2nd ‘brand-new’ MRT-3 coach lacks wheels

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - January 19, 2016 - 9:00am

This question should be asked in the bar exam: What’s the fastest way you can be disbarred? Answer: If your spouse sues you for infidelity. And what’s the second fastest way? Answer: If your subordinate sues you for sexual harassment.

Let’s pray that President Noynoy Aquino keeps those in mind in appointing a new justice of the Supreme Court. Too, that he does not cheapen the SC by placing a mere “protector” against the many serious charges sure to be filed against him upon term’s end.

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The way Transport Sec. Joseph Abaya talks, it’s as if train riders owe him. Supposedly due to his efforts, three new coaches would be added to the MRT-3 fleet by June. Waiting time for and crowdedness in trains would be reduced, he crowed Monday.

Phooey! Abaya says those things just to cover up the true nature of the coaches from unqualified Chinese state firm Dalian Corp.

The second prototype Dalian coach was brought out of the Manila port last weekend. Unlike the first one in Aug., this unit seemed to have a traction motor and air-conditioning.

But wait! There are supposed to be four pairs of bogey wheels. So what’s this that MRT-3 sources are saying – that the coach has only two pairs? There’s the front and there’s the rear pair of wheels, the sources count, but where are the two middle ones? Will somebody please pinch Joseph’s ear to make him explain.

Without those bogeys, it means this second coach, like the first, had not been test-run at the factory for 5,000 km. Its operability and safety have not been ascertained. The second, like the first coach, is called a prototype, by definition “a fully functional model or sample.” But lacking wheels, it cannot be functional at all. Abaya should not have accepted it to begin with, since it violates the specifications (for details of the violated contract sections, see Gotcha, 16 Sept. 2015, http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2015/09/16/1500256/5000-km-test-not-done-new-mrt-3-coaches).

Abaya suddenly had rushed the release of the second Dalian prototype last weekend. He apparently wanted to downplay the exposé in this space last Friday of a five-percent kickback in the P3.85-billion purchase of 48 coaches. That’s P192.5 million of the contract price plowed back into the pockets of DOTC racketeers.

For the past four weeks the DOTC was a-buzz that MRT-3 ex-general manager Al Vitangcol III had written Abaya about the kickback. (Meeting with this writer last week, he confirmed sending such letter to Abaya (see full text of letter in Gotcha, 15 Jan. 2016, http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2016/01/15/1542724/vitangcol-theres-5-kickback-mrt-3-chinese-coaches).

In the letter Vitangcol reminded Abaya that he already had told him about purchasing anomalies as far back as 2013. Apparently the transport chief had done nothing about it. Could Abaya’s continued acceptance of incomplete, non-functional coaches explain the five-percent sleaze that Vitangcol mentioned?

Vitangcol recounted in the letter telltale signs of graft. Even before the award to Dalian, two delegations of DOTC-MRT-3 officials already junketed to China, all expenses paid by the sales rep. During the purchasing process, Abaya placed the very junketeers in positions of influence to endorse and approve the Dalian products and services.

Exposed earlier was that the first of those prototypes arrived last Aug. engineless (see Gotcha, 11 Sept. 2015, http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2015/09/11/1498471/abaya-caught-3-rail-controversies). Abaya was forced to admit then that he separately was buying traction motors from Germany, a breach of contract.

If the first prototype was engineless and the second lacked wheels, one wonders what major defect the third prototype would have.

The three Dalian coaches that Abaya brags about equal one train. One train can only do so much to ease the riders’ misery that he himself caused.

From 2000-2012 there were 73 coaches making up 24 trains, with 21 running 65 kph during peak hours, while the rest underwent preventive maintenance. O&M was then handled by Metro Rail Transit Corp., the MRT-3’s private owner-builder, with Sumitomo Corp. of Japan.

Then Abaya came in Oct. 2012 and gave away the $1.15 million-a-month job to fundraisers of the Liberal Party, of which he is president. The LP-mates’ inept PH Trams and Global Epcom did no real upkeep from Oct. 2012 to July 2015. Skimping on crucial spare parts, they cannibalized half the fleet to keep the rest running. Today only 43 coaches are left to make up 14 trains. Only seven to ten can run at a time – at mere 10-35 kph – due to equally dilapidated tracks, signaling, and power supply.

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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

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