Those accountable for MRT-3 mess will be held liable: Palace

MANILA — MalacaAang on Tuesday welcomed the filing of plunder complaints against former government officials before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged anomalous contract for the maintenance of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), stressing that those accountable will be held liable.

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, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said during a Palace briefing.

It is the height of injustice that Filipino taxpayers have to pay PHP54 million per month, on top of a PHP1.8-billion fixed fee for other services, to an unworthy contractor incapable of delivering the reliable system, he added.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) filed plunder raps against nine cabinet members of former president Benigno S. Aquino III, which included former Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and former Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Manuel Roxas II.

Roxas served as DOTC secretary prior to his appointment as DILG secretary.

Also charged were former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) secretary Florencio Abad, former Department of Finance (DOF) secretary Cesar Purisima, former Department of Energy (DOE) secretary Jericho Petilla, former Department of Science and Technology (DOST) secretary Mario Montejo, former Department of National Defense (DND) secretary Voltaire Gazmin, former Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) secretary Rogelio Singson, and former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) secretary Arsenio Balisacan.

DOTr also named former DOTC undersecretaries Edwin Lopez, Rene Limcaoco and Catherine Gonzales as respondents.

\A certain Marlo dela Cruz, Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) members, and officials of the former MRT-3 maintenance contractor, the Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) were also included in the complaint.

In the 64-page complaint, Roxas and Abaya were accused of using the MRT-3 maintenance program as a cash cow.

(They) set into motion a grand scheme of turning the DOTC as a bottomless cash cow, entering into one anomalous procurement project after the other, in order to amass, accumulate and acquire ill-gotten wealth by taking advantage of their official position, authority and influence to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the Filipino people, the complaint read.

The complaint alleged that Roxas and other Liberal Party stalwarts eased out Sumitomo Corp., which has been maintaining the MRT since the 1980s, and replaced it with their own dummy corporations.

The complaint noted that a day after Abaya replaced Roxas as DOTC chief, he awarded the PHP517.5-million MRT maintenance contract to PH Trams-CB&T.

According to the complaint, this was the start of the rapid deterioration of MRT’s trains, tracks, signaling, power supply and stations.

The complaint also alleged that the respondents later rigged the entire bidding process to ensure that BURI was able to secure the project despite the fact that its submissions for the eligibility and technical components of the project were severely lacking and that it is not a technically, legally and financially capable contractor that may manage and operate the project.

The BURI contract covers the general overhaul of 43 Light Rail Vehicles (LRV), the total replacement of the signaling system, and other additional maintenance works.

The government terminated BURI’s contract last Nov. 6, citing poor performance and failure to comply with the contractual requirements of a complete and up to date Computerized Maintenance Management System, among other reasons.

In the meantime, Roque said he is hoping that the Ombudsman would prioritize the investigation of the MRT-3 mess for the sake of the riding public.

Well, inaasahan ko naman na dahil meron nang pormal na reklamo ay mapapabilis na ‘yung proseso. Naintindihan ko siguro na ang Ombudsman has the duty to investigate, even on its own and even on the basis of anonymous complaints, kaya napakadami niyang iniimbestigahan (I am hoping that with the formal complaint, the process would be expedited. I understand that the Ombudsman has the duty to investigate, even on its own and even on the basis of anonymous complaints, that is why they have a lot to investigate), he said.

Pero ngayon naman po siguro, dahil nakikita na ng Ombudsman ‘yung aberya na nangyayari sa ating taong-bayan dahil dito sa palpak na MRT natin, baka naman mabigyan na ng kaukulang prayoridad ang imbestigasyon ng bagay na ito (But now that the Ombudsman sees how the people are troubled by the frequent MRT breakdowns, perhaps they would finally give priority to the investigation), Roque said.

Source: Philippine News Agency

Sereno to judges: Stay apolitical, faithful to rule of law

MANILA — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno asked judges to remain faithful to their sworn duty to defend the Constitution, the rule of law and judicial independence, and resist political pressures amid trying times.

These are challenging times and it is difficult to keep on saying no to the powers that be, but this is part of the sacred trust for which we have made our vows, Sereno said in a speech during the unveiling of the new three-storey Regional Trial Courts Building in Valenzuela City on Monday.

Sereno reminded her fellow magistrates of the difficult vows they made when they took their oath of office, including their duty to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law dictated never by political winds, but by our conscience and the power of our convictions.

Apart from being incorruptible and committed to the protection of the weak and their rights and the dignity of every citizen, Sereno said that judges must zealously guard our independence as jurists notwithstanding the political consequences.

Sereno urged not only the judges and court personnel but also prosecutors, public defenders and private lawyers to strive harder to comply with the Speedy Trial Act and implement the continuous trial rules, which seek to dispose of all criminal cases in as early as six months.

The Chief Justice said it is not right for litigants, particularly detention prisoners, to suffer from a slow judicial system.

It is the duty of government to make the system work, not that of the detained accused. The detained accused has nothing to do with the process, she pointed out.

We must work together to make sure that we have a speedy trial, where the rights of the accused are observed, and the witnesses, the victims and the victims’ families are able to present their cases with enough evidence whether we reach a conviction or acquittal, she added.

The inauguration of the PHP81-million building, which houses nine courts, coincides with the 394th Foundation Day Anniversary of Valenzuela City. The city was named after Dr. Pio Valenzuela, who was part of the Katipunan triumvirate, along with Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo.

Sereno expressed hope that the new hall of justice � where the city government and the Supreme Court invested PHP64 million and PHP17 million, respectively � would ensure that the people who we serve will have their rights vindicated, their life, liberty and prosperity secured, and have the dignity that every citizen should expect under the rule of law.

According to her, the city government’s support to put up the building is a testament to its leaders and people’s commitment to justice, rule of law and love of country.

The country’s top magistrate thanked and lauded the people of Valenzuela City and their leaders headed by Mayor Rex Gatchalian, judges and court personnel, and Supreme Court officials for working together to establish the high-tech building that has a local area network, internet and wi-fi facilities, which are building blocks of the judiciary’s court automation program.

Our aim is to make all courts electronic courts or eCourts, which means that like in advanced countries, we can process our cases through apps, Sereno said.

Under the eCourt system, Sereno envisioned a future where lawyers could file pleadings by uploading them online in the comfort of their offices, and check the status of their cases and view their online case records through their computers or smart phones. Imagine a future where all notices to parties are automatically sent via email or SMS, she said.

Imagine judges issuing almost all court orders immediately after cases are heard. Imagine a future where judges managing their court dockets and accessing all their records in the comfort of their homes, Sereno added.

She said the judiciary did not only invest in facilities, but also in people responsible for dispensing justice and in restoring people’s confidence in the criminal justice system.

Starting next year, Sereno said that after the pilot implementation in some courts, the budget for the maintenance and other operating expenses would be released directly to trial courts.

Sereno also cited the efforts to increase the number of decongestion officers to help declog court dockets, as well as the hiring of contractual stenographers to augment the existing judicial workforce.

Source: Philippine News Agency

ICT group welcomes possible entry of 3rd telco player in PH

MANILA — An information and communications technology (ICT) organization welcomed the proposed entry of a third major player in the telecommunications industry, saying this would help improve internet access in the country.

The entry of new players in the market would benefit consumers in expanding their access to affordable internet services, according to Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP) president Rey Untal.

Healthy competition is welcome. This only means that there is more access to Internet and even Globe and PLDT can gain access and it’s not exclusive to anybody. Any step towards creating the environment that stimulates healthy competition, at the end of the day, will really benefit the consumers, Untal told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on the sidelines of the media launch of the 12th International ICT Awards held Tuesday at the Marriott Hotel in Pasay City.

President Rodrigo Duterte has offered China the privilege to enter the local telco industry to end the existing duopoly in the country during his recent bilateral meeting with Premier Li Keqiang, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.

This announcement came less than a week after the government teamed up with Facebook to put up an “ultra high-speed” broadband infrastructure that aims to provide internet capability equivalent to those being offered by the two major telco players.

On November 15, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), along with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and Facebook, signed a deal for the Strategic Engagement and Collaboration to Undertake a Reliable and Efficient Government Internet (SECURE GovNet) project.

The BCDA will be investing more than PHP 900 million to the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure, a bypass route for an international submarine cable network to be built and used by Facebook � allowing the government to tap, in exchange, a spectrum equivalent to two terabits per second (tbps).

The amount will be allocated for the construction of a bypass route and two cable landing stations in Poro Point, La Union and Baler, Aurora providing a secure and disturbance-free route for Facebook-operated submarine cables, which otherwise had to pass through the tumultuous Luzon Strait.

DICT will operate the bypass infrastructure, maintain the related facilities, and provide last-mile connectivity in the Philippines.

The Luzon Bypass Infrastructure will operate for 25 years from 2019 to 2044 and may be renewed 25 years thereafter.

Source: Philippine News Agency