Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar will be invited to a House inquiry to shed light on the supposed $30-million extortion attempt by officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), but he can’t be forced to attend.
“We’d like the ambassador to attend the investigation, but of course we can’t force him to come, we will just send an invitation to him,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, who considers Rychtar’s statement as vital in determining if the allegations against the DOTC officials have basis.
Colmenares joined several congressmen in filing a resolution last week directing the House committees on Transportation, Good Government, and Public Accountability to look into the reported attempt by Metro Rail Transit (MRT) chief Al Vitangcol and other DOTC officials to shake down executives of Czech firm Inekon Group.
Inekon is interested in bagging a P3.77-billion contract to provide 48 new coaches for MRT line 3.
The House committees will also invite the government officials that Rychtar named.
The DOTC has launched its own inquiry and obtained statements from Vitangcol and the other officials who were implicated.
The Manila Times was the first to expose the supposed extortion attempt.
The Times also revealed that Vitangcol proposed to set up a Philippine company for a joint venture undertaking with Inekon which will be owned mostly by his group. Rychtar rejected the proposal.
Colmenares has said the President’s sister, Maria Elena “Ballsy” Aquino Cruz, could also be summoned if her name comes up in the course of the investigation.
Palace spokesman Abigail Valte on Sunday said it is the prerogative of the House to launch an inquiry but added that the motives behind the accusations had become suspicious.
”The story has to be clarified,” Valte said, referring to the inconsistencies in the story and persons being implicated by the Czech Ambassador.
She said Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya is asking Rychtar to cooperate with the DOTC’s own probe “so that there are no conflicting stories.”
“There have been many versions of the story that have come out that are being attributed to (Rychtar),” Valte said.
”At last count, there are three conflicting stories about this particular issue and Secretary Abaya would be most open to hearing the side of, or at least the version of, the Czech ambassador, in the investigation,” she said.