By Marc Jayson Cayabyab | Inquirer.net | March 1, 2016
What is the prosecution afraid of?
This was the statement of sacked Metro Rail Transit (MRT 3) General Manager Al Vitangcol who cried foul over the prosecution’s refusal to give him copies of the counter-affidavits of Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya and others who were acquitted of graft in the MRT maintenance contract mess.
Vitangcol made a reply to the Office of the Special Prosecutor’s opposition on his motion to allow production of material evidence and admissions by adverse party.
The prosecution opposed Vitangcol’s request, saying he failed to present good cause for the production of documents and “is not entitled to the production of the subject counter-affidavits and joint-affidavit, nor demand admissions of certain statements contained therein.”
Vitangcol blasted the prosecution’s “disjointed reasoning” and said the requested documents have been notarized and thus should have been declared public documents.
“Anybody for that matter, not only the herein accused, should be allowed access to such materials. The prosecution is obviously ignorant of such fact,” Vitangcol through his lawyers said.
Vitangcol questioned the prosecution’s perceived fear that the principal accused may be acquitted of his charge if he was given copies of the counter-affidavits.
These counter-affidavits showed that Abaya told the Ombudsman that the maintenance contract was above board and that the MRT 3 had to enter into a negotiated procurement with contractor Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. (PH Trams).
Abaya in the counter-affidavit also admitted signing the notice of award to PH Trams, that the Bids and Awards Committee and the negotiating team followed the procedure and complied with the requirements, and that the contract with PH Trams did not cause injury to government.
“Why is the government, through the prosecution, adamant in releasing such documents to herein accused? What is the prosecution afraid of if and when the herein accused gets hold of such material evidence?” Vitangcol’s motion said.
“Is it because these pleadings include averments and defenses favorable to accused Vitangcol?”
Vitangcol said the prosecution’s refusal to give him copies of the counter-affidavits was tantamount to “prosecutorial misconduct that effectively deprived herein accused of his constitutionally guaranteed right to due process.”
Vitangcol said the prosecution should have the duty to investigate all officials in an offense, not just the perceived opponents of the current administration.
“Accused Vitangcol believes that his prosecution now is tantamount to persecution. The prosecution of an accused must not be made to depend on who is perceived as an enemy by those who sit in power but on the sacrosanct duty of prosecutors to bring to justice those believed to be offenders of the law while ensuring that their rights under the Constitution remain inviolable,” Vitangcol said.
“The swiftness and overeagerness of the Ombudsman to prosecute herein accused, to his mind, is a clear example of persecution,” he added.
In his motion for reconsideration on the Ombudsman’s graft indictment against him, Vitangcol asked why Abaya, despite his signatures on the documents, was not indicted for the alleged graft-ridden maintenance contract with PH Trams.
Abaya is the acting president of the ruling Liberal Party.
“The award of the contract was the product of a collegial determination. However, it was subject to the approval of DOTC Undersecretary (Jose) Lotilla and Secretary Abaya … The contract would not have been awarded to PH Trams and CB&T JV had it not been for the subsequent approval of Lotilla and Abaya,” Vitangcol’s motion said.
The Ombudsman charged Vitangcol of graft for awarding without public bidding the interim maintenance contract for MRT 3 to PH Trams.
The Ombudsman also charged Vitangcol for failing to disclose that one of the incorporators of PH Trams—Arturo Soriano—is his wife’s uncle. Soriano is now a provincial accountant of Pangasinan.
Vitangcol was charged with PH Trams incorporators Wilson de Vera, Arturo Soriano, Marlo dela Cruz, Manolo Maralit, and Federico Remo.
They are charged of 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 a graft-ridden contract, the MRT is beset with operational breakdowns, delays, and long lines of passengers daily.