By Jess Diaz | The Philippine Star | May 31, 2014
MANILA, Philippines - The good government committee of the House of Representatives is hunting down a key player in the alleged $30-million extortion attempt by resigned Metro Rail Transit-3 general manager Al Vitangcol on Czech firm Inekon.
Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez, committee chairman, has asked Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Vitangcol to help his panel locate businessman Wilson de Vera.
Committee personnel failed to find and serve him invitations to attend its three previous hearings on the extortion allegation.
Vitangcol told the committee that he had tried to locate De Vera but learned that the latter had moved to the United States with his family.
De Vera earlier said he was a US green card holder. Last year he lost a bid for mayor of Calasiao, Pangasinan. He ran under the administration Liberal Party, but several LP stalwarts claim they don’t remember him.
Vitangcol has denied the extortion accusation and has filed perjury charges against Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar.
In his signed affidavit-complaint, Rychtar did not directly accuse the resigned MRT-3 chief of extortion.
He said the incident took place on July 9, 2012, when he, Vitangcol, Inekon chairman Josef Husek, a certain Haloun (also of Inekon), a Boyet Maralit, De Vera and a certain M. de la Cruz had dinner at a Makati restaurant.
After their dinner, he said Maralit “came to me informing that Mr. Vitangcol wants to continue the discussion about the procedures of the deal.”
“I offered that they can continue the talks in my residence. Mr. Vitangcol did not participate in this meeting. I cannot remember now if Mr. M. de la Cruz also left or was present with the others, since it happened a year and a half ago,” he said.
“I was not part of the discussion which was held between Mr. Husek on one side and Mr. W. de Vera on the other side. I think all of us considered him to be an envoy of Mr. Vitangcol since he behaved like that at an official dinner. He went straight to the point of suggesting the payment from Inekon to secure the deal from them. I think everybody was surprised with this suggestion of Mr. W. de Vera, which was $30 million,” Rychtar said.
He narrated that Husek tried to resist the extortion attempt, telling De Vera that $3 million was the cost of one MRT coach, and that if they paid $30 million, “the price of their product would have to rise up significantly.”
“Mr. W. de Vera left the house during the meeting at least two times to call somebody from his mobile phone. After one of the calls, he came back to the hall. He informed us that Mr. Vitangcol said that the price of one coach cannot exceed $3 million...Then he asked for at least $2.5 million, but even that was refused by Mr. Husek,” he said.
In a television interview, De Vera denied Rychtar‘s extortion allegations.
Abaya said they had invited the ambassador to an administrative inquiry he had ordered, but that the envoy refused to participate.
He said only Vitangcol and Maralit responded to their invitations and submitted their respective affidavits.
He said Vitangcol denied the accusation, while he could not recall what Maralit stated in his affidavit. He added that Maralit was working for Rychtar.
The Rodriguez committee is also seeking all the other personalities mentioned in the ambassador’s complaint.
Curiously, De Vera, Maralit and De la Cruz are also prominent figures in the controversy over the P517-million nine-month MRT-3 maintenance contract the department had awarded to a joint venture company.
The three are among the incorporators of PH Trams, which partnered with Combuilders and Tech (CB&T), in bidding for the maintenance contract.
Another incorporator, Arturo Soriano, is an uncle of Vitangcol’s wife.
PH Trams was formed in August 2012, two months before the huge maintenance contract was awarded to it and CB&T. It had a paid-up capital of only P625,000.
Vitangcol said his uncle-in-law sold his interests in PH Trams in September before the award.
According to DOTC Undersecretary Jose Perpetuo Lotilla, who is bids and awards committee chairman, PH Trams, by itself, would not have qualified for the bidding since it was its joint venture partner that had the finances and technical capability.
However, he said his committee had to look at the joint venture, not the individual partners.
In a television interview, Soriano, who is provincial accountant of Pangasinan and a Calasiao town mate of De Vera, said he would attend the House inquiry if invited.