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Yellow fingerprints all over



The Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation should dig deeper into the $30-million (P1.5 billion) extortion attempt on Czech train manufacturer Inekon on the first year of former President Noynoy Aquino’s term instead of believing that it was all the handiwork of Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) general manager Al Vitangcol.

Vitangcol, from all indications including what had transpired during the many congressional hearings held on the anomaly, was a mere fall guy.

It is also incredible that investigators, including former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, would have missed the fact that poor Al was merely implementing orders from a higher source orchestrating the yellow sting.

A reading of the journals in the inquiries would have cut the job of the state probers short yet this also seems to have been conveniently disregarded.

Some five years ago, also in September, ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio obtained documents from the then Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) that should have launched a full-blown probe into the initial allegations of former Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar of the involvement of relatives of Noynoy aside from Liberal Party (LP) officials dipping their fingers into the extortion attempt.

Of course, Noynoy and the LP then held sway over the investigating agencies but it should be different now with President Rody Duterte’s campaign for change.

Tinio was provided a letter by then DoTC Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco dated 24 April 2012 in which the representative of Inekon Group, Yorgos Psinakis, dropped the name of Jorge Lichauco.

Yorgos is the nephew of Steve Psinakis, son-in-law of businessman Eugenio Lopez Sr. and a good friend of the Czech ambassador.

He wrote: “I was encouraged to send you this communication by Mr. Jorge Lichauco who has been gracious enough to bring this matter to your attention.”

The letter then summarized Inekon’s proposal for the refurbishment of the MRT-3’s 73 existing rail cars along with designing and manufacture of 79 new vehicles that will get financing from the Czech State Export Bank.

Lichauco is Noynoy’s first cousin and son of Maria Aurora “Maur” Aquino-Lichauco who is the eldest sister of the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

DoTC Undersecretary Limcaoco oversees the bids and awards committee for the MRT-3 contract.

Tinio requested a copy of the letter during a DoTC budget hearing at the House of Representatives.

Tinio said the letter showed “contrary to their pronouncement, Inekon has in fact had dealings with a relative of President Aquino who appears to have actively lobbied on their behalf with the DoTC.”

Inekon, prior to Tinio’s revelation, issued a statement to “categorically deny that any discussions on any business aspect of its proposal to DoTC and MRT-3 took place with any member of President Aquino’s family.”

It added that “any news report linking any member of that family to any project of the company is simply untrue in its content and malicious in its intent.”

Inekon issued the disclaimer apparently to assuage Noynoy and his family members as a result of Rychtar’s bombshell.

The burning question to Tinio then was “as a private citizen, what business does the President’s cousin have in dealing with DoTC officials and a foreign supplier bidding for a multibillion-peso government contract?”

The same question was also asked by many on the 2011 trip of Noynoy’s oldest sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz and her husband Eldon Cruz to Prague on the invitation of the Czech government.

Tinio’s question in 2012, shared by many Filipinos, remains unanswered despite Noynoy’s term long gone and Rody’s order to end corrupt practices in government.

The diligence of state investigating agencies is necessary to put closure to the issue.