July 11, 2016 | The Standard | Francisco Tuyay

THERE is a "mafia" at the Department of Transportation and Communications that has been preventing the improvement of services at the Metro Manila Rail Transit System and it is composed of alumni of the Philippine Science High School, an advocacy group claimed Thursday.

The mafia is composed of former Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, current MRT-3 general manager Roman Buenafe and newly appointed DoTC Undersecretary for Rails and Toll Roads Noel Kintanar, said Jo Perez, spokesperson of the Filipino Alliance for Transparency and Empowerment.

Another member of the so-called "Pisay mafia," referring to the vernacular slang iused for the state institution, which controls decision making at the DoTC is former Light Rail Transit Authority administrator Honorito Chaneco, who supposedly recommended Buenafe.

Perez made the claim after another rail advocacy group Riles Network criticized the appointment of Kintanar, a longtime executive of the Ayala group of companies, as undersecretary for transportation.

Riles spokesperson Sammy Malunes claimed Kintanar, as part of the Ayala consortium that took over the Light Rail Transit Line 1, helped draft that "onerous and one-sided" contract signed last year with the DoTC.

Perez said that it was Kintanar who broached the idea that the government would have to put up money for the private Light Rail Manila Corp. to take LRT-1 out of its hands.

Perez said it was Kintanar who said that government should consider all of its assets in LRT 1 as "sunk costs" and no longer of any value, hence allowing the LRMC's partner, the government, to actually give money to the firm for the privilege of letting the private firm take over the rail line, including its extension from Baclaran to Bacoor, Cavite.

"Why did DoTC allow LRMC to declare all the assets of LRT-1 of no value "when immediately after the private company took over, it has been collecting the P9 million in cash daily that the line produced in fares?" Perez asked.

"For years, the public has severely suffered from the poor services of MRT-3 and it seems that under the Duterte administration, this will continue with the current and newly appointed officials at DoTC," said Perez.

Former MRT-3 general manager Al Vitangcol previously accused Abaya and Liberal Party bet Mar Roxas of manipulating events related to the maintenance of MRT-3.

The MRT-3 line has suffered almost daily breakdown of its coaches affecting hundreds of thousands of commuters, Perez added.

"President Rodrigo Duterte promised that change is coming but with the current set-up at DOTC, it seems that this change will not come after all," FATE added.

FATE urged Duterte and Tugade to study and do background checks of all appointees to ensure that only the best will serve under his administration.

"We support President Duterte's call for change but we are weary of some men around him especially at DOTC. The public demands drastic changes in how MRT-3 is being run," Perez said.