What’s the NBI report on $30-M extort try?
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - June 9, 2014 - 12:00am

Congress adjourns this week with another unfinished inquiry – into a state agency’s lease of prime property to close pals of its chief.

The agency is Home Guaranty Corp. that secures housing loans to promote constructions. Being probed is the lease by its former president Rodrigo Benjamin Bongolan of the Commonwealth Public Market in Quezon City to two close associates. Also under scrutiny by the House committee on good government is what present HGC head Manuel Sanchez is doing about the P12-billion loans and P3.3-billion losses his predecessor purportedly left behind.

As pieced together from news reports and official documents, Bongolan in 2005 leased the thriving 8,222-sqm market to a company called 3-A Boys. For 25 years 3-A Boys is to pay HGC P2 million a month. Yet at that time the market already was earning for HGC P12 million a month from rentals of 2,300 stalls.

The HGC would lose but the company would gain P3 billion over the lease period, given that the market would yield P3.6 billion in revenue but the lease is only for a P600-million total. That a public bidding supposedly was held for the lease contract is overshadowed by the huge loss to the government, says sectoral party Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, who initiated the probe of the HGC.

The owner of 3-A Boys allegedly has personal ties with Bongolan: their sons are classmates at the Ateneo de Manila, and they and their wives are active co-parents of the class.

It doesn’t end there. 3-A Boys turned over its lease rights to a company called Pinoy Commonwealth Market Operators Inc. (PCMOI). This was despite a prohibition in the lease from doing so without the HGC board’s prior approval. That approval came much later.

Odder still, the founders of PCMOI from the start ceded their shares – for P1 – to a colleague of Bongolan’s in the Association of Stock Analysts of the Philippines (ASAP). Bongolan and present HGC board director Kevin Kho are active members of ASAP. Bongolan and the PCMOI assignee reportedly were classmates in college.

Anti-graft laws prohibit public officials from having direct or indirect financial interest in contractors. Also barred is the use by contractors of close personal ties or kinship with contract approvers.

Dela Cruz initially exposed in Congress the HGC’s sudden investment of P12 billion in bonds and securities. He also denounced its “fire sale” of the posh hillside APEC Villas fronting Triboa Bay, inside the Subic Bay Freeport. Those actions cost P3.3-billion losses, he said.

Taking over in Sept. 2010, Sanchez had promised to investigate his predecessor’s acts, but has not rendered a report to this day.

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Last May 26 the NBI finally concluded its probe of the alleged $30-million extortion attempt by MRT-3 characters from Czech train maker Inekon Corp. It submitted a report on the same day I exposed MRT-3 GM Al S. Vitangcol III’s grant of P517.5 million to PH Trams, where his uncle-in-law is an incorporator-director.

The report was given to Justice Sec. Leila de Lima, who transmitted it to President Noynoy Aquino. It came more than a year after Czech Amb. Josef Rychtar in Apr. 2013 told the authorities about the shakedown.

The NBI initially had promised to finish its investigation by Nov. 2013. It has not explained the six-month delay. Could it be due to its usual thoroughness, or something else? Only a full disclosure of the contents, to which the public is entitled, will tell. Less than that would be tantamount to whitewash, since high officials and influential persons have been implicated.

Of interest are:

• Did the NBI limit its examination to Rychtar and Inekon CEO Josef Husek’s sworn allegations of the extortion on the night of July 9 and the afternoon of July 10, 2012? If so, what does it make of the counter-affidavits of Vitangcol, Wilson de Vera, Marlo dela Cruz, and Manolo Maralit? The Czechs had corroborated that de Vera, at the envoy’s Makati residence after their dinner with Vitangcol, had demanded $30 million for Inekon’s talks to progress for MRT-3 to purchase 54 new coaches. They said de Vera did it in behalf of Vitangcol, in front of dela Cruz and Maralit. They added that Vitangcol the next day repeated the monetary demand, lowered to $2.5 million, plus a forced partnership with a relative’s company, for Inekon to also get a contract to refurbish and maintain the entire fleet of coaches.

• Did the NBI notice the conflicting statements? De Vera confirmed the two meetings with Vitangcol, but said he was there only to explore business with Inekon in behalf of PH Trams, of which dela Cruz is chairman, and he and Maralit are incorporators-directors. Vitangcol denied the dinner meeting with the Czechs, only at his office. He disowned de Vera, the extortion, and the forced partnership. Dela Cruz denied the dinner meeting; Maralit denied being once an Inekon adviser.

• Since de Vera had mentioned PH Trams, did the NBI then probe deeper? If so, it would have found out that PH Trams was inexistent that July 2012. It was formed only a month later on Aug. 16, by dela Cruz, de Vera, Maralit and wife, Vitangcol’s uncle-in-law Arturo Soriano, and state bank exec Federico Remo. Meaning, there was no business to explore in behalf of PH Trams during the meetings with Inekon.

• The NBI would have learned that inexperienced, undercapitalized PH Trams, two months after applying for SEC registration, got in Oct. 2012 the P517.5-million MRT-3 maintenance contract. It would have seen too that when PH Trams chairman dela Cruz’s deal expired in Aug. 2013, MRT-3 contracted another group in which dela Cruz is the authorized representative.

• Did the NBI check out reports that presidential kin allegedly were tied to Inekon, separate from the extortion attempt? If so, it would have found out if the report was a false alarm, or if there was fire behind the smoke.

• Had the NBI been thorough as usual, it would have uncovered a common owner of the maintenance groups of LRT-1, LRT-2, and MRT-3. Also, that a high official of the Philippine National Railways is a secret partner in dela Cruz’s present outfit.

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Enjoy and help. Hotdog Band Together Again, fundraiser for Tacloban, hardest hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda. June 17, 8:30 p.m., Dusit Hotel, Makati. Ticket includes a drink and munchies; for reservation, delivery, text Susan or Betsy: (0922) 7531263.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA

E-mail: jariusbondoc@gmail.com


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