PH 'unhappy' with Czech envoy's corruption allegations

by Pia Lee-Brago

Posted at Apr 13 2014 11:41 AM | Updated as of Apr 13 2014 07:41 PM

MANILA - The Philippine government is “unhappy” with Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar’s allegations of corruption against a transportation official, but the host country will not declare him persona non grata, a source said on Friday.

“It’s our discretion if we declare him persona non grata but we’re not going there yet,” the source said.

Another source said that Rychtar’s corruption charges are not helping

improve the image of the Philippines in the international community.

The Office of the Ombudsman had asked the ambassador to shed more light on his allegations of extortion against Metro Rail Transit (MRT) general manager Al Vitangcol.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has said the anti-graft agency reiterated its invitation to the envoy, who had declined an earlier invitation.

Rychtar was sought to provide more information on the alleged attempt by MRT officials to extort money from the Czech company Inekon Group, reportedly in exchange for the contract to supply trains to the MRT system.

Last July, Morales initiated a field investigation on the matter based on a July 19, 2013 news report of The STARtitled “DOTC execs tagged in $30-million shakedown.”

Meanwhile, Senator Francis Escudero said yesterday that he would allow Rychtar to present his case on the alleged extortion attempt during a public hearing at the Senate.

Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, said that Rychtar would be given a chance to air his side since his name came up during the recent testimony of Vitangcol at the Senate.

“If he will execute an affidavit and is willing to testify before the Senate, I am willing to allow him to present his case before the Senate given that GM Vitangcol spoke against him in the hearing that I called,” Escudero said.

The hearing conducted by the committee on finance was focused on the absorptive capacity of the Department of Transportation and Communications in relation to this year’s General Appropriations Act, but it inevitably led to a discussion on the alleged extortion attempt because of the discussions on the purchase of coaches for the MRT-3.