MANILA (UPDATED) - Former MRT-3 general manager Al Vitangcol is no stranger to controversy. He was first accused by Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar of trying to extort $30 million from Czech company Inekon Group in exchange for a contract to supply new coaches for the MRT.
Though Rychtar said he didn't see Vitangcol in the meeting, the extortion was allegedly coursed through businessman Wilson de Vera.
Meanwhile, Philippine Star Jarius Bondoc has accused Vitangcol of nepotism. He said the MRT awarded an $11.5 million contract for train maintenance to PH Trams in October 2012.
He revealed that Arturo V. Soriano, one of six incorporators-directors of PH Trams, is the uncle of Vitangcol's wife.
Under the law, private individuals with relatives in public service are not allowed to transact with the government.
Speaking to ANC's Headstart, Vitangcol confirmed that Soriano is his uncle-in-law. However, he said Soriano divested from PH Trams before the awarding of the contract.
"When I learned that particular thing, I directly told Mr. Soriano that it's improper. So I told him to divest, which he did and he sold it to a fellow director in PH Trams," he said.
However, he admitted he did not tell Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya about his relationship with Soriano although PH Trams was bidding for the maintenance contract.
"I did not because it's the duty of the bidder to put that in their disclosure statement," he said.
Bondoc, however, said he stands by his allegations. He said PH Trams was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in August 2012, or two months before the contract was awarded.
He said the company has a paid-up capital of only P625,000.
"They contracted PH Trams in October 2012. PH Trams was founded only in August 2012, two months before. Will somebody divest after 2 months? Make him explain that to court," he said.
Bondoc said the same Wilson de Vera who was named by the Czech ambassador in an extortion attempt is also a co-incorporator in PH Trams.
De Vera is a former Liberal Party candidate for mayor of Calasiao, Pangasinan.
Vitangcol, however, said he does not de Vera personally and that he did not even know that the latter was in the LP. He pointed out that analyzing the bidding form is with the technical group.
"The allegations of the ambassador surfaced only a year after. Had I known there was such an issue, I would have blocked the bidding for PH Trams," he said.
He also said that although PH Trams is a new company, its partner, COM Builders, has 10 years of experience in railway management.
The transportation department has begun an inquiry based on Bondoc's allegation and has relieved Vitangcol.
Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya said Vitangcol's relief does not prove that he is guilty but that an investigation was necessary to uncover the truth.
"Hindi yan evident na guilty siya. Kaya naglagay ng OIC para malaman yun hard facts, kung totoo ba o hindi," he said.
Vitangcol said he chose to resign to avoid further tarnishing the DOTC's reputation.
"This is the second expose hurled against me. It's really hard for me to go back to the job and be on leave. It demoralizes the people so it's best for everybody for me to step out," he said.
"I'm disappointed with the way the government works, but again, time will tell. I'm sure my name will be cleared," he added.