Expect crony transport firms too to cry “vindictiveness.” Yet like the abusive SR Metals nickel miner of the Aquino regime, they need to be punished. Well documented are the injuries they have caused train commuters in frequent accidents. Incalculable is their damage to the economy – the fuel, health, and opportunities lost in years of traffic that they wrought. They got away with it because owned by members of the Liberal Party of Noynoy Aquino, Mar Roxas, and Transport Sec. Joseph Abaya. One is owned by relatives of the regime’s attack dog, Sen. Antonio Trillanes. Dossiers have been handed to President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, who vows justice for long oppressed citizens.
It all began with the sudden dismissal in 2012 of longtime MRT-3 maintenance firm Sumitomo. In lieu of the Japanese giant was hired, sans public bidding, two-month-old inexperienced PH Trams. Undercapitalized at only P625,000 paid up, the newcomer was given a monthly fee of $1.15 million (P53.5 million). Bringing in CommBuilders and Transport (CB&T) as partner didn’t help, despite the latter’s many years as manpower provider for the sister LRT-1. For, PH Trams simply pocketed the fees instead of buying the spare parts.
So began the slide of MRT-3 from 72 coaches then to only 34 today. Rail tracks, power supply, and signaling system deteriorated. Not even the toilets, elevators, and escalators at the stations worked. Accidents and breakdowns shut off operations every other day. Riders had to endure long lines under the sun and rain for trains that never arrived.
PH Trams is owned by, among others, Marlo dela Cruz and Wilson de Vera, LP leaders and 2010 campaigners for Aquino and Roxas in Pangasinan. Three other incorporators are Roxas supporters Manolo Maralit, Federico Remo and Arturo Soriano. That Soriano turned out to be the uncle-in-law of then-MRT-3 general manager Al Vitangcol caused the latter’s ouster in 2014. Still, as Vitangcol now exposes, it was Roxas as transport chief who quietly had brought in PH Trams. Just that, when Roxas had to move to the Dept. of Interior, it was Abaya who signed the contract two days in as replacement.
Ten months later, when PH Trams’ owners were linked to the shake down of the original MRT-3 train maker, Abaya had to replace it. Newly revived Global Epcom, formerly Genials Inc., was hired – again by closed-door haggling instead of open bidding. To make it look legit, Autre Porte Technique (APT), the old maintenance firm of LRT-2, was tapped as partner. Still it didn’t work. Global Epcom, like predecessor PH Trams, wouldn’t buy the spare parts for use by APT’s upkeep personnel.
It turned out from records that Global too was controlled by Marlo dela Cruz. Reported as silent partner was none other than Alan Dilay, Abaya’s chosen general manager of the Philippine National Railways. As expected from the crony contracting, the MRT-3 worsened in the next two years. Same with LRT-1 and -2 under Abaya’s pals. With commuter rails malfunctioning, traffic jammed across the megalopolis. Invoking crisis, Abaya got Congress to subsidize billions of pesos for maintenance and equipment. Then, with no public hearing, he raised train fares 50 to 90 percent in Jan. 2015.
Abaya was unstoppable. Rigging the 2013 bidding for new MRT-3 coaches, he granted the P3.85-billion deal to an unqualified Chinese firm. The prototype that arrived had no engine; three subsequent coaches were untested for 5,000 km.; all were substandard – in breach of contract. Vitangcol swears there was five-percent kickback, or nearly P200 million. He exposes the agent, Eugene Rapanut, LP-Ilocos card-carrying member.
In July 2015 Abaya temporarily replaced Global Epcom with seven subcontractors. It was assigned only to cleaning the stations. Five others were given the trains and signaling, power supply, rail tracks, elevators-escalators, and ticketing. The P53.5-million monthly fee doubled in the next six months.
The seventh subcontractor, TriLink Technologies, inexperienced in railways, was tapped for communications systems. With no public bidding it was awarded P7.28 million. SEC documents show that TriLink has Henry Iriola Trillanes as incorporator-president-CEO. Five other Trillaneses are incorporator-officers, with the same address. Comelec records identify Henry as the biggest contributor to the 2013 senatorial campaign of Antonio Trillanes IV. The latter, like Abaya, used to be a naval officer. He was the hit man against Roxas’s rivals for the Presidency, Jejomar Binay and Duterte.
In Aug. 2015 Abaya held secret talks for the three-year, P4.25-billion maintenance of MRT-3. In Jan. 2016 he awarded it to Busan Transport of Korea and four Filipino dummies. The consortium has odd arrangements. Giant Busan, with $38 billion assets, supposedly owns only two percent. The 98 percent is held by the four locals whose combined worth, P1.1 billion, is way below the required half of the P4.25-billion contract price.
The four are into anything but railways. Edison Development Construction Corp. is into real estate, Tramat Mercantile into agricultural supply, TMI Corp. into trading, and Castan Corp. into plumbing. Most of all, DOTC sources aver, behind the four are the same old LP contractors in MRT-3: Marlo dela Cruz and Eugene Rapanut.
No wonder that, despite the vaunted entry five months ago of a Korean rail expert, MRT-3 service still is below par. In the past four days alone the commuter trains bogged down five times.