By Elizabeth Marcelo | GMA News | December 10, 2015
The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has found probable cause to put on trial former Metro Rail Transit General Manager Al Vitangcol III for graft and violation of the procurement law in connection with the alleged anomalous awarding of the multi-million-dollar deal for the MRT's maintenance
“After a careful review of the records of these cases, the Court finds that probable cause exists against all the accused…in all the charges against them,” the Third Division said in a two-page resolution dated December 8. The resolution was made available to the media only on Thursday.
Vitangcol and five incorporators of Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corporation (PH Trams) are facing charges for allegedly violating of Sections 3 (e) and 3 (h) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 65 of the Government Procurement Reform Act.
The cases, filed by the Office of the Ombudsman with the Sandiganbayan last week, stemmed from the alleged anomalous awarding of the MRT maintenance contract to PH Trams and its joint venture Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corporation (CB&T) in October 2012.
It is alleged that the company should have been disqualified under government procurement rules.
Under the contract, the MRT was set to pay PH Trams-CB&T $1.15 million monthly for its maintenance.
Named Vitangcol’s co-accused in the cases were PH Trams incorporators Wilson De Vera, Marlo Dela Cruz, Manolo Maralit, Federico Remo and Vitangcol’s uncle-in-law, Arturo Soriano, presently the provincial accountant of Pangasinan.
In its resolution, the court said the Office of the Ombudsman had found probable cause to file the case against the respondents after a thorough preliminary investigation of the complaint filed against them.
The court said the Ombudsman had also denied their respective motion for reconsideration.
Based on the court’s records, all the respondents, except for Remo, had each already posted P90,000 in bail for their provisional liberty.
Vitangcol posted his bail in cash on Friday even before the court issued the resolution finding probable cause to hold them on trial.
Meanwhile, the court issued a warrant against Remo on December 8, directing the PNP and the NBI to carry out his arrest.
Based on the information of the case, Vitangcol “unlawfully” used his position, as the general manager of MRT, head of the DOTC-MRT Negotiating Team, and member of the MRT Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), in recommending the awarding of the maintenance contract to PH Trams-CB&T “despite having a direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in PH Trams”.
The Ombudsman said the awarding of the contract should not have been allowed under RA 9184 as PH Trams incorporator Arturo Soriano was the uncle of Vitantgcol’s wife.
Instead, the Ombudsman alleged that Vitangcol and his co-accused intentionally hid his affinitive relation with Soriano as its disclosure would have automatically disqualified the company from the bidding.
Vitangcol resigned from the MRT in May 2014 amid allegations of corruption haunting the MRT, including the alleged $30-million extortion try on Czech company Inekon Group.
Inekon was a bidder for the P3.8-billion contract for the supply of additional coaches under the MRT expansion project.
The contract was eventually awarded to PH Trams after officials of Inekon allegedly refused to pay the amount allegedly being extorted byVitangcol and PH Trams director De Vera.
The extortion anomaly is the subject of another investigation still pending with Office of the Ombudsman.