Posts

Ombudsman indicts Abaya, 16 others over P4.2 billion MRT maintenance contract

The Office of the Ombudsman indicted former Department of Transportation (DoTr) secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and 16 others over a P4.2billion contract with several private companies for a three-year maintenance service of the problematic Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT3).

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales found probable cause to charge Abaya and the other respondents for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act No. 3019) over the anomalous MRT3 maintenance contract.

Abaya was transportation secretary under the Benigno Aquino administration.

Also facing charges are DoTr Undersecretaries Edwin Lopez,  Negotiating Team head Rene Limcaoco and his deputy Catherine Jennifer Francis Gonzales; MRT3 General Manager Roman Buenafe, Assistant Secretary for Procurement Camille Alcaraz, MRT3 Bids and Awards Committee Vice-Chairperson Ofelia Astrera, Attorney Charissa Eloisa Julia Opulencia, Engineering Division chief Oscar Bongon, Engineer Jose Rodante Sabayle.

Private respondents Eldonn Ferdinand Uy of Edison Development and Construction, Elizabeth Velasco of Tramat Mercantile Incorporated, Belinda Tan of TMI Corporation, Inc., Brian Velasco of Castan Corporation, and  Antonio Borromeo, Jun Ho Hwang and Elpidio Uy from Busan Universal Rail, Inc. (BURI) were also included in the indictment.

Rigged for a single provider

The Office of the Ombudsman’s Special Panel of Investigators found that in October 2014 and January 2015, the DOTr conducted two biddings for the three-year maintenance service contract for the MRT3.

Both biddings failed due to non-submission of bids.

On 28 January 2015, Abaya issued a Special Order creating the MRT3 Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) for the procurement of goods, infrastructure projects and consulting services of the MRT3 system, the Ombudsman said.

On March 2015, the MRT3 BAC issued Resolution No. 002 recommending it resort to Negotiated Procurement through Emergency Cases under Section 53.2 of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations (RIRR) of the Government Procurement Reform Act (Republic Act No. 9184).

Documents, however, show that the contract was set to be awarded to a single maintenance service provider that would establish a Single Point Responsibility for several services, the Ombudsman said.

Table by the Office of the Ombudsman

On 21 December 2015, the MRT3 BAC issued Resolution No. 14 Series of 2015 recommending that the project be awarded to Busan JV.

On 07 January 2016, the DOTr, the MRT3 and the Busan JV entered into a contract for the long-term maintenance contract.

‘Incapable of undertaking maintenance project’

In its Consolidated Annual Audit Report (CAAR) for 2016, however, the Commission on Audit (COA) observed that the “DOTr still failed to provide the riding public with a safe and comfortable transport system even with the procurement and delivery from August 2015 to January 2017 of 48 new LRVs with a total cost of P3,759,382,400.00.”

“Despite four years in the procurement process and total payments of P527,761,083.00 (equivalent to 14 percent of the contract price) to Dalian, the LRVs remain inoperational and unaccepted by the DOTr as of reporting date  due to glitches in the power supply and signaling system.  These resulted from the DOTr’s poor planning and other major procurement lapses,” the COA added.

The Special Panel of Investigators found that respondents extended unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference to the contractor when it awarded the project to Busan JV, an ineligible and unqualified entity, the Ombudsman said.

“In sum, the Busan JV was not technically, legally and financially capable to undertake the MRT3 long-term maintenance contract.  Despite its being unqualified, the contract was still awarded to it by the DOTr, in violation of Section 53 of the RIRR of R.A. No. 9184, which requires that in negotiated procurement, the procuring entity should negotiate with a technically, legally and financially capable supplier, contractor or consultant,” the Ombudsman said.

The panel said then Secretary Abaya has immediate and primary responsibility for all government funds and property pertaining to his agency at the time of the questioned transaction.

Welcome decision

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. who led the filing of the complaint against Abaya last November welcomed the Ombudsman’s decision

“These maintenance contracts involving what we alleged are unqualified providers were partly to blame for the sorry state of the MRT3,” Reyes said.

“We are still a long way from achieving justice for commuters and taxpayers but we hope that the case will lead to genuine accountability,” he added.

Reyes advised the Rodrigo Duterte government to likewise examine the policy of privatizing the train system, its functions and maintenance.

“This has been routinely abused by both government officials and private groups to the detriment of the commuters and taxpayers,” Reyes said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Groups denounce ‘Duterte’s crimes’ at ‘HINDIpendence Day’ rally

By April Burcer

Despite pouring rain, political, human rights, faith-based, labor and other groups gathered at Liwasang Bonifacio Tuesday afternoon, June 12, to commemorate ‘HINDIpendence Day’, their own version of Philippine Independence Day.

“We are not genuinely free,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary-General Renato Reyes said about their message with holding the rally.

“Even if we commemorate Independence Day today, we feel it is HINDIpendence Day. We need to continue with our ancestors’ struggle for freedom,” Reyes said.

“Hindi” is the Filipino word for “not”.

The rally included speeches by leaders about issues including President Rodrigo Duterte’s tax reform law, extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations, violence against minority groups, China’s encroachment on the West Philippine Sea, attacks against freedom of expression, the president’s misogynic statements, labor issues and poverty.

Earlier, the same groups held Independence Day rallies in front of the Chinese Embassy in Makati and the United States Embassy in Manila while Bayan-Southern Tagalog protested as Duterte delivered his Independence Day speech at the Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit Cavite.

“In our celebration of Independence Day, it is right that we ask ourselves: Are we enjoying genuine freedom? Is there freedom when our fisherfolk are like foreigners in our own seas, they who are already poor whose catch at sequestered on the high seas?,” a message from detained Senator Leila de Lima asked the Liwasang Bonifacio crowd.

“Is it freedom that we have a cowardly government in regard to our right to freedom of expression? Is it freedom that women’s dignity is being trampled and the people’s right is crudely violated?” the Senator added.

Anakpawis Partylist Representative Fernando Hicap echoed de Lima’s condemnation, saying the harassments against fisherfolk started when China conducted construction activities and occupied islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Protesters filled Liwasang Bonifacio despite pouring rain at their “HINDIpendence Day rally” (Photo by April Burcer)

Gabriela secretary general Joms Salvador for her part denounced the Duterte governments Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, saying women the unpopular measure continue to impose greater burden on the Filipino family through higher prices of basic goods and services.

Labor leaders Lito Ustarez from Kilusang Mayo Uno and Joshua Mata of Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa criticized the failure of the Duterte government to end contractualization and its rejection of the P750 national minimum wage proposal.

Other participating groups included #BabaeAko, Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Alitaptap, Dampi, Girls for Peace, Youth Act Now Against Tyranny, and Suara Bangsamoro.

When asked why he joined the rally, Bicolano artist Edwin dela Torre said, “First, is there still hope? I wanted to hear other people’s motivation. As an artist, I believe in the power of songs, visual arts, dances for the achievement of change—even if we just start with ourselves.”

The program featured performances by Danny Fabella of Musikang Bayan, Maya Santos of Girls for Peace, Tubaw Music Collective and CRC Children’s Collective.

Tension cropped up when the participants tried to take down a Duterte poster hung by President Rodrigo Duterte’s supporters at the Bonifacio munoment, but police intervened.#

The Hague Joint Declaration @ 25


Despite the stalled GRP-NDFP peace talks, the 25th anniversary of The Hague Joint Declaration setting the framework for the peace negotiations was celebrated on September 2, 2017 with messages from Luis Jalandoni of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, NDFP chief political consultant. Senator Loren Legarda supported the GRP-NDFP peace efforts and graced the event with hundreds of moro, lumad and other indigenous peoples camped at U.P. Diliman against intensified militarization of their communities.

OPINION: How Duterte misjudges the Left

President Rodrigo Duterte sprung another surprise tonight by addressing the protest rally outside the House of Representatives after delivering his second State of the Nation Address. It turned out though he too would be surprised by his unprecedented move.

Fresh from delivering a speech in front of an overwhelmingly servile audience, Duterte should have known the leftist protesters would be an entirely different crowd altogether. The protesters he made to wait under pouring rain are tens of thousands of victims of his government’s failed promises and are not the crowd to applaud his rambling speeches and his crude brand of levity.  Furthermore, he should not have expected them to remain silent while he spoke.

Even before he could really launch into his speech, the president was met with chants—something he did not expect to hear, nor want to, for sure. “No to martial law! No to martial law!” the crowd shouted. Duterte reverted to his customary mode and told his audience to shut up and just listen. “Huwag muna! Patapusin mo muna ako diyan!” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.

The president reminded the drenched crowd he still has leftists in his cabinet.  He said he is only trying to make everyone happy, that he means to spend billions for poor people and agrarian reform would happen given time. He said he does not own government and that he only receives his salary for all that he does.

But those are the words the protesters did not want to hear. They wanted categorical statements on their most pressing problems. “Manggagawang kontraktwal, gawing regular!” the workers shouted. “Militar sa kanayunan, palayasin!” bellowed the Lumad in front of the stage.

It is hard to guess what Duterte was thinking at that point, but he clearly did not like the people telling him what they demand of their president. “E kung ganyan ang turing niyo sa akin, parang kalaban, wala na. ‘Wag na tayong mag-usap!” he said. “Pati ako, gusto niyong patayin…Pag-uwi ko galing Marawi, ambush-in niyo ako,” he added.

There was a brief moment when Duterte lifted the crowd’s spirits up. “Ang relasyon ko sa Left, ok pa,” he said. Inexplicably, he immediately turned it into a threat that definitely did not help any. “Huwag niyong sirain kasi magkasamaan tayo ng loob. Damay ako, damay kayo,” he said.

The crowd responded with another chant of “Peace talks, ituloy!” to which Duterte typically responded, “Hanap kayong maganda diyan, iharap sa akin.” He then again said, “In-ambush niyo ako!” referring to the Arakan, North Cotabato incident last week. It was the first time anyone has heard he was there.

It was clear at this time the protesters wanted a dialogue with Duterte and they did not want to listen to more of what they have already heard him say in his SONA. He should have taken the cue when the crowd affirmatively answered him when he asked if he should release all political prisoners. “Oo!” the crowd roared, but Duterte missed it.

It was immediately after this exchange that Duterte let out what he really wanted to say to the Left. “Kailangan tahimik (kayo). Mag-respetuhan tayo. Huwag niyo akong i-ambush,” he said. Coupled with his earlier statement that the Left should give him time, he really wanted their silence while he focuses on what he says must be done first. The President did not appear before the protesters to listen; he was there to issue an order.

For someone who claims to be a leftist himself and for someone who never tires of reminding the Left of his ties with their comrades in his home region, it was hard to believe he now misjudges them badly. The Left has never made secret its opposition to martial law, the militarization of the countryside, environmental plunder, contractualization of labor, human rights violations and other social ills left unresolved by the Duterte administration. To ask them to be silent, even for just a period of time, is asking for them to be complicit. It is something no one could ever imagine they would, because they never had.

A visibly disappointed Duterte abruptly ended his speech and left the stage in a huff. But he must know, his appearance and speech has left the crowd even more disappointed. “Bakit pa siya pumunta?” was a question many asked as they ended the SONA protest made bizarre by a guest who invited himself. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

 

Bayan releases 20-point wish list for Duterte’s 2nd SONA

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) announced its list of 20 “urgent people’s demands” it urges President Rodrigo Duterte’s to address on his second State of the Nation Address on July 24.

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said their list aims to push the year-old Duterte government to “address the worsening crisis confronting the nation and the Filipino people,” including unfulfilled promises on land reform, national industrialization, peace talks, independent foreign policy, expanded social services, respect for human rights and measures against corruption. Read more

Activists to Duterte: Is this the change you promised?

Marking Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s first year in office, people’s organizations from the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) evaluated his performance using emoticons in a rally in Manila last June 30.

While acknowledging that the Duterte government delivered on some of his promises, the activists said the president promised so much more but has yet to deliver.

They added that whatever achievements the administration may have delivered, these are rendered inconsequential when compared to the killings of thousands under Duterte’s so-called war on illegal drugs.

They expressed opposition to martial law in Mindanao and demanded its lifting.

(International League of Peoples’ Struggle – Philippines video / Music by Danny Fabella of Musikang Bayan / Featured photo by Mark Kevin Reginio)

Read more

AFP blocks humanitarian aid to Marawi evacuees

A humanitarian mission with 400 relief packs for evacuees was denied entry to Marawi City today by the military, its leaders announced.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan spokesperson and former Bayan Muna representative Teddy Casiño said an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) checkpoint at the entrance to the city proper stopped the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission at around 8:45 today.

“We were told to turn back because the relief goods were supposedly not needed by the evacuees anymore,” Casiño said.

The mission, principally organized by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Northern Mindanao Region, was scheduled to distribute more relief packs to civilian evacuees and meet with local government officials to know what other forms of assistance was needed in the war-torn city, he said.

Gabriela Women’s Party representative Arlene Brosas was among the mission participants.

Casiño said prior permission had been secured from Marawi local government officials and the military ground command through a Captain Clint Antipala of the Philippine Army.

He explained Marawi officials assured them beforehand relief packs are needed in the evacuation sites in the city.

“Local government officials later told us that under martial law, it was the military that had the final say on such matters,” Casiño said.

“Essentially, the military prevented humanitarian aid from reaching the displaced families in Marawi City.  This is unacceptable,” Casiño said.

He added that they are still seeking an explanation on the AFP’s decision. # (Raymund B. Villanueva/Photos courtesy of the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission)

 

Relief packs of food and medicine ordered to turn back by the military at the entrance to Marawi City.