Gov’t ‘rewards’ PH Trams owner

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Murmurs louden at the government’s Philippine Export-Import Credit Agency about the fantastic fortune of EVP Federico F. Remo. His exposure as an owner-director of PH Trams, the sleazy maintenance contractor of MRT-3, did him well (Gotcha, 25 Apr. 2014). To get him out of the line of fire, bosses hastily handed him a golden parachute: a fat early-retirement lump sum. This, although he was ineligible for it, lacking tenure. He now also receives monthly pension from the GSIS.

Right after “retirement” Remo holidayed for two months in the US and Canada, courtesy of another PH-Trams incorporator-director, US immigrant Wilson de Vera. All the while he was receiving salary from PhilExim by using up his vacation and sick leaves.

In 2012 PH Trams was awarded a contract to service the MRT-3 trains and tracks. The company was then barely two months old, with meager P625,000-capital, to bag the deal 828 times bigger, totaling P517.5 million. It turned out that PH Trams chairman Marlo dela Cruz is the compadre of contract awarder Transport Sec. Joseph Emilio Abaya.

Another incorporator-director is Pangasinan provincial accountant Arturo Soriano, uncle-in-law of then-MRT-3 GM Al S. Vitangcol, also a contract signatory. When this kinship was exposed (Gotcha, 26 May 2014) Vitangcol was suspended, then resigned. He blathered that Uncle Art had divested from PH Trams right before it got the P517.5 million.

Two more PH Trams owner-directors, de Vera and Manolo Maralit, were implicated with Vitangcol and dela Cruz in the reported $30-million extortion attempt on Czech train maker Inekon (Gotcha, 21 Apr. 2014).

And there’s Remo who, insiders suspect, could have used PhilExim funds to travel around, sourcing business for PH Trams. His travel records are being retrieved.

All hail from Pangasinan province. Transport department officials coined the moniker “Pangasinan Mafia” for the influential dealmakers. When PH Trams’ maintenance contract expired in 2013, a firm called Global took over; in MRT-3 files, dela Cruz is its “authorized rep.” They deal not only at the MRT-3, but also LRT-1 and -2, and Philippine National Railways, all under the DOTC.

MRT-3 records show that no real maintenance is being done — the reason for frequent train breakdowns and track accidents. Malfunctions are beyond repair of the crucial signal system that electronically connects trains to each other and the control center. Trains could collide, ignite, or derail and jump off the tracks anytime.

PH Trams’ owners are associated with the ruling Liberal Party, of which Abaya is acting president. Dela Cruz and family had campaigned for the LP in the 2010 presidential and 2013 mid-term elections. He habitually namedrops Abaya’s predecessor as transport and LP head, Mar Roxas, who admits knowing but not seeing him for the past year or two. De Vera futilely ran for LP town mayor in Pangasinan in 2013; Soriano reportedly allied him with the reelection-seeking governor, of the opposition party. Remo purportedly was a campaign fundraiser.

Insiders aver that Remo travelled using PhilExim credentials on pretext of missions for MRT-3. The Ombudsman once had suspended him while under investigation for graft. During those six months, he wormed his way into the MRT-3 as consultant. The EximBank is under the finance department; Finance Sec. Cesar Purisima purportedly reappointed Remo there.

The Ombudsman and NBI announced last June to probe Vitangcol for graft in giving a contract to a kin within the third degree. PhilExim and DOTC-MRT-3 insiders say the investigation should include Remo. Timely too, they add, are a lifestyle check and verification of his annual Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

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 Many readers reacted to my piece Wednesday about Transport Sec. Joseph Emilio Abaya rejecting the erection of a new Manila International Airport on a nearby reclamation. San Miguel Corp. is offering to build it for $10 billion, at no cost to government. Two e-mails stand out:

Cherrie Lacson, Tagaytay City: “His insistence on Sangley Base as airport site, in his very congressional district, is no coincidence. As you said, while also costing $10 billion, it will necessitate billions more to construct a rapid transport system. Remember that politicos take 20-percent ‘tong-pats’ from infrastructure works.”

Rey P., Tarlac: “You missed the point of Abaya’s choosing Sangley. The site would need massive reclamation. Guess who heads the Philippine Reclamation Authority that will pick the lucky constructor. His brother, Peter Anthony Abaya. Incidentally, LRT-1 and -2 boss Honorio Chaneco, aside from being Joseph Emilio’s ex-classmate, also used to be Peter Anthony’s subordinate at PRA. He now concurrently heads MRT-3, vice the sacked Vitangcol. So there.”

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The Ateneo Chamber Singers (ACS) was declared Champion of the 8th World Choir Games, Musica Sacra Category, in Latvia, this week. They earned another gold medal for the Mixed Chamber Choir Category.

The ACS’ Musica Sacra repertoire consisted of “Crucifixus” (Antonio Lotti), “Wenn Ein Starker Gewappneter” (Johannes Brahms), “Dulce Lumen” (Michael Waldenby), and “Nativitas” (John Pamintuan). They performed at Riga’s historic St. Peter’s Church.

From inception in 2002 the group has specialized in sacred choral music. Topping the Musica Sacra category bolsters its choice of genre.

During the ACS’ awarding at the Arena Riga the Philippine flag was raised and the “Pambansang Awit” played. At the subsequent Champions’ Concert at the Latvian University, the ACS reprised their performance of “Wenn Ein Starker Gewappneter” and “Dulce Lumen,” eliciting tears and standing ovations from the audience.

More than 27,000 musicians in 400-plus choirs, representing 73 countries, joined this year’s World Choir Games. Next one will be held in 2018 in Sochi, Russia.

The ACS Paghayo Competition Tour is supported by the Ateneo de Manila University, Jesuit Communications, San Miguel Corp., Pagcor, National Commission for Culture and the Arts, Dept. of Tourism, and Tourism Promotions Board.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

E-mail: [email protected]


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