MANILA, Philippines – Embattled Metro Rail Transit (MRT) chief Al Vitangcol III on Friday, April 11, vowed to “voluntarily resign” once cleared of corruption charges made by Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar.
Vitangcol also said in an interview with ANC’s Headstart that he is mulling over legal action against “everybody” who had alleged that he attempted to extort $30 million from Czech company Inekon to secure a government contract for the supply of new trains.
On calls for him to resign over alleged corruption and incompetence, Vitangcol said: “I have considered resigning but not at this time. Because if I resign at this time, it might be construed as an admission of guilt. Once I’m cleared by all investigating bodies, nobody would [have to] ask me to resign. I will resign voluntarily.”
Vitangcol said he would return to the private sector once his name is cleared.
Asked why he would have to resign even after cleared of the allegations against him, the MRT chief said, “Because I didn’t expect that government service would be like this.”
He was apparently referring to the controversy sparked by the allegations against him by Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar, which had branched into claims that he is “untouchable” due to his alleged links to Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, who was Transportation Secretary when he was appointed to the MRT.
Vitangcol also said the attacks against him could be emanating from groups who lost business when he joined the MRT in January 2012.
“I think there’s somebody who wants me out of MRT 3. [Who they are], I do not know. I have no idea at all. There are so many people; there are so many business opportunities that were stopped when I was at MRT 3,” he said.
Asked if he was upset at Rychtar for accusing him of corruption, and businessman Wilson de Vera for allegedly presenting himself as the MRT chief’s “broker” to the envoy and Inekon officials, Vitangcol said, “I’m upset at everybody.”
“We are preparing all legal charges against all these people,” he said, adding that he is only taking action now since he finally has a copy of Rychtar’s affidavit detailing the MRT chief’s alleged extortion try on Inekon through De Vera.
He said he is not personally acquainted with De Vera.
Vitangcol maintained his position that Rychtar had fabricated the allegation against him but could not say with certainty the envoy’s motive for doing so.
“I do not really know what was going on in his mind but I believe that he might have cut a deal with somebody else and then it did not materialize because we conducted a public bidding,” he said.
The Office of the Ombudsman had issued a second invitation to the Czech ambassador to shed light on the allegations he had made against Vitangcol and other individuals.
Rychtar had issued statements to the media and an affidavit to the congressional committee investigating the matter, but has yet to cooperate with the Ombudsman since it began its investigation in 2013.
Vitangcol said Inekon had proposed a government-to-government deal on the supply of 52 new light rail vehicles for MRT 3, at $174.46 million or $3.35 million per car, but this could only be done under conditions that were not existing at the time.
After a public bidding, the contract was awarded to Dalian Locomotive and Rolling Stock Company of China.
“I am the only one who stood pat not to accept the government-to-government deal and declared it is an overpriced system. I endorsed to the department a lower amount for the coaches so that the government can buy more coaches,” Vitangcol said.
Responding to questions, the MRT chief said “it might be possible” that De Vera had introduced himself as his broker or representative without Vitangcol’s knowledge. He said has yet to “confront” De Vera since the businessman is out of the country.
Vitangcol reiterated that he has no protector in government, and that he is not a member of the ruling Liberal Party.
“Nobody is protecting me. I’m not a politician; I’m a technocrat.”
He said that while he was appointed as MRT general manager when Roxas headed the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), they do not know each other. Vitangcol said his former professor at the University of the Philippines recommended him to the position.
“I have no ties with the Secretary [Roxas]….I was simply an employee to him,” he said.
Vitangcol also said that Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya had him investigated by the department’s legal office, which found no evidence to file an administrative case against him since Rychtar did not file a formal complaint.
Asked for his qualifications as MRT chief, Vitangcol said he is a lawyer and a civil engineer with a computer science degree. “All these qualifications I believe, are good for the position,” he said.
Groups such as the Riles Laan sa Sambayanan (Riles) Network are questioning his competence, and blamed him for the long lines suffered by commuters during rush hour, as well as periodic breakdowns in train operations.
Riles Network is demanding that he step down for alleged corruption and inefficient management of the MRT.
Vitangcol said, however, that the MRT would be more efficient now if new trains were purchased as early as 2008.
The MRT chief also issued a public apology for the current state of the MRT 3 and promised commuters that the situation would improve once the first batch of new trains arrive in February 2015.
“I apologize to all our passengers for the inconvenience that they have suffered but MRT 3 is exerting its best effort so that lines would be alleviated, and we strive to improve the service. When the new trains arrive, I am sure that there would no longer be a congestion,” Vitangcol said. – Rappler.com