Ex-officials accused of corruption in Manila train contract

AP News
Posted: Nov 21, 2017 6:45 AM
Ex-officials accused of corruption in Manila train contract

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine government filed complaints Tuesday with an anti-graft office accusing many Cabinet officials in the previous administration of corruption in a maintenance contract for a Manila commuter train line hounded by near-daily breakdowns.

In addition to the frequent glitches, the Metro Rail Transit 3 Line has also suffered more serious accidents. A coach derailed last week while carrying passengers on metropolitan Manila's main avenue. No one was reported hurt, but more than 100 passengers had to be evacuated. In 2014, dozens of passengers were injured when a train overshot the tracks at a terminal station.

The maintenance contract with Busan Universal Rail Inc., a Philippine-Korean group, has been canceled.

In its plunder complaint with the Ombudsman's Office, the Department of Transportation named most Cabinet officials in the government of former President Benigno Aquino III, current President Rodrigo Duterte's predecessor and political adversary.

"We must stress that the great suffering of the riding public as a result of the failure to deliver on the responsibilities of public office, such as the case of the current state of the MRT-3 system, carries consequences and that those accountable will be held liable," Duterte spokesman Harry Roque said.

Roque said Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade pledged that the government will select a reliable maintenance contractor and refurbish the train system with new rails, train cars and signaling system.

A safety audit is being conducted to ensure its safety, he added.

Last week, Tugade rejected calls by critics to resign over the problems plaguing the train line and the heavy traffic that continues to choke Manila's streets more than a year after he was appointed.

The officials targeted in Tuesday's complaint include former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who lost to Duterte in the 2016 presidential race, former Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, former Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, former Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, former Budget Secretary Butch Abad, former Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, former Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, former Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla and former Science Secretary Mario Montejo.

Abaya said he was "confident that any inquiry will show that any and all projects and agreements entered into during not only my stint but during the Aquino administration were done with full, rigorous compliance with the law, with honesty, and in the public interest."