First of two parts
There’s no going away present for H.E. Joseph Rychtar, Czech Ambassador to the Philippines, when he finally bids farewell to Manila for another posting somewhere in Latin America. It is highly unlikely that the issue of the alleged $30 million extortion attempt by a ranking official of the MRT and some government contractors would be resolved during his remaining days in the country.
Worse, there are strong indications that powerful forces are working to exonerate Vitangcol and his co-accused from allegations of doing shenanigans.
But there will be no party either for Al Vitangcol, MRT3 general manager, and Wilson de Vera, the alleged “courier” who allegedly attempted to shakedown the Inekon officials to the tune of $30 million. The Czech Embassy in Manila and Czech corporation Inekon, the original supplier of the MRT coaches, are standing their ground and are prepared to see the investigation through come hell or high water into the alleged $30 million botched shakedown, a highly placed industry source told the Manila Times recently.
They are unmoved by the blitz propaganda campaign of the government to obfuscate the issue and put the blame squarely on the Czech envoy for the delay in the investigation of the alleged $30 million shakedown.
Vitangcol and his Palace supporters should have reason to worry. There is a growing consensus among thinking and intellectually honest Filipinos that Malacañang is protecting Vitangcol. The more they talk, the more questions are raised. The more they explain, the bigger the gaping holes appear. And the more they blame the Czech Ambassador for the delay in the investigation, the deeper they dig themselves into a hole.
Recall that Vitangcol was suspended for 60 days following the accusation of the $30 million extortion attempt. He returned to work immediately after serving his suspension. During that time and up until the present, DOTC Sec. Joseph Abaya has been making the rounds of media to complain that the Czech Ambassador has not cooperated with his department in its initiative to ferret out the truth.
Vitangcol has been cleared by the DOTC of any administrative responsibility for the failure or refusal of the Czech Ambassador to cooperate with the DOTC investigation, according to Abaya. Not to worry, the Secretary said as if to console the Ambassador, after all the NBI is still investigating the criminal liability of Vitangcol. “The allegations against them could not be easily dismissed, though no money changed hands,” an NBI source told the Inquirer on Friday, April 11, 2014.
Malacañang spokespersons also echoed the same narrative. “Vitangcol has not yet been cleared of the charged leveled against him by Rychtar and Husek,” said the source, who asked not to be identified, as he had no authority to speak to reporters. The names that were mentioned in the affidavits of the complainants were linked to Vitangcol and their connection should be established,” the source said (Inquirer, Friday, April 11, 2014).
Government gangs up on Rychtar
The government is ganging up on the Czech Ambassador and trying to intimidate him, a source who requested anonymity observed. “But I think, they will fail,” he added.
Palace Spokesman Edwin Lacierda dared the Ambassador to file the corresponding charges before the appropriate body. He went on to appeal to the public to await the result of the NBI investigation before condemning Vitangcol and De Vera, a member of the Liberal Party. Quoting from the Tuesday, April 8, 2014 issue of the Philippine Star, “At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda urged yesterday Rychtar to stop his media tour to ‘resurrect’ his allegations of extortion against Vitangcol. We encourage him to speak up before the proper body and not just the media,” he said. “Until such time that you (Rychtar) are prepared to present evidence, we cannot work on statements coming from media,” he said.
Lacierda went to say, “That’s the reason why we want affidavits coming from those people who have knowledge, if at all, of any alleged wrongdoing. Suddenly there’s again a resurrection of all these situations.” He also said that the “NBI and the DOTC investigated the case after it came to light in 2013. “It’s certainly interesting, curious why he (Rychtar) does that (media hopping),” he said. “We’d certainly be curious why he’s doing that and not helping the proper investigative bodies do their jobs.”
My, my. If that is not misleading the public, if not altogether an outright lie, I do not know what is. Let’s look into the Lacierda statement and see who is not “helping the proper investigative bodies do their jobs.”
Sometime mid-July 2013, a highly confidential letter detailing the alleged $30 million attempt was sent by the Czech Ambassador to President Benigno Aquino 3rd. This was followed up by the “non paper” on the same issue which was sent to DFA Secretary Robert Del Rosario in the last week of July 2013.
As early as April 11, 2013, in the presence of DOTC Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco, the Czech Ambassador met with the DOTC Secretary to inform him of the alleged shakedown and the attendant anomalies in the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the bidding for the MRT coaches and maintenance.
On July 23, 2013, upon the invitation of the authorities, the Ambassador met with the NBI investigators and provided them all the relevant information and documents involving the alleged shakedown.
Now, if those preceding events are not clear enough to Lacierda and Abaya, then they must be either deaf, dumb or blind, or just plain complicit to a grand cover-up.
Palace threatens envoy
Malacañang, in a sinister fashion, has issued a veiled threat to the Czech Ambassador. I quote from the Sunday, April 13, 2014 issue of the Philippine Star: “The Philippine government is ‘unhappy’ with Czech Ambassador Joseph Rychtar’s allegations of corruption against a transportation official, but the host country will not declare him persona non grata, a source said on Friday. It’s our discretion if we declare him persona non grata but we’re not going there yet,” the source said.” Now the Palace wants the Czech Ambassador to be grateful for that “favor?” Wow!
In Poker, that’s what I call a bluff. To the credit of Ambassador Rychtar, he did not engage in a word war with Malacañang. Maybe the Palace should make good its threat of declaring the envoy persona non grata and let’s see what the consequences will be. And speaking of persona non grata, why can’t the Palace declare the Chinese envoy persona non grata? After all, the Chinese have literally “invaded” parts of the Philippines? Afraid?
Lacierda was wondering why the Ambassador has been making the media rounds. He was referring most likely to the interview of the envoy in DZBB, which was picked up by uncompromised media organizations. The Czech Ambassador—after submitting a series of affidavits to NBI and Congress, a “non paper” to the Dept. of Affairs, a confidential letter to the President, and after bringing up the matter with DOTC Sec. Abaya, and after waiting for 16 excruciating months—is still being accused by the government of being non-cooperative? Abaya and Lacierda are even saying that the envoy has not submitted a signed affidavit to warrant an investigation. In other words, no signed affidavit, no investigation.
During the impeachment hearing of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Rene Corona at the Senate, I recall that at least two Congressmen presented sets of evidence against the Chief Justice that were allegedly provided by a “small lady.” Mindoro Representative—Umali said that the document on the Corona bank account was handed to him by the “small lady” as he was going out of the session hall or something like that.
Not to be outdone and to legally bolster that stupid story, Quezon City Representative Jorge Banal said that Corona’s bank account records were left in his garage by an unknown lady.
In both instances, there were no signed affidavits and the identity of the small lady was never made public. The defense had tried to block the presentation of the evidence but to no avail. Truth to tell, there was no “small lady.” It was a hoax foisted on the Filipino people by these two honorable congressmen to justify the submission of that illegally acquired “evidence” from a “small lady.”
A man was in trial for his “life” yet our legislators turned a blind eye on the prosecutors’ serious violation of due process. Instead they sent him to the gallows and fed to the mob that was crying for his head. In the process justice was buried for good. Maybe Corona was guilty; then again, maybe he was not. Assume he was, but are we a country of laws and not of men. The accused deserves to be tried fairly and justly.
The Corona impeachment trial was yet another proof that the Philippines is a soft State Sad.
(Part 2 will come out tomorrow)