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Presidential sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz: Cleared

Tags MRT chief Vitangcol, other execs in attempted extortion
04:50 AM September 26, 2013

Presidential sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz: Cleared

MANILA, Philippines—Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar has cleared President Aquino’s relatives of any involvement in the alleged attempt to extort money from a Czech company for the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) expansion project, and insisted only MRT official Al Vitangcol III was involved, according to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Daniel Daganzo, the head of the NBI’s foreign liaison division that is investigating the case, said Rychtar, who has recently returned to the Philippines after a monthlong leave, would be submitting his sworn statement on the incident this week.

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Daganzo said Rychtar had told him in an initial discussion that the President’s sister Ballsy and the latter’s husband, Eldon Cruz, were not involved in the alleged extortion attempt.

“He said he will submit a sworn statement and he cleared the President’s relatives,” he said.

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“But Rychtar insisted there was an extortion attempt by Vitangcol and company,” Daganzo said.

He said, quoting Rychtar, that Vitangcol, the general manager of the MRT Line 3, and other Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) officials, initially asked for $30 million, which was eventually reduced to $1.5 million.

Rychtar had claimed that Vitangcol et al. wanted to be paid this much last year for looking favorably on the bid of the Czech company, Inekon, for the P3.77-billion expansion project of the MRT 3.

Vitangcol has repeatedly denied the allegation.

The President ordered the NBI to investigate the swirling MRT 3 bribery controversy, which had grown to implicate Aquino’s sister and her husband.

The P3.77-billion job, which was auctioned off last June, is aimed at adding 48 train cars to the MRT 3’s 73-car fleet to ease passenger congestion.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said the allegations made by Rychtar called for a re-examination of the terms of reference of the contract to check that it wasn’t rigged to favor the state-owned Chinese company that is now under “postqualification,” having been the only bidder to have met all the eligibility requirements.

He said Inekon had not submitted any bid for the project at all.—Nancy Carvajal

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TAGS: Josef Rychtar, Metro Rail Transit (MRT), President Aquino
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