Ex-MRT chief blames media for legal woes
Former Metro Rail Transit (MRT) general manager Al Vitangcol III Thursday blamed the media for giving too much attention to the graft case he is facing over the allegedly irregular award of a $1.5-million maintenance contract to a company that is partly owned by an uncle of his wife.
Last month, the Sandiganbayan upheld the Office of the Ombudsman resolution which found probable cause to indict Vitangcol and five others for three separate cases of violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
“This is not a high-profile case. It is only the media that is making this a high-profile case,” Vitangcol told reporters following his arraignment at the antigraft court’s Third Division.
The former MRT official, who resigned from his post in May 2014 following allegations that he had demanded $30 million from a Czech company for the awarding of a P3.7-billion supply contract for 48 MRT coaches, tried to ask for a deferment of his arraignment, claiming he has yet to get the services of a lawyer.
Vitangcol said he was “baffled” by the media attention being given to his case.
“Who am I? I’m just an ordinary individual. So why is the media giving me this attention?” he said.
Vitangcol, a lawyer, told Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, who chairs the Third Division, that he had approached several law offices to handle his case, but none have agreed to defend him.
“I would like to ask for a deferment of my arraignment because I’m still in the process of engaging the services of a competent lawyer,” he said.
“I already went to several law offices. Unfortunately, they don’t want to accept this case because this is a high-profile case,” he said.
But Tang said the court has decided to proceed with the arraignment of Vitangcol and his coaccused.
Associate Justice Samuel Martires then directed the five private lawyers of Vitangcol’s co-respondents and government lawyer Manuel Patrick Lauron to act as temporary counsels for Vitangcol.
After division clerk of court Dennis Pulma read the three separate criminal information against him, Vitangcol replied: “I will not enter any plea because I have no counsel of my choice.”
Tang then ruled that a plea of “not guilty” be entered in the records.
Three of Vitangcol’s coaccused—Marlo de la Cruz, Manolo Maralit and Federico Remo—all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The court deferred the arraignment of Arturo Soriano, Vitangcol’s uncle-in-law, and Wilson de Vera to a later date while their separate appeals against the court’s denial of their motion for reinvestigation are being resolved.
The Ombudsman said Vitangcol and the others violated the antigraft law when they granted the contact for the maintenance of the MRT 3 to Philippine Trams Rail Management and Service Corp. (PH Trams), whose incorporators included Soriano.
Vitangcol “intentionally hid” his relationship to Soriano and approved the negotiated contract for the maintenance service when there was no emergency situation at the time to warrant such an agreement, it added.
Soriano, Remo, Maralit, De la Cruz and De Vera are all incorporators of PH Trams.
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