MRT3 and Aquino’s ‘Bouncing Czech’
by Mentong Tiu-Laurel
AFTER almost two years of explosive controversy, the full facts of the Ballsy-Eldon Aquino-Cruz and the US$30-million mystery question surrounding the MRT3 deal may have come to light.
The BS Aquino government and the Czech embassy would like the public to think that a third-ranking level neophyte executive is the brain and mover in the MRT3 P4.5-billion project. The said executive being put on “indefinite leave” (which was rejected) is being made a “fall guy” and the story used to abort the awarding of the MRT3 “capacity expansion” project (additional train coaches) to the lowest bidder in the hopes of keeping the highest bid—the Czech trains—alive.
Instead of being the villain, the “fall guy” is actually the public’s champion. MRT3 General Atty. Manager Al Vitangcol conducted a comprehensive study with the MRT3 Technical Working Group consisting of Engr. Mike Narco, Ms. Natividad Sansolis and Eng. Raphael Lavides, and other professionals. Aquino’s DOTC secretary and LP politico, Emilio Abaya, issued a special order to include two personal factotums: Usec. Julianito Bocayon, a longtime buddy at the Naval Intelligence Group, and Honorito Chaneco an Abaya appointee and Philippine Science High School classmate, apparently to sway the technical committee.
The significance of the technical committee is that after thorough study is recommended government estimate of US$1.89 million/coach against the Czech Inekon’s US$3 million/coach. Vitangcol and the technical men in the Technical Working Group established the best and lowest government estimate for the project. Inekon’s bid for the LRV, light rail vehicle, started at US$3.3-million/coach in early 2012 negotiations.
The Inekon people and the Czech embassy had been working on the MRT3 deal years earlier and it is in this long series of deal-making effort that the “syndication” by the Czechs with the Aquino family is revealed. Among them are: the appointment as Inekon agent of Yorgis Psinakis, nephew of Aquino and Lopez clans’ crony Steve Psinakis; Aquino’s first cousin Jorge Aquino-Lichauco as “handmaiden”; DOTC Usec. Rene Limcaoco, brother of Cory-Gloria-Yellow stalwart Dodi; involvement of LP stalwarts in talks with Inekon and the Czech ambassador.
Jorge Aquino-Lichauco who has denied involvement actually acted as “handmaiden, and Usec. Limcaoco are caught with the “smoking gun” in a memo issued by the latter to Atty. Al Vitangcol, dated 10 April 2013, transmitting the “Sample Terms for LRV (light railway vehicle) Terms of Reference from Jorge Lichauco” who does not have any official role in the DOTC and with any of the parties involved in the MRT3 transactions but carries the weight of Usec. Rene Limcaoco’s official letterhead which “transmit” Lichauco’s “non-official” communication to a DOtC third rank official.
These have been reported by Charlie Manalo of the Tribune, who has been giving a blow-by-blow account of these since mid-2013 in the mentioned publication.
The MRT3 $ 30-million “kickback” story emerged after a radio network broke the news with unattributed sources claiming that Ballsy Aquino-Cruz and Eldon Cruz, sister and brother-in-law of BS Aquino III, were involved in “extortion” of the Czech company for awarding of the MRT3 deal. The Czech Inekon’s chairman and CEO Josef Husek and ambassador Josef Rychtar had been asked repeatedly whom they were really “extorting” but persistently been coy in naming anyone beyond suggestive affidavits about “an informal dinner in a Makati restaurant on July 9, 2012”, and a meeting in Rychtar’s Forbes residence where al Vitangcol was not even present and quoting only a Mr. Wilson de Vera.
Why is Atty. Al Vitangcol being made the “fall guy” in the mainstream media when the Czech company Inekon’s officials, Josef Husek, and ambassador Rychtar have denied any direct accusation against Vitangcol while naming Wilson de Vera? In a Husek affidavit to the NBI on Oct. 5, 2013 is Mr. Wilson de Vera whom he stated, “While talking about the tender, Mr. Wilson de Vera suggested that we would be selected as (the) supplier of the tram vehicles and related services, provided that we (pay) to an unknown entity a certain amount of money. Mr. Wilson de Vera indicated such payment should amount to USD 30 million.”
Mr. Wilson de Vera is an LP stalwart in Pangasinan and a close friend of Eldon Cruz and Aquino aunt Tessie Oreta. Mr. Wilson de Vera is also a director of the MRT3 maintenance contractor PH Trams, which won the MRT3 maintenance contract over Sumitomo Corporation, evidence of the company’s clout with the new administration. Also in PH trams are Manolo Manalit who is also with the Metro Rail Transit Corp. (Pangilinan’s controlling shares MRT3) and Marlo dela Cruz who is reportedly the Mar Roxas and Korina Sanchez connection and with the Liberal Party. PH Trams maintenance contract has been taken over by Global APT JV (Joint Venture) where Marlo dela Cruz also is.
The Liberal Party imprint on the operations of the MRT3 and the DOTC today is all-embracing, from the secretary down the organization and into its subcontractors. Central to the MRT3 extort scandal is the Ballsy Aquino-Eldon Cruz trip to the Prague and, allegedly, to the HQ of Czech company, Inekon. Jorge Lichauco was earlier speculated as the couple’s tourist guide to the country but later it is revealed that Yorgis Psinakis, Inekon agent, did the honors. The Czech ambassador eventually retracted and exonerated the Aquino couple from the “extort” allegations, but questions linger.
The Aquino-Cruz couple claim they were in Prague to pray at the famous shrine but given Inekon’s official agent making arrangements, and Inekon’s years of “syndication” with Aquino relations and Aquino controlled LP political cohorts, the exoneration and the diversion to a “fall guy” smacks of a cover up.
The lowest winning bid from Dalian Locomotive for the MRT3 capacity expansion project at $ 1.8-million and under the US$1.89-milliion government estimate is now under evaluation. The public’s concern is that the controversy is being stoked to whip up a cloud cover and scuttle the awarding, meanwhile keeping alive the deal seemingly “railroaded” since 2012, which has been working behind the Aquino and Liberal Party cover. Thus the vehemence with which the Czechs have tried to whip up controversy and create diversionary tactics is understandable, such as the “corrupt” fall guy ploy while the Liberal Party operators are allowed to go under the radar.
Does this explain the “bouncing Czech”?
If US$30 million or some amount had not exchange hands, would such vehemence be commensurate?
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