PNoy allies stop probe on MRT extortion

Posted at 02/25/14 5:56 PM

MANILA - Allies of President Aquino squelched an investigation of the House of Representatives Committee on Good Government on the alleged $30 million extortion case in connection with the purchase of new Metro Rail Transit trains that was previously linked to a sister of President Aquino.

An investigation was scheduled today at the House in connection with separate measures filed by Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco.

The committee agreed to continue the hearing on another day following the non-appearance of key people, including Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya and MRT General Manager Al Vitangcol.

Vitangcol sent word he will join the hearing but failed to make it while Abaya sent a representative, Department of Transportation and Communications legal counsel Gerard Chan.

The other resource person present was Alberto Reyno, corporate counsel of the MRTC.

1BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello III pointed out that the case and corresponding affidavit submitted by Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar are best left to the Department of Justice.

Rychtar blew the whistle on the alleged extortion attempt.

Committee Chairman Oscar Rodriguez also noted that the National Bureau of Investigation is already investigating the matter and that the lawmakers will allow the proper agency to make the corresponding move if there are still moves in the case.

Tiangco and Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe said the DOJ investigation has a different goal from the congressional inquiry. The former is geared towards criminal liability while the latter is for legislation.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares pointed out that the committee will set a bad precedent if it foregoes the investigation to give way to the DOJ.

"Bad precedent po. In the same way the DOJ cannot impose on Congress. Iba ang probable cause hearing kaysa sa atin in aid of legislation. This is a mere investigation in aid of legislation. Hindi tayo parang korte dito."

Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar was unable to attend the hearing due to an overseas trip.

Tiangco proposed that they instead honor the sworn statement sent by Rychtar. Rodriguez pointed out that Rychtar's statement is unsigned.

Rodriguez also noted that he is unsure if Rychtar can be compelled to attend since he is a diplomat.

Any action towards him may have to go through the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Previous reports earlier linked Maria Elena Aquino-Cruz, the President's eldest sister, to the alleged extortion.

Rychtar, however, denied the allegation.