POSTSCRIPT / February 22, 2015 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Mamasapano killer syndrome hits MRT

SLOW-MO: Has the Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) become another victim of the administration’s slow-mo reaction syndrome that had claimed the lives of 44 elite police commandos four weeks ago in Mamasapano in Maguindanao?

Why is President Noynoy Aquino taking his sweet time coming to the rescue of almost half-million riders crammed daily into the MRT trains from the demonstrated ineptitude of Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and his rail line managers?

Is the President waiting for a fully packed train to fall off the elevated tracks onto the EDSA traffic below before he sends Abaya & Co. scampering after a shot of white phosphorus?

Why not replace MRT managers who cannot do their jobs, before they take innocent lives with them?

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POOR MAINTENANCE: With the maintenance turned over to APT Global on a contract that must be renewed every year, many things started to go wrong with the 17-kilometer 16-year-old MRT.

The maintenance provider has not kept a reserve of spare parts, forced at times to cannibalize some of the coaches for parts. The number of coaches still running has dwindled.

The MRT – the busiest of the rapid transit lines in Metro Manila — has been aging with wear and tear. Trains suddenly stop between stations at times or the doors slide open when they should not. There was one case of a runaway train, resulting in injuries to passengers. Some rails have been disfigured.

The existence of unsafe sections in the tracks and the decrepit state of many of the coaches have resulted in the reduction of the trains’ running speed of 65 kph to 40, and 15 kph where the integrity of the rails is in doubt.

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HALF-ANSWER: Should management suspend operations while the entire system is overhauled?

A half-answer to that came the other day. The DoTC approved a proposal to partially shut down MRT from 9 p.m. Saturday — while repairs on the damaged rails are rushed – to 12 noon on Sunday.

That time was estimated to be enough for the replacement of 150 meters of rails. The hitch is that there are not enough welding kits.

Meanwhile, Robert John L. Sobrepeña, chairman of MRT Holdings II and of MRT Corp. when the MRT was built, said in a TV interview that the private sector is ready with a rehabilitation plan that will take only 18 months for a complete overhaul without disrupting operations and at no cost to government.

The proposal will return the concept of “single point of responsibility” of the maintenance provider. Under the previous maintenance provider, which was Sumitomo Corp., glitches were automatically the responsibility of the maintenance provider.

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NO PARTS: The proposal also seeks for the private sector to do rehabilitation.

The proposal includes the overhaul of 73 trains, upgrades to accommodate 48 new light rail vehicles, upgrade of the system to a four-car train configuration, and linking the MRT Phase 1 line to the LRT-1 North Extension Project.

Sobrepena traced the frequent breakdowns to the failure of the present maintenance provider to buy spare parts even if this is part of its contract.

While the MRT was built to last 30 years, the system cannot last without the periodic replacement of worn-out parts.

 * * *

OUST P-NOY?: It is true that we had a dialogue with former Tarlac Gov. Tingting Cojuangco in Clark Field last Friday — “we” being members of the Capampangan in Media Inc.

But while it was clear during the dialog that Tingting was not exactly a fan of his nephew-in-law President Aquino, I do not remember her saying that Vice President Jojo Binay was excited to embrace the transition council that some groups are suggesting should take over if the President resigns or is ousted.

Tingting and her husband former Tarlac Rep. Peping Cojuangco Jr. have said often enough that they want his nephew out of Malacanang.

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‘MY SONS’: Tingting, a full colonel in the reserved force, was actually more passionate talking about the gruesome fate that befell the PNP Special Action Force contingent massacred in Mamasapano last Jan. 25.

She has reason to be. The elite policemen who were mowed down in their prime were educated in the Philippine National Police Academy where she had served for many years.

She said: “I will forever give a purpose to the death of my sons of the Philippine National Police Academy and the Philippine National Training Institutes. I work for the truth to give them justice.

“We have to pray and discern what are the signs and the meaning of all this carnage. In the meantime I am a sad and angry fighter.”

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 NO TO BBL: Tingting segued to the related subject of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which has become collateral damage to the SAF debacle in the hands of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main beneficiary of the BBL.

She said: “Don’t rush the Bangsamoro law. Maybe there is another path to peace in Mindanao.

“Tell us the truth. Generals should never cover up for their Commander-in-Chief. The loyalty of uniformed personnel belongs to the people and the families of those killed.”

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FALLEN ALUMNI: Tingting, the longest serving president of the Philippine Public Safety College, rattled off the names of her fallen alumni.

Among those whose names we caught were members of SAF and the seaborne units of the PNP: PSI Max Jim Tria (Class 2009), PSI John Garry Erana (Class 09), PI Cyrus Anniban (Class 10), PSI Gednat Tabdi (Class 09), PI Rennie Tayrus (Class 11), PSI Ryan Pabalinas (Class 06), and PI Joey Gamutan.

She recalled: “Erana was my regimental commander or baron or First Captain of PNPA 09. He was going to marry Suzette, a lawyer from Basilan and Zamboanga City. Today in Baguio I will see PSI Gednat Tabdi’s parents in Benguet.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 22, 2015)

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