Vitangcol on MRT 3 mess: I’m sacrificial lamb but Abaya is just as liable
MANILA, Philippines — Barely a month after the Sandiganbayan indicted him for graft, former Metro Rail Transit (MRT)-3 chief Al Vitangcol III finally spoke his mind on Wednesday, wondering on the apparent swiftness and attention given to resolving the case filed against him, and hinting that Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya was just as liable.
Vitangcol alleged that “there is an unseen hand” working on his case, pointing out that several cases have been languishing at the Office of the Ombudsman and at the Sandiganbayan, yet his case has been expedited. He cited as an example the graft charge filed against former Government Service Insurance System president Winston Garcia over the anomalous multimillion e-Card project.
He said in a press forum in San Juan City that while his case has progressed, Garcia’s has been “sleeping.” He pointed out that this was despite their cases being brought to the Sandiganbayan almost at the same time.
In December, the anti-graft court indicted Vitangcol for graft for awarding a $1.5-million MRT-3 maintenance contract to Philippine Trams Rail Management and Service Corp. (PH Trams), which one of its incorporators was his wife’s uncle—Arturo Soriano. The Sandiganbayan Third Division also ordered the arrest of Vitangcol’s co-accused, namely, Soriano, Marlo de la Cruz, Manolo Maralit and Federico Romo.
Vitangcol and Wilson de Vera weren’t included in the arrest order since they’ve already posted a P90,000 bail each for the three counts of graft filed against them by the Ombudsman.
The former MRT chief said that he decided to finally speak up on the matter, feeling that “this isn’t right anymore.” He lamented that in the past he kept his peace because he was under the impression that he would be absolved of the case.
“I was confident because an emissary came to my lawyer who said that help’s just there if I needed it. That I don’t have to worry because this will eventually end,” he told reporters without divulging from whose camp the emissary came. “At the time, I didn’t comment because we knew that there was no basis [for the case].”
When asked if he had any idea why certain camps would push for his indictment, Vitangcol believed that he was some sort of a sacrificial lamb.
“They need to let the public see that someone is punished, someone is at fault; and it can’t be them so it must be someone else,” he said, without expounding.
He maintained that the negotiated contract the MRT-3 administration entered into with PH Trams was “aboveboard,” since it was “the best thing” they could do at a time when the previous maintenance contract was set to expire within two weeks.
While Vitangcol played it safe when asked if he believed Abaya should also be included in the charge, he hinted that his former boss was just as liable.
“I am not the final approving authority. Even if my signature is there, if the other signatories did not sign it, [the contract] will not be awarded. Plus, I wasn’t the one who awarded [the contract], it was the DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications),” he said. SFM
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