THE former manager of the Metro Rail Transit has asked the Supreme Court to stop the Sandiganbayan from trying him for graft, saying it was administration standard bearer Manuel Roxas II and Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya who should be prosecuted for “gross and inexcusable neglect.”
In a sworn statement submitted to the Court, Al Vitangcol said Roxas, Abaya and other officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications were responsible for the mess at the MRT, including dilapidated stations and train and frequent breakdowns.
“I am the only DoTC official charged by the Ombudsman despite the unmistakable knowledge, involvement, participation and instruction of my superiors in the DoTC headed by former Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas, current DoTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Atty. Jose Perpetuo Lotilla and Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco,” Vitangcol said in his sworn statement.
The four DoTC officials “should have been the ones brought to justice for gross and inexcusable inaction if not willful and deliberate manipulation of the events and processes related to the maintenance of MRT-3,” Vitangcol said.
The Roxas camp denounced Vitangcol’s charges as a “political vendetta.”
“It’s very obvious that it’s just squid tactics on the part of Vitangcol,” Roxas spokesperson, Rep. Barry Gutierrez said.
“Now that [Vitangcol’s] being charged by the Ombudsman for his mistakes [in the MRT], he would now pin blame on [Roxas] to lessen his liabilities. Obviously, he’s just finding a scapegoat… and he found an easy target in [Roxas] because he’s in the middle of a presidential campaign,” Gutierrez added.
Vitangcol said in his sworn statement he was “wrongfully singled out” by the Ombudsman for charges related to the maintenance service contract for MRT-3.
He also asked the Court to restrain the Sandiganbayan Third Division from pushing forward with the proceedings against him.
On Sept. 16, 2015, the Supreme Court dismissed Vitangcol’s petition, but he sought a reconsideration on Nov. 6.
Vitangcol said his submission of the latest affidavit was intended to support his plea for reconsideration.
He recalled that when he assumed as MRT-3 general manager in 2012, first on his list of priorities was the need to ensure a continuation of maintenance services for MRT3.
Vitangcol said when he learned that the Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC) maintenance agreement with Sumitomo Corporation would expire on Oct.19, 2012, he wrote a letter to Roxas, then DOTC secretary, in May 2012 inquiring on who should undertake the maintenance.
Since he received no response from Roxas, Vitangcol said he wrote a memo to Lotilla asking him to act on his pending request.
“These issues were never addressed promptly”•which, as I warned, would cause… operational problems at MRT3,” he said.
A month later, Vitangcol said he raised the need to bid out a new contract to Roxas again and even suggested that the bidding be carried out by MRTC for lack of time on the part of the DOTC.
Even Tomas T.d de Leon Jr., chairman and president of MRTC sent a letter to Roxas on July 25, 2012, or three months before the Sumitomo contract expired. Still, no action was taken, Vitangcol said.
On Aug. 31, 2012, De Leon sent a letter from Philippine Trams Rail Management and Services Corporation (PH Trams) CB&T Joint Venture requesting an inspection of the entire MRT-3 system in connection with its unsolicited proposal for the maintenance provision and presentation before the MRTC.
Vitangcol said from there, he learned that the uncle of his wife was one of the incorporators of PH Trams.
Vitangcol and five incorporators of PH Trams were charged by the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 65 of the Government Procurement Reform Act.
However, he said his wife’s uncle assured him that he would be assigning back his shares to Marlo P. Dela Cruz. As proof, he said his wife’s uncle Arturo Soriano executed a deed of assignment to De La Cruz.
“I was always of the firm belief that Soriano was no longer connected with PH Trams. This conflict of interest became the focal point of the Ombudsman’s investigation and in the process deliberately lost sight of the more insidious practices that have occurred in the DOTC,” Vitangcol said.
Then, a month before the expiration of the contract or on Sept. 28, 2012 and after Sumitomo called the attention of DOTC, Limcaoco created a task force to review the terms of reference of MRT-3 maintenance contract and issue findings within 72 hours.
The task force headed by Vitangcol recommended that a five-year contract be bid out immediately.
But his recommendation was not followed, and the DOTC resorted to contracting maintenance services without a bidding, citing the lack of time.
The negotiating team awarded the contract to PH Trams. The contract of which was signed by Abaya.
“I did not play any role in the formulation of that decision because as general manager of the MRT-3, I have neither the power nor the authority to approve and award projects amounting to more than P5 million,” Vitangcol said.
With the contract expiring on April 19, 2013, Lotilla then moved for the bid for a temporary maintenance provider.
Vitangcol said DOTC extended the contract with PH Trams twice, which cost the government $12.170 million or P535.5 million, using the average rate for the period.
Vitangcol said PH Trams De La Cruz is a friend of Abaya, which he admitted in the Oct. 6, 2014 interview in GMA7’s Bawal ang Pasaway with Prof. Solita Monsod.
But during the Sep. 1, 2014 and Oct. 1, 2014 Senate hearing, Abaya denied knowing De La Cruz.
Then, the DOTC awarded the long-term maintenance contract to Busan Transportation Corporation in partnership with four other firms.
Vitangcol said Busan was brought in by Eugene Rapanut, a certified member of the Liberal Party in Ilocos Sur since 1987.
He added that “Rapanut likewise brokered the deal for Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Co. Ltd which bagged the supply of 48 new coaches for MRT3.”
Vitangcol added that MRT3 is also paying “useless insurance premiums” worth more than P100 million annually for the Industrial All Rist (IAR), which was underwritten by the Government Service Insurance System . He said he raised the issue with Assistant Secretary Dante Lantin but it was not acted upon.
Then, he said he made various proposals to lower the cost of MRT-3 operations, which he sent to the Presidential Management Staff through DOTC’s Aika Robredo, daughter of LP Vice Presidential bet Lenny Robredo.
“I never received any response,” he said.
Vitangcol’s affidavit was attached to his omnibus motion with the Supreme Court, seeking to implead the Sandiganbayan Third Division in his motion for reconsideration.
Vitangcol said he did not raise these issues with the Ombudsman because they focused on allegations of conflict of interest regarding his relationship with Soriano. – With Sandy Araneta