MANILA (DWDD) – Senator Grace Poe censured the maintenance provider Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) for suing an official of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for graft, saying it was the firm that was defrauding the government.
BURI should instead be held liable for supplying spare parts that did not undergo the necessary inspection and certification, which puts in peril the lives of the people taking the train, she said.
DOTr Undersecretary Cesar Chavez recently bared that BURI bought the vehicle logic unit (VLU) from a shop in Bangkal, Makati City identified as Diamond Pearl Development and Marketing Corp., which was owned by William and Marlo dela Cruz, who were associated with the maintenance provider.
VLU is a highly specialized equipment that functions as the train’s automatic protection system.
“BURI was even brazen enough to sue the DOTr when it was the one defrauding the government,” Poe said.
The maintenance contractor recently filed a graft case against Chavez for withholding payment for the VLU.
“Tingnan po natin ang record ng BURI, at isang salita lang ang maiisip natin: kahindik-hindik. Masyado namang garapal para sila pa ang magdemanda,” Poe added.
According to Chavez, from January 2016 to July 2017, there were 3,824 train removals; 833 unloading incidents; 98 service interruptions; and, six derailments.
“Matagal ko nang sinasabi na ‘yang maintenance issues ng MRT ay isang ongoing train robbery. Kung totoo ang paratang, saan ka ba naman makakakita na ang isang precision device ay binili sa isang lugar na kilalang bilihan ng chop-chop spare parts,” she said.
BURI is demanding reimbursement for its purchase of VLU purportedly worth P4 million made by Canadian firm Bombardier. Chavez, however, revealed that no such equipment had been ordered from Bombardier Transportation Signal Ltd., the maker of MRT-3 safety components for signalling system.
Poe said her office was able to obtain a copy of the sales invoice that showed the purchase of two pieces of VLUs worth P4 million.
“Kung sabi ng Bombardier na walang order o binili sa kanila, may misteryo nga na dapat nating malaman. That is the 4-million-peso question. I am referring to the VLU for which BURI was seeking reimbursement,” she said.
Chavez had said that the Commission on Audit requires that spare parts procured must have a certificate of origin, manufacturer’s inspection report, certificate of warranty, invoice receipt, inspection report.
Without these, the payment could not be made, and the official who will order the payment will be liable for graft.
Another big mystery is the ownership of Diamond Pearl, which has Marlo dela Cruz as one of its incorporators.
“Siya yung taong ilang beses nabanggit sa mga reports, affidavits, investigative documents, and court papers who allegedly attempted to extort money from the Czech ambassador. Tapos dito sumulpot na naman ang pangalan niya,” Poe said.
The senator said she may call for another hearing on the frequent MRT breakdowns and compel the attendance of the Dela Cruz brothers.
Marlo dela Cruz did not appear in the hearing called by Poe last May, citing the “sub judice rule” as he was already facing criminal charges before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court.
The senator also noted that the DOTr has been moving slowly in taking definite action against BURI, several months after it raised the possibility of terminating the contract due to the series of incidents linked to the maintenance of the train system.
“I am raising these concerns because we are in the midst of the budget season. We have here the DOTr asking for billions of pesos, but which cannot guarantee something very basic – that the MRT will run, and will run safely,” she said.
For 2018, the DOTr is asking for a P61.05-billion budget, including P7.51 billion for the MRT-3. Included in the P7.51-billion budget is the P1.73-billion appropriations for MRT-3 operation and maintenance.
Poe said she would ask the Senate finance committee to cut the amount appropriated for the operations and maintenance until the DOTr can justify that it would be used for the benefit of the public.
“Are we going to give this maintenance firm more millions from the budget?” she said.
“May matibay na basehan para hindi sila bayaran dahil niloloko nila ang gobyerno,” Poe said. SENATE/MCAG