Mar Roxas: DOTr plunder case 'laughable,' 'pathetic'

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Story updated to include statement of Liberal Party President Kiko Pangilinan.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 22) — Former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas slammed Tuesday the Transportation Department's plunder complaint against him and other former President Noynoy Aquino's Cabinet officials over the allegedly anomalous Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 maintenance contract.

In a strongly worded statement, Roxas called the complaint against him "pathetic," and accused the government of filing a made-up case, as they had no accomplishments to show.

"In a word? Pathetic," Roxas said "Dahil walang mapakitang accomplishment sa mga ipinangako nila, nagimbento ng kasong walang laman, walang basehan sa katotohanan o sa batas para ipakitang may ginagawa sila."

[Translation: They couldn't show any accomplishments for all their promises, so they invented a case without substance, and factual or legal basis just so it looks like they're doing something.]

Prior to heading the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Roxas had first served as Chief of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), which was later split into the Department of Transportation and the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT) in 2016.

Roxas' comments came after the Transportation Department filed Tuesday at the Ombudsman office a plunder complaint against him and eight other former Cabinet officials over the P3.8-billion maintenance contract awarded to Busan Joint Venture in December 2015.

READ: Former Aquino Cabinet officials face plunder complaint over MRT-3 maintenance contract

According to the DOTr,  while the government had awarded the MRT maintenance contract to Busan Joint Venture in December 2015, it was an entirely different entity, Busan Universal Rail, Inc. (BURI) that was tasked to implement the maintenance contract.

Transport officials said there was a "grand conspiracy" among Busan Universal Rail, Inc BURI and former transport officials  to amass ill-gotten wealth.

Roxas, however, called the complaint "laughable on its face." He added, he would withhold further comment until he receives a copy.

"I was informed that I have been included in a case filed by the DOTr. According to media reports, I was included because of decisions made by the Government Procurement Policy (GPP) Board of which I was a member in my capacity as secretary," he said.

'Allies go scot-free'

Meanwhile, Roxas' partymate, Liberal Party President Kiko Pangilinan, said the filing of the plunder complaint "seems to be a cover-up."

"When the issue is shifted from the quiet, everyday suffering of commuters who only want to get to work or school or home, it is not simply disrespectful, it is deception," he said. "Is this negligence or incompetence?"

Pangilinan also said the move signifies how "critics are silenced, allies go scot-free."

He mentioned the cases of Supt. Marvin Marcos, Immigration Deputy Commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles and the ₱6.4-billion shabu smuggling case involving Customs officials.

Marcos was the former head of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Region 8 (CIDG-8), which conducted the November 2016 raid of the jail cell of former Albuera, Leyte Mayor Rolando Espinosa, who was one of the government officials linked by President Rodrigo Duterte to the illegal drug trade.

Espinosa was killed in the raid, in what officials are calling a "cover-up."

Read: Senators claim coverup by Justice Department on killing of alleged drug lord-mayor

Although Marcos was suspended for his involvement in the raid, he was reinstated in July 2017 and now heads the CIDG Region 12, which has jurisdiction over South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, and General Santos City.

Read: Police officer charged in Espinosa slay now heads CIDG-12

However, Marcos and 18 other police officers still face homicide charges.

Meanwhile, Argosino and Robles face plunder charges for allegedly receiving P50 million from Chinese businessman Jack Lam for the release of over 1,300 illegal Chinese workers who were arrested from Lam's casino in Clark, Pampanga in November 2016.

Read: Former Immigration officials ordered charged over P50-M extortion mess

Finally, the shabu smuggling issue came about after 604 kilos of shabu entered the country in May 2017, supposedly facilitated by corrupt Customs officials and fixers.

Read: Drugs and 'tara': What we know about Customs mess

The Justice Department is investigating the complaints filed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in September 2017 against former Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon and 11 other Customs officials for allegedly conspiring to import illegal drugs and for protecting drug traffickers.

Read: DOJ to begin probe on PDEA drug raps vs. Customs officials

Panglinan said despite all these issues, he trusts that the Ombudsman "will be fair and render impartial justice."

"We are confident that the former secretaries accused of wrongdoing will be able to defend and exonerate themselves," he said.

CNN Philippines Digital Producer VJ Bacungan contributed to this story.