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Trojan horse?

AN umbrella network of road users has been allowed by the powerful Commission on Appointments to present its case against the confirmation of Secretary Arthur Tugade as head of the Department of Transportation.

Road Users Protection Advocates chairman Ray Junia said Tugade’s dismal performance, along with his questionable emergency powers package of P8-trillion projects that will no longer undergo public bidding, will only worsen the traffic situation while enriching DOTr officials who stand to benefit from negotiated contracts.

He likened the emergency powers package to the proverbial Trojan horse that will have adverse effects on commuters.

“RUPA wishes to express its gratitude to the Commission on Appointments, especially to Cebu Rep. Benhur Salimbangon for its assurance that it will be heard on its opposition to the confirmation of Sec. Tugade. RUPA is urging Congress and the CA to go beyond cursory look into the background of Sec. Tugade and his motives in hiring officials whose intentions are suspect, given their history in taking the side of service providers on big projects under the then Department of Transportation and Communications,” Junia said.

“Consumers have all the reasons to fear the emergency powers being sought. It is nothing but a grand scheme to commit more corruption,” he added.
    
Junia said RUPA will take the opportunity to prove its claim that Tugade is not only unfit for the job, but his confirmation will serve only the interest of oligarchs whom President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to fight.
    
He said the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila and in other urban areas has already reached the level of a “crime against the people.”
    
“The reports from the Senate on thoughts of Sen. Grace Poe whose committee is hearing the request for emergency powers to solve traffic crisis is deeply disturbing. The Senate is reported to be alarmed at the incompetence of the DOTr on its justification for the emergency powers,” Junia said.
    
Junia was referring to Poe’s statement that the DOTr proposal to address the worsening traffic congestion problem was “incoherent and grandiose” and that the projects proposed by Tugade and his team “are unlikely to be implemented due to lack of clear plans and funding.”
    
The RUPA official said stakeholders are also concerned over conflict of interest and loyalty issues raised by leaders of the House of Representatives against the incumbent DOTr officials.
   
“Congress leaders pointed out probable conflict of interest in the exercise of official functions of DOTr officials. Consumers have every reason to fear that the DOTr leadership will not be able to serve the interests of the people,” Junia said.
    
“RUPA as a consumers’ advocate group strongly suspects that the reason behind the emergency powers being sought is more on exempting the procurement from regular controls against corruption, such as regular bidding procedures. In all likelihood, the emergency powers will not actually solve the traffic problem but will be a license for officials of the DOTr to enrich themselves from big ticket contracts and grandiose projects,” Junia added.
    
In previous hearings at the House of Representatives, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Minority Leader Danilo Suarez noted Tugade and his men had conflicts of interest, having been in the transport sector before joining the government.
    
Tugade’ family is engaged in the transport and logistics business; Undersecretary for Railway Noel Kintanar was a former assistant vice president of Ayala Corp. which has acquired rail projects under the previous administration; Undersecretary for Air Operations Bobby Lim was a former country manager of the International Air Transport; while Undersecretary for Maritime Affairs Felipe Judan is in the shipping and logistics business.
    
Judan, who is undersecretary for maritime affairs of the Maritime Industry or Marina, worked in Southwest Maritime Group.
    
Junia earlier appealed to Duterte not to reappoint Tugade after the latter was bypassed by the Commission on Appointments.
    
He said the CA’s decision to bypass Tugade was already a “vote of no confidence” from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, especially in light of the flawed emergency powers package proposal that the DOTr is seeking.
    
In his previous letter to the CA, Junia recalled how Tugade boasted that he will solve the traffic crisis within 100 days after he assumes office. Tugade even dared President Duterte on national television to fire him if he could not deliver on his promise.
 
He also scored Tugade for coming out with “incredible and fantastic solutions that elicited laughter and sneer from the public and (transportation) experts” in a bid to wiggle out of his own 100-day ultimatum.