CA affirms administrative raps vs. ex-MRT exec Vitangcol

February 4, 2018 - 11:13 PM
The Court of Appeals in Manila. PHIL.STAR FILE PHOTO

MANILA – The Court of Appeals (CA) upheld its earlier decision affirming the order by the Office of the Ombudsman finding former Metro Rail Transit Authority (MRTA) general manager Al Vitangcol III administratively liable for attempting to extort USD30 million from Inekon, a Czech company engaged in the supply of light rail vehicles (LRVs), and for attempting to impose a partnership on the same firm.

In a three-page ruling penned by Associate Justice Pedro Corales and concurred in by Associate Justices Celia Librea-Leagogo and Amy Lazaro-Javier, the CA’s former Eight Division affirmed its ruling dated July 3, 2017 junking Vitangcol’s petition for review. He had sought the reversal of the Ombudsman’s joint order issued on February 12, 2016 and June 14, 2016.

The assailed decision found Vitangcol guilty of two counts each of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and unlawful solicitation and imposed upon him the penalty of dismissal from service with cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement, benefits and perpetual disqualification from holding office.

The appellate court held that Vitangcol failed to raise new arguments to warrant the reversal of its decision issued on July 3, 2017.

“We do not find any bona fide effort on the part of Vitangcol to present additional matters or reiterate his arguments in a different light. Thus, there is no need to reconsider or revisit what was already presented before this Court when we rendered the July 3, 2017 decision,” read the CA decision dated January 16, 2018.

The CA also said even granting Vitangcol’s request to issue subpoena commanding National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Director Dante Gierran to produce the final report of agent Jose Gabriel Jr., and James Calleja which purportedly exonerated him from the extortion attempts would not help in his case.

“Here, while Vitangcol has sufficiently designated and described the document requested to be subpoenaed, he failed to show its relevance to the instant controversy,” the CA pointed out.

The CA noted that Vitangcol admitted that the final report was merely submitted to then NBI Director Virgilio Mendez, who in turn disregarded the conclusion and recommended that complaints be filed against him.

“On this score alone, the final report cannot be construed as ‘a solid proof’ of Vitangcol’s innocence,” the CA said.

The case stemmed from the allegation that Vitangcol attempted to extort USD30 million dollars from Czech company INEKON which supplied light rail vehicles.

According to the Ombudsman, investigation disclosed that Vitangcol had imposed as pre-conditions the payment in advance by INEKON of USD30 million, later reduced to USD2.5 million dollars, and entering into a joint venture by INEKON with a group proposed by Vitangcol.
It was allegedly made in conspiracy with Wilson De Vera, for INEKON to be awarded the contracts for the supply of additional LRVs and maintenance of the MRT3 line in connection with the PHP3.7 billion MRT3 expansion project in 2012.
In addition, it was also revealed that Vitangcol insisted on the Czech company to enter into a joint venture with a group of people for the MRT-3 maintenance project.

Vitangcol resigned from his post on May 27, 2014 while the complaint against him was filed on June 23, 2014.

The charges are in relation to the awarding of the contract for the PHP3.7 billion (USD80.16 million) MRT 3 expansion project in 2012.