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Ex-MRT chief Vitangcol cleared of extortion charge

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by Allan Yves Briones

Not enough evidence.

The Sandiganbayan 6th Division said as much in dismissing the extortion charge of former Metro Rail Transit General Manager Al Vitangcol III regarding an alleged conspiracy to extort a foreign train manufacturer.

“[T]here is no evidence on record which establishes the second and third elements of the crime charged,” the court ruled in a decision promulgated Monday.

Charged alongside the former MRT top man is PH Trams Director Wilson de Vera, also accused of demanding from Czech train company INEKON Group $30 million in exchange for a P3.7 billion contract for the maintenance of the MRT-3 railway, and the procurement of additional coaches.

The prosecution alleged that Vitangcol proposed a 60-40 scheme, with his associates receiving the latter as gains from the substantial joint venture deal – a violation of Section 3 of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

During the presentation of evidence, the prosecution submitted before the court testimonies and affidavits of three lawyers and officials including INEKON board chair Josef Husek, and then-Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar.

In granting the accused’ demurrers to evidence, the court rejected the affidavits, noting them as hearsay given witnesses’ inability to take the stand.

In addition, the conspiracy charge has been similarly dismissed due to insufficient evidence.

The 25-page ruling was written by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero, concurred by Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Karl Miranda.

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