Ex-MRT chief Vitangcol blames Roxas for MRT contract deal mess

Ex-MRT chief Vitangcol blames Roxas for MRT contract deal mess
Ex-MRT general manager Al Vitangcol III says presidential bet Mar Roxas ignored procurement requests for the train line when he was DOTC chief

MANILA, Philippines – Former Metro Rail Transit (MRT3) general manager Al Vitangcol III tagged Liberal Party presidential bet Manuel Roxas II in the allegedly anomalous $12-million maintenance service contract deal for the mass transit system. 

On Thursday, February 18, Vitangcol filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court (SC) to support his motion for reconsideration, challenging the Ombudsman’s decision to file graft charges against him over the awarding of an MRT3 interim maintenance contract without public bidding in 2012.

In his affidavit, Vitangcol accused both Roxas, who was Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) secretary, and his successor and party mate Joseph Emilio Abaya of deliberately ignoring procurement requests for the MRT3.

“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.

He added that the 4 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 MRT3.”

In December 2015, the Ombudsman filed criminal charges against Vitangcol and 5 executives of the Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corporation (PH Trams).

The Ombudsman said Vitangcol acted with “evident bad faith” when he recommended and entered into a contract with PH Trams, where his uncle-in-law, Arturo Soriano, was an executive.

‘No response from Roxas’

Vitangcol told the SC that he had repeatedly raised the issue on the need for a new maintenance contract for the MRT3 with then-DOTC Secretary Roxas.

Vitangcol claimed that he wrote Roxas in May 2012, after learning that the Metro Rail Transit Corporation maintenance agreement with Sumitomo Corporation was set to expire in October 2012.

With no response from Roxas, Vitangcol said he wrote a memoradum to Lotilla on June 19, 2012.

“These issues were never addressed promptly – which, as I warned, caused future operational problems at MRT3,” Vitangcol said.

Vitangcol said that he raised the issue again with Roxas a month later, with MRTC chairman Tomas de Leon Jr also writing Roxas in July 2012. But Vitangcol said the DOTC did not act on their requests.

A month before Sumitomo’s contract expired, Vitangcol said a task force was created to review the terms of reference of the MRT3 maintenance contract.

Vitangcol said he had recommended a bidding for a new 5-year contract instead of an interim deal, but the DOTC instead resorted to procuring the services for the train line’s maintenance due to lack of time.

Vitangcol denied he had any hand in the awarding of the contract to PH Trams.

“I did not play any role in the formulation of that decision because as General Manager of the MRT3, I have neither the power nor the authority to approve and award projects amounting to more than P5 million,” he said.

The affidavit Vitangcol filed Thursday was in support of his motion for reconsideration filed in November 2015, after the Supreme Court dismissed his earlier petition challenging the Ombudsman’s filing of charges against him. Vitangcol was sacked in May 2014.

Vitangcol also asked that the Sandiganbayan be impleaded in his pending case.

He has also asked that his affidavit dated February 15, 2016, which contains a “full account of his knowledge and participation in all transactions concerning the [MRT 3],” be admitted as part of the records of the case.

‘Passing blame’

Reacting to Vitangcol’s allegations, the DOTC on Thursday issued a two-sentence statement, saying that the department “has consistently stated that it strictly complies with procurement laws, including those concerning Metro Rail Transit Line 3’s (MRT-3) maintenance requirements.”

“Insofar as former General Manager Vitangcol is concerned, the Office of the Ombudsman found impropriety in his failure to disclose his relationship with an officer of one of the companies which participated in a bid,” the DOTC added.

Meanwhile, the administration coalition’s spokesman Ibarra Gutierrez shrugged off the ex-MRT chief’s accusations against Roxas, saying Vitangcol was only looking for other targets to blame.

Sinisikap niyang manggulo at maikalat ang sisi para bawasan ‘yung kanyang pananagutan dito…. Obvious ito na naghahanap lang siya ng palusot sa sarili niyang kaso, at nakahanap ng madaling target dahil sa kasalukuyan ay nasa gitna tayo ng isang kampanya sa pagka-presidente,” Gutierrez said.

(He’s trying to spread the blame to lessen his accountability here…. It’s obvious that he’s just looking for a loophole in his case, and he has found an easy target because we’re right in the middle of the campaign for the presidency.)

Asked about the letters that Vitangcol supposedly sent Roxas, Gutierrez simply said that if the letters have basis, they should be submitted in court for discussion.

Pero ngayong pinapalabas niya sa media, pinapalabas niya sa publiko, eh malinaw na malinaw na may bahid na ito ng pulitika at may bahid na ito ng kanyang inspirasyon na pagtakpan ang sarili niyang kasalanan at ipasa sa ibang tao ngayong meron siyang kinakaharap na criminal case,” Gutierrez added.

(But now that he’s publicizing it through the media, it’s very clear that there’s a tinge of politics here, and a tinge of his inspiration to cover up his wrongdoing and pass it on to others now that he is facing a criminal case.) – Katerina Francisco/Rappler.com

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