By Tetch Torres-Tupas | | September 25, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Thursday ordered the formal preliminary investigation of Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, former Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) General Manager Al Vitangcol and several others after separate administrative and criminal charges have been filed

against them for entering into an allegedly anomalous maintenance contract for the MRT-3.

Aside from the two, facing investigation are DOTC Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) members, namely: Undersecretary Jose Perpetuo Lotilla, Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco, Undersecretary Rafael Antonio Santos, Assistant Secretary Ildefonso Patdu,  Assistant Secretary Dante Lantin, and LRTA Administrator Honorito Chaneco; members of the Negotiating Team, namely: Misael Narca, Engr. Joel Magbanua, Arnel Manresa, Natividad Sansolis, Engr. Gina Rodriguez, Eugene Cecilio, Engr. Raphael Lavides, Atty. Geronimo Quintos; and representatives from the joint venture of the Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corporation-Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corporation (PH Trams – CB&T) Wilson De Vera, Arturo Soriano, Marlo Dela Cruz, Manolo Maralit and Federico Remo.

This, after the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office has filed criminal and administrative charges against them.

Vitangcol, De Vera, Soriano, Dela Cruz, Maralit and Remo face a separate set of charges for violations of Sections 3(e) and 3(h) of R.A. No. 3019, and violation of Section 65(c)(1) of Republic Act No. 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act).

Aside from the criminal charges, administrative charges for Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service have also been filed by the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office against Abaya, Lotilla, Limcaoco, Santos, Patdu, Lantin, Chaneco, Narca, Magbanua, Manresa, Sansolis, Rodriguez, Cecilio, Lavides, Quintos including Arturo Soriano who is now Provincial Accountant of the province of Pangasinan.  Vitangcol left MRT in May 2014.

The cases stemmed from the maintenance agreement for the trains entered into in December 1997 between the MRT Corporation (MRTC) as facility owner and the Sumitomo Corporation for its safe and proper operations, including the provision for labor and supervision.  The original maintenance agreement between MRTC and Sumitomo expired on 21 June 2010 and had undergone four extensions from June 2010 until October 2012.

Documents gathered by Ombudsman investigators show that 15 days prior to the expiration of the last extension, the BAC adopted a resolution undertaking the procurement of an interim maintenance provider for six months and negotiating its terms and conditions.

In October 2012, the Negotiating Team recommended that the project be awarded to PH Trams – CB&T joint venture in the amount of US$1.15 million monthly.

On October 20, 2012, the project was awarded to PH Trams – CB&T without public bidding.

Ombudsman’s investigator showed that there was no emergency situation that would have justified the negotiated procurement, given that as early as 2010, the MRTC transferred the responsibility for the procurement of the technical maintenance to the DOTC.

Also, the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that PH Trams was barely two months old when the project was awarded, having been incorporated only on 06 August 2012 with a paid-up capital of only P625,000.00.

National Statistics Office records also establish that Vintangcol is related by affinity to PH Trams incorporator Arturo Soriano, being his uncle-in-law.

The complaint adds that as early as 01 October 2012, Sumitomo wrote DOTC regarding the technically critical issues that require urgent and immediate action focusing on parts shortage in the automated fare collection system, signaling system, and passenger overload.

Joint venture member CB&T also has a separate criminal case pending with the Office of the Ombudsman for under-delivery of labor input required in the LRT Line 1 system.