Amid the almost daily breakdowns, fewer running trains and poor and unsatisfactory service, Sen. Grace Poe demanded a rollback in the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) fare.
The senator issued the call as the already trouble-plagued train encountered another technical glitch on Friday, emitting smoke from the power supply regulator circuit board underneath a passenger seat between Kamuning-GMA and Cubao Aurora stations.
"Araw-araw na lang may nararanasan na pagtigil ng serbisyo ng train pero siyempre, nakakaalarma, pinapakinggan ko nga kayo kanina sabi niyo 'pag mayroong usok may apoy, di ba?" Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services, said in a recent radio interview.
She stressed it is high time for the public to demand a fare rollback, saying the promised improvements in the services are not being felt by the riders.
"Dapat magpetisyon tayo - sa dami ng aberya - na ibalik nila doon sa dati, kasi nga tataasan iyong pamasahe para raw ma-maintain nang tama, eh wala pa nga iyong serbisyong iyon," she said.
"Dumadami lalo (ang aberya). Baka naman konting konswelo, baka pwedeng may rollback ng konti sa lahat ng inconvenience. Dapat talaga may indignasyon na tayo dito dahil parang mali ang napupulot nating mensahe, parang nakakalusot iyong dapat talagang may responsibilidad," she added.
Poe noted that the queues of passengers have been longer the past few weeks due to the fewer running trains. From the ideal 19 to 23 trains, only six to seven run every day due to maintenance issues.
The government has taken over the train's maintenance and has announced that it has awarded contracts for the supply of spare parts needed, but many of those will arrive in the next few months.
The MRT3 has also been hounded by irregularities in the purchase of maintenance parts, which has been the subject of investigation of the public services committee.
Poe said the committee will hold another hearing soon with the Blue Ribbon panel to pursue the liability of former Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya. It was during Abaya's term when the maintenance contract was awarded to Busan Universal Rail Inc. (BURI). In November 2017, the government terminated the contract with BURI for its failure to comply with its obligations under the contract.
"Dapat talagang managot diyan si Secretary Abaya... at mga kaibigan nilang kasangkot lahat diyan. Siya talaga iyong pinagmulan ng tuloy-tuloy na problema diyan sa MRT3," she said.
"Ang ating mga pasahero makikita mo na napapababa kayo, naglalakad kayo dun sa gitna, sa may riles para makatawid. Tapos makikita mo na yung mga may kagagawan nito wala lang, pabiyahe-biyahe dahil sila ay retirado ngayon. Parang kapag ganun, sa tingin ko mas may pampalubag-loob na rin kung makita mong nasentensiyahan sila sa kanilang mga ginawa," she added.
In November last year, the DOTr filed plunder charges against former Transportation Secretaries Manuel "Mar" Roxas II and Abaya and other former officials of the agency over the award of the maintenance contract.
Poe recalled that it was during Abaya's last few months in office when the MRT fare increase was implemented despite vigorous protests.
A petition filed by a militant group is pending before the Supreme Court to scrap the fare increase and nullify the then Department of Transportation and Communications Order 2014-04.
The department order paved the way for the hike of the base fare from P10 to P11 for both the Metro Rail Transit and the Light Rail Transit with additional P1 for each kilometer beginning January 4, 2015.
As a result, the maximum fare on the train lines went up to between P28-P30, from the previous P15-P20.
Poe said that in the next committee hearing, she would ask the DOTr to give a timeline on the train repairs to alleviate the plight of the riders. She would also inquire about the alleged uncertified spare parts used by the former maintenance provider. The committee would also focus on the liability of the former Transportation officials.
"Hindi tayo makakarating sa ating paroroonan kung hindi rin tayo matututo sa ating mga pagkakamali, kaya iyong mga dating nakinabang at nagsamantala kailangan talagang ipatawag at kung gagawa kami ng committee report, if we have to implore the Ombudsman, pwede bang kasuhan ninyo na yan at ipakulong na ninyo kasi talagang grabe naman," she said.
"Parang obvious, araw-araw makikita mo na yung pila, hindi pa ba malinaw sa atin yan na may isang malaking kakulangan at kasalanan," the senator added.
Source: Senate of the Philippines