FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

This is the last day of a tired year.

President Benigno Aquino III will not throw himself before a speeding train today as he vowed three years ago in the event the LRT-1 extension to Bacoor is not done. Not a single post has been erected for that extension line, even as the private concessionaires collect all tolls for the existing route.

His spokesman says we should not take the President’s words too literally. He did not say what other things the President said we should not take literally.

Perhaps the promise to achieve rice self-sufficiency by 2013 was just poetic license. Perhaps the promise to end corruption in government was just metaphorical.

Surely, the promise to reduce poverty was merely a joke. The statistics indicate strongly that it was.

The vow to curb smuggling, made many times the past few years, must have been pure figure of speech. The statistics show smuggling has trebled, inflicting a cruel toll on our farmers and manufacturers.

The PPP program must have been just an exercise in onomatopoeia. Only a pathetic four-kilometer stretch has been completed thus far and the PPP Center threatens to saddle our future with a cluster of midnight deals in the twilight of this administration.

The first of many midnight deals has been cut the day we prepared for Christmas. It involves the award of a P3.8 billion contract for the “general maintenance” of the MRT-3 behind closed doors and without public bidding.

The negotiated contract was forged, away from public view, because we had an “emergency.” That is what the DOTC tells us.

It was awarded to a Korean company partnered with several Filipino firms: a general merchandise company, a plumbing company and another one engaged in the business of supplying agricultural inputs. That perfectly qualifies this consortium for the complex task of rehabilitating a vital commuter line made decrepit by Mar Roxas’ decision to terminate the contract with Sumitomo in 2012.

Before that disastrous decision, Metro Pacific offered to take over the line, raise over $600 million to rehabilitate it and spare the riding public all the trauma we have been experiencing the past few years.

Before that disastrous decision, the Czech firm Inekon (original suppliers of the trains that run on the MRT-3 line) offered to bring in 50 new trains and rehabilitate the old ones. Then the Czech ambassador complained of extortion. Then nothing happened to the offer.

Instead the new trains were ordered from Chinese firm Dalian. The trains have no motors and took forever to deliver. We do not know if they will function well under conditions of chronic overload.

The contract the DOTC signed, nearly surreptitiously, with that strange consortium will surely be the subject of legal challenge when the holiday air clears. One might imagine this brazen contract award will be the subject of a plunder charge against Jun Abaya. That guarantees the DOTC secretary will spend time behind bars – a prospect that pleases many.

The man who once boarded the trains with a man-slave holding up an umbrella for him, who once dismissed the traffic jams as “not fatal,” personifies the insensitivity of those who stumbled into positions of power because of some historical fluke. He personifies the dismissive attitude of our irresponsible elite. He will never cut a heroic figure from any angle.

The MRT-3, in its sorry state, is now the icon of this tired but still constantly bewildered administration.

That cannot be helped. It condenses everything that infuriates us about the gang that now rules us: the gross incompetence, the absence of sympathy for the ordinary commuters, the arrogance, the blissful ignorance and the greed lying underneath the hypocritical cloak of “Daang Matuwid.”

It is the heavy, leaden cross (or broken rail) hanging around the neck of Mar Roxas’ candidacy. He can never surf the political waves strapped to that sordid icon.

For months now, Aquino and his clone Roxas clumsily attempted to evade responsibility for the mess the MRT-3 has become. First they blamed the previous administration. Then they blamed the private owners of the facility who have long ago lost management control over the rail line to the DOTC.

For the past few years, the private owners have written the DOTC many letters offering solutions for the rapidly deteriorating rail line. They were not given the courtesy of a response to any of their proposals.

Over the same period, several private entities have offered to take over the facility and invest good money towards its rehabilitation. They were all ignored and a favored group of LP partisans were awarded contract after anomalous contract that merely hastened deterioration.

Now the contract Abaya entered into with the Busan consortium threatens to explode into a scandalous mess.

Scandals have a way of perfectly clarifying the essential features of regimes. Another outrageous scandal involving a dubious MRT-3 contract should perfectly clarify the dark legacy the Aquino II regime leaves behind. This has been the rule of the incompetent under the sway of the corrupt.

There is every reason to celebrate the shedding of this old and tired year. A year of calamity and ineptitude ends.

The bigger reason to celebrate is that the New Year brings us closer to the actual end of a callous and incompetent regime. In May, we will elect a new government, not just a new leader. In June, we will banish the scoundrels.

Tonight I will light a candle and raise a glass.

A Happy New Year to all!












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