The Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division on Thursday reset a scheduled arraignment of former Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT 3) General Manager Al Vitangcol 3rd on graft cases filed against him last year, pending resolution of a motion he earlier filed that seeks to void the charges.
In an interview on Thursday, Vitangcol told reporters, “Kasi [because]we filed a motion to quash. For one, the court lacks jurisdiction and then number two, there is no crime committed. So talagang ‘yung i-finile ng Ombudsman talagang [So what the Ombudsman filed really]… is just a purely harassment case against me. This should have been a dead case long ago.”
He was charged along with Wilson de Vera over an alleged extortion try on representatives of Czech company Inekon Group in connection with a contract or transaction for the supply of Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) in 2012, and over an alleged request for the Inekon representatives to forge a joint venture deal with a group in connection with a contract or transaction for the train system’s maintenance service.
The court gave the prosecution five days to file its comment/opposition regarding the motion, and reset the arraignment to March 16.
Earlier, the Office of the Ombudsman conducted a fact-finding investigation, which was prompted by news reports on the alleged extortion try.
The Manila Times’ Chairman Emeritus Dante Ang was the first to report about the meetings held between Inekon officials and Vitangcol, who left office in 2014.
Last November, the Ombudsman’s office filed two charge sheets accusing Vitangcol and de Vera of violation of Section 3(b) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
It alleged that Vitangcol, through de Vera, attempted to extort money from the Inekon representatives in connection with the contract or transaction for the supply of LRVs or supposedly in exchange for the selection of Inekon as supplier of the LRVs.
The Inekon representatives turned down the alleged request or demand for $30 million so the sum was supposedly reduced to $2.5 million, which they also refused.
Also, the Ombudsman’s office alleged that Vitangcol, with the conspiracy of de Vera, requested or insisted to the Inekon representatives to forge a joint venture agreement with a group including de Vera for a 60-40 percent sharing agreement between Inekon and the group, respectively, in connection with the contract or transaction for the maintenance service of the MRT 3 line.
The Inekon representatives turned down this alleged request or demand, it said.
Meanwhile, de Vera pleaded not guilty last year in a conditional arraignment for purposes of a travel clearance that he sought from the court.
Both he and Vitangcol have posted bail for their provisional liberty.