IN 2014, The Manila Times Chairman Emeritus Dante Ang wrote a series of front-page articles on the alleged US$30 billion extortion attempt on the foreign supplier for the MRT 3 coaches. No less than the Czech Ambassador to Manila Josef Rychtar exposed the P1.3 billion attempt to extort money from the Czech supplier of mass rail transit coaches that are badly needed in Line 3 along EDSA.
What is significant with the figure of P1.3 billion? First, the amount of money is huge! Why? Because the “bribery in reverse” will include all the players involved. MRT General Manager Al Vitangacol, who been charged by the Office of the Ombudsman for Plunder on the MRT maintenance contract, and his people will probably get the P300 million out of the P1.3 billion. So what happens to the balance of P1.0 billion?
It will go to the Daan Matuwid of the sanctimonious administration of President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd. The DoTC Office of the Secretary and of course, the Office of the President will most likely partake of the P1.0 Billion bonanza.
It is most helpful to revisit what transpired in 2012 and 2013 with the bidding and awarding of contract to the almost P4.0 billion contract for the 48 coaches of MRT Line 3. In July 2012, there was the alleged extortion try of $30 Million or P1.3 billion from the Czeh supplier Inekon Trams. Then there was the public bidding in 2013 where the Czech company was excluded and also did not participate in an apparent rigged bidding.
On July 10, 2012, Wilson de Vera, allegedly ask Inekon the sum of US$30 million for them to win the contract for the 48 MRT coaches. De Vera, a member of the Liberal Party (LP), supposedly asked the payment from the Czech supplier in behalf of MRT General Manager Al Vitangcol, who was appointed to his post by no less than by President B.S. Aquino 3rd. Vitangcol and President Aquino are known to be friends.
The allegation of extortion by Mr. De Vera in behalf of Mr. Vitangcol is contained in the affidavits submitted by Czech Ambassador Rychtar and Inekon Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Josef Husek to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the House of Representatives Committee on Good Government & Public Accountability.
Ambassador Rychtar confirmed the extortion attempt in his statement submitted in May 2014 to the House Committee of Congress investigating the serious allegations: “I, as the Ambassador of the Czech Republic, confirm that an extortion attempt took place in July 2012, followed by other suspicious circumstances, which led to a questionable bidding process in March 2013.”
The Czech envoy added: “I wish to inform you… that the Czech company Inekon Group was, of course, not blacklisted officially by the DOTC, but we did receive the informal information that our proposal would not be entertained, which was manifested by the fact that our letters to DOTC (on how to participate in the bidding) were unanswered.”
Coming from the Czech Ambassador, the accusations are very serious and an embarrassment to the Aquino administration. When the Ambassador Rychtar spoke, he was not speaking for himself or the Czech company, but for his country. Thus, the statements made by the good Ambassador have been cleared at the highest levels in his government.
What is also questionable with the bidding held in June 11, 2013 is that it was not open to the press unlike in previous biddings at the DoTC and other government biddings to help ensure transparency. What happened with the said bidding was that the DoTC spokesman only revealed the results of the bidding after it was held. The P3.77 billion contract was awarded to China’s Dalian Locomotive in December 2013.
For his part, Inekon Chairman and CEO Josef Husek gave a detailed account on how the extortion attempt was made in his five-page affidavit to the NBI. The brazen temerity is appalling on how the former MRT general manager and his people tried to milk the Czech company in order to get the government contract with the MRT-DoTC.
Inekon was among the five companies that bought bidding documents from the DoTC for the P3.8 billion expansion project. However, the Czech company later did not participate in the said bidding anymore because it wanted a government-to-government arrangement to preclude any corruption, such in commissions or bribe money.
In an exclusive interview with GMA News, Ambassador Rychtar “claimed influential people are protecting (MRT General Manager) Vitangcol.” As the Czech Ambassador observed: “If you follow all the programs arising now in the MRT, you can see that Vitangcol has a very firm position. Nothing can move his chair, so I think that he is covered, he is protected.” (GMA News, April 2, 2014)
Among these ‘influential people’ is most likely DoTC Secretary Joseph Abaya, who had cleared Vitangcol in March 2014 of any wrongdoing after doing a purported investigation on the accusation against him. It is also easy to see the connection between Secretary Abaya and Wilson de Vera; the Liberal Party (LP) of President Aquino.
There is also this amusing “moro-moro” being played by Malacañang on the probe. Presidential Communications Herminio Coloma announced in early April 2014 that President Aquino wants to expedite the investigation. But the NBI has already completed its fact-finding probe and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has confirmed that it is already finished. Yet the DoJ chief also said that the NBI is still reviewing its own findings!
When the NBI finally finished reviewing its findings and the Justice Secretary approved it in May 2014, Secretary De Lima would not release their official report without the approval of President Aquino. Well, it only means that those involved in the US$30 million extortion attempt were found culpable or “guilty” based on the NBI report. If they were not, then there was NO need for the approval of the President to release the said report.
LTO Scam on License Plates & Driver’s License
The problem with the Aquino administration is that its favoured contractors hardly have the capabilities to do its job. Their only qualification is their connections with President Aquino and his people around him. This is true whether the contracts are with the DPWH and DoTC. This explains why the favoured contractors of Daan na Matuwid either cannot deliver and/or do a real lousy work.
We have seen them in substandard public infrastructure projects of the DoTC and DPWH. Worse, these projects are not needed such the REBLOCKING, road-widening and double asphalt overlay of the despicable DPWH. Worst, they are also obscenely overpriced in spite of the claims of Secretary Singson to the contrary with his alleged savings.
Yet even with simple things like the license plates of motor vehicles and the driver’s licenses, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) cannot deliver. LTO is an attached agency of the DoTC, which is the No. 3 in revenue generation for the national government. This is what happens when contracts are awarded to dubious and undeserving companies.
I renewed my driver’s license last April before it expired in May 2015. In the past, you can get your plastic driver’s license on the same day you renew your license. These days, you are only given the official receipt with the stamped notification that you can follow it up THREE Months later. In my case, the date was July 16, 2015.
In late June, I tried to follow up my new driver’s license at the LTO Alabang office. But no luck. I was told to come back on the date indicated. Another driver beside was following his license and also had no luck even if he renewed his license earlier in February 2015. I inquired with the LTO when the problem on the plastic license started and was told “August 2014.” So it has been a year now but NO resolution yet until today!
What is worse is with the license plates. We renewed the registration of our cars in January and February this year and LTO charged us for the new plates. Six months have passed and still no plates from LTO! And to think that the existing plates of the green color with the Rizal monument and “Matatag na Republika” is better than the lousy “no frills” or generic looking black & white plates.
It is rather obvious that the LTO under the DoTC awarded the contracts to two companies that should not have won them. I was told of what happened with the license plates bidding in 2014 and the corruption that went with it. There was a Senate hearing last May, but nothing seems to have come out from it.
What is worse than the Lies and Corruption at the DPWH and the DoTC is the HUBRIS & HYPOCRISY that go with them with a President even talking of “REFORMS” in his government. Secretary Singson announced savings of P48 billion by the DPWH on July 13 at ANC Talkback with Ms.Tina Monzon-Palma, who observed that the DPWH savings are realized even before the projects are implemented!
Rick B. Ramos at firstname.lastname@example.org