Macon Ramos-Araneta | Manila Standard | May 24, 2017

SENATOR Grace Poe said Tuesday she now saw the need to invite former Transportation secretary Manuel Roxas II to the Senate investigation on the Metro Rail Transit 3 mess due to suspicions some contracts were signed in exchange for hefty commissions.

Poe, head of the Senate public services committee, said she believed Roxas would be more than happy to explain his side on the issues hounding the operations of MRT 3, including its worsening condition that started under his term.

"It is an opportunity for him to explain his side because [former MRT 3 general manager) Al Vitangcol said he sent a letter and he had proof, documents sent to Roxas about the expiration of the Sumitomo contract]," Poe said.

"Why did he allow the lapse of the contract... when he was sitting [at the DILG] and he left Secretary Abaya to sign the contract, that Abaya was just three days there [DoTC] and he signed the contract?"

Poe made her statement even as the Transport Department said Tuesday it planned to have MRT 3 managed by the Light Rail Transit Authority since it was only being managed by a project management office.

LRTA manages the Light Rail Transit 2 or LRT 2 that runs from Santolan to Recto. It also supervises the Light Rail Manila Corp., the private operator and maintenance contractor of LRT 1 that runs from Baclaran to Roosevelt.

Abaya admitted in a hearing on May 15 that he immediately signed the contract to run MRT 3 to PH Trams-CB&T upon assuming his post so that MRT 3's operations would not be stalled. He said it was Roxas' team who vetted the firm and finalized the contract.

In Tuesday's resumption of the hearing, the name of Marlo dela Cruz, who was allegedly part of the group controlling contracts in the DoTC under Roxas, cropped up on several occasions.

He allegedly also had links to the maintenance providers even under Abaya who replaced Roxas at the DoTC in October 2012 after Roxas was appointed Interior secretary.

Dela Cruz is among the incorporators of PH Trams-CB&T, which was awarded the MRT 3 maintenance contract in 2012 despite being a new firm with a capital of only P620,000.

But PH-Trams-CB&T won the contract to run MRT 3 due to Dela Cruz's alleged connection to Roxas and the Liberal Party.

Roxas was the defeated standard-bearer of the LP in the presidential election in May 2016.

Despite being summoned by Poe's committee, Dela Cruz failed to show up, he also did not appear in the hearing on May 15.

Poe likewise said there was also a need for Abaya to further answer questions following the seemingly never-ending problems at MRT 3.