LRT-2 is profitable, so why bid out operations?

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - February 9, 2015 - 12:00am

READERS REACT: to the bottom line and timeline of the Mamasapano massacre (Gotcha, 6 Feb. 2015):

Napoleon P. Hubilla: “I suggest the PNP assign a senior officer to help those left behind by the ‘SAF 44’ in claiming benefits. That’s to prevent vultures from taking advantage of the grieving families. The liaison should handle the paperwork, as service to the fallen comrades.”

Jojo N.: General Santos City: “In this SAF ‘mis-encounter’ with the MILF-BIFF, the real culprit is the NPA. No, not the communist armed group but Napeñas-Purisima-Aquino.”

Atty. Hector Teodosio, Iloilo City: “With all the ongoing investigations, one question left unanswered is where and who issued the supposed arrest warrant for ‘terrorists Marwan and Usman. It should be validly from a Philippine, not US, court.”

Woodtigries, hotmail.com: “Two conclusions on why the SAF mission failed: One, faulty planning. Casualties are unavoidable; still the commander should have put the commandos’ safety first. Two, hidden agenda. Secrecy was needed, but not to the point of excluding the PNP acting chief, the Secretary of Interior, and the Armed Forces head. I doubt if they simply mistrusted the three to leak info.”

Roilo Golez, Parañaque: “I salute your info gathering. You recounted so well a battle that was doomed from the start.”

On Comelec vacancies, and retired chairman Sixto Brillantes signing a P300-million contract just to spite his critics (Gotcha, 4 Feb. 2015):

Nelson Celis, Philippine Computer Society: “Whoever has a line to the President, please beg him to pick the right replacements. If we get the same types, then not only more taxpayer money would be wasted, but control of election results by sinister groups also likely.”

Wilson Lee: “To stop Sixto’s arrogance of power, make an example of him – that he and future officials can’t get away with such acts. Let the Supreme Court invalidate the negotiated contract. Let his Smartmatic collaborators exact from him their pound of flesh.”

On the need for an impartial body to ferret honest answers about the Mamasapano massacre (Gotcha, 2 Feb. and 30 Jan., 2015):

Edgardo J. Tirona: “There will be more body counts, especially on government’s side, because outmaneuvered by Malaysia [that funds the Moro secession]. Why not just let Moros invade and administer Sabah, and leave predominantly Christian Mindanao in peace?

Caesario Fundales: “Why was not a full operation launched against the BIFF after it massacred our troops?”

Rebecca Bustamante: “Those who call the President stupid are stupider. The decisive implementer will outdo the decisive planner. Only recently the UN (Indian) commander at Golan Heights ordered the Filipino peacekeepers to surrender to the rebels. Defying him, they successfully fought their way out of encirclement. In Mamasapano the SAF field commanders are to blame because they mis-judged the situation, yet are now pointing fingers at others. Elsewhere many Marines have died without fanfare. I did not see a single Marine officer blaming the government for the fatalities. The bereaved families wept in silence in one corner of the mortuary. Marines are poorer than SAF commandos. When their operations succeeded, there was no pomp. Is there a difference between a SAF commando and a Marine? For that matter, is there a difference between a soldier’s death and that of a Moro fighter? I remember what my husband said: Part of my job is to die and serve; no one is to blame because I am a Marine.’”

*      *      *

A liar needs a good memory, goes a Latin adage. But that’s lost on officials of the Dept. of Transport and Communications.

Last Jan. 8 at the House of Reps, U-Sec Jose Lotilla made a big disclosure. DOTC commuter railways – LRT-1, LRT-2, and MRT-3 – are earning more than enough from ticket sales to cover operations and maintenance.

The admission was a blow to Lotilla’s boss Sec. Joseph Abaya. Only three days earlier Abaya had hiked train fares 50- to 90-percent on the pretext of soaring O&M costs. Rep. Neri Colmenares discovered that first discrepancy.

Abaya’s Pinocchio nose would elongate some more with this:

He is outsourcing the O&M of profitable LRT-2 to a private firm. His alibi: high budgetary subsidies due to low ridership. Supposedly it is better to pay a private contractor P1.15 billion for three years, than continue running LRT-2. That second incongruity is contained in the DOTC website and press releases.

Abaya is to grant the O&M deal despite three prickly issues:

One, the Light Rail Transit Authority, which autonomously should run LRT-2 (and -1), opposes the O&M privatization, precisely because it is profitable;

Two, LRTA would be forced to lay off present train drivers, ticket sellers, and dozens of other O&M personnel;

Three, the O&M job-out has a proviso for additional fare increases.

There’s a third oddity, this time pointed up by Sen. Grace Poe. Abaya had asked Congress, during last year’s hearings on the 2015 national budget, for more subsidies for the three railways. He already got billions of pesos under the 2014 budgets for O&M. In Nov 2014 Congress handed him a supplemental P977.6 million for LRT-1 and -2. The following month Congress approved the 2015 budget, with another P977.6 million for LRT-1 and -2.

After wangling these amounts, Abaya on Jan. 5 announced the doubling of train fares.

An irate Poe said on TV news: “He said nothing about fare increases during the budget hearings, only the needed O&M subsidy. Then, he suddenly raised the fares, also for O&M. He should have told us his plans from the start.”

Those aren’t the only blatant lies of Liberal Party acting president Abaya. When Gotcha exposed his grant of a P517.5-million MRT-3 maintenance deal to party mates, he claimed it was by “simplified bidding.” That term is a misnomer for direct negotiations with suppliers.

He then claimed it was an emergency purchase, since MRT-3’s maintenance servicer supposedly had resigned. In truth, it was he who contrived the crisis by suddenly rescinded that old 12-year contractor.

He claimed too that three firms submitted bids. In truth, he negotiated with only one, his LP party mates’ PH Trams. The previous maintainer was told to quote its old rate, which was higher than Abaya’s ceiling price, so was disqualified. One other invitee declined to make a bid because informed only three days ahead and not given the terms of reference.

In short, Abaya cooked the deal. It was as sneaky as his inserting five family members -– his father, mother, brother, and two cousins – in the ten-man official DOTC delegation that he led to Tokyo in 2013. When that shameful act was exposed, he claimed that his kin travelled on their own expense. That’s not what Philippine and Japanese records state.

Insiders say that every time Gotcha exposes shenanigans at DOTC, Abaya and cohorts call in the staff to explain the info leak. He makes no effort to conceal his distrust of them. George Barnard Shaw was right in saying: “The liar’s punishment is not that he is not believed, but that he cannot believe anyone else.”

*      *      *

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: jariusbondoc@gmail.com


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