Malacañang on Sunday said Maria Elena “Ballsy” Aquino-Cruz, a sister of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, is not covered by an investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) of an alleged extortion attempt.
Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar had declared that Aquino’s sister was not involved in the controversy over the supply of coaches for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), according to Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
“Noon pa pong maagang bahagi ng pagsisiwalat nito ay nagkaroon na ng deklarasyon mula doon sa Ambassador ng Czechoslovakia na wala pong sangkot ang kapatid ng ating Pangulo diyan sa kasong ‘yan [The Czech ambassador earlier declared that the President’s sister, Ballsy, is not involved in the issue],” Coloma told dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.
He assured the public that all aspects of the issue will be looked into.
“In the end, we all want to provide service to the commuting public,” Coloma said.
Rychtar earlier said some Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) officials, including MRT General Manager Al Vitangcol, demanded $30 million from Czech company Inekon in exchange for a contract to provide coaches for the modernization of the MRT 3 line.
According to the ambassador, he met with Vitangcol and his men twice—in Makati City and Quezon City—but the MRT head denied it.
On July 19, the DOTC said it had initiated an investigation of Rychtar’s allegations. Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said he will also forward documents to the Office of the Ombudsman so that it can conduct its own probe.
The P3.77 billion project aimed to add 48 train cars to the MRT 3’s 73-car fleet to ease passenger congestion.
Meanwhile, the Palace welcomed a congressional inquiry into the alleged MRT extortion attempt.
Coloma said he does not find anything wrong if the House of Representatives summons Vitangcol and Rychtar to an inquiry.
“That’s a process under the House of Representatives. We respect their independence,” he added.