This file photo by the STAR shows the Metro Rail Transit Line 3.
The STAR/Michael Varcas
Ex-MRT official Vitangcol, relative convicted for graft over maintenance deal
Ratziel San Juan (Philstar.com) - February 6, 2020 - 3:06pm

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2: Feb. 7, 2020, 10:13 a.m.)  — Former Metro Rail Transit Line -3 general manager Al Vitangcol III has been convicted for graft and procurement law violations for awarding the train line's maintenance contract to a company operated by his uncle-in-law, Arturo Soriano.

Vitangcol and Soriano were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by the Sandiganbayan Third Division, while other incorporators of the Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corporation (PH Trams) — Wilson De Vera, Marlo Dela Cruz, Manolo Maralit, and Federico Remo — were acquitted of all charges.

Vitangcol, as MRT-3 general manager, Bids and Awards Committee member, and negotiating team head at the then-Department of Transportation and Communications, was found to have given "unwarranted benefits, advantage, and preference” to PH Trams and its joint venture partner Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corporation (CB&T).

Around October 2012, Vitangcol recommended and entered into an MRT-3 maintenance contract with the PH Trams and CB&T Joint Venture, notwithstanding PH Trams' disqualification under the Government Procurement Act (Republic Act 9184) since Soriano is his uncle-in-law.

The said relationship was "intentionally concealed to ensure the award of the contract to the said joint venture, to the damage and prejudice of the government,” according to the decision penned by Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez.

The initial contract awarded to PH Trams and CB&T alone was worth US$1.15 million or roughly P58 million.

Under the Government Procurement Reform Act, “all bidding documents shall be accompanied by a sworn affidavit of the bidder that he or she or any officer of their corporation is not related to the Head of the Procuring Entity by consanguinity or affinity up to the third civil degree. Failure to comply with the aforementioned provision shall be a ground for the automatic disqualification of the bid.”

The third degree of affinity includes uncles-in-law, aunts-in-law, nephews-in-law and nieces-in-law.

Vitangcol and Soriano were sentenced to a prison term between six years and one month up to eight years and are disqualified permanently from holding public office.

In a message to lawyer Larry Gadon, with Vitangcol's consent to be quoted and published by Philstar.com, the former MRT official said he will be exhausting all available legal remedies to "overturn this miscarriage of justice."

“The term ‘miscarriage of justice’ refers to a verdict that is clearly mistaken, unfair, or improper...In my case i was convicted of a crime of which the law does not even punish. The law prohibits the relationship (up to third-degree) between the bidder and the Head of the Procuring Entity (HOPE),” Vitangcol said in the message.

“I am not the HOPE but a mere end-user representative of the MRT-3. DOTC was the procuring entity at that time.”

He said that the Sandiganbayan's decision is "based on mere inferences and assumptions" rather than the evidence provided by the prosecution.

“I neither presented any evidence nor took the witness stand because one does not need to disprove what the prosecution has not proven,” the former MRT official said 

Vitangcol also claimed that the conspiracy between him and Soriano was never established.

“I never directed Soriano to join PH Trams. It was them (the other accused) who invited him, without my knowledge," Vitangcol said. "Conspiracy can never be presumed but must be proven like the crime itself — beyond reasonable doubt.” — With reports from James Relativo

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article reported that other incorporators of the Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corporation, who include Wilson De Vera, Marlo Dela Cruz, Manolo Maralit and Federico Remo, were also found guilty beyond reasonable doubt by the Sandiganbayan Third Division. This has been corrected.

AL VITANGCOL AL VITANGCOL III CORRUPTION GRAFT MRT MRT-3 SANDIGANBAYAN SANDIGANBAYAN THIRD DIVISION
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