Vitangcol, kin convicted of graft; get 12 years over MRT anomalies

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    FORMER Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) general manager Al S. Vitangcol III and a co-accused have been convicted of graft and violation of the procurement law by the Sandiganbayan over an alleged anomalous maintenance contract awarded to the Philippines Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. (PH Trams) in 2012.

    Vitangcol and private defendant Arturo Soriano, one of the incorporators of PH Trams, were sentenced to imprisonment of six to eight years for each case, or a total of 12 to 16 years, and were perpetually disqualified from holding any position in the government.

    The Sandiganbayan, however, acquitted both in a second graft charge alleging unlawful intervention by Vitangcol in the award of the contract to PH Trams and its joint venture partner Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corp. (CB & T).

    PH Trams directors/incorporators Wilson De Vera, Marlo dela Cruz, Manolo Maralit and Federico Remo were acquitted of all charges.

    Associate Justice Bernelito R. Fernandez penned the 45-page decision with Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Ronald B. Moreno concurring.

    The charges filed in 2015 alleged that Vitangcol, in his concurrent capacity as MRT-3 general manager, head of the negotiating team for the then Department of Transportation and Communications-MRT3 (DOTC-MRT3) and member of the Bids and Awards Committee, unduly favored the joint venture of PH Trams and CB & T by recommending and entering into an interim maintenance contract with them.

    Graft investigators claimed Vitangcol was related to accused Soriano, a PH Trams incorporator, who was identified as the uncle of Vitangcol’s wife which he failed to disclose, an act that violates the law prohibiting government transactions with private corporations owned or managed by any blood relative.

    The Office of the Ombudsman said the concealment of such kinship would have led to the disqualification of PH Trams and the joint venture according to the provisions of the Government Procurement Reform law (RA 9184).

    In convicting Vitangcol and Soriano, the court held that it found unchallenged evidence that Soriano is the uncle-in-law of Vitangcol making them relative by affinity within the third civil degree.

    “Accused Vitangcol III exhibited evident bad faith in not disclosing the material fact of his relationship to one of the incorporators of PH Trams. To our minds, this is a clear breach of his sworn duty as a public official,” the Sandiganbayan said.

    The court swept aside his claim that he was assured by Soriano that the latter had already divested himself of any interest in PH Trams.

    “Accused Vitangcol III could have easily determined, with reasonable due diligence, whether co-accused Soriano remained connected with PH Trams or had indeed divested himself of any interest therefrom. A mere representation or say-so from accused Soriano was not enough,” the Sandigabanyan stressed.