Vitangcol heads to trial for ‘attempted extortion’ in MRT deal
MANILA — The Sandiganbayan is set to try former Metro Rail Transit Line 3 general manager Al Vitangcol III, after it denied his motion to junk the charges for his alleged extortion of a Czech train supplier in 2012.
In a five-page resolution, the court’s Sixth Division upheld the sufficiency of the case information for two counts of violation of Section 3 (b) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
On this basis, the court will proceed with Vitangcol’s arraignment as previously scheduled for March 16, 8:30 a.m.
It rejected his claim that the case should be thrown out because he was being charged for the nonexistent offense of “attempted extortion.”
The court clarified that he was charged under the graft law’s provision prohibiting officials from “demanding, or requesting, or attempting to extort money.”
“Thus, the mere act of a public officer or in conspiracy with another person of demanding or requesting money as in this case is violative of Section 3 (b) of R.A. 3019 and the prosecution needs only to prove such request or demand to sustain the corresponding conviction,” read the resolution.
The Sandiganbayan also rejected Vitangcol’s argument that it no longer had jurisdiction over his case as provided by Republic Act No. 10660, the 2015 law that reorganized the anti-graft court.
Vitangcol claimed that his case should be tried before the regional trial court because it did not allege any damage to the government or any bribery from the transaction.
But the anti-graft court said that jurisdictional provision could not be applied because the law was only passed years after the alleged incident in 2012.
Justice Rodolfo A. Ponferrada penned the resolution, with the concurrence of Justices Oscar C. Herrera, Jr., and Karl B. Miranda.
Vitangcol is accused of sending Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. executive Wilson de Vera to allegedly demand US$30 million from representatives with INEKON Group, a.s., at the house of then-Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar in Forbes Park on July 9, 2012.
This was supposedly in exchange for bagging the contract for supply of Light Rail Vehicles under Lot 1 of the MRT-3 Capacity Expansion Project.
Even as De Vera supposedly lowered the offer to US$2.5 million, INEKON’s representatives refused. The next day, Vitangcol himself allegedly pushed the offer during a meeting in his office to no avail.
Vitangcol also supposedly pressured INEKON to enter into a 60-40 sharing agreement with De Vera’s group for the MRT-3 maintenance contract, but the Czech firm also turned down this offer. SFM
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