SANTOLAN, Pasig – The Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) on Tuesday, December 7, 2021, initiated the filing of corruption complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman against LRTA officials, engineers, and private contractors involved in the anomalous purchase of P170.3-million worth of equipment for the LRT-2 line.
Included in the complaints are Engr. Fernando Quiambao (former LRTA Head Executive Assistant and Project Implementation Officer), Antonio R. Laigo, Jr (LRT-2 Operations Department Manager and designated representative to the PS-DBM Bids and Awards Committee ), Engr. Julito Bernales (Manager, Project Management Office (PMO) for Rehabilitation Projects ), Engr. Rommel Correa (LRTA engineer), and Engr. Robert Ruiz (former LRTA employee) as well as the Kempal Construction and Supply Corp. and the Joint Venture of Ma-an Construction, Inc., and IFE Elevators, Inc.
“The filing of cases is in support of the anti-corruption efforts of the Duterte Administration and DOTr Secretary Art Tugade’s call to provide comfort and to protect the interest of the riding public,” said LRTA Officer-In-Charge (OIC) Paul Chua.
Chua, the LRTA Deputy Administrator for Operations and Engineering, was designated by the LRTA Board of Directors as OIC following the recent death of Administrator General Reynaldo I. Berroya.
On December 4, 2019, Berroya formed a Fact-Finding Committee to investigate the P138-million contract for the Supply, Delivery, Installation and Commissioning of Conveyance System awarded to Ma-an Construction, Inc. and IFE Elevators, Inc. JV; the P25.8-million contract for the Supply and Delivery of Rolling Stock Diagnostic Tools and Equipment awarded to Kempal Supply and Construction Corporation-Dafang JV; and the P6.5-million contract for the Supply and Delivery of Re-railing Equipment awarded to the Kempal Supply and Construction Corporation.
On the latter part of 2020, the Philippine Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) commenced its own investigation on the matter and subsequently issued a Subpoena Duces Tecum and a Subpoena Ad Testificandum to Chua, requiring him to testify and submit pertinent documents. Other LRTA and PS-DBM Officials were also summoned.
On June 15, 2021, the PACC submitted its Fact Finding Investigation Report to the Office of the Ombudsman on the three anomalous contracts and recommended the filing of appropriate criminal charges against the five LRTA and four PS-DBM officials, as well as the Kempal Construction and Supply Corp and the joint venture of Ma-an Construction, Inc., and IFE Elevators, Inc, for possible violations of R.A. 3019.
In July 2021, Berroya, received a Notice of Accusation from PACC to which he replied that he merely relied on the signature of Quiambao, as the Project Implementation Officer tasked to oversee and implement all rehabilitation projects and ensure their efficient and smooth implementation, and of Bernales, the PMO manager.
In the Affidavit of Complaint supporting the findings of the PACC, the LRTA included Laigo, the LRT-2 Operations Department Manager as one of the respondents for his failure to conscientiously exercise his role and responsibilities as designated representative of LRTA to the PS-DBM BAC.
Laigo, said the LRTA management, was duty bound to protect the interest of LRTA and should have made sure that the bidding documents conform to standards and the deliveries and testing parameters were compliant with the technical specifications required under the contract. “His failure to take action to safeguard the interest of the Authority which he represented, is gross neglect of duty, to say the least,” the LRTA management said.
Tugade orders review of other LRT-2 rehab projects, blacklisting of two LRT-2 contractors.
Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Art Tugade meanwhile ordered the review of all other LRT rehabilitation projects and continue with the filing of appropriate charges against corrupt officials and contractors. The Transport chief also directed the blacklisting of the joint venture (JV) of Ma-an Construction, Inc. and IFE Elevators, Inc. for the delivery of substandard escalators for the LRT-2 line and Kempal Construction ans Supply Corp. for the delivery of substandard equipment such as re-railing and diagnostic tools.
“This investigation has long been delayed. Initiate it now and let us make the culprits pay,” Secretary Tugade said.
The LRTA discovered that the 13 escalators installed at the line’s Recto Station were operating below the required carrying capacity during the renewal of its Certificate to Operate. The required capacity under the contract is 9,000 passengers per hour but the installed escalators can accommodate only 6,000 passengers per hour.
Likewise, out of the 13 escalators installed, only one remains operational with the rest having broken down even before the expiration of the warranty period.
“We cannot afford to see our passengers especially the senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWD) and pregnant women suffering because of the wrongdoing of the LRTA officials and contractor”, Chua said.
On the matter of the contract for re-railing equipment, a crate containing re-railing equipment was said to have a sticker printout identifying it as having been shipped by the Chinese firm CRRC Corp., as ordered by the winning bidder Kempal Construction and Supply Corp. However, it turned out that the crate contained equipment from Bemco, an Indian company.
“If only the involved officials have exercised timely due diligence, public funds should not have been spent needlessly,” Chua said.
The LRTA has not yet accepted the equipment which prevented payment to the supplier, Kempal-Dafang JV.