MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – Embattled Metro Railway Transit (MRT) general manager Al Vitangcol has been relieved from his post over allegations of an anomalous deal with an in-law.
Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya told radio dzMM that Vitangcol was removed from duty to give way to investigation.
DOTC spokesperson Michael Arthur Sagcal said in a telephone interview that Abaya named Light Rail Transit Authority administrator Honorito Chaneco as MRT 3 officer-in-charge.
“Secretary Abaya issued a special order today making Chaneco the OIC of MRT 3. The DOTC is investigating new allegations involving GM Vitangcol and the MRT 3 maintenance contract,” Sagcal said.
Philippine Star columnist Jarius Bondoc wrote in his column Monday, May 26, that Vitangcol awarded in 2012-2013 a maintenance contract worth over P500 million to a company reportedly owned by the uncle of his wife.
According to the report, the contract for the upkeep of MRT 3 trains was awarded to PH Trams, where the uncle of Vitangcol’s wife, Arturo Soriano, sits as director.
The contract was allegedly awarded to Soriano’s firm without public bidding and Vitangcol himself drafted the terms of reference.
Before this, Vitangcol was tagged as part of the group that tried to extort $30 million from Czech firm Inekon Group in exchange for the contract to supply trains for the MRT 3. He went on leave due to the controversy, but returned to office when the issue died down.
Vitangcol, who has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, said in a text message that he tendered his resignation. “Yes, I filed my resignation.”
In a letter addressed to President Benigno Aquino III, a copy of which was sent to media organizations, Vitangcol said he was leaving his post to “insulate the DOTC and the appointing authorities” from “issues” against him.
“Some issues had been persistently played up by the media and these have already affected the image of the DOTC as well as that of this administration,” Vitangcol wrote.
However, he clarified that his resignation should not be construed as an admission of guilt.
“I maintain my innocence of any and all allegations that are hurled against me. I have done nothing wrong or improper.
“I have discharged my functions to the best of my abilities and have made decisions that were most advantageous to the government and the Filipino people,” he continued.
Vitangcol was relieved as the government is in the middle of a P3.8-billion MRT 3 capacity expansion program.
The DOTC earlier awarded a contract to Dalian Locomotive & Rolling Stock Company of China for the delivery of 48 brand new trains to help decongest the MRT 3. (READ: Delivery of new MRT trains to ease congestion set for Feb 2015)
The mass transit system carries close to 600,000 passengers a day or almost double its design capacity of 350,000. – Rappler.com