MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman has denied the reconsideration plea of Davao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Antonio Floirendo seeking a reversal of his indictment before the Sandiganbayan and the re-opening of his graft case in relation to a deal between the Tagum Agricultural Development Company (Tadeco) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
In its order, the Ombudsman upheld its September 4, 2017 resolution finding probable cause to charge Floirendo with graft for allegedly having financial interest in the deal between Tadeco and the BuCor for the lease of 5,000 hectares of the Davao Penal Colony to be used as a banana plantation.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had filed the complaint against Floirendo, saying the deal was disadvantageous to the government.
“Wherefore, the Motion to Reconsider the September 4, 2017 Resolution and to Reopen the Case for Submission of Additional Documentary and/or Testimonial Evidence is hereby DENIED,” the Office of the Ombudsman said in an order signed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer Voltaire Africa.
With the ruling, the Office of the Ombudsman is set to elevate the charges against Floirendo to the Sandiganbayan.
Formerly political allies, Floirendo and Alvarez reportedly became at odds when their respective partners figured in an altercation in Bacolod City in 2016.
In his omnibus motion, Floirendo argued that “taken together” with Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Government Employees and Public Officials, the Constitution only prohibits “a member of Congress from being a substantial stockholder of a private corporation having contract with Government.”
He further argued that he is not a “substantial stockholder” of Tadeco at the time it entered into a contract with the BuCor, thus, he did not breach the Constitutional provision and there is no probable cause to indict him for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
“In sum, this Office stands by its ruling that there being no ambiguity in the wording of Article VI, Section 14 of the 1987 Constitution, constitutional construction is not required. Nevertheless, the Constitutional deliberations cited by respondent-movant do not at all prove that in addition to direct and indirect financial interest in a company securing a government contract, its framers intended that the circumstance of conflict of interest must be present for the prohibition to arise,” the Ombudsman said.
On the motion to reopen the case to allow Floirendo to present additional evidence, the Ombudsman noted that whether or not he intervened in his official capacity in the contract is immaterial as “mere possession of prohibited interest suffices.”