The Vitangcol saga: Exhibit A of ‘daang matuwid’ running off-track

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Those looking for the ammunition to prove that the “daang matuwid” is a sham and an empty governing slogan can now present their  Exhibit A.  It is the sordid saga of fired MRT General Manager Al Vitangcol 3rd.  Even allies of the Aquino government who can forgive one rotten egg in a supposedly honest administration have been wondering why Vitangcol’s   MRT tenure had lasted that long. And was allowed to administer the MRT with impunity and indiscretion of the gravest kind.

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Vitangcol’s MRT leadership, by all accounts, was standard-issue Third World corruption and recklessness, the kind you see in governments unbound by rules and laws, the ones lacking in basic decency. Why it thrived for so long in a government reputedly dedicated to integrity is one of the things that would forever blot and scar Mr. Aquino’s claim of running an honest and competent government.

Those who claim that the Vitangcol saga is a tiny, lamentable blot in an otherwise clean and competent government, think again. The Vitangcol story, for one, has generated a corruption story that spilled out of our borders and forced an ambassador of a foreign  to break protocol and tradition to expose an alleged  attempt by Vitangcol and  a confederate to demand bribes from an MRT train  supplier.

But first let us focus on the big issue of the moment,  the technical and operational woes  of  the  MRT, and its tarnished reputation  as the provider/abettor of long queues, two-hour wait for rides, missing trains, broken-down trains and serious accidents.

The  grave operational and technical woes of the MRT, including a recent accident that caused serious and minor injuries to all passengers on that  particular run, is a context that requires this policy imperative: make sure that the MRT is maintained well, from the trains to the tracks, down to the minutest component of the MRT system.

More, the MRT now serves as the anchor of Metro Manila’s mass transport infrastructure and, ideally, it should be the public face of technical and operational efficiency.

Why did Vitangcol’s MRT epically failed to do just that?  Why did he fail to fulfill that one basic mandate as MRT  general manager?

In a case of classic Third World sleaze, it turned out that the maintenance of the MRT, a P517 million contract, had been  quietly awarded by the Vitangcol-led MRT management in 2012  to a consortium made up of two companies—the Comm Builders and Technology Inc., or CB&T, and Philippine Trams Rail Management & and Services, or PH  Trams.

The fancy names of the consortium members, notwithstanding, a cursory check revealed these facts:

The principal of the consortium, PH Trams, was newly formed before it got the maintenance contract in 2012. It had no track record in the sensitive job of maintaining MRTs.

The consortium was undercapitalized.

Worse, it was a no-bid contract, according to the media expose.

Here is the worst part, which unraveled in a recent congressional inquiry. The PH Tram’s original  incorporators included  Arturo Soriano,  Wilson de Vera,  Mario de la Cruz and Manolo Maralit. Who are  these people and personalities? The story gets more interesting.

Soriano is a maternal uncle of Vitangcol’s wife. Shortly before the award of the MRT maintenance contract to the consortium led by PH Tram —we are speaking here of a no-bid contract worth half a billion pesos—Soriano got out of the PH Trams. Why would a perfectly sane businessman on the lookout for opportunities  get out  of a consortium on the verge of getting a half a billion peso contract?  That was amazingly weird.

Congressmen smelled a shallow legal ruse to free Vitangcol and the MRT Board from getting jailed under the anti-graft laws.  Soriano’s exit was perfect, shortly before the no-bid award.

But many congressmen are  convinced that Soriano’s divestment was a crude legal maneuver to allow Vitangcol to make the award to PH Trams.

Wilson de Vera, take note of that name, was named by Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar, as one of the two people who tried to extort $30 million from Czech-based train supplier Inekon Group.  De Vera and a confederate told Inekon that  the $30 million would be in exchange for the MRT’s purchase of 48  LRVs or new light rail vehicles from Inekon. With de Vera on that alleged extortion attempt was . . . Vitangcol himself.

Vitangcol and de Vera had denied the extortion attempt. But for an ambassador to make a strong and unqualified accusation of wrongdoing against a public official in  his host country is unprecedented. Inekon Chair Josef Husek had corroborated the statements of Rychtar.

Classic sleaze. Recklessness, stories  of corruption so brazen, and impunity. That was the MRT during the reign of Vitangcol. Yet, despite the early warning signs, Vitangcol was coddled and protected in the centers of power.

On top of these, Vitangcol failed on his number one job. Which was to make the MRT, the anchor of the Metro Manila mass transport system, safe and efficient. The MRT is now a broken-down, shabby and dangerous form of mass transport, thanks to Vitangcol.
The Vitangcol era at the MRT is part of the dark, corrupt underbelly that keeps on gnawing at the claim of “daang matuwid” and good governance. Would Vitangcol get his comeuppance? Or, would he get the kid glove treatment as before?

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14 Comments

  1. You ask– “can’t they do anything right in the Philippines?” Yes we can!! We make “Corruption” an acceptable art of living in the country!

  2. bobots@hotmail.com on

    Good article Sir Marlen. Maybe you can follow it up with an article that shows the very “sad state” of Malabon City, where the President’s aunt and her group have been ruling for quite some time now. Since Navotas’ leaders banned gambling in their territories, all the greedy Malabon politicos have welcomed the gambling lords with wide open arms and made Malabon their safehaven. And try to get in and out of the town proper and you will be “amazed” how much time is spent trying to traverse the main road or shall I say “parking lot.” I am sorry to say there’s not much progress much less anything positive to say about Malabon City, and it’s specially shameful coz’ the ruling political clan is directly related to the President. Daang Matuwid please show them the right path to good governance.

  3. Vitangcol was coddled and protected inthe center of power,maling akala!!baka pawn ng most powerful!,tanong lang! Proprotektahan mo ba ang tao kung hindi ka nakikinabang o sila ang gumagamit sa mga ito para pangtubos sa mga plano nila,o may mga tao ang nasa taas na hindi nila,matangihan!sa ang media hukay-hukay ng medyo malalim na storya, dahil baka tayo ang maging accessories para makatakas ang nasa masmataas,!hindi pueding tumakbo ang sasakyan kung walang nagmana-ni obra dito,isip -isip pa ng kauti pag may time,!!

  4. kaya pala daan matuwid patungo sa bangin….marami pa ring mahirap sa Pilipinas kaya marami pa ring korap

  5. Ang ilagay ninyo sa dyaryo sino ang backer ni Vitangcol para ma-appoint sa puwesto and we can easily connect the dot. Of course as usual pagdating sa Judiciary or Court eh insufficient evidence kasi di raw ebidensiya ang dot connecting. ang hehehe.

  6. The CB&T, APT Global, Global Excom Services General Trading, the
    Corporate name of companies established by the Pangasinan
    Mafia, to scam the MRT, LRT, PHIL. NATL RAILWAY. The incorporators
    or partners are Marlo de la Cruz, Soriano Arturo (in behalf of Vitangtong)
    Wilson de Vera prominent Liberal fund raiser and a banker in the
    Person of Federico “FRED” Remo Exec. Vice President of PhilExim
    Guarantee Corp a govt. run financing corp.
    Hindi ko ma maintindihan bakit at paano na control ng mga ito ang
    contrata sa Maintenance ng MRT na napaka importante para maging
    maayos at walang peligro ang mga mananakay kundi rin lang Kasangkot
    si Vitangcol.
    Paano nila pinayagang salaulain ng mga ito ang gobyerno at nakawin
    ang milyong pondo ng rail way transit sangkot ang executive
    vice President ng PhilExim Guarantee bilang isa sa mga stock holder
    nila, na bawal na bawal sa patakaran o Polisiya ng gobyerno bilang
    “conflict of interest” Bakit hangga ngayon nanunungkalan parin
    si Remo sa PhilExim at hindi tinatangal o suspendihin man lang
    ni Sec Purisima at imbestigahan internally at ng Ombudsman
    at ng Kumite sa Kongreso, kung nagamit ba ang PhilExim para
    palabasing may sapat na puhunan ang nasabing mga kumpaniya.
    Si Remo ba ay nag sumite ng tamang SALN, at tinukoy ang
    marami niyang Bahay at condo sa pasig at Taguig City, Tandang
    Sora Quezon City na nabili niya mula ng maging miyembro siya
    ng Pangasinan Mafia. Nakasama rin ba sa SALN niya ang ibat
    ibang sasakyang at mga SUV na gamit ng mga anak niya, at
    extra family sa Quezon City. Gaano siya kalakas kay Sec Purisima
    at sec Roxas mar na kahit na dati na siyang nagkakaso sa Ombudsman
    at Sandigan dahil sa kurapsyon ay naging Exec Vice President parin
    siya sa PhilExim. Si Remo ay kinakatawan ng kaniyang anak na
    si EMERSON sa nasabing mga kumpaniya para maitago o maikubli
    ang papel niya sa Sindikato. Marami na silang naging proyekto
    sa mga airport sa air traffic control ng ibat ibang paliparan sa
    kabisayaan, dahil sa lakas nila sa DOTC, panahon pa ni Mar
    Roxas hanggang kay Abaya. Meron din silang niluluto sa
    DILG para karagdagang campaign fund pero inabot na ng indulto
    ni Vitangkol. Kung sana maipatawag sa Kungreso si Remo at
    ang kaniyang anak na si Emerson at malaki ang kanilang nalalaman
    sa scam ng railway sa bansa.

  7. Kilala kong personal ang mga taong ito. Yang si Wilson de Vera at ang kasama niyang “runner” na si Marlo de la Cruz ay taga Pangasinan. Yan si Wilson ay numerong “name dropper” na nakakunekta sa mga mataas na politiko at sa gobyerno. Kasama sa pinagyayabang niyang “backer” niya sa Mar Roxas at Ballsy, na kapatid no Abnoy. Yan naman si Marlo de la Cruz ay mahirap pa sa daga. Tingnan ninyo and kanilang “assets” o BIR tax returns bago sila nakakuha ng kontrata sa gobyerno. Madaling malaman iyan kung ang gobyernong ito ay hindi kasabwat dahil lahat na bakas sa kanilang krimen ay pagtatakpan nila hangat maari. Yan si marlo de la Cruz ay nasa Pilipinas lang yan. Walang alam na pupuntahan yan. Patago-tago lang sa kamag-anak sa Pangasinan at sa Valencia, at Malaybalay, Bukidnon sa Mindanao.

    Ang taong bayan dapat ang mag “bulgar” sa publiko kung saan sila nagtatago dahil wala tayong katiting na maasahan sa “tago’ at ma-impyernong daan ni Abnoy.

  8. It is “fraud and sabotage” unless Mr. Vitangcol is the “great scape goat” for some “kamag-anak” he should be charged and jailed. Para hindi pamarisan.

  9. Jason Bourne on

    I think BS Aquino will wait for a big accident to happen and foreign news media will publish the news and only then will he act on it – after people die and the reputation of the Philippines is once again tested.

    Vitangcol is protected by no other than Mar Roxas himself thats why.

  10. I cant understand why you filipinos cant understand that nothing is run right in the philippines. Take for instance buying a brand new car. You need to have number plates fitted both back & front. Well how long does it take this country to produce those number plates. Then each year you need a sticker & they cant even produce those, so if governemnt cant produce 2 of the simpliest things how on earth do you expect someone to do anything even half tecchnical to a high standard. You know you have to walk before you run, get everything from the bottom working & work your way up. We foreigners never fail to laugh at how stupid people are here in running things. A very quick example is the immigration, when i get my I card i need to have my fingerprints taken & they have this wonderful state of the art electronic machine that takes your fingerprints perfectly & without any mess & i said thats brilliant we dont get ink on our hands now but they said no now you need to go over there & hve them taken manually with ink. I asked the guy why i needed to have them made also with ink & he said well in case the computers stop working we need a paper copy. A child of 6 in th uk would know what to do, print a paper copy off the computer. But here a complete department cant work that out. Tell me is it me who is wrong or is it the philippines cant do anything right.

  11. “Walang kamag-anak, kaibigan..” “daang matuwid” Come on we’ve heard enough of these political propaganda over and over again,! Panay pa pogi or excuse me! Kaba_ _ _ _ _ pala !.

  12. Resty reyes on

    Why? Because Vitangcol has knowledge in the Belsy/husband trip controversy.