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Suspension of MRT-3 scam accused sought

Michael Punongbayan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – A consumer group has asked the Ombudsman to suspend officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications and the Metro Rail Transit accused of involvement in the anomalous grant of a P3.8-billion train system maintenance contract to a private firm.

Alliance for Consumerism and Transparency (ACTION) wants Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to take action against Transportation Undersecretary for Planning Rene Limcaoco, Undersecretary for Administration and Procurement Catherine Gonzales, MRT general manager Roman Buenafe, and the other public respondents pending their investigation by Morales’ office.

Vito Gaspar Silo, ACTION secretary general, said a preventive suspension will stop any anomalous acts of the public officers in their position in the DOTC and MRT bids and awards committee, especially with the DOTC continuing to bid out more contracts for MRT equipment and services needed to operate and maintain the rail line.

“It must be remembered that preventive suspension is a measure intended to enable the disciplining authority to investigate charges against respondent by preventing the latter from intimidating or any way influencing witnesses against him,”  he said.

“In this case, it is within the power of the Ombudsman or his deputy to preventively suspend the public respondents since the charges against them involve dishonesty and grave misconduct in office.” 

The complainant against the officials refers to the highly anomalous award of a P3.8-billion contract to maintain the MRT for three years and conduct a general overhaul of the rail line’s 43 trains and the total replacement of the line’s signaling system to the joint venture group last Dec. 23, 2015, which was carried out through emergency negotiated procurement.

Vitangcol has no lawyer

Former MRT-3 general manager Al Vitangcol III asked the Sandiganbayan yesterday to allow lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office to represent him because he has no money to pay for the services of a private lawyer.

In a motion before the Third Division, he said law firms have required him to put up P1 million cash as acceptance fee and other legal fees.

“The institution of this instant case, together with the seemingly biased press releases of the Office of the Ombudsman, had effectively ruined the reputation and integrity of the herein accused,” read the motion.

“Thus, he was not able to get new clients in the exercise of his profession and greatly diminished his earning capacity.” 

Vitangcol said the hold departure order issued against him has also restricted his geographical mobility, effectively stopping the business opportunities he was recently working on.

The Sandiganbayan must assign the PAO to handle his cases until such time that he can get a private lawyer of his choice, he added.  – With Louella Desiderio

ACIRC

ADMINISTRATION AND PROCUREMENT CATHERINE GONZALES

AL VITANGCOL

CONSUMERISM AND TRANSPARENCY

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATIONS AND THE METRO RAIL TRANSIT

OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN

OMBUDSMAN CONCHITA CARPIO-MORALES

PLANNING RENE LIMCAOCO

PUBLIC ATTORNEY

ROMAN BUENAFE

SANDIGANBAYAN

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