The Office of the Ombudsman has filed graft charges against resigned Metro Rail Transit 3 General Manager Al Vitangcol 3rd in connection with the award of the MRT 3 interim maintenance deal to a joint venture in 2012.
The Ombudsman alleged that Vitangcol, in conspiracy with directors and incorporators of PH Trams, violated Sections 3(e) and 3(h) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when he inked the deal with PH Trams and Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corporation (CB&T) Joint Venture even when one of the PH Trams incorporators was his supposed relative.
Also named respondents were PH Trams incorporators Arturo Soriano (also provincial accountant of Pangasinan), Wilson de Vera, Marlo dela Cruz, Manolo Maralit and Federico Remo.
Vitangcol, allegedly conspiring with the said individuals, “did then and there, wilfully, unlawfully and criminally, give unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference to PH Trams and its joint venture partner,” Assistant Special Prosecutor III Karen Funelas of the Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor alleged in the charge sheet for violation of Section 3(e) which was approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
The interim maintenance contract of MRT 3 with PH Trans CB&T Joint Venture was allegedly entered into “despite PH Trams’ disqualification under Republic Act [RA] 9184… on account of accused Vitangcol’s relationship with Soriano, his uncle-in-law, which fact was intentionally concealed to ensure the award of the contract to the said Joint Venture, to the damage and prejudice of the government.”
RA 9184 is the Government Procurement Reform Act.
The charge for violation of Section 3(h) of the anti-graft law pertained to Vitangcol’s intervening and/or taking part in the award of the deal “while having direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in PH Trams, being the nephew-in-law of accused Soriano.”
Soriano, de Vera, dela Cruz, Maralit and Remo were also named respondents in the charge for violation of Section 3(h).
All the accused, Funelas alleged, fully knew yet concealed Vitangcol’s supposed financial or pecuniary interest in PH Trams.
Vitangcol led the Negotiating Team of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC)-MRT 3; was a member of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC)m which recommended the award of the deal to the joint venture; and was a signatory to the contract, according to the charge sheet.
Also, the Ombudsman filed a case against Vitangcol and the five PH Trams incorporators for alleged violation of Section 65 Paragraph C(1) in relation to Section 47 of RA 9184, over the submission of an Affidavit of Disclosure “containing the false statement and/or declaration that none of PH Trams’ incorporators is related by consanguinity or affinity up to the third civil degree” to the Head of the Procuring Entity, BAC members, Technical Working Group, BAC Secretariat and the Head of the Project.
PH Trams would have been automatically disqualified from participating in the procurement deal if the respondents did not allegedly conceal that Vitangcol was related by affinity to Soriano within the third civil degree, Funelas alleged.
The Ombudsman recommended P30,000 bail each for the accused’s provisional liberty.
Listed as witnesses were Philip Daniel Mathews, Gialyn Yebron and Rholie Besoña – who are all from the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office (FIO)–and “Others.”
The project was awarded to PH Trams-CB&T on October 20, 2012 and was renewed three times until September 4, 2013.
In September 2014, the Ombudsman ordered an investigation of Vitangcol and top executives of the DOTC, including DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and
Undersecretary Jose Lotilla as well as Land Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) Administrator Honorito Chaneco, DOTC BAC members, members of the Negotiating Team and the five PH Trams incorporators in connection with the maintenance deal.
Last July, the Ombudsman found probable cause to charge Vitangcol as well as the five PH Trams incorporators and cleared the others.
This prompted Vitangcol’s camp to question the anti-graft body’s ruling, saying the latter “committed a grievous error when it ruled that it is only respondent Vitangcol, together with the respondents PH Trams incorporators, that should be held liable under the foregoing contract thereby absolving the officials of the DOTC, which is the primary approving authority of the subject contract.”
“The award of the contract was the product of a collegial determination. However, it was subject to the approval of the DOTC Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Jose Perpetuo M. Lotilla and DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya,” Vitangcol’s camp said in their motion for reconsideration last July.
“It was just surprising that it was only respondent Vitangcol, on the part of the government, that was singled out by this honorable office when it wielded the so-called administration of justice. To his mind, this is some sort of selective justice which should be abhorred at all times,” it added.
In 2014, the Ombudsman also approved a preliminary probe and administrative adjudication against Vitangcol and de Vera in connection with the P3.76-billion MRT 3 capacity expansion project.
The fact-finding investigation was prompted by news reports on Vitangcol’s alleged extortion try on Czech company Inekon group in exchange for being awarded the supply contract of MRT 3 trains.
De Vera served as the alleged broker in the alleged extortion attempt.
The Manila Times’ Chairman Emeritus Dante Ang was the first to report about the meetings held between Inekon officials and Vitangcol, who left office in 2014.