March 31, 2016 | PhilStar

MANILA, Philippines – Former Metro Rail Transit (MRT) general manager Al Vitangcol III yesterday accused ruling Liberal Party members led by acting president, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, of cornering all the projects for maintenance and other big-budgeted contracts of the MRT.

Vitangcol said he got fed up with the “lies” of administration presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II at the last presidential debate.

Vitangcol told the Kapihan sa Manila Bay breakfast forum that PH Trams, the controversial maintenance subcontractor and partner in the joint venture that won a six-month contract to maintain the MRT, was chaired by Marlo de la Cruz, a member of the LP Pangasinan chapter and common friend of Roxas and Abaya.

Vitangcol also bared the broker for Chinese firm CNR Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Co. that bagged the P3.8-billion contract to supply 43 new trains for the MRT, Eugene Rapanut, was a member of the LP’s Ilocos Sur chapter.

He said Rapanut was also broker for the Korean-led Busan Transportation Corp., Edison Construction & Development Corp.-Tramat Mercantile-TMI Corp.-Castan Corp. consortium that won and was awarded the P3.8-billion three-year maintenance contract for the MRT.

The contract included the general overhaul of 43 trains and total replacement of the signaling system of the MRT last January.

The one who brought in Busan is a member of the Liberal Party, according to Vitangcol.

“I have a certification here of the Liberal Party,” he said, showing the purported certification issued by the LP Ilocos Sur chapter chairman Francisco Ranches dated June 8, 2010.

“He brokered the Dalian and Busan deals. He was the representative during the biddings,” Vitangcol said.

While Rapanut was not a signatory in the contracts, Vitangcol said Rapanut’s involvement could be checked in the attendance lists.

De la Cruz, on the other hand, was an LP Pangasinan chapter member.

De la Cruz, he said, is chairman of PH Trams, the authorized representative of the APT Global-Global EPCom joint venture that also won a maintenance contract for the MRT, and was an officer of the Global EPCom that is now the MRT station maintenance contractor.

De la Cruz, according to Vitangcol, had been vocal about his closeness to Roxas and his friendship with Abaya.

Abaya had admitted in a TV interview with host Solita Monsod that he had met De la Cruz in 2010 and, finding him to be a good person, became his friend.

Vitangcol said that before getting appointed to the MRT general manager position, he had served in the Public Private Partnership Center. He said that former PPP Center director Phil Torio, his professor at UP, had tapped him to join the center. When Torio resigned to migrate to Canada, he was urged to apply for the MRT top post, which Torio heard was then vacant.

He said Torio had recommended him to the Department of Transportation and Communications. Before his appointment, Vitangcol said he was interviewed by Roxas.

Vitangcol claimed he was telling all on what he knows of the shenanigans at the MRT, saying Roxas had spouted lies at the last presidential debate held in Cebu.

Roxas stated during the debate that Vitangcol had been removed from his post as MRT general manager in 2012 because he was found guilty of wrongdoing by allegedly having an uncle who was a director of PH Trams that joined a bidding for the MRT maintenance contract.

Vitangcol stressed that he resigned and was neither fired nor removed from his post.

Vitangcol said the person Roxas referred to as his supposed uncle, Arturo Soriano, was not his but his wife’s uncle.

Vitangcol added Soriano had sold his shares in PH Trams by the time that the firm joined the bid for the MRT maintenance contract to its chairman Marlo de la Cruz.

“They were all lies, on those three elements: that I was removed from my position, that it was my uncle and that he was part of the firm when it joined the bidding,” he said.

Being friends with De la Cruz, Vitangcol said Abaya and Roxas would have known these facts. -Rainier Allan Ronda