Graft complaints vs. ex-Transport chief Abaya, 16 others over MRT-3 maintenance deal junked

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The Office of the Ombudsman has junked the graft complaints filed against former Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya and 16 other ex-officials of the Transportation Department in connection with the ₱4.2 billion MRT-3 maintenance deal with South Korea's Busan Joint Venture in 2016. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 12) — The Office of the Ombudsman has junked the graft complaints filed against former Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya and 16 other ex-officials of the Transportation Department in connection with the ₱4.2 billion MRT-3 maintenance deal with South Korea's Busan Joint Venture in 2016.

The case was dismissed due to lack of evidence.

"The evidence on record shows that the element of manifest partiality, evident bad faith and/or gross inexcusable negligence, so as to amount to a violation of Section (e) of RA No. 3019 is wanting, thereby warranting the dismissal of the complaints," stated the order signed by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on Nov. 11, 2020, released recently. 

The government watchdog argued there was proof Abaya in particular had no participation in the procurement of the long-term deal, dismissing allegations he was one of the main plunderers who gave unwarranted benefits to Busan Universal Rail Inc. or BURI — which is part of Busan JV — despite the alleged absence of a joint venture agreement.

The Ombudsman added that the issues with the MRT-3 were encountered during the implementation of the contract, not in the bidding process.

"Based on the records, the Busan JV/BURI had already been penalized for the problems that cropped up in the implementation of the project through deductions in their payments under the contract and subsequently, pre-termination of the contract," the Ombudsman said.

The government terminated its contract with BURI in 2017 as the MRT-3 continued to malfunction. As many as 400 glitches were recorded in that year alone. 

The latest decision reversed the 2018 ruling of former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales which found probable cause to charge Abaya and his subordinates. However, Ombudsman Martires still upheld the dismissal of charges in 2018 against former Aquino Cabinet members Mar Roxas, Butch Abad, Cesar Purisima, Carlos Petilla, and ten others.

Senator Grace Poe, chairman of the Public Services Committee, said she was disheartened by the recent decision, adding that she still trusts the 2018 findings.

"We lauded such decision because it is consistent with the findings of the Senate Committee on Public Services that there are indeed 'badges of negligence and inactions of the DOTr officials led by Abaya indicating insensitivity, callous indifference and acts disadvantageous to the commuters, to the Filipino public and to the government with regard to the malfunction problem of the MRT'," she said in a statement.