How long does it take to resolve a court case in this country? As long as it will take, it seems, to get the Metro Rail Transit 3 rehabilitated and fully functioning like a modern light railway service.
It’s been six years since Josef Rychtar filed a complaint accusing individuals behind the MRT 3 led by the general manager at the time, Al Vitangcol, of attempting to shake down Czech company Inekon Group of $30 million. Rychtar, who was ambassador of the Czech Republic in Manila at the time, has yet to give his testimony in the case.
The $30 million, later allegedly brought down to $2.5 million, was supposedly in exchange for a contract to supply train coaches for the MRT 3 expansion. The defendants also allegedly wanted the maintenance to be awarded to a group linked to the then ruling Liberal Party, where then transport secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya was a top official.
Last week the Sandiganbayan reaffirmed its ruling allowing Rychtar to testify via real time teleconference in the graft case against Vitangcol and his co-accused Wilson de Vera, a director of PH Trams. The company was awarded the maintenance deal without public bidding shortly after its incorporation with minimal capital. This was after Inekon, according to the Czechs, refused to fork out the $2.5 million.
Another MRT 3 maintenance contract was subsequently won by South Korea’s Busan Transportation Corp. In 2015, a separate company called Busan Universal Rail Inc. or BURI bagged the maintenance contract.
It took two years for the Office of the Ombudsman to include Abaya in the charge sheet. He was indicted together with BURI officials before the Sandiganbayan only in June this year. All the MRT 3 coaches may already be retired before this case is resolved with finality. Until justice is rendered in the foreseeable future, one thing is certain: there will be more corruption scandals similar to the one involving the MRT 3.