By Jaime Sinapit | | September 25, 2014

MANILA - Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has ordered a preliminary investigation and administrative adjudication process against the top brass of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) including Secretary Joseph Emilo Abaya over the alleged anomalous maintenance contract for the Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3).

Aside from Abaya, also facing criminal investigation for violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) are former MRT General Manager Al Vitangcol III; 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.

"Additionally, Vitangcol, De Vera, Soriano, De la Cruz, Maralit and Remo face a separate set of charges for violation 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)," Morales said.

Administrative charges for Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service have also been filed against Abaya, Lotilla, Limcaoco, Santos, Patdu, Lantin, Chaneco, Narca, Magbanua, Manresa, Sansolis, Rodriguez, Cecilio, Lavides, Quintos including Arturo Soriano, who is now Provincial Accountant in the province of Pangasinan.

Vitangcol left MRT in May 2014.

Based on the complaint filed by the Field Investigation Office (FIO), a maintenance agreement for the trains was 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 June 21, 2010 and had undergone four extensions from June 2010 until October 2012.

"Documents gathered by the Office of the Ombudsman's 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 to negotiate its terms and conditions," Morales said.

In October 2012, the Negotiating Team recommended that the project be awarded to the 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.

"The field investigators found no emergency situation that would justify the negotiated procurement, given that, as early as 2010 the MRTC transferred the responsibility for the procurement of the technical maintenance to DOTC," Morales said.

Records from the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed that PH Trams was barely two months old when the project was awarded, having been incorporated only on August 6, 2012 with a paid-up capital of only P625,000.00.

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

The complaint adds that, as early as October 1, 2012, Sumitomo communicated to DOTC 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 issues.

The joint venture member CB&T also has a separate criminal case pending with the Office of the Ombudsman for underdelivery of labor input required in the LRT Line 1 system.

In June 2014, preliminary investigation and administrative adjudication procedures were also initiated against Vitangcol and De Vera for Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct, Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service, and violations of Section 3 (b) of R.A. No. 3019 and Section 7(d) of R.A. 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees), in connection with the P3.76 billion MRT3 Capacity Expansion Project, where Inekon Group CEO and Chairman Josef Husek and Czech Ambassador Joseph Rychtar alleged that Vitangcol and De Vera attempted to extort money in exchange for the service and maintenance contract.