Being “immoral” is only one of the many “sins” of Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez.
He is accused of breaking up the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino (PDP), the party that helped propel former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to the Presidency in the 2016 election with his “dictatorial” attitude in muscling members of the House of Representatives into voting for controversial bills, without thinking.
He ran head-on with Duterte over the impeachment of Vice President Leni Robredo.
He had no qualms about bragging in public in this Catholic-dominant nation that he has two other women aside from his wife and siring a total of 8 children.
In his congressional base in Davao del Norte’s First District, people sneer at him as a “snake in the grass” who bit the hand of those behind his dramatic rise from his dead politics to become one of the highest officials of the country.
Alvarez has filed with Ombudsman graft charges against political ally and longtime friend Davao del Norte First District Congressman Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo, Jr. in connection with the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) signed between the Floirendo-owned Tagum Development Corporation (Tadeco) and the Bureau (BuCor) involving more than 5,000 hectares of the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) in Sto. Tomas town in Davao del Norte.
Alvarez alleged that Floirendo was a sitting congressman and did not divest of his interest in Tadeco at the time of the signing of the JVA in 2013.
Alvarez also said the JVA was disadvantageous to the government, with Tadeco paying only P5,000 per hectare of the land it used in growing export Cavendish bananas.
Tadeco is a prioneering banana growing and exporting company founded by the late Don Antonio Floirendo, Sr., Tonyboy’s father.
Tadeco made the once economically-dormant Davao del Norte as the country’s banana capital and placed the Philippines in the map of the world’s top banana exporting countries.
Tadeco and the Floirendos were and still are a factor in Davao del Norte which helped politicians. Bringing back Alvarez to life from his political grave is one benevolent act that the Floirendos have done.
It is generally agreed in Davao del Norte that Alvarez was resurrected from his dead politics, which slept in limbo for more than a decade, by Floirendo who backed his congressional bid in the 2016 election.
Alvarez had been considered as “politically dead” after a single term in Congress from 1998 to 2001, and as Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC) under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In the 2016 election, Alvarez joined the presidential band wagon of Duterte, of which Floirendo was a major campaign contributor. He would be elected as House Speaker with the support of Floirendo and Duterte and the PDP.
In his complaint against Florendo, Alvarez said Tadeco is cheating the government in the Tadeco-Dapecol JVA deal, which was actually approved by Congress.
Is the Speaker clean?
Alvarez’s stint with DoTC was marked with a plunder rap with the Ombudsman involving a company partly- owned by his wife which undertook a project at the Manila International Airport Authority(MIAA).
The MIAA-NAIA Association of Service Contractors (MASO) filed in 2001 a plunder case against Alvarez and other officials for alleged anomaly in the award without public bidding of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract to Philippine International Air Terminals Co Inc (Piatco). At the time, Alvarez was the MIAA senior assistant general manager.
According to a report by Newsbreak in 2001, Alvarez’s wife Emelita owned 33% of Wintrack Builders Inc, a company that supposedly profited from an excess of P76.49 million ($1.64 million) from excavation work it did with Piatco.
Duterte has asked the leadership of the House of Representatives not to proceed with the impeachment case filed against Robredo. Alvarez said, No, we will proceed. Is power getting into the head of the Speaker that he now wants to collide head-on with the President?
The Death Penalty Bill no matter how controversial would have passed no matter the loud noises from the opposition, because it had presidential backing. There was no need for dictator Alvarez to railroad its passage with threats of expulsion from the party or removal from committee chairmanship if a congressman would not vote for approval of the bill.
Alvarez brags that he could not care less if he loses the Speakership.
The frustration at the House over his leadership is loud and clear and the air points to that direction.
In the meantime, let us wait for the House ethics committee to summon Alvarez over his love affairs. Morality is a treasured principle of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Supreme Court and we would not be surprised if one of these days, Alvarez would be defrocked as a lawyer by disbarment for immorality.
Whether Alvarez is dislodged as House Speaker or if he loses his license as a lawyer, or in a worst case scenario is thrown out of Duterte’s circle, the people of Davao del Norte who voted him to office would not care.