MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan dismissed two counts of graft charges filed against former Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) general manager Al Vitangcol III in connection with the $30-million bribery issue involving Czech company Inekon Group.
Also acquitted was alleged conspirator businessman Wilson de Vera.
In a 20-page decision, the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division granted separate demurrers to evidence – a pleading that says the prosecution’s evidence is weak enough to warrant outright dismissal of the case.
“After a judicious consideration of the evidence adduced by the prosecution, the court is convinced that the guilt of the accused for the crime charged has not been proven with the required quantum of proof at this stage of the proceedings,” the anti-graft court said in its decision penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero, with concurrence of associate justices Sarah Jane Fernandez and Karl Miranda.
Vitangcol in an interview with reporters Monday thanked the Sandiganbayan for being “fair” and “impartial.”
“The court has spoken. Sinabing walang ebidensiya and hindi tayo puwedeng i-convict. So that’s the sum of it all. Talagang alam na natin na pinahirapan lang tayo throughout these years,” he noted.
(The court has spoken. It said there is no evidence and we can’t be convicted. So that’s the sum of it all. We now know that we were really just given a hard time throughout these years.)
In 2016, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered Vitangcol and De Vera charged before the Sandiganbayan for two counts of violation of the anti-graft law.
The first count was for attempting to extort $30 million from Inekon, a Czech company engaged in the supply of light rail vehicles, and the second count for attempting to impose a partnership on the same firm, according to the Ombudsman.
The charges are in relation to the awarding of the contract for the P3.7-billion MRT3 expansion project in 2012.
In a separate concurring opinion, Fernandez – the division chairperson – said the prosecution failed to present key witnesses, such as former Czech ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar and Inekon Board of Directors chairman Josef Husek.
Prosecutors said De Vera made the $30-million demand on June 9, 2012, at Rychtar’s residence. When the Czech company declined, De Vera supposedly discussed this over the phone with Vitangcol, reducing the amount to $2.5 million – an offer Inekon again declined.
While the two Czechs submitted sworn statements, both of them did not go through cross-examination.
Fernandez, in her concurring opinion, said that although the court gave the prosecution several opportunities to present Rychtar and Husek as witnesses, they still failed to do so.
“Exhibits J (Rychtar’s affidavit) and K (Husek’s affidavit) were excluded by this Court for being hearsay. Jurisprudence dictates that an affidavit is merely hearsay evidence when its affiant or maker did not take the witness stand,” the court also pointed out.
The Sandiganbayan also concluded that the prosecution “failed to adduce sufficient evidence to support a verdict of guilt against the two co-accused Al Vitangcol III and Wilson De Vera.” – Rappler.com