by Mario Casayuran
Transport officials in the Aquino administration must pay and face trial over the purchase of 48 coaches worth P3.8 billion that turned out to be not suitable for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 system, Sen. Grace Poe demanded yesterday.
“Dapat talaga pagbayaran nila yan. Dapat magkaroon ng kaso (They should pay for it. Charges must be filed),” Poe said as she vowed to file a resolution when the Senate resumes its regular session starting Tuesday for a full-dressed probe into the anomaly.
As chairwoman of the Senate Public Services Committee, Poe said she and even the current Department of Transportation (DoTr) officials, led by Secretary Arthur Tugade, were caught flatfooted by this anomaly.
Poe said Tugade was made to believe by past public statements of previous Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) officials, led by then Secretary Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, that the trains purchased from Dalian, China, would finally end the transport woes of hundreds of thousands of commuters once they are installed.
But they could not be installed because the signaling system of the China made trains is not in order.
Poe and Tugade are on the same wavelength: That the Dalian trains should not be used at all as they would endanger the lives of hundreds of thousands of commuters that use the EDSA transport line every day.
Reports quoted Tugade as saying he did not know that the signaling system of the Dalian trains are not in sync with current signaling system in place at the MRT 3 system.
Thus, a big letdown not only for Poe, but also for the Duterte administration.
Poe said she would compel the appearance of past transport officials before her committee through the coercive powers of subpoenas if they refuse to appear when summoned.
“All will be invited,” Poe said, adding that her planned committee hearing would certainly cut short Abaya’s retirement from government service “because we need his explanation.”
Poe also favored the audit investigation into the questionable Dalian train contract by a third party, possibly reputable firms such as SGV or APMG, or even by the Commission on Audit (COA).
She stressed that these audit bodies “must not hide the truth.”
The problem at the MRT began when the Aquino administration severed its maintenance contract with Sumitomo, a Japanese firm, all because its fee is reportedly high.
Past administration officials then bid out the maintenance contracts to some firms whose technical problems were also questioned.
They learned too late that a low-cost maintenance contract does not automatically ensure efficient running of the trains.
“Yan ang isa pang malaking kasalanan na kung sino man ang nag-apruba niyan ay dapat managot,” she said of the Dalian train contract. (Whoever approved that Dalian train contract must face the music.)