The Philippine Star| February 5, 2016
MANILA, Philippines – As far as the Senate is concerned, the report prepared by a panel chaired by Sen. Grace Poe recommending the filing of graft charges against Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya over the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) is not binding.
Senate President Franklin Drilon yesterday said he has yet to see the 45-page report prepared by Poe.
“There is no recommendation yet that I know of. I may be wrong, but I have not been informed that there was a committee report filed. Right or wrong? I can be corrected,” Drilon said.
“Therefore, insofar as the Senate is considered, it’s not yet in existence,” he said.
Drilon though conceded the documents and transcript of Senate hearings can be used as evidence before any judicial proceedings.
“It can be used, subject to the rules of evidence in a judicial proceeding. Documents certainly can be used and in the past, the ombudsman has requested for certified copies of the documents submitted. So, the answer is yes. Of course, I said subject to the rules of evidence in a judicial proceeding,” he said.
Poe defended her report yesterday, saying it was based on transcript of records and documents submitted to the body, as well as testimonies and dossiers from appropriate government agencies.
“In the case of Secretary Abaya, the transcript of stenographic notes, the documents submitted, his reply to questions and actions during the hearings, his excuses to be absent, demeanor and knowledge of the workings of the department and the totality of his actions on transport issues, and MRT-3, indicate badges of negligence and failure,” Poe said.
“It does not take an expert to analyze the failures of management. Just ask the passengers who line up for hours and experience the stalling trains, the out-of-order elevators and escalators, the broken aircon units, among others,” she added.
Poe added the subcommittee weighed all statements, not just of the managers but also of the commuters, who felt the daily inconveniences of the malfunctions in MRT-3 operations.
Although Drilon seemed to downplay the Poe report, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, chairman of the Senate committee on public services, has given his full support.
Osmeña, who signed the report after Poe, added he has recommended the committee report be routed to all senators so that it can get a majority of signatures.
“She was able to get the gist of the problem and she has asked the Department of Justice to investigate. You know, the ombudsman and the DOJ, they are the ones who establish if there was a prima facie case or if there is a probable cause for graft,” Osmeña said.
Even without the majority signatures, Osmeña said the report holds water and maintained the mother committee may transmit a copy to the Department of Justice or the Office of the Ombudsman.
“Yes, it will still hold water. You know, even a 12-year-old can go to the ombudsman and say, I want to file a case against this government official,” he said, citing the “very liberal” powers of the office.
“Right now, it is still a draft. It’s not yet a committee report. I would call it the chairman’s preliminary report,” Osmeña added, referring to the Poe report.
Apart from the filing of graft charges, the Poe committee recommended that all parties concerned “consider the possibility of a termination to arbitration and buy out.”
The Poe report adopted the independent audit of MRT Hong Kong, which found that the MRT’s physical structure and its financial system should be rehabilitated.
Abaya, for his part, said he is unfazed by Poe’s recommendation to file graft charges against him.
Abaya maintained his department complied with the procurement law for the award of contracts.
“We are not worried about the report of Senator Poe because our conscience is clear. We have strictly implemented the procurement law here in DOTC. We are confident there are no irregularities in procurement,” he said.
Abaya said the DOTC has always maintained a level playing field and complied with the law in procurement.
Abaya said Poe’s report seems to be echoing the sentiments of MRT Holdings Inc. chairman Robert Sobrepeña.
“Most of the points raised in the draft report are lines given by Mr. Sobrepeña,” he said.
Abaya said it is alarming that Poe is putting her trust on an individual who has failed to fulfill his obligations.
“It is alarming to believe a person who did not deliver on his promises to CAP. In fact, he has pending estafa cases,” he added, referring to the pre-need College Assurance Plan.
Meanwhile, Abaya gave assurance license cards and car plates will be made available before President Aquino’s term ends at noon of June 30.
Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Roberto Cabrera, however, said the Commission on Audit (COA) has yet to decide on the petition for review filed by the DOTC against the auditor’s notice of disallowance. – Christina Mendez, Louella Desiderio, Robertzon Ramirez, Michael Punongbayan