A still unknown powerful individual was paid some P140 million by Inekon officials ostensibly in exchange for bagging the contract for the supply and maintenance of the controversial MRT3. This was contained in one of the two documents – one signed and one unsigned – obtained over the weekend by The Manila Times. Both were letters addressed to DOTC Assistant Secretary Jaime Caringal.
If true, the delivery of the P140-million grease money could have taken place even before the botched alleged $30-million shakedown for the supply deal for the MRT3 coaches had happened.
Inekon eventually decided not to participate in the bidding for the supply and maintenance of the MRT 3. The contract was awarded to the joint venture of Philippine Trams Rail Management & Services (PH Trams) and Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Inc. (CB&T) that drew a round of controversies.
Three independent sources have confirmed the authenticity of the document. When shown the signed copy, a source who has access to DOTC records said the signature was that of former MRT3 General Manager Al S. Vitangcol. One of the three sources also confirmed that he had received the same two documents from the former General Manager through email.
The other source said that he had been in constant communication with Vitangcol but that he stopped communicating with him. He said that he first received an unsigned eight-page letter from the former General Manager containing damning information implicating some members of “The Party.” He said he advised Vitangcol to sign it so that it becomes official. The Manila Times also obtained this unsigned eight-page document along with the signed four-page letter of Vitangcol.
This source said that he had noted that the second signed document was a watered down version. Some of the more substantive information contained in the original eight-page brief had been deleted.
He also said that he did not think the signed four-page Vitangcol letter was ever sent to its intended addressee. When contacted by phone on Friday afternoon, Caringal denied ever having received a copy of the four-page letter. In a call on Saturday evening, Dante Lantin, Assistant Secretary for Administration Affairs of the DOTC, also denied receiving a copy of the letter that had him cc’d.
The third source, a member of the El Shaddai religious organization, in a call to The Times on Friday afternoon said that he too was in possession of the same two documents and that several members of media were also given copies. He did not elaborate.
It may be that Vitangcol signed the four-page letter only to comply with the request of the journalist so that it could be the basis for an interview. But whether or not the letter was sent, it was clear that Vitangcol wrote it because he was hurting and must have felt abandoned by his “bosses.”
Hurting and ready to go public
In the letter, Vitangcol spoke of “loyalty” and hinted of his disappointment and willingness to speak and divulge, privately not publicly, all that he knows about the MRT3 supply and maintenance contract and the attendant controversies. But the fact alone that he had agreed to be interviewed would mean that he was ready to go public. Only the interview did not go through.
In a letter dated 16 June 2014 to Atty. Jaime Fortunato A. Caringal, Assistant Secretary for Legal Affairs of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Vitangcol dropped broad hints that he was now prepared to “condemn and narrate faults” about the supply and maintenance contract for the MRT3 albeit “privately.”
Vitangcol was accused by the former Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Joseph Rychtar of demanding $30 million from the Czech company and of proposing a joint venture between Inekon and Vitangcol’s uncle for the contract to supply and maintain the MRT3. The former MRT3 General Manager had denied the accusation and went on to file a perjury suit against the Ambassador. The court subsequently dismissed the case.
In the letter to Caringal, Vitangcol spoke of “loyalty” to the appointing power and that he had acted like a “loyal soldier” while working with the DOTC. “In my letter to Sec. Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya on 11 July 2013, I stated there that I am and will always be a loyal soldier to the appointing authorities.” He even quoted the Pledge of Loyalty by Sir Elbert Hubbard.
But that was then. And he is now out of office. He said that he is no longer bound by that pledge. “However, that was before and now is different—I am no longer part of this Department and more so no longer under the control of the appointing authorities.”
Vitangcol also said that he is now free to speak his mind out. “Since I am now out of this Department, I can now condemn and narrate faults—not publicly, but on a personal basis to you— to help your group in deciding related things in the future. I am doing this so as to put order and save the institution to which I formerly belong[ed].”
He recounted his meeting with the Czech Ambassador on 30 January 2013. In that encounter, he alleged that Rychtar told him bluntly that “This is already a done deal. The only stumbling block is you.” The letter also alleged that there was a pay-off. “We have already spent more than P140 million just to close this deal,” Rychtar reportedly told Vitangcol.
“Why was it a ‘close deal’ already? Who was the Ambassador talking to? Where did the P140M go?” Vitangcol asked in his letter to Caringal. “The 24 April 2012 letter of Mr. Yorgos Psinakis might be a starting point,” he suggested.
Reached for comment, Ambassador Joseph Rychtar sent an email on Wednesday to The Manila Times from Turkey, denying ever having talked to Vitangcol on January 30, 2013 about the alleged P140 million Inekon paid to a powerful individual in exchange for the bagging of the supply and maintenance contract for MRT3.
Rychtar said that he doesn’t want to react to “this nonsense” and doesn’t need to defend himself against so evident a lie. Vitangcol “must be treated by a psychiatrist because he suffers from mental defect (sic).”
The Ambassador also denied talking to Vitangcol about money matters because “it is not my floor (sic).” On the contrary, he pointed out that it was the Czechs who had refused to give in to corruption when they refused to pay $30 million to Vitangcol’s messenger, Wilson De Vera, in exchange for the MRT3 supply and maintenance contract.
In his letter to Caringal, the former MRT3 General Manager also warned the DOTC of future issues surrounding the award and supply and delivery of 48 new Light Rail Vehicles (LRV’s).
Vitangcol had asked the officers of DOTC-MRT3 for “full disclosures of their ties with Dalian Locomotive CNR.”
Trip to Dalian
It would appear that the contract for the supply and maintenance of the MRT3 was already decided by some DOTC officials long before the bidding could be conducted.
In the same letter, Vitangcol revealed that sometime in 2010, a group of DOTC officials travelled to China “to check on the manufacturing facilities of Dalian Locomotive CNR, with all expenses paid for by Dalian Locomotive.” However, only Felina Vergara had admitted having gone to the China.
Also, Vitangcol said, in a meeting with the Dalian executives on May 9, 2014 at the MRT3 depot, Antonio de Mesa, local representative of Dalian, “proudly announced: “Ayan si Ellen at si Ric, dinala ko sila sa Dalian sa China.” (There they are Ellen and Ric, I brought them to Dalian in China.) Ellen is Eleanor G. Naidas and Ric is Engr. Jose Ric M. Inotorio, both Division Chiefs at DOTC-MRT3.
Vitangcol then asked: “Was it coincidence or intentional that Naidas and Inotorio were members of the Project Management Office, created to manage and administer the contract with Dalian, and ultimately to accept the LRVs, through a DOTC Special Order?”
He also alleged in the letter that “a member of the DOTC Technical Working Group, which disqualified the other bidder—China South Railways, and recommended the “award” to Dalian, was also part of the group that visited Dalian Locomotive in China way back in 2010.”
Is the Liberal Party involved in the awarding of the MRT3 maintenance contract to the joint venture of Au Porte Technologies (APT) and Global (formerly MIESCOR and Genials)? Who is “The Party” Vitangcol mentions in his letter? The Liberal Party? Who?
APT and Genials, according to Vitangcol “were known to be hard core competitors.” He said that the “Joint Venture was formed for mutual cooperation and allegedly approved by “The Party.” He said that it is common knowledge in the department that “The Party” is “allegedly getting its share of funds from the fees collected by the Joint Venture.
He also accused some officials of DOTC-MRT3 of receiving money from the Joint Venture for reducing the penalties for its various violations—an average of P3.3 million a month for IMP and P5 million monthly average for TMP.
Vitangcol blamed the DOTC spokesperson for his bad publicity. He called the spokesperson “fame hungry.” He said that he was “ordered” not to talk to the media even as the official spokesperson had continuously “disparaged and damaged my person.” He also said that he was “told to be quiet while the Department rants to the media.”
Vitangcol also mused that he could have been spared the bad publicity if he had done things his way.“Things would have turned out differently had I decided on my own—without regard to loyalty, without regard to being an obedient soldier.”
He said that he had “received confirmed reports that some officials of DOTC-MRT3 were asking for certain amounts of money so that they can fix the reports and minimize the penalties to be imposed.” One way of finding out the truth would be to check if the penalties he had consistently imposed on TMP and the previous Maintenance Provider IMP are suddenly lowered.
(Atty. Al S. Vitangcol did not reply to our text messages and phone calls to him. Assec. Caringal on the other hand, did not answer subsequent calls by Times even as, in reply to the Times’ earlier text that he would be available for a brief phone interview about Vitangcol’s allegations in the letter. DOTC Sec. Emilio Abaya likewise did not respond to the text messages and phone calls. – DAA)