The former secretary of Transportation and Communications was remiss in his job because he signed a multi-billion-peso contract for the Metro Rail Transit without going into the nitty-gritty of the agreement.
Joseph Emilio Abaya trusted that the previous officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications were doing their job well, and that “he did not know what he entered into,” said Senator Grace Poe, who chairs the Senate committee on public services.
During Monday’s committee hearing, Poe said Abaya’s blunder was that he allowed a reputable maintenance contractor to be replaced by an untested company that later on proved incompetent. Abaya failed to get into the details of the contract with that new company.
He was just new there. He did not know the company was only two months old and had a mere P625,000 capitalization. At the time of the bidding, he was busy familiarizing himself with the workings of the department.
He signed the contract on behalf of the government, anyway.
The hundreds of thousands who take—no, endure—the MRT every day, there being no other option, soon reaped the effects of that refusal to act. The rail system has deteriorated to a point where riding the train has become not just inconvenient but downright dangerous.
“Imagine if I came in as a doubting Thomas,” he said.
Under this nondoubter, his department also bought 48 light-rail vehicles from Dalian company in China that have proved useless because they are incompatible with the MRT 3’s existing signaling system. Abaya insisted that they were compatible—at least on paper.
Now train officials are dangling the vision of improved services beginning the end of the year. Director Deo Manalo says that things are bound to get better for MRT 3 passengers. Power upgrades will allow them to use more cars to supplement the 23 trains now serving 500,000 passengers a day.
By 2019, Manalo said, more efficient operations will allow them to serve 800,000 passengers.
Unfortunately, these scenarios do not mean anything to the worn-down commuting public. Many grandiose promises have been made—remember the time when former President Benigno Aquino III said he would get himself run over by a train, Abaya alongside him, if the LRT Line was not extended to Cavite by a certain deadline? That reckoning period soon lapsed—and both Aquino and Abaya said nothing more of the matter.
Just because we have gotten used to the sight of long lines in train stations, the experience of subhuman congestion in the trains and the strong likelihood of mishap does not mean these are things we should accept.
And now that we know exactly when, with whom, and how this all began—through the negligence of the former Transportation and Communication secretary—we should know better than buy his lame excuse. Good faith, in some instances, can be criminal.
So, yes, we look forward to better times. But this does not mean that those responsible for the current mess should not have to pay.