Jarius Bondoc | Philstar Global | June 2, 2017

A foreign maker of MRT-3 train parts is demanding overdue payments from the maintenance contractor. The collection dated May 15, 2017, is addressed to, among others, one Wilfredo "Bong" dela Cruz, of Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI). It is among proofs presented to the Senate last week on the cornering by Liberal Party officers of juicy MRT-3 contracts from 2012 to the present.

The letter from a Czech firm was shown by Sen. Grace Poe, head of the public services committee that is investigating three recent MRT-3 derailments and daily breakdowns. The maker was demanding months-delayed payment for 129 air-conditioners from BURI's dela Cruz, Jun Basbas, and Atty. Charles Mercado.

Wilfredo is the brother of Marlo dela Cruz, allegedly a silent partner in BURI, the three-year upkeep contractor, 2016-2019. LP-Pangasinan officer Marlo was also authorized representative of two earlier maintenance outfits, PH Trams (2012-2013) and Global Epcom (2013-2015). Wilfredo was in charge of procurement for the two firms.

Then-transport secretary and LP president Joseph Abaya successively had hired PH Trams, Global Epcom, and BURI. Testimonies indicated that Marlo was close to Abaya's predecessor as transport and LP head Mar Roxas. The LP was the ruling party in 2010-2016; Roxas unsuccessfully ran for President in 2016 under its banner.

The demand letter that Poe showed had an earlier communication to BURI attached. Dated Oct. 19, 2016, it was addressed to Wilfredo dela Cruz and Joey Corpuz, and referred to a meeting with them three days earlier about the air-con supply procurement.

Representing BURI in the Senate inquiry, Attorney Mercado had disavowed knowing Wilfredo in a previous hearing. Confronted by Poe with the letter addressed to them, Mercado first said thousands of people flock to BURI offices commissioning from various suppliers. Later he admitted knowing Wilfredo.

Though invited, Marlo was absent from the two hearings. His given home address turned out to be Wilfredo's. Marlo skipped the Senate inquiry because, his lawyer said, the matter was sub judice, in a graft case concerning PH Trams at the Sandiganbayan. Retorting that Senate proceedings in aid of legislation are not subject to court sub judice rules, Poe reissued a summons for the lawyer to produce Marlo in future hearings.

Two witnesses also testified on Marlo and LP-Ilocos Sur officer Eugene Rapanut, the BURI dealmaker.

Roehl Bacar swore that Marlo, Manolo Maralit, and Wilson de Vera of PH Trams invited his firm CommBuilders and Transport (CB&anp;T) in 2012 to partner in the MRT-3 maintenance. CB&T then and now provides maintenance manpower for MRT-3's sister LRT-1. De Vera also was an LP-Pangasinan officer. Bacar said the partnership failed because PH Trams reneged on its role as procurer of spare parts for the MRT-3 trains, tracks, power supply, signaling, and stations.

Bacar said Rapanut and Marlo subsequently partnered to bag the BURI deal. He showed photos of them with transport officials after the contract negotiations of Oct. 2015.

Former MRT-3 general manager Al S. Vitangcol averred that Rapanut had brokered with Abaya the 2014 purchase of 48 coaches from China’s Dalian Corp. That P3.8-billion purchase had a five-percent kickback, Vitangcol said.

The BURI contract, for a separate P3.8 billion, is under fire for being disadvantageous to the government. Present transport officials accuse BURI of shoddy maintenance and non-overhaul of the 43 coaches as contracted, hence the dangerous derailments and frequent shutdowns.

As frequently asked is why Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has not indicted the LP men behind the MRT-3 maintenance flops. Her brother Lucas Carpio is the lawyer of BURI, official documents show.