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‘Tugade still enjoys Duterte’s trust’

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade merely inherited the MRT problems from the previous administration. Senate PRIB/Albert Calvelo, File

MANILA, Philippines — Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade still enjoys the trust and confidence of President Duterte, Malacañang said yesterday, as Tugade faces resignation calls over the continuing glitches at the Metro Rail Transit-3 (MRT-3).

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Tugade merely inherited the MRT problems from the previous administration.

“We are monitoring and observing the actions of Secretary Tugade. I think it’s not yet time to remove Secretary Tugade. He enjoys the full trust and confidence of the President,” Roque said in a press briefing.

“The President has said he will back up Secretary Tugade in whatever he may need to effect immediate reform of the MRT,” he added.

Some lawmakers have demanded the resignation of Tugade because of recent MRT-3 glitches, the latest of which was the detaching of a coach from a train in Makati City last week.

Tugade yesterday said not all problems could be resolved by resignation.

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“Only the President can ask me to resign. Not all problems can be addressed by resignation… I serve at the pleasure of the President,” he added.

The President has apologized for the incident, which is now being investigated by transport officials.

Roque said the Duterte administration is not washing its hands of the MRT problem.

“We accept the challenge posed by the MRT, and the President himself has apologized for the breakdowns of the MRT. Nevertheless, we know that the problem started with the previous administration,” the presidential spokesman said.

“The President has been undertaking steps to ease the sufferings of commuters. He started by removing Busan (Universal Rail Inc.) as MRT contractor,” he added.

Roque said the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has also filed charges against former officials whom he said are to blame for the inconvenience being experienced by passengers.

“With the President assuming that he will be responsible for the MRT, let us give the President the opportunity to rectify the many problems that his administration inherited from the past dispensation,” he said.

“But we accept the challenge. We are moving forward and we promise better MRT to our riding public.

“We will show the same political will that the President has shown in his fight against illegal drugs, in his fight against corruption, in bringing this vital service of transportation to the people as well,” he added.

Last October, DOTr filed graft charges against former transportation secretary Joseph Abaya and 20 others over the allegedly anomalous P3.8-billion contract for the maintenance of MRT-3.

The complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman claimed that Abaya, 10 former transport officials and 10 incorporators of Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) violated Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

DOTr said the previous administration awarded the P3.8-billion MRT-3 maintenance deal to Busan Joint Venture in 2015. But the contract was allegedly implemented by BURI, an entirely different entity that was formed in 2016.

DOTr said BURI was not qualified to undertake the project because it did not have the required 15-year experience.

Abaya has expressed readiness to face the charges against him.

BURI has said that it should not be faulted for the MRT woes because its job is to fix problems as they happen. — with Evelyn Macairan

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