Escudero grills DOTC: Why aren't you suing MRTC?
MANILA, Philippines – Enough is enough.
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero lectured transport officials on Monday, September 1, during a Senate hearing for their “inaction” in holding the Metro Rail Transit Corporation (MRTC) liable for failing to fulfill its contract with government.
“Wala ba tayong balak i-demanda ang MRTC? Bakit sila lang ang demand nang demanda but clearly they did not perform on their contract,” he asked Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Undersecretary for Legal and Procurement Jose Perpetuo Lotilla.
(Don’t you have plans to sue MRTC? How come they’re suing us when they clearly did not perform on their contract?)
The contract between the government and the MRTC is one of the reasons behind the MRT3’s sorry state. A series of temporary restraining orders and arbritation stood and continue to stand in the way of much-needed upgrades.
Only recently did government go against the MRTC’s wishes, pushing through with the purchase of 48 new train cars. DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya said its proof of the administration’s political will. (READ: Gov't eyes compromise with MRTC for takeover of MRT 3)
But the acquisition of the new cars is long overdue. The MRT3 hit its capacity as early as 2003, which should have prompted the expansion of the line. But no purchases were made.
“So they’ve been in violation for the past 11 years?” asked Escudero.
“Theoretically, yes,” answered Lotilla. The DOTC official said they were still “studying” and “compiling evidence” against MRTC. Escudero would not have it.
“Hindi ba parang sobrang api na tayo doon? Parang ginisa tayo sa sariling mantika at karneng ibinabaliktad para lutuin lalo sa sariling mantika?” Escudero pressed. (Aren’t we being pushed around too much? We're being played around with.)
Turning calmer, Escudero added: “Forgive me, it’s simply too much. In terms of the money we have already shelled out and we’re already shelling out.” The government plans to completely take over the MRTC and has allocated over P56 billion (about $1.3 billion) in the 2014 national budget.
Gov't officials, too
On the sidelines of the hearing, Abaya explained that their hesitation to press charges also stems from the composition of the MRTC itself.
Several members of the MRTC board are also directors from government-owned companies such as Landbank and the Development Bank of the Philippines.
“So kung kakasuhan natin ang MRTC, bahagi doon ang kakasuhan natin ang mga kawani ng pamahalaan na sa tingin ko hindi rin naman nilang kasalanan na umabot dito,” Abaya told reporters. (If we sue MRTC, government employees will be part of the complaint. And I don’t think it’s their fault the MRT3 is this bad.)
“Definitely kung liability, responsibility ng private sector… malinaw sa amin yun (that’s clear to us). Pero syempre nag-iingat rin kami kung kapwa kawani ng pamahalaan ang kakasuhan,” he said. (But we’re careful because it might involve other public officials.)
The MRT3's sorry state became even more apparent during the hearing, as officials presented data that showed an rise in service interruptions, "obsolete" signalling systems, escalators and elevators, and non-functional ticket dispensers.
As a result, most MRT3 passengers have to contend with long lines, and even longer waits – an average commuter will have to wait 30-45 minutes in line for train rides that are faster than the wait.
Officials said the ideal would be to cut down waiting time to 10 minutes, although this could only happen once all of the MRT3's pending upgrades are completed by late 2016. – Rappler.com