By Marc Jayson Cayabyab | INQUIRER.net | May 27, 2014
MANILA, Philippines—Navotas Representative Toby Tiangco said the relieved Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) General Manager Al Vitangcol III is the Aquino government’s “fall guy” to hide the culprit in the alleged MRT extortion try that implicated an administration ally.
In a statement, Tiangco said he found it “fishy” that Vitangcol would resign from his post a day before the House of Representatives was to conduct its probe on the extortion attempt on Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar allegedly by Wilson De Vera, who is a member of the Liberal Party.
Tiangco added that Vitangcol even refused to step down from his office when he was initially tagged by Rychtar as behind the extortion attempt on him for their train supplier Inekon group to bag the additional MRT coaches deal.
“There’s something fishy in Vitangcol’s sudden relief from MRT-3. There might be some reason behind his resignation. It may be a game plan to muzzle him in order to save a bigger fish,” said Tiangco, who is also secretary general of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance.
Although Tiangco did not mention any names, Vitangcol’s alleged envoy to Rychtar is De Vera, who ran as mayor under the Liberal Party last year but lost.
Lawmakers said De Vera should be summoned to the probe, but De Vera had left the country with his whole family for the United States.
“Vitangcol is now being made an object of blame. Sa madaling salita,’fall guy’ para ilihis ang imbestigasyon na kasama ang mga kapartido ng Presidente at ibang malalaking isda sa likod nito (In simpler words, Vitangcol was a ‘fall guy’ to divert the investigation on the allies of the President and other ‘big fish’ behind the extortion try),” Tiangco said
The opposition lawmaker also questioned Vitangcol’s resignation even after Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya cleared him from the extortion try. Abaya is Liberal Party’s acting president.
“He was cleared by the DOTC and absolved by Malacanang in his involvement in the Czech deal, and then suddenly, one day before the committee hearing, he is removed from office. I think he is ready to take the fall this time with the PH Trams and be the Administration’s convenient scapegoat,” Tiangco said.
Tiangco had asked Vitangcol and Abaya’s help to summon the missing alleged middleman for the House probe.
Vitangcol was relieved of his post on Monday by Abaya after it was found out that Vitangcol failed to declare his familial relationship to a director of a winning MRT bidder.
A newspaper column bared that one of the director-incorporator of winning bidder Phil Trams, Arturo Soriano, is Vitangcol’s uncle-in-law.
The beleaguered official said he did not disclose his familial relationship with a bidder because Soriano was no longer part of the project at the time it was awarded.
Soriano divested his shares in Phil Trams after Vitangcol told him it was not proper to have a role in the project for MRT maintenance, Vitangcol said.