By Jarius Bondoc | The Philippine Star | May 30, 2014

Who is Marlo dela Cruz, and why is everybody in this exposed MRT-3 scandal pointing to him as the center of it all?

In striving to answer this question, graft busters would prove the perilously poor maintenance of the railway. They’d also discover a mesh of billion-peso deals favoring the same persons over and over at the LRT-1, LRT-2, and Philippine National Railways.

Dela Cruz’s name first surfaced last year, when Czech Amb. Josef Rychtar accused MRT-3 characters of a $30-million shakedown. Supposedly dela Cruz was with the party of GM Al Vitangcol and Wilson de Vera that attempted to extort $30 million from Czech train maker Inekon. Rychtar swore it happened a year ahead, at his residence on the night of July 9, 2012, and at Vitangcol’s office the next afternoon.

Vitangcol and de Vera swiftly denied Rychtar’s allegation. De Vera confirmed attending both meetings, but only to explore business with Inekon as a director of PH Trams. He affirmed dela Cruz’s presence, referring to him as “the Board Chairman.”

Vitangcol admitted only to the meeting of July 10 at his office. Indeed the security logs record the arrival there first of de Vera, followed by Rychtar, Inekon CEO Josef Husek, and COO Milan Haloun.

At the MRT-3’s mother Dept. of Transport and Communications transpired another meeting a month earlier, June 28, 2012, according to separate logs. Attendees at the office of U-Sec Rene Limcaoco were: Vitangcol, Rychtar, and Haloun. Present as “Observer” was dela Cruz.

Though implicated in the $30-million scandal, dela Cruz did not move to clear his name.

PH Trams, which consequently would bag MRT-3’s P517.5-million maintenance contract, was not yet existent that July 9 and 10, 2012. It incorporated only on July 31, and filed for SEC registration on Aug. 6, 2012 (Company Registration No. OS201230134).

Heading the list of six incorporators-directors was dela Cruz, of 12 Florence St., Merville Park, Parañaque City. The rest: Federico F. Remo, EVP of state-owned Philippine Export-Import Guarantee Corp.; Manolo M. Maralit and Alfreda Tan Maralit, with the same address; de Vera; and Arturo V. Soriano, Pangasinan provincial accountant.

PH Trams was but two months old on Oct. 19, 2012, when MRT-3 granted it P517.5 million, 828 times its P625,000-capital.

Soriano is Vitangcol’s uncle-in-law. Exposure of that prohibited conflict of interest (see Gotcha, 26 May 2014) led to Vitangcol’s sacking.

In public defense, Vitangcol claimed that Uncle Art had divested all shares in PH Trams to dela Cruz just before he granted them the hefty deal. Soriano echoed the incredible line.

Meantime, still no word from Chairman dela Cruz about his fledgling, undercapitalized PH Trams’ influence.

Vitangcol, Transport Sec. Joseph Emilio Abaya, and U-Sec. Jose Perpetuo Lotilla had signed away the P517.5 million to PH Trams. It was because PH Trams was in partnership with the better-capitalized, truly experienced CB&T, they chorused this week. Why then that CB&T had to tie up with dela Cruz’s tyro, un-moneyed firm, the trio did not explain.

CB&T president Roehl Bacar gave part of the story. He told The STAR yesterday that PH Trams was supposed to provide the spare parts from Inekon, maker of MRT-3’s 73 trams. But PH Trams didn’t deliver, he said, ending the partnership in Dec. 2012 or Jan. 2013.

In effect, Bacar confirmed that the consortium had not stockpiled on crucial spare parts, as the contract required. This imperiled till today the lives and limbs of 560,000 daily MRT-3 passengers (see Gotcha, 28 May 2014).

No word from Chairman dela Cruz about that either.

In belying hanky-panky in the MRT-3’s P517.5-million grant, Vitangcol, Abaya, and Lotilla waved the contract with a new consortium, APT-Global. This is for P712.77 million, Sept. 2013 to Aug. 2014. Insiders say the trio hastily had to drop unqualified but well-connected PH Trams because Rychtar’s accusations had set off investigations by the NBI and House of Reps.

Curiously Abaya issued the Notice (for APT-Global) to Proceed with the deal to its “authorized representative Marlo dela Cruz.” This was stated in a DOTC press release (published by The STAR on Sept. 3, 2013), and posted in the DOTC website on Sept. 5 (picked up by Business Mirror and online news Rappler on the same day).

Vitangcol, Abaya, and Lotilla confirmed this week that dela Cruz indeed represents APT-Global. They did not explain why the chairman of the old contractor PH Trams is embedded in the new one.

Still no word from dela Cruz.

Insiders aver that dela Cruz came into the new maintenance contract not through APT but Global Epcom Services Inc. His name does not appear in the SEC registration (A199919139). Neither is there that of a silent partner in false divestment, a high PNR official.

Purportedly the product of buy-ins to Genials Trading Co. (same SEC registration number), Global’s papers contain the original and new stockholders.

Insiders say that APT, like CB&T before it, has capital and experience in maintenance of trains and tracks. Global, like dela Cruz’s PH Trams is supposed to provide the spare parts. But there is no record at the MRT-3 of such parts inventory, or importation from abroad.

Meaning, to this day, there is no real maintenance of MRT-3. Due to deterioration of tracks, power supply, and signal system, the trains may collide, ignite, or derail any time. Meantime, Global is muscling its way into LRT-1 and LRT-2, whose maintenance are handled by CB&T and APT, respectively.

Dela Cruz hails from Manaoag, Pangasinan, where he and his family campaigned for 2010 vice presidential bet and former DOTC head Mar Roxas. Roxas, who moved to the interior department in Aug. 2012, said he has not seen nor heard from dela Cruz since the campaign.

Insiders and visitors often see dela Cruz at the MRT-3.