Xianne Arcangel | GMA News | October 12, 2016

The Sandiganbayan has affirmed the validity of graft charges filed by the Office of the Ombudsman against former Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) general manager Al S. Vitangcol III and five executives of Philippines Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. (PH Trams).

In a 12-page resolution, the anti-graft court's Third Division denied Vitangcol's Motion to Quash for lack of merit, citing breach of procedure and baseless challenge on jurisdiction.

"First, the Motion to Quash can be denied outright as it was filed after the accused has been arraigned. Accused Vitangcol's failure to file a Motion to Quash prior to his arraignment constitutes a waiver of any objections," the court said.

Vitangcol is accused of illegally intervening in the award of the MRT-3 maintenance contract to PH Trams and CB and T Joint Venture in his capacity as head of the agency, as head of the negotiating team, and as member of the Bids and Awards Committee.

He allegedly acted in conspiracy with PH Trams directors and incorporators Arturo Soriano, Wilson De Vera, Marlo dela Cruz, Manolo Maralit, and Federico Remo.

Under the contract, the MRT was to pay PH Trams-CB and T $1.15 million a month for the maintenance works of MRT-3.

State prosecutors said Vitangcol had indirect financial interest in PH Trams because Soriano is his wife's uncle.

Vitangcol filed a motion on July 7 questioning the court's jurisdiction, saying his right to equal protection of law was violated when the Ombudsman failed to charge other public officials over the contract, particularly those from the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

The former MRT executive said he was a victim of selective prosecution because he was allegedly singled out by the Ombudsman in the graft cases while none was filed against former DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, the members of the Bids and Awards committee, and members of the Negotiating Team for the Interim Maintenance Contract and the Task Force who reviewed the terms of reference for the deal.

The Sandiganbayan, however, maintained that the cases against Vitangcol fall within its jurisdiction.

"There is nothing in the information that would indicate that the same were file in violation of the accused Vitangcol's right to equal protection of law," it said.

"That the other respondent government officials were not similarly indicted does not necessarily mean that accused Vitangcol’s right to equal protection of laws was violated," the Sandiganbayan added.

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