Ex-MRT-3 chief Vitangcol, 5 others face graft over maintenance deal

-- Members of Akbayan Youth troop to the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) at the GMA-Kamuning station in Quezon City on Wednesday wearing safety gear such as helmets, knee pads, and elbow pads to dramatize the dangers posed by riding the poorly maintained MRT 3, which is plagued with problems.(MNS photo)

— Members of Akbayan Youth troop to the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) at the GMA-Kamuning station in Quezon City on Wednesday wearing safety gear such as helmets, knee pads, and elbow pads to dramatize the dangers posed by riding the poorly maintained MRT 3, which is plagued with problems.(MNS photo)

MANILA, Dec 1 (Mabuhay) – Former Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT-3) General Manager Al Vitangcol III and five incorporators of the Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corporation (PH Trams) were charged with graft before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the MRT3 maintenance contract which was supposedly anomalous.

Vitangcol and his co-accused conspired in awarding the MRT3 Maintenance contract to PH Trams and its joint venture Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corporation (CB&T) in October 2012, according to separate complaints filed before the Sandiganbayan on November 27, according to the Office of the Ombudsman through its Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP).

Copies of the complaint were released to the media on Tuesday.

The former MRT3 general manager and his co-accused were charged with violating Sections 3 (e) and 3 (h) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 65 of RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Named as Vitangcol’s co-accused were PH Trams incorporators Wilson de Vera, Marlo dela Cruz, Manolo Maralit, Federico Remo and Vitangcol’s uncle-in-law, Arturo Soriano, presently the provincial accountant of Pangasinan.

The joint venture should have been disqualified under government procurement rules, the complaint noted.

Under the contract, the MRT was to pay PH Trams-CB&T $1.15 million a month for the maintenance works of MRT 3.

“Despite having a direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest in PH Trams…” Vitangcol “unlawfully” used his various positions as the general manager of MRT3, head of the DOTC-MRT3 Negotiating Team, and member of the MRT Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) in recommending that the maintenance contract be awarded to PH Trams-CB&T, according to the case information sheet.

Citing RA 9184, the special prosecutor claimed the contract should not have been awarded as PH Trams incorporator Arturo Soriano was the uncle of Vitangcol’s wife.

Instead, Vitangcol and his co-accused intentionally concealed his affinity and relation with Soriano as the disclosure would have automatically disqualified the company from the bidding, the OSP alleged.

As proof of intentionally concealing Vitangcol’s supposed interest in the contract, the OSP cited an “Affidavit of Disclosure” from PH Trams, which states that “none of its incorporators are related by consanguinity or affinity up to the third civil degree to the head of the procuring entity (MRT3), members of the Bids and Awards Committee, Technical Working Group, the BAC Secretariat, and the Head of the Project Management Office.”

The complaint also noted: “In fact, as all the accused knew, accused Soriano, one of the PH Trams’ incorporators, is an uncle-in-law, a relative by affinity within the third civil degree of accused Vitangcol… which in fact, if not concealed by the accused, would have automatically disqualified PH Trams from participating in the procurement of the interim maintenance contract of MRT3.”

Last July, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered that the case be filed against Vitangcol and the five PH Trams incorporators.

In an earlier statement, Vitangcol said Soriano had already divested from PH Trams even before the contract was awarded to the company.

Amid allegations of corruption haunting the MRT, including the alleged $30-million extortion try on Czech company Inekon Group in exchange for a P3.8-billion supply contract covering additional coaches for the MRT-3 expansion project, Vitangcol resigned from the MRT in May 2014.

The contract was eventually awarded to PH Trams after Inekon officials supposedly refused to pay the amount Vitangcol and PH Trams director De Vera allegedly asked from the Czech firm.

The extortion try is the subject of another investigation still pending with the Office of the Ombudsman. (MNS)

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