Vitangcol to start trial for extortion
The Sandiganbayan is set to proceed with the graft trial of former Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 general manager Al Vitangcol III after it denied his motion to junk the charges that he allegedly tried to extort money from a Czech train supplier in 2012.
In a five-page resolution dated Feb. 9 and made public on Wednesday, the court’s Sixth Division rejected Vitangcol’s argument that the case should be thrown out because the “attempted extortion” charge against him was a nonexistent offense.
The court said Republic Act No. 3019, or the antigraft law, penalizes officials for “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 RA 3019 and the prosecution needs only to prove such request or demand to sustain the corresponding conviction,” the court resolution said.
The court upheld Vitangcol’s indictment on two counts of violating the antigraft law and said it will proceed with his scheduled arraignment on March 16.
Justice Rodolfo A. Ponferrada penned the resolution, with the concurrence of Justices Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and Karl B. Miranda.
Vitangcol allegedly sent Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. executive Wilson de Vera to the Forbes Park residence of then-Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar on July 9, 2012, to demand $30 million from representatives of Inekon Group a.s. in exchange for bagging the contract to supply train coaches for the MRT-3’s expansion project.
Inekon’s representatives refused even after De Vera lowered the demand to $2.5 million. During a meeting in his office the next day, Vitangcol himself allegedly made the demand, which was again rejected by Czechs.
Vitangcol also allegedly tried to pressure Inekon to enter into a 60-40 sharing agreement with De Vera’s group for the MRT-3 maintenance contract, which the Czech company resisted.
The Sandiganbayan also rejected Vitangcol’s argument that it no longer had jurisdiction over his case under a 2015 law that reorganized the antigraft court.
Vitangcol said his case should be tried by a regional trial court because it did not allege any damage to the government or any bribery from the transaction.
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