The Office of the Ombudsman has filed a graft case at the Sandiganbayan against former Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) general manager Al Vitangcol 3rd and businessman Wilson de Vera over the alleged extortion try on representatives of Czech company Inekon Group for a contract to supply light rail vehicles in 2012.
Investigator Julius Matibag accused the respondents of violating Section 3(b) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, in a charge sheet approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales in September and filed on November 23.
Matibag alleged that Vitangcol, “with the connivance, conspiracy and confederation” of de Vera, “willfully, unlawfully, and criminally, directly or indirectly” requested, demanded or attempted to extort $30 million, later reduced to $2.5 million, from Inekon representatives.
This was in connection with the botched deal to supply light rail vehicles under the MRT-3 capacity expansion project, “in exchange for the selection of Inekon as the supplier.”
The alleged request or demand for money was supposedly “made through and by accused de Vera on the night of July 9, 2012 at the residence of then Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar in Forbes Park, Makati City,” the charge sheet stated.
Inekon representatives refused, so de Vera reduced the amount to $2.5 million after allegedly consulting with Vitangcol over the phone, it said. Inekon representatives again refused.
De Vera allegedly told Inekon representatives to think about the request before a meeting the following day, July 10, at the MRT-3 office in Quezon City.
On that day, “accused Vitangcol…repeated said request or demand by asking the Inekon representatives if they would accept said request or demand made by accused de Vera the previous night…but the Inekon representatives likewise turned down said request or demand right then and there,” Matibag alleged.
The Manila Times Chairman Emeritus Dante Ang was the first to report about the meetings between Inekon officials and Vitangcol, who left office in 2014.
Section 3(b) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act refers to the direct or indirect request or receipt of “any gift, present, share, percentage, or benefit, for himself or for any other person, in connection with any contract or transaction between the Government and any other part, wherein the public officer in his official capacity has to intervene under the law.”
The Office of the Ombudsman also filed a separate case against Vitangcol and de Vera, likewise for violating of Section 3(b) of the anti-graft law.
It alleged that Vitangcol, “with the connivance, conspiracy and confederation” of de Vera, asked Inekon to enter into and sign a 60-40 joint venture agreement with a group of persons including de Vera for a separate contract for the maintenance of MRT-3.
Inekon representatives, for the third time, turned down the request, it said.
The Ombudsman recommended P30,000 bail each in both cases for Vitangcol and de Vera.
Last year, the Ombudsman filed graft charges against Vitangcol and five incorporators of the Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. (PH Trams) in connection with the award of the MRT-3 interim maintenance deal to the PH Trams and Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corp. (CB&T) joint venture in 2012. One of the incorporators of PH Trams turned out to be a relative of Vitangcol.
Vitangcol has denied any wrongdoing. In a previous motion for reconsideration before the Ombudsman, he said: “The award of the contract was the product of a collegial determination. However, it was subject to the approval of the DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) Undersecretary for Legal Affairs, Jose Perpetuo M. Lotilla and DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya,” he said.