Court turns down Vitangcol’s try to pin down Abaya in MRT graft case
The Sandiganbayan has denied the move of sacked Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) General Manager Al Vitangcol III to allow the production of material evidence that would help him pin down outgoing Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio “Jun” Abaya in the graft case over the MRT maintenance contract mess.
In a resolution, the anti-graft court Special Third Division said it denied the motion for lack of merit because Vitangcol failed to comply with the requirements for production of material evidence in the Rules of Court.
In a motion to allow production of material evidence and admissions by adverse party filed before the anti-graft court Third Division, Vitangcol asked the court to direct the Office of the Special Prosecutor to produce material evidence pertaining to officials the Ombudsman acquitted of the graft case.
Vitangcol through his counsels asked the Ombudsman prosecutors to provide authenticated copies of the counter-affidavits of those acquitted, claiming that the Ombudsman did not provide him copies during the preliminary investigation.
One of those Vitangcol wants to have a copy of is the counter-affidavit of Abaya, who was cleared by the Ombudsman in the graft indictment.
The court said what Vitangcol was requesting were the counter-affidavits of his respondents in the case, although the Rules of Court only allow production of material evidence pertaining to written statements by the complainant and other witnesses.
The court also said that Vitangcol’s plea to be given copies of these documents to show his innocence in the case and “negate the wrongful accusations of the Ombudsman” is not sufficient to be allowed his motion.
But the court nonetheless ordered the Ombudsman to provide Vitangcol with copies of the counter-affidavits as provided for by the Supreme Court that a petitioner may request for copies of the counter-affidavits of his co-accused.
The court also denied Vitangcol’s motion to require the prosecution to admit under oath that Abaya in his counter-affidavit said the MRT maintenance contract was above board and that the MRT-3 had to enter into a negotiated procurement.
Vitangcol had also wanted the prosecution to admit that Abaya in his affidavit said that he signed the notice of award to Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. (PH Trams), that the Bids and Awards Committee and the negotiating team followed the procedure and complied with the requirements and that the contract with PH Trams did not cause injury to government.
The court said Vitangcol’s purpose in his request for admission is not the proper subject for the request, as stated in the Rules of Court which said request for admission must only pertain to the genuineness of any material and relevant document.
The court also denied for being premature Vitangcol’s motion for subpoena to direct the MRT Corporation to produce the letters it received, saying that a subpoena may be requested by Vitangcol during trial.
In his motion for reconsideration on the Ombudsman’s graft indictment against him, Vitangcol asked the reason behind why Abaya, despite his signatures in the documents, was not indicted for the alleged graft-ridden maintenance contract with PH Trams.
“The award of the contract was the product of a collegial determination. However, it was subject to the approval of DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communication) (Undersecretary (Jose) Lotilla and Secretary Abaya… The contract would not have been awarded to PH Trams and CB&T JV had it not been for the subsequent approval of Lotilla and Abaya,” Vitangcol’s motion said.
Abaya is the acting president of the Liberal Party of President Benigno Aquino III.
Ombudsman charged Vitangcol with graft for awarding without public bidding the interim maintenance contract for MRT-3 to PH Trams.
The Ombudsman also charged Vitangcol for failing to disclose that one of the incorporators of PH Trams—Arturo Soriano—is his wife’s uncle. Soriano is now a provincial accountant of Pangasinan.
Vitangcol was charged with PH Trams incorporators Wilson De Vera, Arturo Soriano, Marlo Dela Cruz, Manolo Maralit and Federico Remo.
They are charged with violating Sections 3(e) and 3(h) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 65(c)(1) of the Government Procurement Reform Act, arising from the MRT-3 interim maintenance contract.
Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 prohibits public officials from causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.
Meanwhile, Section 3(h) of the antigraft law prohibits public officials from directly or indirectly having financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the Constitution or by any law from having any interest.
Section 65(c)(1) of R.A. 9184 punishes the act of “submit[ting] eligibility requirements of whatever kind and nature that contain false information or falsified documents calculated to influence the outcome of the eligibility screening process or conceal such information in the eligibility requirements when the information will lead to a declaration of ineligibility from participating in public bidding.”
Vitangcol was recently indicted for two counts of graft over the alleged extortion try on Czech firm Inekon in exchange for contracts with the railway system.
The Ombudsman said Vitangcol’s first graft charge stemmed from allegations that he attempted to extort $30 million from Inekon in exchange for contracts for the supply for additional light rail vehicles and maintenance of the MRT-3 in connection with the P3.7 billion MRT-3 expansion project in 2012.
Ombudsman investigation showed that Vitangcol sent his envoy Wilson De Vera to demand the payment of $30 million, later reduced to $2.5 million, for the Inekon to be awarded the contract.
Vitangcol and De Vera were accused of extorting $30 million from Inekon Group CEO and chair Josef Husek in the residence of then Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar in exchange for granting Inekon the P3.7-billion contract to supply 48 coaches for the MRT 3 expansion. The money was later reduced to $2.5 million.
Inekon turned down the extort try.
Meanwhile, Vitangcol and De Vera’s second graft charge stemmed from the allegation that they conspired and insisted for Inekon to sign a joint venture agreement for the maintenance contract under a 60-40 percent sharing scheme with a group of persons which included De Vera, an incorporator of PH-Trams.
Amid graft-ridden contracts under Vitangcol’s watch, the MRT is beset with operational breakdowns, delays and long lines of passengers daily. RAM
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