MRT chief back from leave
MANILA, Philippines - The general manager of the Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC), who went on leave after he was identified by the ambassador of the Czech Republic as the official involved in an alleged $30-million extortion try, reassumed his post last week.
It is not clear if Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya of the Department of Transportation and Communications is aware that Al Vitangcol III has returned to work at the DOTC.
Abaya told a budget hearing in Congress on Monday that Vitangcol was still on leave, and that Light Rail Transit Authority administrator Honorito Chaneco remains as MRT officer-in-charge.
Abaya reportedly advised Vitangcol to extend his 20-day leave of absence, which took effect on July 22, to focus on answering the allegations hurled against him by Ambassador Josef Rychtar.
Vitangcol, who has made himself inaccessible to media, earlier denied Rychtar’s allegations.
“I maintain my innocence of the allegations against me. I am ready to face any investigation, by any body, at any time. I would welcome the same so that I can redeem my name from these baseless and malicious imputations,” Vitangcol said in a statement last July 21.
The National Bureau of Investigation has talked with Rychtar and has not completed its probe.
The Czech government is pushing for a contract for one of its companies, Inekon, to supply trains for the MRT 3 under a government-to-government deal. Rychtar reportedly said the $30 million was later slashed to $1.5 million as facilitation fee.
Vitangcol’s decision to return to work also raised eyebrows at the DOTC, especially coming during a crucial week and coincided with the delay in the award of the rail line’s maintenance contract to a new contractor.
It was only on Monday when Autre Porte Technique (APT) Global Inc., replaced PH Trams-CB&T joint venture, which enjoyed two two-month extensions of its original six-month contract.
Some personalities connected to the PH Trams-CB&T joint venture was also named by the Czech envoy as involved in the alleged extortion attempt on executives of Inekon, in alleged connivance with Vitangcol.
The PH Trams-CB&T joint venture’s $1.15 million a month maintenance contract lapsed last April 19, but the DOTC extended it up to June for $2.3 million.
Last June 19, the DOTC again gave it a two-month extension up to August, for another $2.3 million.
Meanwhile, Land Transportation Office (LTO) chief Virginia Torres is unfazed that she is under investigation for playing a slot machine in a casino, her spokesman, Jason Salvador said yesterday.
In a phone interview with The STAR, Salvador said Torres was in Davao City yesterday to attend a forum on the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10586, or the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013.
Salvador said the issue has not affected the agency’s operations, because Torres continues to fulfill her functions as LTO chief.
Abaya said they are investigating a video of Torres playing the slot machine, which found its way to social media.
Memorandum Circular 8 issued in 2001 prohibits government officials, rank-and-file employees, soldiers and policemen from going to casinos.
'In due time'
Torres declined a request for interview when contacted by The STAR, saying she would address the issue “in due time.”
Torres earlier said the place where the video was taken was not in a casino. She said the video was taken with “malice,” adding that she is ready to face an investigation.
In an earlier interview with ABS-CBN News, the LTO chief said she just had dinner with a friend and was waiting for the bill when she saw the slot machines and sat in front of one of them out of curiosity.
The report also quoted Torres as saying that she left when the bill was paid and that the incident occurred “way back.”
Malacañang had said it is leaving the fate of Torres to the DOTC.
Salvador said they would release the IRR of the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving once Abaya approves the draft they submitted to DOTC.
He said they expect the release of the IRR this month.
Republic Act 10586 penalizes drivers who will be caught under the influence of alcohol, illegal drugs, or other similar substances.
Drivers found to be driving under the influence of liquor or prohibited drugs may be penalized with up to three months in prison and a fine of P80,000.
Incidents resulting in physical injuries has a maximum fine of P200,000, while collisions resulting in homicide will be penalized with a maximum fine of P500,000. – With Janvic Mateo