Vitangcol to file graft complaint over MRT-LRT common station
Dismissed Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) general manager Al Vitangcol III on Thursday said he would file a graft complaint against Department of Transportation (DOTr) officials for striking a compromise deal that skirted procurement rules in the construction of the MRT common station.
In an interview with reporters at the Sandiganbayan after his scheduled graft arraignment was cancelled, Vitangcol said the compromise agreement signed September last year circumvented the Government Procurement Reform Act when the government allowed the losing bidders to make a compromise deal with the winning bidder on the location of the MRT common station.
Vitangcol said this will set a bad precedent if losing bidders will be allowed to strike a deal with the winning bidder.
“If you’ll look at the scheme, this is a circumvention of Government Procurement Reform Act. It should be done competitively,” Vitangcol said.
“But what happened was the other party who was not able to get the award entered into a compromise with the winning bidder. This will be a very bad precedent,” he added.
Vitangcol was referring to SM Prime Holdings as the one who won the bidding but still agreed to strike a compromise deal with other stakeholders San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and Light Rail Manila Corp., which is owned by Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp., and is the operator of LRT 1.
The construction of the common station hit a snag when SM Prime Holdings took to the Supreme Court to oppose the transfer of the common station to Trinoma for violating a 2009 memorandum of agreement with LRTA that the common station should be constructed in front of the SM North Edsa.
The government in 2014 had wanted the common station to be built near Trinoma because it would be cheaper at P1.4 billion.
After much legal scuffling, the stakeholders finally agreed to make the common station in between SM North Edsa and Trinoma.
Vitangcol said the compromise agreement allowed the losing bidders to collude with the winning bidder.
“What would happen there is, in all competitive bidding, if I’m the losing bidder, all I have to do is enter into a compromise agreement with the winning bidder,” Vitangcol said.
“So it will result (in) collusion,” he added.
Vitangcol said he, as a member of the Citizens’ Crime Watch, is talking to other non-government organizations Anti-Trapo Movement, the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters, and the Liga ng Eksplosibong Pagbabago to file a complaint for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against concerned officials.
The MRT common station will connect three urban transit lines: the LRT 1, the MRT-3, and the MRT-7, which recently broke ground and would run from the Common Station to Bulacan via Commonwealth Avenue.
The legal fight is nearing its end after the DOTr on Wednesday sealed the memorandum of agreement with stakeholders that detailed each role the stakeholders would take in constructing the common station.
Construction is set to start end-2017 and completion is pegged at April 2019.
Vitangcol arrived at the Sandiganbayan Thursday morning for his scheduled graft arraignment in connection with the alleged $30-million extortion try on Czech firm Inekon in exchange for contracts with the railway system.
The arraignment was reset to March 16 as the court has yet to rule on Vitangcol’s motion to quash.
Vitangcol’s first graft charge stemmed from allegations that he attempted to extort $30 million from Inekon in exchange for contracts for the supply of 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 Inekon to be awarded the contract.
Vitangcol and De Vera were accused of extorting $30 million from Inekon Group CEO and chair Josef Husek at 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. Inekon turned down the extort try.
Vitangcol and De Vera’s second graft charge stemmed from an allegation that they conspired and insisted that Inekon 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).
This was not Vitangcol’s first graft case before the Sandiganbayan.
Vitangcol’s first graft case was for allegedly irregularly awarding without public bidding the MRT-3 maintenance contract to PH-Trams-CB&T joint venture, where his uncle-in-law Arturo Soriano is an incorporator.
Vitangcol has decried selective justice, adding that the Ombudsman cleared former transportation secretary Jun Abaya even though it was he 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. CDG/rga
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