Court OKs graft raps vs Vitangcol, 5 others
The Sandiganbayan has affirmed the indictment for graft of former Metro Rail Transit (MRT) general manager Al Vitangcol III for awarding a $1.5-million maintenance contract to a company whose incorporators included an uncle of his wife.
In a two-page resolution, the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division also ordered the arrest of four of Vitangcol’s coaccused—his uncle-in-law Arturo Soriano, Marlo de la Cruz, Manolo Maralit and Federico Remo.
The court did not issue arrest warrants for Vitangcol and Wilson de Vera since they had already posted P90,000 bail each for the three counts of graft filed against them by the Office of the Ombudsman.
“After a careful review of the records of these cases, the court finds that probable cause exists against all the accused… in all the charges against them,” the court said in its Dec. 8 ruling.
The resolution was signed by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, chair of the Third Division, and Associate Justices Sarah Jane Fernandez and Maria Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta.
The court noted that the Ombudsman had found probable cause to indict Vitangcol and his coaccused in three separate cases of violation of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
It said the Ombudsman had also junked the motion for reconsideration filed by all the accused on Aug. 10.
The case against Vitangcol and the others stemmed from the awarding of the contract for the maintenance of MRT-3 to Philippine Trams Rail Management and Service Corp. (PH Trams), whose incorporators included Soriano, an uncle of his wife.
No competitive bidding
According to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, Vitangcol used his power and authority to forgo a competitive bidding for the project.
Morales said Vitangcol, as head of the negotiating team, chose who would be invited to the negotiations for the contract.
“In fact, as all the accused knew, accused Soriano, one of the PH Trams’ incorporators, is an uncle-in-law, a relative by affinity within the third civil degree of accused Vitangcol,” Morales said.
The Ombudsman also noted that Vitangcol signed the agreement between the MRT and PH Trams and its venture partner, Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corp., despite their failure to comply with RA No. 9184, or the Government Procurement Act.
In its complaint, the Ombudsman said Vitangcol “intentionally hid” his relation to Soriano, which would have prompted the MRT bids and awards committee to automatically disqualify PH Trams from the project.
The incorporators of PH Trams broke the law when they claimed that none of them was related by affinity with the MRT procurement officials in the affidavit of disclosure, the Ombudsman said.
The Ombudsman also questioned why Vitangcol approved the negotiated contract for the maintenance service when there was no emergency situation at the time to necessitate such an agreement.
Before his resignation in May 2014, Vitangcol was accused by Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar of demanding $30 million from Inekon Group in exchange for the awarding of a P3.7-billion supply contract for 48 coaches for the MRT.
Rychtar claimed the extortion attempt happened in July 2012 with De Vera acting as Vitangcol’s negotiator.
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