Jarius Bondoc | Philstar.com | November 28, 2016

The successive resignations of two transport officials cannot erase their liability for anomalies left behind. Undersecretary for Railways Noel Eli Kintanar is departing on Nov. 29, after five months in the Duterte admin of the same duration. MRT-3 general manager Roman Buenafe left last Oct. 5, after 19 months under the Aquino admin and three as holdover under Duterte. Friends since high school in the '80s, they are alleged to have covered up for each other. They were schoolmates as well of Aquino admin transport secretary and Liberal Party president Joseph Abaya and Light Rail Transit administrator Honorito Chaneco, who have evaded prosecution for multibillion-peso fund scams in 2012-2016. Another classmate was Joel Erestain, Buenafe's chief aide. It was under them that the Mega Manila commuter rails began and continued to deteriorate. This is to the detriment of the riders who pay doubled fares since Jan. 2015, and taxpayers who provide yearly subsidies.

Among the many anomalies at MRT-3 concern the plastic cards that passengers use to turn the stiles automatically. In October 2015 Buenafe rushed to order four million magnetic cards, although about to become obsolete under a new Automatic Fare Collection System that was then to be installed at MRT-3, LRT-1, and LRT-2. Those magnetic cards cost P30 each; thus, P120 million was wasted. Ex-classmate Kintanar was then holding four concurrent executive positions at the Ayala Corp., which was part of the consortium that was to provide the new AFCS using different beep cards. When Kintanar later joined the Department of Transportation and became Buenafe's immediate superior, he ignored reports of the old cards just lying at the MRT-3 depot warehouse. During meetings of rail managers, it was pointed out that the old cards be put to good use at the Philippine National Railways, to curb rampant pilferage under its manual fare system. Kintanar shot down the idea, insisting that the PNR acquire its own automated fare machines. Guess from what conglomerate.

During an internal audit in the first quarter of 2016 a fare pilferage racket was discovered at the MRT-3. levitra dosage vs viagra A ticket sales clerk was caught red-handed throwing unused tickets out a toilet window. It turned out that the employee was part of a theft ring of 10 fellow sales clerks. They would take a passenger's cash, say P200, to be loaded electronically on a beep card. But before the reading machine is able to confirm receipt of the loaded amount, the clerk quickly pulls out the card. No transaction would register in the system; the clerk then pockets the cash. About P12 million was stolen. At first Buenafe was livid, blaming the AFCS supplier for the apparent manipulable system flaw. During the confrontation meeting, Ayala brought along ex-classmate Kintanar, who was part of the team that devised the system. After that Buenafe changed his tune, blaming instead the entire internal ticket sales force. He summarily fired about 45 of the 200 or so ticket clerks, not just the crooked ten. That left the force terribly undermanned, and lengthened the passenger queues for tickets. Many of the other ticket clerks he put on monthly contracts in defiance of Civil Service Commission rules and the Department of Labor policy against "endo" (arbitrary end-of-contract of employment). The aggrieved innocent employees petitioned new Transport Sec. Arthur Tugade for justice. Tugade referred the issue to his Undersecretary for Rails Kintanar. Protecting Buenafe, his high school's new alumni president, Kintanar swept the matter under the rug.

When Buenafe confided his intention to resign, their tracks had to be covered. A way was devised to leave behind a confused management. Deo Leo Manalo, an Abaya appointee with the rank of Director IV, was put in as Officer-in-Charge of general management and maintenance in lieu of Buenafe. He is to report to Cesar Chavez, newly installed as Assistant Secretary for Railways but an old civil service eligible with the higher rank of Director V. In turn, Cesar Chavez was also made MRT-3 Director for Operations, reporting to his subordinate Manalo. Today the MRT-3 rank and file is so demoralized to render good service.