5% kick­back in MRT-3 ‘con­firmed in email’

The Philippine Star - - OPINION - By JARIUS BONDOC

The five-per­cent kick­back in the P3.7bil­lion pur­chase of com­muter trains in 2013 is con­firmed. The Filipino reps of the Chi­nese sup­plier talked about it by text and email. That is the ba­sis of MRT3 ex-gen­eral man­ager Al Vi­tang­col in charg­ing trans­port of­fi­cials last week with graft.

Ac­cused be­fore the Om­buds­man are for­mer sec­re­tary Joseph Abaya, un­der­sec­re­taries Jose Per­petuo Lotilla, Rene Lim­caoco, Ju­lian­ito Bu­cayan Jr., and Cather­ine Jen­nifer Gon­za­les, and present MRT-3 gen­eral man­ager Ro­man Bue­nafe.

Vi­tang­col charged them last Thurs­day, June 29, their last full day in of­fice in the Aquino ad­min. In so do­ing, he en­sured the Om­buds­man’s ju­ris­dic­tion over them as pub­lic of­fi­cers. Lotilla had re­signed be­fore the May 2016 elec­tion to run for a con­gres­sional seat, but lost. Bue­nafe is one of thou­sands of holdovers whom Pres­i­dent Rody Duterte ex­tended till end-July.

Also named in the com­plaint are An­to­nio de Mesa, Philip­pine agent of Dalian Lo­co­mo­tive and Rolling Stock Corp., and bro­ker Eu­gene Ra­panut, a long-time sup­plier at the trans­porta­tion de­part­ment.

On May 17, 2013, de Mesa texted Ra­panut that three per­cent will be given to the lat­ter’s in­side con­tacts, Vi­tang­col al­leges. One per­cent was to go to the Bids and Awards Com­mit­tee (BAC), chaired by Lotilla, with Lim­caoco and Bu­cayan as mem­bers and Gon­za­les as sec­re­tariat head. De Mesa told Ra­panut to “take care of the oth­ers who help, along with some of­fi­cials in the DOTC’s cir­cle.”

The next day Ra­panut con­firmed to de Mesa by email: “In the event of a suc­cess­ful bid, Dalian has com­mit­ted to give 5%.” Two per­cent of that was to go to higher “DOTC of­fi­cials,” mean­ing Abaya, Vi­tang­col swears. ( Vi­tang­col ex­pounded on his com­plaint in an in­ter­view last Satur­day in my weekly ra­dio show “Sapol”.)

The orig­i­nat­ing email ad­dress was ugen­[email protected]­hoo.com, sent to tony­[email protected] ya­hoo.com. Vi­tang­col got copies of the text and email from DOTC in­sid­ers. A com­puter foren­sics ex­pert and lawyer, he says the Om­buds­man must val­i­date the email with Ya­hoo, which keeps records up to five years.

The de Mesa-Ra­panut ex­change came in the midst of prepa­ra­tions for the DOTC bid­ding for 48 ad­di­tional MRT3 coaches. On Feb. 22, 2013, Gon­za­les had pub­lished the In­vi­ta­tion to Bid for the sup­ply.

Bid­ding was held on June 11, 2013. Dalian’s only ri­val was an­other Chi­nese state firm, which the BAC dis­qual­i­fied on a mi­nor tech­ni­cal­ity. Dalian’s price of­fer won: P3,759,382,400.

The two per­cent to “DOTC of­fi­cials” was P75,187,648. The one per­cent to the BAC was P37,593,824. Vi­tang­col as­sumes that de Mesa and Ra­panut re­served the last two per­cent for yet oth­ers in­volved.

On Jan. 9, 2014, de Mesa re­ceived a No­tice of Award from Lotilla, ap­proved by Abaya. On Jan. 24. 2014, Lotilla signed the con­tract for the DOTC, with Min Xing, Li Depu, and de Mesa for Dalian. Abaya is­sued a No­tice to Pro­ceed on Feb. 21, 2014.

The Terms of Ref­er­ence (TOR) called for 48 new light rail ve­hi­cles (LRVs) with On-Board Com­mu­ni­ca­tions (ra­dio, pub­lic ad­dress, in­ter­com); On- Board ATP (Au­to­matic Train Pro­tec­tor); and one unit Train Sim­u­la­tor. De­liv­ery of the pro­to­type shall be 18 months from is­suance of the No­tice to Pro­ceed, or Aug. 25, 2015. Then, the 48 coaches shall be de­liv­ered within 17 months from ac­cep­tance of the pro­to­type, at three units per month.

Bue­nafe was im­pleaded for ig­nor­ing the TOR as ba­sis for con­tract ful­fill­ment. The pro­to­type, de­fined as a fully func­tional sam­ple or model, had no trac­tion mo­tors, as ex­posed in this col­umn in Sept. 2015. Abaya pub­licly ac­knowl­edged the ma­jor de­fect of the pro­to­type, Bue­nafe none­the­less ac­cepted it.

There­after only six coaches have been de­liv­ered as of June 2016. None had the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and ATP that should be con­nected to the main sig­nal­ing. All were untested for 5,000 km at var­i­ous speeds, curves, and slopes at the Dalian fac­tory. No Sim­u­la­tor has been de­liv­ered to train MRT-3 en­gi­neers to op­er­ate the coaches. Bue­nafe has an­nounced the field­ing of three of the coaches.

The Anti-Graft and Cor­rupt Prac­tices Act (R.A. 3019) was vi­o­lated. The law for­bids of­fi­cials “to re­quest or re­ceive any gift, present, share, per­cent­age, or ben­e­fit for him­self or oth­ers in con­nec­tion with a govern­ment con­tract or trans­ac­tion.” It also pe­nal­izes the “cause of any un­due in­jury to the govern­ment, or giv­ing any party any un­war­ranted ben­e­fits, ad­van­tage or pref­er­ence ... through man­i­fest par­tial­ity, ev­i­dent bad faith, or gross in­ex­cus­able neg­li­gence.”

The Code of Con­duct for Pub­lic Of­fi­cials (R.A. 6713) also was bro­ken. It for­bids “so­lic­i­ta­tion or ac­cep­tance ...

Vi­tang­col has a copy of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the Filipino reps of the Chi­nese train sup­plier.

di­rectly or in­di­rectly, (of) any gift, gra­tu­ity, fa­vor, en­ter­tain­ment, loan, or any­thing of mon­e­tary value ... in the course of their of­fi­cial du­ties or in con­nec­tion with any op­er­a­tion be­ing reg­u­lated ... or any trans­ac­tion which may be af­fected by the func­tions of their of­fice.”

Vi­tang­col cites two of­fi­cial doc­u­ments as fur­ther proof of the anom­aly. One is a sworn af­fi­davit of then-Czech am­bas­sador Josef Ry­chtar filed with the Om­buds­man as far back as 2013. In it the en­voy re­vealed how the train pro­cure­ment was ma­nip­u­lated for a fa­vored bid­der af­ter Inekon Corp., the Czech maker of MRT-3’s orig­i­nal 73 coaches, was edged out of con­tention in 2013.

The other was the 45-page re­port of Sen. Grace Poe’s five hear­ings on the scam in 2014. She rec­om­mended in­dict­ment of DOTC of­fi­cials, de­scrib­ing the award to Dalian as “very sus­pi­cious.” The of­fi­cials were wait­ing for a “friendly party” to come along, she con­cluded.

Vi­tang­col’s co-com­plainant is Leon E. Per­alta, founder of the Liga ng Ek­splosi­bong Pag­babago, “a Duterte-in­spired NGO.”

* * * 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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