POSTSCRIPT / February 16, 2014 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Plan for just 1 ticket for MRT, LRT delayed

COMMON TICKET: The use of a common ticket for all MRT and LRT train lines in Metro Manila is a great idea, but its adoption is being delayed as contentious issues surface involving some bidders vying for the ticketing contract.

The Department of Transportation and Communication deferred last Monday announcing a winning bidder after questions were raised about the technical qualifications and the financial offers of some of the interested parties.

For one, the highest bid of P1.08 billion offered by AF Consortium was questioned after allegations were made that its members — Ayala Land and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. – were in conflict of interest.

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CONFLICTING INTERESTS: Bidding rules bar bidders with a 50-percent outstanding share vote in a firm involved in operating LRT, MRT or a transport service.

Ayala Land, owner of MRT Corp. that operates MRT, reportedly owns 19 percent of AF, while MPIC holds 48 percent. Together, they own 67 percent of the consortium, which runs against the 50-percent rule laid down by the bids and awards committee.

Some losing bidders and consumer groups have pointed out that the consortium members were in conflict of interests. The law prohibits just one company managing as both train operator and payment (ticketing) operator.

Also, MPIC is reportedly a party in an arbitration case against the government for failure to pay rental equity payments for MRT – thereby disqualifying it under the rules, according to AF rivals.

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STAGGERED PAYMENT: In its bid, the AF Consortium offered to pay the government P1.08 billion, besting by P127,000 the offer of another bidder, SM Investments Corp.

The higher bidder undertook to pay only P279 million upon award of the contract, and offering to pay the remaining P809 million in staggered amounts for 10 years. It added that it would start paying when the ridership volume fetches at least P750 million.

But the MRT, designed to handle a daily ridership of 330,000, has an actual ridership of only 1.2 million. When will ridership reach the range of 2.8 million to 4.2 million daily to be able to turn in a daily revenue of P750 million?

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SUBSIDIZED FARE: The government has been subsidizing rail fare as both the MRT and the LRT are operating at a loss. Financial records of 2012 show that the LRT had a deficit of P4.704 billion while MRT’s deficit was P7.25 billion.

The average cost per passenger for the LRT1&2 lines was P34.74. Some 59 percent of this, or P20.46, was shouldered by the government, and only P14.28 was actually paid by the commuter.

In the MRT on EDSA, the average cost per passenger was P53.96, with 77 percent or P41.46 subsidized, leaving P12.40 being paid by the passenger. There has been no rail fare increase since 2003.

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PREJUDGMENT: In the Senate, it was unfortunate that Sen. TG Guingona, chair of the Blue Ribbon committee, announced that pork barrel runner Ruby Tuason was the perfect witness who delivered a three-point clincher in the last hearing.

Sitting as some sort of presiding judge, the senator could have kept his views to himself instead of prematurely disclosing what amounted to a prejudgment.

Guingona’s exposing his bias dashed all hopes that his committee’s inquiry into the P10-billion pork barrel scam identified with businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles will not turn into another Yellow Ribbon inquisition.

As for Miriam Santiago, whether as an RTC judge or a senator, she should know better than to manipulate the witness with leading questions to say something in support of her preconceived notions.

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CORROBORATIVE?: Then who said triumphantly that Tuason corroborated the earlier testimony of witness BenHur Luy? How can her affidavit not be corroborative when its crucial details were just copied from Luy’s?

The blurry recollection of Tuason needs sharpening. It is obvious that she and Luy, with the aid of NBI scriptwriters, still have to compare notes to produce a supplemental affidavit to refine the first.

With her confessing having pocketed P40 million (five percent pork barrel commission pegged safely below the P50-million plunder threshold), no less than P800 million must have passed her hands. She did not say where the rest of the porky loot went.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has said that even before Tuason surfaced, the prosecution already had a good case against two senators being targeted. Will she still get Tuason as an additional state witness?

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OPTIMISM: In Mindanao, meanwhile, Malacañang continues to campaign for the ratification of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that will serve as the Constitution of the ministerial-type state being created for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Pressing a parallel campaign in the national capital, leaders of the Senate and the House are predicting the speedy approval of the Basic Law after its submission.

All that is pure optimism. They are talking of a document that none of them have seen. They have not seen it, because it is still being drafted by the MILF-dominated preparatory Transition Commission.

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SIGHT UNSEEN: When adequately motivated, many congressmen are likely to sign most documents shoved before them – reminiscent of their signing the Corona impeachment complaint in 2012 even without reading it.

We know that many had not read it, because they themselves said so. And even if they wanted to read it, they could not have done so, since at that time the documents were still being printed.

That is not strange behavior. In this country, affidavits are dime a dozen. Like the anachronistic cedula, sworn statements even of so-called state witnesses are sometimes of doubtful probative value.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 16, 2014)

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