Ombudsman’s dismissal of Abaya case hit by Poe

Published January 12, 2021, 7:38 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Grace Poe was disappointed over the Ombudsman’s decision to dismiss the graft charges filed against former transportation secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and other respondents for an allegedly anomalous MRT-3 maintenance contract.

Sen. Grace Poe

Poe, chairperson of the Senate public services committee handling transportation concerns, said the dismissal was “indeed a slap in the face” of commuters.

“Accountability must be in the center of our institutions. It is thus disheartening to hear the news that the Office of the Ombudsman has abandoned its earlier ruling and decided to let the chief architects of the highly anomalous MRT-3 maintenance contract get off scot-free,” the senator said in a statement following reports that Ombudsman Samuel Martires cleared Abaya and the others from the cases.

“This is indeed a slap in the face of the thousands of Filipino commuters who suffered for years due to the failure of public officials to dispense their duty. May nagpabaya kaya nagdusa ang sambayanan (Someone was negligent that’s why people were suffering),” she lamented.

Poe recalled that the Office of the Ombudsman, in 2018, had found probable cause to file graft charges against Abaya and 16 others in connection with the P4.2-billion contract awarded to Busan Joint Venture and Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI) for the maintenance of the MRT-3.

Its resolution said then that the officials gave “unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference” to Busan JV and BURI, noting that the company was not “technically, legally and financially capable” to take on the long-term maintenance deal.

“We lauded such decision because it is consistent with the findings of the Senate Committee on Public Services that there are indeed ‘badges of negligence and inactions of the [DOTC] officials led by Abaya indicating insensitivity, callous indifference and acts disadvantageous to the commuters, to the Filipino public and to the government with regard to the malfunction problem of the MRT,” Poe said.

She maintained that the awarding of the contract was “suspicious”.

Poe said that “by choosing not to hold these people accountable, we might be sending the wrong message here: That graft is not a serious criminal offense, that corruption is excusable, that the people’s call for accountability will ultimately fall on deaf ears.”

“We could only hope that this decision will not embolden crooks and hooligans to make a money-making venture out of the government. We should be purging them, not absolving them at the slightest opportunity,” she appealed.

“Hindi maaaring walang managot kapag may katiwaliang naganap (People should be held accountable for corrupt practices,” she pointed out.