Sandiganbayan resets ex-MRT GM Vitangcol’s graft arraignment
The Sandiganbayan has reset the arraignment of dismissed Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) General Manager Al Vitangcol III on two counts of graft for an alleged extortion try on Czech firm Inekon in exchange for contracts with the railway system.
The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division on Thursday canceled Vitangcol’s scheduled arraignment and reset it to March 16.
The court has yet to rule on Vitangcol’s motion to quash his charges.
The court earlier ordered Vitangcol’s arrest after it found probable cause to try him. Vitangcol has posted bail.
The court on Nov. 29 served the arrest warrant against Vitangcol and his alleged envoy Wilson De Vera.
Both were charged with two counts of graft or violations of Section 3(b) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Vitangcol now represents the anti-corruption group Citizens’ Crime Watch.
In indicting Vitangcol, the Ombudsman said his 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 De Vera to demand the payment of $30 million, later reduced to $2.5 million, for Inekon to be awarded the contract.
Vitangcol and De Vera were accused of extorting money from Inekon Group CEO and chair Josef Husek at the residence of then Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar. Inekon turned down the extort try.
Vitangcol and De Vera’s second graft charge stemmed from an 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 who included De Vera, an incorporator of the firm Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. (PH-Trams).
After weighing in the testimonies of Rychtar and Husek, as well as the conflicting statements of Vitangcol and De Vera, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said the “totality of x x x circumstances, taken together with the affirmative declarations of complainant’s witnesses,” would show that Vitangcol attempted to extort from Inekon in exchange for the contract.
The Ombudsman also found Vitangcol guilty of the administrative offenses of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and unlawful solicitation, and was ordered dismissed from service and perpetually barred from government with his retirement benefits forfeited.
Due to Vitangcol’s separation from the service, the penalty of dismissal is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondent’s one year salary.
Vitangcol decried selective justice, adding that the Ombudsman cleared former transportation secretary Emilio “Jun” Abaya even though it was the latter who approved the anomalous contract to PH Trams.
Vitangcol was sacked by the Department of Transportation and Communications in August 2014 after he was accused of conflict of interest when he awarded a contract to the firm of his wife’s uncle. IDL/rga
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