By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
Former Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 General Manager Al Sanchez Vitangcol III has been granted permission by the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division to file a demurrer to evidence and challenge the prosecution’s evidence in his graft case.
A demurrer to evidence is a motion to dismiss a case on the ground of insufficiency of evidence. Vitangcol and his co-accused, middleman Wilson T. De Vera, filed their respective motions for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence in order to show that the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the existence of all the elements constituting the offense of graft.
They were earlier slapped with two counts in violation of Section 3(b) of R.A. 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act due to the reported extortion of $30 million from Czech company Inekon Group.
Their motions were opposed by the prosecution, since they insisted that they were able to present witnesses and documentary evidence to establish all the elements of the crime of graft.
However, the anti-graft court ruled in favor of Vitangcol and De Vera. “After carefully weighing the arguments offered by the prosecution and the accused-movants, the court resolves to grant the motion for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence filed by accused Vitangcol dated January 11, 2019 and the motion…filed by accused De Vera dated January 13, 2019,” the resolution read.
“To the mind of the court, the motions for leave to file demurrer in this case were filed not for the purpose of delaying the proceedings but appears to be based on accused’s sincere belief that the prosecution’s evidence failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they were guilty of violating Section 3(b) of R.A. No. 3019,” it added.
Wilson and De Vera were given 10 days to file their demurrers.
The five-page resolution was penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero with the concurrence of Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Karl Miranda.
From July 9 to 10, 2012, Vitangcol and De Vera reportedly requested from the Czech company, Inekon Group, the amount of $30 million “in exchange for the selection of Inekon as the supplier” of the Light Rail Vehicles (LRVs) under Lot 1 of the MRT3 Capacity Expansion Project.
Vitangcol coursed the demand through De Vera on the eve of July 9, 2012 at the residence of Rychtar in Forbes Park, Makati City. Because Inekon officials refused Vitangcol’s offer, the extortion amount was reduced to $2.5 million. However, Inekon did not give in.
Meanwhile, Vitangcol is also facing violations of Sections 3(e) and 3(h) of R.A. 3019 and Section 65(c)(1) of the Government Procurement Reform Act before the Third Division for being partial to PH Trams and CB and T Joint Venture in the awarding of the MRT3 maintenance contract back in October 2012.
He did not disclose that Pangasinan provincial accountant Arturo Vallo Soriano, one of the directors of PH Trams, was actually his wife’s uncle.
Co-accused, alongside Vitangcol, were Soriano and other PH Trams incorporators De Vera, Marlo dela Cruz, Manolo Maralit, and Federico Remo.