Vitangcol eyes charges vs DOTr execs over MRT-LRT common station

MANILA, Philippines – Former Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) chief Al Vitangcol III said on Thursday, January 19, that he is eyeing charges against transportation officials over the compromise deal to build the MRT-LRT common station.

Vitangcol, who was interviewed at the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan where he has pending cases, said he is talking with 3 groups to file charges against several transportation officials for "circumventing the Government Procurement Reform Act" in striking the deal to build the MRT-LRT common station.

The MRT-LRT common station, approved in September 2016, will connect the MRT3, MRT7, and LRT1 and will be located between SM North EDSA and TriNoma malls in Quezon City.

The construction of the common station was hampered by differences over its location. The previous administration decided to move the common station near TriNoma, citing a study that this would save the government as much as P1 billion.

SM Prime Holdings Incorporated (SMPHI) opposed the transfer because it had already paid the government P200 million for the rights to have the station between SM North EDSA, as well as the naming rights.

In September 2016, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade allowed a compromise deal between SMPHI and other stakeholders such as Ayala Corporation, San Miguel Corporation, and Metro Pacific Investments Corporation. The agreement was to construct the station between the two malls.

According to Vitangcol, allowing losing bidders to enter into a compromise deal with the winning bidder set a bad precedent.

"This is a circumvention of the Government Procurement Reform Act. Ang mangyayari diyan e 'di lahat ng competitive bidding natin ganyan ang mangyayari (What will happen is all competitive bidding will take that route.) If I am the losing bidder, all I have to do is to enter into a compromise agreement with the winning bidder so it will result to collusion," Vitangcol said.

He said he may file graft charges against transportation officials before the Office of the Ombudsman, with the Anti-Trapo Movement, United Filipino Consumers and Commuters, and Liga ng Eksplosibong Pagbabago as co-complainants.

Rappler was still seeking Tugade's comment as of posting time.

Arraignment reset

Vitangcol was at the Sandiganbayan for his scheduled arraignment over graft charges stemming from allegations that he attempted to extort $30 million from Inekon, a Czech company engaged in the supply of light rail vehicles (LRVs).

The Sandiganbayan's 6th Division reset his arraignment to March 16, pending Vitangcol's motion to quash.

Graft charges against Vitangcol stemmed from allegations that he conspired with businessman Wilson de Vera to extort $30 million from Inekon so the company may secure contracts for the supply of additional LRVs and maintenance of the MRT3.

Vitangcol is facing a separate graft case over the anomalous awarding of the MRT3 line maintenance contract to PH Trams-CB&T joint venture. It was later found that Arturo Soriano, the brother of Vitangcol's mother-in-law, was an incorporator of PH Trams.

Vitangcol was sacked as MRT3 chief in May 2014–

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.