Gov’t can’t ignore $30-M extort claim

By Val G. Abelgas  

Al Vitangcol and Josef Rychtar

Al Vitangcol and Josef Rychtar

Now I can understand why Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma has become Malacanang’s preferred spokesperson. Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda is too confrontational and his biases and prejudices are just too obvious for a person speaking on behalf of the President. In contrast, Coloma is cool, cautious and diplomatic.

MRTTake the case of the allegations of Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar that Metro Rail Transit General Manager Al Vitangcol III and some private individuals tried to extort $30M from Czech company Inekon Group in exchange for a contract to supply new coaches for the MRT-3 project. While Lacierda blatantly called Rychtar a liar and questioned the ambassador’s motive in reviving his allegations, Coloma welcomed the investigation of Rychtar’s claims.

Just like his boss, President Aquino, Lacierda defended Vitangcol and Transportation Secretary Emilio Abaya based merely on the say-so of the two Aquino-appointed officials and without deferring to the investigation being conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation or the planned probe of both the House and the Senate.

As presidential spokesperson, whose statements reflect the official view of the Office of the President, Lacierda should not preempt the investigation by the NBI or any other government agency, in the same manner that Aquino preempted the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona by declaring him guilty even before the start of the Senate trial. The presidential spokesperson should act as a buffer between the media and the public on one hand, and the President, on the other.

With the official spokesperson of the President having cleared the accused, will the NBI say otherwise? Lacierda’s statement cast doubts on the results of the NBI probe even before the investigation could be started.

It would seem now that the reason the NBI investigation is taking too long, more than 12 months actually since Rychtar made the allegations in a signed statement submitted to the NBI, is that Malacanang is hell-bent on covering up the mess since Lacierda, the spokesperson and close friend of the President, has shown extreme irritation – nangagalaiti sa galit in Tagalog — over Rychtar’s reviving the case. He even called the ambassador a liar!

Lacierda said he asked Abaya whether he indeed shouted at Rychtar during a phone call, which the DOTC chief, of course, denied. And based on that, Lacierda called the ambassador a liar. What’s his basis for explicitly saying so? He could have just stated that Abaya denied Rychtar’s allegations and let the NBI do its job. But no, he had to call the ambassador a liar even before the investigation could prove that.

An ambassador of a friendly nation has risked his reputation and that of his country to make it known that some high-ranking government officials tried to extort $30 million from a foreign firm, and instead of ordering a thorough and prompt investigation of the matter, as a government riding on a reform agenda would, the Aquino administration has let the allegations lay unattended for more than a year, obviously in the hope that it would just go away.

That the names of presidential sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz and her husband, Eldon Cruz, have been dragged into the mess, albeit later cleared by Rychtar himself, should give Malacanang better reason to finish the investigation so that it could be established beyond reasonable doubt that Ballsy and Eldon did not have anything to do with any extort attempt.

The Czech government apparently believes the story of Rychtar as he has remained in his post despite the scandal that he has created. It behooves on the Office of the President to assure the Czech government that there is no truth to the allegations after an exhaustive and fair investigation.

Aquino has been criticized lately for alleged double standard in meting out justice — unrelenting and unforgiving against opposition and critics, while treating allies and friends with kid gloves, oftentimes declaring them not guilty even before an investigation could get started, if ever there is one.

Aquino is usually the first to say he has confidence on his friend or ally who has been accused of graft or other infraction, instead of waiting for the results of an investigation or for additional facts to come in. This emboldens the culprit and his cohorts to continue his corrupt ways, knowing that the President would stand by him. This obviously runs counter to Aquino’s proclamations that he would go after all perpetrators of graft and corruption, friend and foe alike.

The Czech ambassador’s allegation of an attempt to extort $30 million in exchange for a government contract is too serious to be ignored. Foreign governments and foreign investors are awaiting the outcome of this latest corruption scandal to see if the Aquino administration is true to its claim of “daang matuwid,” or is just a duplicitous copy of the previous administrations.


10 Responses. Have your say.

  1. An opportunity for the PH to tell the truth and nothing but the truth so helps us Lord!!! 4-16-14

  2. Ding Bagasao says:

    Officials accused of such offenses should at least go on leave while investigation is going on or better yet, resign. In countries like Japan, where honor is paramount, some even commit harakiri. But not here, where they cling to their jobs like barnacles to a ship. Kapalmuks talaga. Just like those 3 senators lnked to the pork barrel scam, and earlier the head of LTO.

  3. Jose Samilin says:

    I am glad this case of alleged 30 million extortion of government officials was re-opened in order to vindicate the endless agony in the sufferings of our Filipino riding public. Let the facts of the verdict surface.

  4. sluggo rigor says:

    never underestimate the intelligence of the reading/viewing public. this is a lesson Filipinos have learned since plaza miranda days. kitang kita na kung saan ang may gusot!

  5. Roman R. Guerrero says:

    What really adds to the scandal is the day to day sufferings of thousands of MRT commuters even scolded and driven away-to take another ride- by no less than Sec. Coloma. Sana po di mauwi sa violence ang kinukuyom na galit ng mga commuters.

  6. Pons Tucay says:


  7. Bitoy says:

    How come nobody here cannot connect the dots? Here’s my take and form your own opinion too!

    I have read somewhere that Psinakis is a consultant of Inekon, the company involved in this mess. Psinakis is a relative of the Aquino’s by affinity. During the last Presidential Elections, the Aquino sisters and the rest of the Aquino’s (including Psinakis) dumped Mar Roxas in favor of Binay, hence the Noy-Bi tandem.

    Vitangcol, a professional with a brilliant academic record is a recruit of Mar Roxas, including the other cabinet members that the Aquino administraiton had.

    Coloma is identified with the group of the
    Executive Secretary and Lacierda in the other faction, also a recruit of Mar Roxas/

    Now, connect the dots and form your opinion!

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      Connecting all the dots will not accomplish anything, especially in our country. Do you really have that much faith in our justice system? I’m still waiting for the outcome of the Ampatuan case, and the case against the Arroyos and those thieving generals, and what do you think is going to happen to those plundering senators, do you really think that they will ever see the inside of a prison cell? If you don’t have any gray hair yet, I can guarantee you will them when all these crap is over, or not.

  8. ATD says:

    i agree with Pons Ducay, we need to end and or reduce these bad elements of the Philippine society to at least get some improvement in the country.

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      Bitayin, who? I have not heard of a single politician convicted of a serious crime making it to the gallows. If you’re poor and got caught stealing something to ease your hunger pain, you will be in prison in no time, but if you’re one of those elite politicians to have been known to steal millions of the people’s money, it will be a cold day in hell before they can even drag your ass to court. That’s just the way it is in the Philippines, just remember that old saying, “pag puti ng uwak”.

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