• Don’t gang up on Josef Rychtar


    This is a cautionary note for all the bureaucrats and allies of the Aquino administration who are falling all over themselves in attacking and pressuring Czech ambassador Josef Rychtar for exposing publicly the attempted extortion of $30 million by Filipino officials from a Czech transport equipment supplier in the supply of train coaches to the Metro Rail Transit(MRT) system.

    The issue is extremely sensitive to the administration because since its exposure in the media (first reported by this paper last year by its chairman emeritus Dante Ang), the scandal has engulfed top officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and MRT, and has threatened to ensnare as well close relations of President Aquino.

    After an initial spate of media stories, the nascent scandal died down a bit. The threat against presidential sister Ballsy Cruz and her husband was headed off. DOTC secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya has absolved all officials of wrongdoing. But now, the scandal has resurfaced in a big way. Ambassador Rychtar and Inekon CEO and chair Josef Husek have renewed their allegations of extortion, apparently dissatisfied with the lack of a serious official investigation.

    The two houses of our legislature have waded into the case in a big way.

    The Senate finance committee chaired by Sen. Chiz Escudero has called a hearing and invited the Czech ambassador and DOTC officials to testify.

    Not to be outdone, the House committee on good government and public accountability has called for its own hearing on the issue.

    Filipino officials who have issued statements on the affair form quite a long list. And they include the factotum principally in the frying pan, MRT executive director Art Vitangcol. Vitangcol took a leave from his post when the case was first exposed. But he has since resurfaced, evidently confident that the way is clear for him to hold on. But now his alter ego in the extortion try, Wilson de Vera, has also been named by Rychtar and Inekon.

    Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda has waded full-mouthed into the affair, expressing dismay that Rychtar has renewed his accusations against Vitangcol, in spite of the fact that President Aquino has ordered the matter investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Rychtar and Inekon have submitted full statements to the NBI, but the NBI still has to come up with its report.

    In defense against the accusation, Vitangcol and De Vera have dared ambassador Rychtar to waive his diplomatic immunity so they can sue him for libel and to take a polygraph test with them.

    The government should not count too much on such puerile tactics and on the number of our officials and politicians talking to bring closure to this affair. It’s more complex than it seems. The Czechs were not born yesterday.

    I think it may be more useful for our government’s guidance and public understanding for us to learn more about Czech history so we can comprehend better this test of wills,

    Some points for consideration
    Some key points for consideration are:

    When President Aquino cited Sudetenland in his criticism of Chinese leaders as acting like Adolf Hitler, he was referring to a piece of real estate in Czechoslovakia that is a major chapter in Czech history.

    After World War I, during the Paris Peace Conference in 1918, Czechoslovakia was awarded the largely German-speaking Sudetenland to be part of its frontier.

    In 1935, as Hitler and Nazism took over Germany, he demanded the “return of the Sudentenland.” In 1938, in response to Hitler’s threats, Britain, France, Italy and Germany met in Munich to deal with the issue. On September 29, 1938, the four powers agreed to award the area, which contained all of Czechoslovakia’s western defenses,to Germany.

    Hitler waited just seven months and invaded Czechoslovakia on March 15, 1939.. Then followed the invasion of Poland and full-scale war.

    In 1945, after the defeat of Germany, Sudetenland was returned to Czechoslovakia. A new republic was installed.

    In February 1948, the communists staged a coup and took over the Czech government, and the country came under the sway of the Soviet Union.

    In 1968, in the famous Prague Spring, Czechoslovakia experienced a brief period of liberalization. But this was swiftly crushed by Leonid Brezhnev and Soviet troops.

    In1989, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, communism evaporated in Czechoslavakia and democracy was restored. Famed writer Vaclav Havel was elected president of the new Republic.

    On 1 January 1993, the country split into two republics, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, which brings us to now.

    Reading snatches of Czech history yielded the interesting discovery of a new word and a historical sidelight.

    Prague, the great Czech capital is noted for the phenomenon of “defenestration” — the act of throwing public officials and even clergymen out of the window by the people. This happened not just once but several times.

    Vitangcol should ponder this while confronting the charges against him. He may not only be fired, but thrown out the window.

    If our government can call on so many public officials, politicians and the media to join the chorus in this row with Rychtar and Inekon, the Czechs can also call upon a redoubtable line of notables to attest to their sense of honor and dignity.

    Among these notables are:
    Franz Kafka, the greatest figure in Czech literature, who gave the world the word “Kafkaesque.

    Milan Kundera, the novelist-author of The Ubearable Lightness of Being, and The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.

    Milos Forman, the great film director who has won the Academy award for best director twice with such films as Amadeus and One Few Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

    Vitangcol and De Vera can try lining up some famous names from our own history and culture. But never mind.

    My point is simply this. This row will not be closed by piling up names over names, or facts over facts. It can only end with the discovery of truth and doing the right thing.

    A Kafkaesque situation
    Secretary Lacierda’s inept use of words has produced what we might call a “Kafkaesque” situation in the MRT system.

    In trying to deflect the protest of the commuting public about the dismal situation of the MRT service, and the lack of new train coaches bought by the government, he blurted out that President Aquino never promised us “a rose garden.”

    This is surreal and hilarious, worthy of Kafka. The Czechs must be having a good laugh.

    Lacierda reasons that what Aquino promised us was genuine reforms, the “straight path,” not good train coaches.

    In the book, Thinking Straight by Monroe Beardley, this is called “crooked thinking.”

    Lacierda is guilty specifically of “the fallacy of Begging the Question.”



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    1. That $30 million extortion was a lousy fund-raising attempt by some LP bigwigs for the 2016 presidential elections. The affair was kind of nipped in the bud; for the LP that should have been the end of it but not for the Czech’s. That’s where this affair is now and expect the LP bigwigs to be on their toes in the coming days. That is if Totoy Tuwid is really serious with his daang matuwid mantra.

    2. Rocky Coronel on

      The public is still waiting for whatever proof or solid evidence of bribery this ambassador has to show. Up to now it is still all verbal accusation. Should we believe him just because he happens to be an “Ambassador”? If I hate this administration and I long to see it gets destroyed, I will buy whatever this “Ambassador” says. But lets get to be fair and see motives behind this issue other than bribery.

    3. Malaking kahihiyan ang idudulot sa ating bansa kung sakaling gagawing moro moro o kaya ay pawawalang sala itong sina vitangcol et al ang seryosong reklamo na ito ni Czech ambassador Rychtar. Heads must roll para maipakita natin sa buong mundo na an honest to goodness investigation was conducted on this issue. Hindi estupido ang mamamayang Pilipino para maniwala kina vitangcol na hindi totoo itong reklamo ng Czeck ambassador sa kanila.

    4. victor m. hernandez on

      Kung walang corrupt, merong efficient na MRT. Kung walang corrupt, walang delay ang procurement ng MRT coaches. Kung walang corrupt, iilan lang ang malungkot, at marami ang masaya. Pero ang buhay, iilan lang ang gahaman, ang karamihan napakakaitan. Iyan ang buhay ng Pinoy. Sino ang lider na magsasalba sa karamihan, at itapon ang iilang gahaman?

    5. Rocky Coronel on

      I still have to read a proof or evidence from Mr. Rychtar. With very serious and strong allegations, it is not enough to believe him just because he is Mr. Ambassador.

    6. daniel marahomsar on

      How could we progress when everyone want to have a progress of their own…I still believe that the Czech Ambassador didn’t lie…what can he get in lying anyways…

    7. Never a dull moment listening to the clowns articulate themselves in defense of PNoy. They are a class of their own. Incredible, simply incredible.

    8. Yen, first and foremost I would like to thank you for always writing such good columns. Bobi and you are my favorites. The moment I wake-up after doing mg hygenic needs I turn on my pc, prepare my coffee and hit the web-site of the Manila Times. Manila Times has been in my life since I can’t remember when I started reading News Paper. I am disgusted and can’t find a word to describe how I feel about BS Aquino the 3rd. and so as with some of the members of Hyatt 10 together with most of the cabinet sec’s. I’ve lived in the USA together with my family for 30 long years. My wife and I came back to retire. We have been here for the past 3 years but the feeling is, you come to think of why retire here?

      To mei, your observation is really TRUE, that has been the feeling and thought that I had way back in the mid 70’s. I think the corruption in our country is in-grained on everybody. I have been saying this to my friends what this country really needs is a cultural revolution and everybody should take the bitter pill and be able to instill to the younger generation, honesty and respect. this is just my personal opinion.

    9. ITs so strange how an ambassador would say a company tried to get money off him for a huge project if it didnt happen. I have no evidence of who is telling the truth or what, but just on what life is like in the philippines & how corruption is behind every door i know who i would believe & its the czec diplomat. I know 1st hand how any pinoy in any business if they can get any money from anyone in anyway will do it. They see nothing wrong in it. Them comment by mei says it all & i agree with him ( i hope you are a him ).
      Then its like these senators involved in the pork barrel scam, in any western or none 3rd world country they would resign to take it away from their party but no not in the philippines they will stick it out to the end as they dont care who suffers because of their actions.

    10. Jose A. Oliveros on

      Secretary Lacierda is either completely naive or completely ignorant of diplomatic niceties. The Czech Ambassador would not have been so outspoken about his charge that officials of MRT tried to extort US$30million from a Czech company that was bidding for the supply of train coaches to the MRT if he does not have the support of the Czech Government. As a seasoned diplomat, the Czech Ambassador certainly knows that an ambassador should not and should never antagonize officials of the country to which he has been accredited because breach of this rule has serious repercussions in the diplomatic relations between his country and his host country. The Czech government is surely 100% behind its Ambassador to the Philippines on this serious issue.

      But as I have repeatedly said, Lacierda is only a spokesman; he is not even allowed to think. He just mouths whatever he is instructed to say which is a reflection of how the brain of his principal works – or not work at all.

      In the case of Atty. Vitangcol, he is not only a lawyer but a civil engineer and a computer expert. He is, therefore, conclusively presumed to know that results of lie detector tests have been proven unreliable and are not admissible evidence in court both here and in the US.

      To say that this Administration is being run like a student council, as former Sen. Joker Arroyo once said, is an insult to student councils because they are better run.

    11. WHO would you rather believe, The CLOWNING Bunch of LIARS Vitangcol, De Vera, Abaya, Lacierda and their cohorts of cover up artists, benders – obfuscators of truth in the very STYLE of DAAN’G MATUWID ng Administrasyong AQUINO????, or the CZECH Ambassador? I will donate my very last centavo of decency for the Czech Ambassador. Bravo Rychtar!!! We have now a Hero for upholding the TRUTH. And you are NOT even a Filipino. You indeed have a genuine cause to upgrade a rotten train system that is practically running on dirty politics, and the local officials saw differently in that $30 Million Extortion Animal!. Only in the Philippines, Asia’s only Christian nation of HYPOCRITICAL Politics.

    12. Other notables of the Czech Republic, I may add, are former U.S. Department of State secretary and Ambassador to the United Nations Madeleine Albright; the other is Ivan Lendl, the former No. 1 professional tennis player. I learned this when our tour guide in Prague asked our group the question whether we know a very famous American, former Ms. Korbel, who is one of the avid supporters of a famous theater of arts in downtown Prague we were visiting; the other is Ivan Lendl..

      The question is: Why should an ambsssador of a foreign country go to the extent of executing an affidavit to validate his allegations, after all there was no actual bribe was given? Could it be a clash of ‘culture’?

    13. There is nothing better in the morning with a cup of coffee than a good old expose of corruption in our system. Pinoys live with this everyday of their lives. If not this guy, then it is that guy, corruption to the bone that never ends. Funny thing is, these corrupt public officials have the gall to say “we’re innocent, you are guilty!” drama, the classic syndrome or even a major disease prevalent to these officials. And with the protection of their daddy, they become bolder with their innocence cover. What a mess! Pinoys should just wake up now and oppose all forms of corruption once and for all! WE MUST! WE MUST! OR, WE WILL BE WORSE INSTEAD OF PROGRESSING!