MANILA – Malacanang on Monday said MRT General Manager Al Vitangcol will stay in office, as it questioned the timing of Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar’s recent statements alleging that Vitangcol and others involved in an alleged extortion attempt are “protected.”
Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said he finds Rychtar’s actions “curious.”
“It’s certainly interesting, if it’s true that he has not presented any testimony before NBI and let me say, that’s a qualification… We’d certainly be curious why he’s that way and not helping the proper investigative bodies to do their jobs,” he said.
Lacierda is encouraging those who have knowledge of any alleged wrongdoing to surface.
“I think that should be encouraged so that we will have a more definitive conclusion to this whole MRT probe,” he said.
Vitangcol went on leave following the launching of an administrative investigation by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) on the allegations against him. A parallel criminal investigation was also launched by the NBI.
Vitangcol, however resumed work after the administrative probe hit a dead end. Rychtar reportedly failed to cooperate with that investigation.
The investigations seek to find out the truth behind the alleged attempt to extort some USD30 million from Czech firm Inekon in exchange for the contract to supply additional MRT coaches.
At some point, President Aquino’s sister Ballsy was even linked to the attempted extortion, but she has been cleared by Rychtar.
Asked if Vitangcol should go on leave until the NBI probe is done, Lacierda said, “What is important is GM Vitangcol is willing to face any investigation. I am not privy if he has given already his statements to the NBI, but as of now, let’s wait for the results of the investigation.”
According to Lacierda, this issue had already surfaced last year.
“This thing has been there since last year. There was an investigation—both administrative and investigation from the NBI—and suddenly there’s again a resurrection of all these situations,” he said.
Lacierda maintained that Vitangcol isn’t off the hook yet, since the case is being investigated still by the NBI.
”It was Secretary Jun Abaya who also told me that there was an NBI investigation and they are waiting for the results of that investigation,” he said.
Lacierda, however, couldn’t say if Rychtar has cooperated with the NBI in its investigation.
”The investigation of the NBI is confidential. The only person who can answer that and without any limitations is the ambassador himself. If he’s willing to say that he has given any statement or testimony to the NBI, then well and good,” Lacierda said.
“Secretary Leila de Lima already spoke about the investigation process and she is just waiting for the report coming from the NBI. Beyond that, I cannot say anything more than that. Let’s just wait for the report coming from the NBI,” he said.
Lacierda also urged the public to wait for the DOTC’s side in the investigation.
“You heard the side of Ambassador Rychtar, but let’s hear the side of DOTC, and I’ll ask them to enlighten us on the process and why Inekon was excluded or lost and why this particular bidder won. It’s all there e. We can easily explain that. DOTC can easily explain that procedure,” he said.