BUSINESS AND PERSONAL INTEREST BEHIND SPEAKER’S OMBUDSMAN GRAFT COMPLAINT
Davao del Norte Congressman Antonio Floirendo, Jr. said the graft rap filed with the Ombudsman against him by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez is not only political harassment but also for “business and personal interest of the Speaker.”
Floirendo said this in a statement as the Sandiganbayan on Wednesday ordered his arrest in connection with the graft case filed against him by Alvarez for the alleged anomalous lease of land of the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) to a Floirendo-owned banana company.
Floirendo said the case is a “veiled attempt” by Alvarez to cancel the deal and “landgrab” the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between the Floirendo-owned Tagum Agricultural Development Company (TADECO) and the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) involving about 5,300 hectares of the Dapecol in Davao del Norte. Alvarez is a former friend and political ally of Floirendo. Both supported the 2016 election bid of President Rodrigo Duterte. Floirendo was a major financial backer of the Duterte presidential campaign. The Floirendo-Alvarez spat, initially fueled by a public quarrel between their girlfriends has become an irritant in the unity of the ruling party PDP-Laban. President Duterte however is keeping his hands off the conflict.
The Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division set a PHP30,000-bail bond for the temporary liberty of Floirendo. Floirendo posted the bail in a Davao City court on the day of the issuance of the warrant of arrest.
“The hasty filing of graft charges against me before the Sandiganbahe subsequent issuance of the warrant of arrest in connection with the Bucor-Tadeco deal is a clear sign of the existence of abuse of power and arrogance on the part of the Speaker,” Floirendo said in the statement.
“While I welcome the hastily-filed complaint, I would like to point out that this transgression on the part of the Speaker is not only political but a veiled attempt at grabbing the deal for his business and personal interest,” Floirendo added.
Floirendo said the Tadeco-BuCor deal was legal and expressed confidence that the court would uphold the validity of the JVA.
Alvarez filed the graft case against Floirendo before the Office of the Ombudsman in March 2017 for his alleged financial interest in the JVA.
In his eight-page complaint-affidavit, Alvarez said that in 1969, the TADECO entered into an agreement with the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to lease a portion of land in the Davao Penal Colony to be used for the private company’s banana plantation.
The JVA was executed in 1979, which extended the period of lease for 25 years and renewed in May 2003 for another 25 years.
At the time the contract was renewed, Floirendo was already a congressman of the Second District of Davao del Norte.
However, while he was serving as representative in 2003, Alvarez alleged that the lawmaker was also a stockholder of TADECO.
Citing data from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Alvarez said Floirendo was also a board member of ANFLOCOR from 1997 to 2015.
On Feb. 9, 2018, the Ombudsman charged Floirendo before the Sandiganbayan for violation of Section 3(h) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”.
The graft case was filed less than a month after the Ombudsman denied the motion of Floirendo to reopen the case for submission of documentary and testimonial evidence.
The anti-graft body said Floirendo’s connection with TADECO violated Article VI, Section 14 of the 1987 Constitution, which states that “no member of Congress is allowed to intervene in any government contracts before any agency for his pecuniary benefit during his term of office.” (PNA)