Ombudsman finds probable cause in Alvarez graft complaint vs Floirendo

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 21 2017 02:08 PM | Updated as of Sep 21 2017 02:22 PM

MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to file a graft case against Davao Del Norte 2nd District Rep. Antonio Floirendo stemming from a complaint filed by House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

The Ombudsman said there was sufficient evidence to charge Floirendo at the Sandiganbayan for alleged violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for having financial interest in the 2003 contract between Tagum Agricultural Development Company Inc. (TADECO) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) while he was sitting as a district representative.

“All in all, this Office finds that the complaint offered sufficient evidence showing that respondent probably committed a violation of Section 3(h) of RA 3019 and thus there is probable cause to indict respondent for the offense,” the Office of the Ombudsman said in a resolution signed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer Voltaire Africa.

On June 11, 1969, TADECO and BuCor entered into a Joint Venture Agreement where the firm was given the right to use 3,000 hectares of land within the Davao Penal Colony as a banana plantation.

In 1979, the contract was extended for 25 years, and for another 25 years in 2003.

The Ombudsman noted that in the 2003 agreement, Floirendo directly owned 75,000 shares of TADECO as well as 537,950 shares in Anflo Management and Investment Corporation, the firm's parent company.

Alvarez asserted in his complaint that as a member of the House of Representatives, Floirendo was prohibited by the Constitution from owning interest in TADECO at the time it entered into an agreement with BuCor.

Alvarez said Floirendo violated Section 3(h) of the anti-graft law, which prohibits any public officer from “directly and indirectly having financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction.”

Floirendo, however, said in a counter-affidavit submitted to the Ombudsman that he was “neither involved nor had any participation whatsoever in the negotiation of the 2003 agreement.”

He also said he was not a member of the Board of Directors nor an officer of TADECO from 2000 to 2007 and did not receive financial benefits from his relatives.

But the Ombudsman did not agree with Floirendo.

“The argument, however, is unavailing as he is charged under the second mode of Sec. 3(h) of RA 3019 in which mere prohibition by the Constitution or by law of financial interest in a contract suffices,” the resolution of the Ombudsman said.

Floirendo and Alvarez, who both come from Mindanao and have close ties to the President, have been at odds since October 2016 when their girlfriends supposedly had a serious fight.

Alvarez denied it was the root of his complaint against Floirendo.

Aside from the Ombudsman complaint, Alvarez also initiated a congressional inquiry on Floirendo’s involvement in the TADECO-BuCor deal.