Presidential bets gagged on graft case vs Vitangcol
THE SANDIGANBAYAN has barred the media from reporting on comments the presidential candidates may make on a graft case involving former Metro Rail Transit (MRT) general manager Al Vitangcol.
This after Vitangcol, who is on trial for graft over an allegedly anomalous maintenance contract for the train system, had asked the antigraft court to issue a gag order on the administration Liberal Party’s standard bearer Mar Roxas.
Vitangcol complained to the court that Roxas’ remarks uttered during the last presidential debate and which implicated him and a relative in the allegedly anomalous MRT contract were “prejudicial” and “caused irreparable damage” to his case.
In Tuesday’s hearing, Vitangcol called Roxas’ statements a “total lie.”
Sandiganbayan Third Division Associate Justice Samuel Martires, who presided over the hearing, granted Vitangcol’s request.
But he ruled that all the presidential candidates, not just Roxas, were “prohibited from publicly accusing Mr. Vitangcol of the criminal acts” alleged in the case “in order to protect (his) right and the integrity of this court.”
“The presidential candidates, however, may publicly discuss the maintenance contract provided such statements, speech or communications shall not be publicized either through print, broadcast or digital media,” Martires ordered.
The Ombudsman has charged Vitangcol and five others with graft over the award of the MRT Line 3 maintenance contract worth $1.5 million a month to an unqualified company in 2012.
Secretary Joseph Abaya, who took over the Department of Transportation and Communication from Mar Roxas, and other officials who oversaw the train operations were not charged.
The Ombudsman said Vitangcol conspired with and gave undue preference to Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. (PH Trams) to bag the maintenance contract, and that he intentionally concealed the fact that one of the firm’s directors was an uncle of his wife.
The others charged were PH Trams incorporators Wilson de Vera, Marlo de la Cruz, Manolo Maralit, Federico Remo and Arturo Soriano, Vitangcol’s wife’s uncle, who is currently the provincial accountant of Pangasinan.
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