Aquino ordered MRT probe–De Lima

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MANILA, Philippines—On orders of President Aquino, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is probing allegations that Metro Rail Transit Line-3 (MRT-3) general manager Al Vitangcol III and some private individuals tried to extort $30 million from Czech train manufacturer Inekon Group last year in exchange for bagging the P3.77-billion contract to expand the capacity of the mass rail system on Edsa.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Monday that President Aquino directed the NBI to conduct an investigation two to three weeks ago, during the height of the controversy that at one point had implicated the President’s sister Maria Elena “Ballsy” Aquino-Cruz and her husband, Eldon Cruz.

Ballsy and her husband reportedly flew to Prague in 2011 for a social visit upon the invitation of Czech Ambassador Josef Rytchar and they met with Czech businessmen there.

It was Rytchar who made the extortion allegation, which was denied by Vitangcol.

De Lima said the NBI had “immediately started its discreet probe” upon getting its assignment from the President.

“As always, the thrust is to ascertain the facts and the truth and determine accountability, if warranted,” De Lima said in a text message to reporters.

Told that the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) was also conducting its own investigation, she said the parallel investigation being done by the NBI “will preclude perceptions of partiality, bias, whitewash and the like.”

The P3.77-billion contract, which was auctioned off on June 11, aims to add 48 train cars to MRT-3’s existing 73-car fleet to ease passenger congestion.

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