Sandigan junks appeal for ex-Czech envoy's testimony on PH Trams controversy

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 03 2018 11:20 AM | Updated as of Aug 03 2018 11:35 AM

MANILA - A Sandiganbayan division denied the appeal to allow the testimony of former Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar in the ongoing cases of former MRT 3 General Manager Al Vitangcol and incorporators of maintenance provider PH Trams.

The prosecution alleged that Vitangcol and his co-accused Wilson De Vera and Manolo Maralit of PH Trams, proposed to Rychtar and Husek to enter into a joint venture with PH Trams while extorting money from them in exchange of the maintenance contract.

The prosecution has informed the court that Rychtar is willing to tesify via video conferencing from Chile where he is currently assigned.

But in a resolution promulgated August 1 by the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division, the anti-graft court said the testimony of Rychtar is not necessary.

“It is thus clear that the proposed testimony of Ambassador Rychtar is immaterial to the present cases. To be sure, these cases do not involve any alleged extortion by the accused on the Inekon Group,” the court said in the resolution penned by Presiding Justice and 3rd Division Chair Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Bernelito Fernandez and Sarah Jane Fernandez.

The court noted that Vitangcol and his co-accused are charged with giving unwarranted benefits to PH Trams and its joint venture partner Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corporation (CB&T) despite the company’s disqualification because of Vitangcol’s relationship with PH Trams incorporator Arturo Soriano who is his uncle-in-law.

Vitangcol has claimed Soriano had already divested before the contract was awarded to PH Trams.

“In these cases, the court finds that the prosecution failed to establish the need to present Ambassador Rychtar via video conferencing,” the court said.

The resolution of the 3rd Division comes after the decision of the 6th Division allowing the testimony of Rychtar as well as Inekon Group Chief Executive Officer Josef Husek via video conferencing on August 31.

At the 6th Division, Vitangcol is on trial for allegedly demanding $30 million from Inekon, a charge he has consistently denied.