Jojo A. Robles

Na zdraví, Rychtar

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The last thing the Czech foreign office, which must be updated about the actions of its ambassador to Manila, Josef Rychtar, should do is to recall its top diplomat here – even if the administration of President Noynoy Aquino demands it. Rychtar should be allowed to continue to point out the hypocrisy of a government that declares it is against corruption, but will defend a mid-level bureaucrat who is accused of shaking down a foreign company.

 

Rychtar has already been allowed by his Czech superiors to do what he’s been doing for months now, which is to accuse MRT general manager Al Vitangcol of demanding $30 million from coach supplier Inekon. The fact that he’s not been recalled means that Rychtar’s bosses have given him instructions to continue exposing Vitangcol’s alleged demand for a huge bribe.

And the Czech ambassador shows no signs of backing down, even acceding to Vitangcol’s dare for him to shed his diplomatic immunity so that the MRT boss may sue him in court. I don’t know how you say “bring it on” in Czech, but that’s probably what the ambassador seems to have told the apparently unsinkable Vitangcol.

Malacanang Palace has also gotten into the act, advising the Czech envoy to take his accusations to the proper authorities and stop making them to the media. The irony of this request is lost, of course, on an administration that cannot seem to pursue charges of corruption against its political enemies without virtually convicting them in its conscript press outlets.

Palace spokesmen have also questioned the “timing” of Rychtar’s latest accusations, as if the ambassador also had a political motivation for going after Vitangcol. Of course, the Aquino government has also been accused of timing the move of the Ombudsman to file plunder charges against three senators to squelch snowballing doubts about the constitutionality of the agreement it entered into with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Vitangcol is obviously a very well-connected guy. He was even quietly reinstated after he had gone on leave the first time Rychtar levelled his charges against the MRT manager.

I’m sure the Department of Foreign Affairs is now quietly pressuring the Czech government to replace Rychtar. I hope the Czechs don’t succumb and continue to force the Aquino government to walk its anti-corruption talk and fire Vitangcol instead.

Na zdraví, Rychtar, as they say. Cheers.

* * *

An alleged major contributor to the campaign of the present government, with excellent ties to other major administration figures, stands accused of defrauding contributors to the state housing fund of billions of pesos. But the straight-path government or its defenders don’t appear too interested in his case.

I was really expecting controversial real estate developer Delfin Lee to appear before the Senate yesterday, as one of his lawyers promised earlier, to shed light on the charges that got him arrested and detained in a Pampanga jail. But now it appears that the Senate will have to subpoena Lee if it wants to get to get the former high-flying businessman to talk at all.

I’d like to know Lee’s answers to questions about the protection he’s been receiving, if any, from high officials of this administration, which he reportedly helped install in 2010 through sizable donations to the campaign kitty of President Noynoy Aquino. In particular, I’d like to hear Lee talk about his reported closeness to Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, who has been so silent since he was made to look like a fool by the disclosure that Lee’s daughter Divine was a bridesmaid during his wedding to broadcaster Korina Sanchez in 2009.

Alas, after his lawyer talked about how Lee was willing to go to the Senate to face his accusers, whom the businessman said are merely going after him for being “on the wrong side of the political fence,” Lee has apparently come down with a severe case of cold feet. Lee was a no-show at the Senate and will probably soon declare that he needs medical attention (and a wheelchair, as well) to get out of the fix he’s in.

President Noynoy Aquino has publicly declared that Lee gets no special treatment, pointing to the fact that he’s actually been arrested. But Aquino lost the high moral ground he’s taken in Lee’s case when he castigated the police officer whose unit captured the businessman for complaining about his transfer to a mere deputy’s job in Cebu, instead of being promoted or even just congratulated for his work.

The palace’s usually noisy allies in the Senate, who will even release unsigned committee reports damning members of that chamber who are believed to be enemies of the administration, aren’t saying a thing about Lee’s case, either. That’s why only senators not identified with Aquino are conducting the probe of Lee’s case.

And yet, Lee stands accused of a crime that is breathtakingly Napoles-like: his company, Globe Asiatique, reportedly received government financing to built P6.6 billion worth of low-cost housing projects in Pampanga using the names of fictitious beneficiaries of the Pag-IBIG Fund.

 

The palace-friendly media and its pundits have also avoided making a fuss, for the large part, about Lee. Even the most rabid of anti-corruption crusaders (especially if they have ties to government) have not bewailed the lack of interest in the controversial businessman by the authorities.

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