THE PHILIPPINE’S anti-graft court has convicted Al Sanchez Vitangcol III, former Metro Rail Transit-Line 3 (MRT-3) general manager, and his uncle-in-law, Arturo V. Soriano, for graft and violations to the government’s procurement law over the rail system’s maintenance deal in 2012.

In a decision promulgated on January 31, the Sandiganbayan Third Division said Mr. Vitangcol acted with “evident bad faith” by entering into a maintenance contract with Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. (PH Trams) and neglected to disclose that Mr. Soriano is one of the company’s incorporators.

“In this case, accused Soriano is clearly in conspiracy with accused Vitangcol III. He knew from the start that his firm has dealings with DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) wherein his nephew-in-law, accused Vitangcol III, is a member of the BAC (Bids and Awards Committee) and team leader of the Negotiating Team, among others. Yet, he did not divulge this relationship to the Board of Directors of PH Trams and to the BAC,” part of the decision reads.

During the case proceedings, Mr. Vitangcol argued that when he discovered Mr. Soriano is one of the incorporators of PH Tram, he immediately contacted him about his involvement.

In response, Mr. Soriano claimed that he already divested his shares in the company by executing a Deed of Assignment dated September 10, 2012, which transferred all his shares and interests to co-accused Marlo de la Cruz, the chairman of PH Trams.

Mr. Vitangcol said he then “firmly believed” that Mr. Soriano was no longer connected to PH Trams.

The Sandiganbayan, however, was not persuaded saying that “accused Vitangcol III, although admitting knowing one of the incorporators of PH Trams to be a relative by affinity, chose to remain silent during the entire procurement process.”

“To Our minds, this is a clear breach of his sworn duty as a public official.”

The court also asserted that Mr. Vitangcol failed to verify Mr. Soriano’s claim.

“Furthermore, accused Vitangcol III could have easily determined, with some reasonable due diligence, whether co-accused Soriano remained connected with PH Trams or had indeed divested himself of any interest therefrom. A mere representation or say-so from accused Soriano was not enough,” the decision said.

The two are sentenced to an “indeterminate penalty ranging from six years and one month, as minimum, to eight years, as maximum” in prison.

They have also been penalized with “perpetual absolute disqualification” from holding public office. — Genshen L. Espedido