WHEN ALLIES CLASH. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday denied that the graft complaint he filed against Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. -- the top election campaign donor of President Duterte -- was triggered by a rift between their "girlfriends."
"Sa PR lang po iyan, binibigyan ng ibang slant iyung kaso. Iyung tsismis na iyan, hindi po kikita ang ating bansa diyan," Alvarez said in a phone interview with radio DZMM.
(That's just press release, they are giving another slant to the case. Our country will not gain anything from that rumor.)
Alvarez on Tuesday asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate Floirendo for graft over the government's allegedly anomalous lease of land to a firm his family owns.
The Speaker made public his complaint against Floirendo on the same day that he called for a congressional inquiry into the joint venture agreement between Floirendo's Tagum Agricultural Development Company (Tadeco) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
A newspaper report, however, said the rift between Alvarez and Floirendo started in October last year when their girlfriends quarreled during the Masskara Festival in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.
Citing unnamed sources, the report alleged that Alvarez’s female companion shouted at Floirendo’s current live-in partner Cathy Binag, who accompanied him in Bacolod.
During the interview, Alvarez acknowledged the rift between the 2 women but said this was only incidental to the main issue, which is the anomalous contract.
"Kailangan tumutok tayo doon mismo sa kontrata ng Tadeco na pinasok ng gobyerno," he said.
"Tingnan natin nang hiwalay."
(We should focus on the contract that Tadeco entered with the government... Let us look at the two issues separately.)
Alvarez claimed BuCor does not have the authority to enter a contract with Tadeco, and lease part of the Davao Penal Colony, which the firm utilized as a banana plantation.
The deal, he said, was also disadvantageous to the government as it only gets P1.30 for every box of bananas harvested from the penal farm.
"Matagal niyang (Floirendo) itinago ang kontratang iyan. Wala pong nakakasilip d'yan," Alvarez alleged.
(Floirendo hid that contract for the longest time. Nobody was able to investigate it.)
The Speaker also noted that the contract was renewed in 2004, when Floirendo was already serving his 2nd term as Davao del Norte representative. This, he alleged, is a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act which prohibits public officials from engaging in business interests.
Alvarez also said he has certificates from the Securities and Exchange Commission proving that Floirendo did not divest his shares in Tadeco.
"Ang ibig sabihin po noon ay mag-umpisa na siyang maglakad papunta sa kulungan. Hindi po ako nagbibiro," the House leader said.
"Maaari pong siya ang major contributor ng ating Pangulo pero hindi po nangangahulugang mayroon siyang lisensya para nakawan niya ang bayan," he added.
(That means he should start walking to prison. I am not jesting... He may be a major contributor of our President but that does not mean he has a license to steal from the country.)
Alvarez and Floirendo are both members of Duterte's Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).
The 2 lawmakers have supposedly been bosom friends since their days as neophyte representatives of their respective Davao districts.
The House of Representatives will look into the Tadeco-Bucor contract when it resumes session, Alvarez said.