By Charissa Luci | Manila Bulletin | January 1, 2016

Senatorial candidate Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez joined calls for Congress to look into the P3.81-billion maintenance contract of Metro Rail Transit-3 (MRT-3) which the government awarded to a Korean-Filipino joint venture.

The president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) said Congress should assert its oversight function and ensure that the three-year MRT deal, which will take effect this month is above board and does not contain provisions for “hidden fare hikes.”

“The DOTC should justify the award of the contract as they failed to observe the bidding process particularly since it involves a big amount for the maintenance of the system. Congress should also guarantee that no provision for hidden fare hikes are included,” Romualdez, the leader of the House Independent Bloc, said.

“The government should spend taxpayers’ money wisely. We should not condone wasteful spending for MRT3 without really improving it since commuters still have to cope with higher fares, longer queues, and frequent breakdowns,” he said.

House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares earlier called the attention of Congress to look into MRT deal, which was awarded by the DOTC to the group of Busan Transportation Corporation, Edison Development & Construction, Tramat Mercantile Inc., TMICorp Inc. and Castan Corporation.

“This questionable deal should be probed and I hope that the DOTC is not trying to pull another fast one on MRT commuters. We have to check the deal and ensure that there is no hidden fare hike,” the Makabayan senatorial bet said.

He recalled that last year, the DOTC awarded the P65 billion Light Rail Transit (LRT1) extension deal to a consortium led by the Ayala-Pangilinan group which explicitly include fare hikes for LRT and was even used to piggyback ride the fare hike for the MRT last year.

Romualdez, a guest senatorial candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) criticized the DOTC for alleging an “emergency situation” that prodded them to resort to an alternative procurement method following its failure to bid out the deal.

He warned the government against entering into questionable and shady deals, even as he urged the public to support candidates in the May, 2015 who have compassion and concern for people.

“This government lacks compassion for the people. In the coming elections, we should elect compassionate leaders,” Romualdez said.