Joyce Balancio | ABS-CBN News | November 21, 2017

Several top officials of the Aquino administration on Wednesday faced plunder and graft complaints over the P3.8-billion maintenance contract for the MRT-3.

Transport Undersecretary Reinier Paul Yebra led the filing of charges at Office of the Ombudsman against the following former officials:

Interior secretary Mar Roxas
Budget chief Florencio Abad
Transportation secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya
MRT General Manager Roman Buenafe
Finance secretary Cesar Purisima

Energy chief Jericho Petilla
Science and technology secretary Mario Montejo
Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin
Public works chief Rogelio Singson
National Economic and Development Authority chief Arsenio Balicasa
Transportation undersecretaries Edwin Lopez, Rene Limcaoco and Catherine Gonzales

Abaya is facing 2 other graft complaints -- one filed by the Department of Transportation and another by militant groups -- in connection with the allegedly anomalous MRT maintenance contract with Busan Universal Rail (BURI).

In a statement, Abaya said he was confident that any inquiry will show that all projects under the Aquino administration were done with "full, rigorous compliance with the law, with honesty, and in the public interest."

"My only regret is that much-needed improvements will once again be delayed or even reversed because of the current unfounded allegations," he said.

Roxas, meanwhile, called the complaint "pathetic."

"In a word? Pathetic. Dahil walang mapakitang accomplishment sa mga ipinangako, nag-imbento ng kasong walang laman, walang basehan sa katotohanan o sa batas para ipakitang may ginagawa sila," he said in a text message.

He added that he is still abroad and has yet to receive a copy of the complaint.

The former secretaries of other departments meanwhile were included in the new case because they were part of the procurement and policy board that approved the BURI deal, said Yebra.

Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate public services panel, urged the Office of the Ombudsman to fast track the case.

"We expect that the Ombudsman will act expeditiously on the case, because every day of delay means distress and hardship for our riding public. We can only achieve justice for our people by making those responsible for their woes accountable," she said in a statement.

DIVERSIONARY TACTIC?

The Department of Transportation last month took over MRT's upkeep after terminating the contract with BURI, which has been blamed for chronic breakdowns in the capital's main railway.

Last Thursday, some 140 MRT passengers were evacuated after 2 train cars detached from each other. Two days earlier, a woman's right arm was severed when she fell onto the tracks at the MRT-Ayala Station after she felt dizzy.

Yebra denied that Wednesday's complaint aims to divert public attention away from the mishaps.

"When we filed the graft complaint, we already said we are studying a plunder complaint. This was already known then so hindi po siya diversionary tactic," he told DZMM.

The MRT, which runs almost the entire length of EDSA, ferries half a million passengers on average every day.