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CA upholds Vitangcolâs dismissal over $30-M extort try

The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the dismissal from service of former Metro Rail Transit Authority (MRTA) general manager Al Vitangcol III over a multimillion-dollar extortion attempt. Grace Poe/Released, File

CA upholds Vitangcol’s dismissal over $30-M extort try

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - August 31, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the dismissal from service of former Metro Rail Transit Authority (MRTA) general manager Al Vitangcol III over a multimillion-dollar extortion attempt.

In a 23-page decision released recently, the Eighth Division of the appellate court affirmed the order of the Office of the Ombudsman in February 2016 that found Vitangcol guilty of administrative charges for attempting to extort $30 million from Czech company Inekon that supplied light rail vehicles.

The CA dismissed the petition of Vitangcol seeking reversal of the ombudsman’s order, which also ordered his perpetual disqualification from holding public office with forfeiture of retirement benefits and cancellation of eligibility.

It held that the anti-graft body was correct in finding the former MRTA official guilty of two counts each of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and unlawful solicitation.

“Atty. Vitangcol’s liability for grave misconduct is also beyond doubt. His failed attempts to extort money from Inekon’s representatives in exchange for the contract under Lot 1 and to forge a joint venture agreement between Inekon and a group of people that he himself proposed involve the element of corruption and constitute willful intent to violate the law,” the ruling penned by Associate Justice Pedro Corales read.

The ombudsman probe showed that Vitangcol imposed on Inekon the pre-conditions of an advance of $30 million, later reduced to $2.5 million, and entering into a joint venture with a group for the award of contracts for the supply of additional light rail vehicles and maintenance of the MRT-3 line in connection with the P3.7-billion MRT-3 expansion project in 2012.  

Since Vitangcol was already removed from his post when the ombudsman issued its order, the penalty of dismissal was converted to a fine equivalent to one year’s salary.

In April 2016, Vitangcol was also indicted by the ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan over the alleged extortion.

He was charged with violation of Section 3(b) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic Act 3019.

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