Embattled Metro Rail Transit General Manager Al Vitangcol, who is accused of demanding a $30-million bribe in exchange for a contract to buy MRT trains, has been urged to answer the charges against him in a congressional probe.
Lawyers and party-list Reps. Ibarra Gutierrez of Akbayan, Terry Ridon of Kabataan and Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol made the suggestion a day after Vitangcol threatened to file perjury or libel charges against Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Joseph Rychtar for wrongly accusing him of extorting money from officials of Inekon Group, a Czech train-car maker.
The allegation against Vitangcol is being probed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Vitangcol has vehemently denied the accusation, saying he never talked to Inekon officials about a deal for 48 new MRT trains.
“What he did is more of a PR [public relations]move. The best course for Vitangcol would be to fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation, adopt a policy of full disclosure and assure the public that he truly has nothing to hide,” Gutierrez told The Manila Times.
A possible perjury case against the Czech ambassador, the lawmaker said, can only proceed after an investigation proves that Rychtar’s charges as stated in his affidavit are false.
“Filing a case against his accuser at this point would only underscore his repeated denials of the alleged bribery without adding anything to the legal process,” Gutierrez added.
“Instead of resorting to perjury charges, it would do well for everybody for both parties to simply face each other in a hearing at the House of Representatives,” Ridon said, referring to a pending congressional probe of the alleged extortion attempt.
But for House Deputy Minority Leader Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list, Vitangcol’s time to defend himself from the extortion allegations had run out.
“What took him [Vitangcol] so long? Ambassador Rychtar publicly aired his allegations of attempted extortion months ago. Why the belated defense?” Tinio said.