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Why should the burden of truth on MRT-3 be on Czech envoy?

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By Ellen Tordesillas

Josef RychtarWhat if Czech Ambassador Josef Rychtar refuses to cooperate in the investigation of alleged $30 million shakedown by officials of the Department of Transportation and Communication in connection with the Metro Rail Transit expansion project? Is that the end of it?

Under the Vienna Convention, the international treaty that governs diplomatic relations, ambassadors cannot be compelled to appear in any investigation conducted by the host country.

The National Bureau of Investigation under orders of the President is investigating the reported shakedown which even dragged the name of presidential sister Ballsy Cruz and her husband, Eldon.

“I wish to state that the allegations that members of your family were involved with discussions with Inekon on any projects in the Philippines are simply untrue and malicious,” Rychtar said in a letter to the President last June 29.

The Cruz couple visited Prague in 2011 upon the invitation of Rytchar. They reportedly met with Czech businessmen during their visit.

A Czech company, Inekon, is bidding for the P3.77 billion MRT-3 project that would involve purchase of 48 new trains for the line that spans the EDSA from Pasay-Taft to North Avenue. Reports said the demand by DOTC officials

But Rychtar,in a meeting with DOTC Secretary Joseph ‘Jun’ Abaya named MRT general manager Al Vitangcol III as one of those involved in the extort attempt, according to Abaya.

Al Vitangcol IIIVitangcol has gone on a one month leave starting July 24.

Reports said the DOTC officials’ demand for commission went down to $2.5 million to $30 million. In his June 29 letter to the President, after the extortion try was exposed by media, Rychtar said: “The Czech proposal for the MRT3 capacity expansion and modernization is a government-to-government deal which cannot contain any provisions for commissions.”

But Rychtar complained about the non-action of DOTC under Abaya, whom he first met last April.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda once again took his usual defensive stand every time allegations of anomalies involving officials of the Aquino administration are involved.

Lacierda puts the burden of getting the truth in the extortion try on Rychtar. “Every time there is an issue on corruption we have always asked the party to present us evidence. It is no different just because an ambassador said it,” he said in a radio interview.

Lacierda further said:“It requires every person, including the Czech ambassador, to submit allegations of corruption – to submit evidence to prove these allegations, and that’s what due process is all about.”

Lacierda did not thank Rychtar for exposing the extortion attempt, which we are sure was not easy for a diplomat to do.

The government has an extensive network which it can mobilize to find out the truth if it really wants to. Aside from the NBI, each department has its own intelligence budget.

They should not give us the line that without further cooperation by the Czech ambassador, the investigation would not push through. Is that “tuwid na daan”?

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