MANILA - Metro Rail Transit general manager Al Vitangcol was asked to take a leave again until the House of Representatives has concluded its inquiry into allegations that he tried to extort $30 million from a Czech firm.
Speaking over radio dzBB yesterday, Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said he was anticipating a face-off between Vitangcol and Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar at the next hearing of the committee on transportation, which is investigating the alleged shakedown.
“It is preferable if Vitangcol goes on leave if he really is exerting effort to clear his name,” Ridon said.
“This controversy is also bogging him down and the MRT operation is a difficult operation so if his attention is divided, that’s bad for the public.”
Ridon said Vitangcol apparently did not expect Rychtar to speak up again in the media and express willingness to appear before the congressional inquiry.
Ridon said Rychtar has not retracted his allegations, but that it would be hard to undertake any unilateral and clear legal action on the matter if he does not submit a formal testimony.
“We’re not interested if Vitangcol and Rychtar have a personal feud, all we want to know if there was really extortion,” he said.
Presiding over the inquiry, Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez said Ridon must remain impartial.
“We’ve invited them before and I hope they’ll appear in the next hearing because it can’t be that you keep on alleging but it must be backed up in the same manner that you can’t just keep on defending yourself but you don’t appear in the inquiry,” he said.
The scandal must be resolved soonest as it is among those “foremost in the minds of the public in terms of corruption in government,” Rodriguez said.
Vitangcol had earlier taken a leave of absence but returned to his post after the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) cleared him after Rychtar failed to file a formal complaint.
Rychtar and Vitangcol did not appear before the committee of transportation despite being invited. However, Rodriguez remains optimistic that the two will appear in the next hearing.