By Marc Jayson Cayabyab | Inquirer.net | December 4, 2015
Former Metro Rail Transit (MRT 3) General Manager Al Vitangcol III has posted bail from three counts of graft before the Sandiganbayan.
Vitangcol on Friday paid P90,000, or P30,000 each, for his three counts of violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The Ombudsman charged Vitangcol for awarding without public bidding the maintenance contract for MRT 3 to Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. (PH Trams).
According to the Ombudsman, Vitangcol failed to disclose that one of the incorporators of PH Trams, Arturo Soriano, was his wife’s uncle. Soriano is a provincial accountant of Pangasinan.
In a 39-page resolution, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales found probable cause to charge Vitangcol and PH Trams incorporators Soriano, Wilson de Vera, Marlo dela Cruz, Manolo Maralit, and Federico Remo.
They are charged with violating Sections 3(e) and 3(h) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 65(c)(1) of the Government Procurement Reform Act arising from the MRT 3 interim maintenance contract.
Amid the contract mess, the MRT is beset with operational breakdowns, delays, and long lines of passengers daily.
The MRT also figured in an accident last year. On Aug. 13, 2014, at least 38 passengers were hurt after an MRT train overshot the tracks at the Taft Avenue station at the corner of Edsa and Taft Avenue in Pasay City.
According to the Ombudsman, Vitangcol used his powers and authority as general manager, chief end-user, head of the negotiating team, and member of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), all at the same time, “to dictate the proponents invited for the preliminary negotiations” of the maintenance services.
Vitangcol also “intentionally hid his [affinitive] relationship with Soriano, which would have automatically disqualified PH Trams.”
The Ombudsman also said the PH Trams incorporators were liable for executing a false Affidavit of Disclosure dated Aug. 12, 2012, which stated that none of the incorporators were related by affinity with any member of the procurement teams.
The Ombudsman found no merit in Soriano’s claim that he divested his interests in PH Trams on Sept. 10, 2012, because no waiver was recorded in the Securities and Exchange Commission. Soriano’s claim also run counter to his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth where he declared that he obtained an interest as PH Trams stockholder in November 2012.
Vitangcol and De Vera were accused of extorting $30 million from Inekon Group chief executive officer 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. The money was later reduced to $2.5 million.
The Ombudsman is still investigating the alleged bribery.
According to the Ombudsman investigation, the contract was awarded to PH Trams in a negotiated procurement on October 2012 even though there was no emergency situation to justify it.
The MRT management entered into an interim maintenance contract with PH Trans in joint venture with CB&T after deciding not to renew the contract with original maintenance provider Sumitomo Corp.
The contract, which was renewed three times until September 2013, was worth $1.15 million monthly.
Securities and Exchange Commission records also showed that PH Trams was two months old when the project was awarded, having been incorporated only on August 2012 with a paid-up capital of only P625,000.00.
In his motion for reconsideration, Vitangcol questioned why Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya was not included in the graft indictment.
“Vitangcol performed the duties as general manager of MRT-3 … It was the DOTC, which decided to proceed with the interim award … It is just unfortunate that Vitangcol suddenly took all the blame in the contract where he is merely a part of the team,” his motion said.
Abaya is the acting president of the administration’s Liberal Party.
Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 prohibits public officials from causing any undue injury to any party, including the government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.
Meanwhile, Section 3(h) of the antigraft law prohibits public officials from directly or indirectly having financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the Constitution or by any law from having any interest.
Section 65(c)(1) of R.A. 9184 punishes the act of “submit[ting] eligibility requirements of whatever kind and nature that contain false information or falsified documents calculated to influence the outcome of the eligibility screening process or conceal such information in the eligibility requirements when the information will lead to a declaration of ineligibility from participating in public bidding.”