• Ex-MRT chief in trouble over maintenance deal

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    He may have resigned but former Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 General Manager Al Vitangcol 3rd’s woes are not over as the Office of the Ombudsman found ground to charge him and five others over the allegedly irregular award of the MRT 3 interim maintenance deal to a joint venture.

    Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales directed the filing of charges against Vitangcol and five incorporators of Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corporation (PH Trams) for alleged violations of Sections 3(e) and 3(h) of the Anti-Graft Law and Section 65(c)(1) of the Government Procurement Reform Act.

    In a 39-page resolution, Morales found probable cause that Vitangcol, Wilson de Vera, Marlo dela Cruz, Manolo Maralit, Federico Remo and Vitangcol’s uncle-in-law, Arturo Soriano, at present the provincial accountant of Pangasinan, conspired to irregularly award the MRT 3 contract to the PH Trams-CB&T joint venture.

    The office, in a statement on Friday, alleged that Vitangcol used his power and authority as general manager/chief end-user, head of the negotiating team and member of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), “to dictate the proponents invited for the preliminary negotiations” of the maintenance services and “intentionally hid his [affinitive]relationship with Soriano, which would have automatically disqualified PH Trams.”

    It also held that the incorporators were equally liable for executing an allegedly false Affidavit of Disclosure dated August 12, 2012 that stated that none of them were related by affinity to any member of the procurement teams.

    Soriano claimed that he divested his interest on September 10, 2012 but the Ombudsman’s office found it unavailing because such waiver was not recorded in the Securities and Exchange Commission.

    It also ran against his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), where he said he obtained an interest as a stockholder of PH Trams in November 2012, the office said.

    MRT Corporation (MRTC) and Sumitomo Corporation forged a maintenance agreement in December 1997 for safe and proper operations of the trains.

    According to the Ombudsman’s office, the BAC adopted a resolution for an interim maintenance provider for six months and negotiate its terms and conditions as the original deal’s last extension neared expiration.

    The original deal expired on June 21, 2010 and underwent four extensions from June 2010 until October 2012.

    BAC adopted the resolution 15 days before the last extension expired.

    It was recommended by the negotiating team that the project be awarded to PH Trams – CB&T joint venture in the amount of $1.15 million monthly, the office said.

    The project was eventually awarded to PH Trams-CB&T on October 20, 2012 and was renewed three times until September 4, 2013.

    Under the anti-graft law, public officials are prohibited from causing undue injury to any party or giving any private party unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of their official functions.

    It also prohibits them from having direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in their official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the Constitution or any law from having any interest.

    The procurement law punishes the act of “submit[ting]eligibility requirements of whatever kind and nature that contain false information or falsified documents calculated to influence the outcome of the eligibility screening process or conceal such information in the eligibility requirements when the information will lead to a declaration of ineligibility from participating in public bidding.”

    Vitangcol, along with Wilson de Vera, is also facing a probe for alleged graft and breach of conduct.

    Last year, the Ombudsman approved a preliminary probe and administrative adjudication against Vitangcol and de Vera, in connection with the P3.76-billion MRT 3 capacity expansion project.

    The fact-finding investigation was prompted by news reports on Vitangcol’s alleged extortion try on Czech company Inekon group in exchange for being awarded the supply contract of MRT 3 trains.

    De Vera, who served as the alleged broker in the extortion attempt, is an incorporator of PH-Trams.

    The Manila Times’ Chairman Emeritus Dante Ang was the first to report about meetings held between Inekon officials and Vitangcol.

    The Ombudsman ordered a separate probe of the maintenance deal.
    Vitangcol left office in 2014.

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