Ex-MRT-3 chief convicted of graft over maintenance deal mess

By Benjamin Pulta

February 6, 2020, 2:52 pm

MANILA -- The Sandiganbayan has found former Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3) general manager Al Vitangcol III guilty of charges arising from anomalies in the grant of a 2012 interim maintenance contract worth PHP350 million to the firm Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. (PH Trams), where his uncle-in-law was a key official.

In its 45-page decision dated January 31 penned by Associate Justice Bernelito R. Fernandez, the anti-graft court's Third Division sentenced Vitangcol and PH Trams incorporator Arturo Soriano to up to 16 years imprisonment as well as disqualification from public office for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

The court held that Vitangcol "exhibited evident bad faith in not disclosing the material of his relationship" to Soriano.

The six-month interim contract was announced in 2012 when Vitangcol, general manager of MRT 3 and the head of the negotiating team of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC)-MRT 3.

"The 2009 Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of R. A. No 9184, of which he (Vitangcol) is charged since the act was committed sometime in 2012, clearly enumerated the officers and employees of the procuring entity that may cause the bidder automatic disqualification, if it failed to disclose such relationship or proven to be related to them," the court held.

Vitangcol is married to Lady Mericar S. Bravo, whose mother is Elemelie Soriano, sister of Arturo.

"This material fact was apparently concealed precisely to prevent the eventual disqualification of PH Trams from negotiating for the interim Maintenance Provider of MRT3. Because of this non-disclosure, PH Trams eventually bagged the interim maintenance contract from DOTC," it noted.

Associate Justices Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Ronald B. Moreno concurred in the ruling.

Soriano, a Pangasinan-based accountant, claimed he had no role or participation in the operations of PH Trams and that he neither attended any of its meetings nor he participated in the bidding process of the contract.

He added that he had been asked by the firm to become an incorporator after he put PHP104,250 as an initial investment in PH Trams.

To qualify for the bidding, the firm executed an affidavit of disclosure which failed to reveal that Soriano, an uncle-in-law, was a relative of affinity within the third civil degree of Vitangcol. (PNA)