manager Al Vitangcol III for graft along with Wilson de Vera, Marlo de la Cruz, Manolo Maralit, Federico Remo and Arturo Soriano, all incorporators of Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. (PH Trams).
Vitangcol was also the MRT chief end-user, head of the negotiating team and member of the Bids and Awards Committee. Soriano was his uncle-in-law.
According to a STAR report, the ombudsman’s resolution stated that Vitangcol used his power and authority "to dictate the proponents invited for the preliminary negotiations" of the maintenance services, and "intentionally hid his (affinitive) relationship with Soriano, which would have automatically disqualified PH Trams."
PH Trams bagged the MRT-3 interim maintenance deal worth $1.15 million a month without public bidding on Oct. 20, 2012 when Vitangcol headed the agency. The contract was renewed three times until Sept. 4, 2013.
Abaya took over the Department of Transportation and Communication, which has jurisdiction over the MRT, on Oct. 18, 2012 or two days before the maintenance contract was awarded to PH Trams.
Abaya had reportedly claimed that he was not aware of irregularities in the contract, saying he merely relied on the recommendations of the MRT BAC.