June 24, 2014

Former Metro Rail Transit Line 3 general manager Al Vitangcol III and businessman Wilson De Vera are now facing criminal and administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the P3.8-billion MRT-3 capacity expansion project.

According to a statement, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has approved the recommendation of the Field Investigation Office to conduct a preliminary investigation and administrative adjudication against Vitangcol and De Vera.

Vitangcol and De Vera are accused of violating Section 3 (b) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 7(d) of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

On the other hand, Vitangcol also faces administrative charges for alleged "Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service."

De Vera was the director of PH Trams Corporation, which bagged a maintenance contract in MRT-3, the Ombudsman noted.

In 2013, a special panel of Ombudsman field investigators was tasked to investigate reports of an alleged attempt to extort money from Czech company Inekon Group in exchange of a contract to supply trains to the MRT-3, the statement said.

Details from Ombudsman's statement

According to the Ombudsman's statement, investigators found that on July 9, 2012, Vitangcol, De Vera, Czech Republic Ambassador Josef Rychtar, Inekon Group chief executive officer Josef Husek, Manalo Maralit (acting as liaison officer for Inekon) and a certain "Haluon" met in a restaurant in Makati.

After the dinner, the group, except for Vitangcol, went to Rychtar's home in Forbes Park, where De Vera indicated that Inekon would bag the supply contract if it paid them $30 million, an amount that was later reduced to $2.5 million.

In a meeting on July 10, 2012, Vitangcol asked Inekon representatives whether they agreed with De Vera's proposal of paying $2.5 million in exchange for the MRT-3 project contract. The Inekon representative refused the offer, said the statement.

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman has also ordered a separate investigation into MRT-3's interim maintenance contract for 2012 to 2013 awarded to PH Trams Corporation, of which Vitangcol's alleged uncle-in-law Arturo Soriano and De Vera are among the incorporators.

Rychtar revealed the supposed $30-million extortion try to the Philippine Star in July of last year.

Vitangcol and De Vera have both denied Rychtar's allegations.

The Department of Transportation and Communications last year awarded the P3.8-billion contract for 48 new MRT coaches to CNR Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Co. of China. —Amanda Fernandez/KBK/BM, GMA News