MANILA — The Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the ruling of the Office of the Ombudsman which found former Metro Rail Transit Authority (MRTA) general manager Al Vitangcol III administratively liable for attempting to extort USD30 million from Inekon, a Czech company engaged in the supply of light rail vehicles (LRVs) and for attempting to impose a partnership on the same firm.
In a 23-page ruling penned by Associate Justice Pedro Corales and concurred in by Associate Justices Celia Librea-Leagogo and Amy Lazaro-Javier, the CA’s Eight Division dated July 3, 2017 denied the petition for review filed by Vitangcol seeking the reversal of the Ombudsman’s joint order issued on February 12, 2016 and June 14, 2016.
The assailed decision found Vitangcol guilty of two counts each of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and unlawful solicitation and imposed upon him the penalty of dismissal from service with cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification from holding office.
The appellate court did not give credence to Vitangcol’s defense that the Ombudsman has lost disciplinary authority over him as he was no longer a public officer at the time the complaint was filed and the case was rendered moot and academic by his resignation prior to its filing.
Vitangcol resigned from his post on May 27, 2014 while the complaint against him was filed on June 23, 2014.
The charges are in relation to the awarding of the contract for the PHP3.7 billion (USD80.16 million) MRT-3 expansion project in 2012.
The CA also dismissed Vitangcol’s claim of political persecution for exposing anomalies committed by some officials of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) in connection with the operations of MRT-3.
The appellate court also did not give weight to Vitangcol’s claim that he had been cleared from liability during the investigation conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
It explained that the petitioner failed to present official issuance from the NBI clearing him from extortion attempts.
“Finally, we stress that no exceptional situation, including the alleged persecution rather than good faith prosecution, appears here. There is no showing of any grand design or other manifestation of ill will that unduly impelled the finding of administrative liabilities herein assailed,” the CA noted.
“Similarly, there is no indication that Atty. Vitangcol’s dismissal from service was motivated by spite or ill will, or merely a part of a political propaganda. Not a scintilla of proof was presented to substantiate all these allegations,” it added.
The case stemmed from the allegation that Vitangcol attempted to extort USD30 million from Czech company INEKON which supplied light rail vehicles.
According to the Ombudsman, investigation disclosed that payment in advance by INEKON of USD30 million, later reduced to USD2.5 million dollars, and entering into a joint venture by INEKON with a group proposed by Vitangcol were imposed as pre-conditions by Vitangcol.
It was allegedly made in conspiracy with Wilson De Vera, for INEKON to be awarded the contracts for the supply of additional LRVs and maintenance of the MRT3 line in connection with the P3.7 billion MRT-3 expansion project in 2012.
In addition, it was also revealed that Vitangcol insisted on the Czech company to enter into a joint venture with a group of people for the MRT-3 maintenance project.
Vitangcol sought reconsideration but to no avail, prompting him to seek redress before the appellate court. (PNA)