MANILA - (2ND UPDATE) The Sandiganbayan on Monday ordered the arrest of Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. for alleged graft, which was based on a complaint filed by his former political ally, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Alvarez accused Floirendo of benefiting from the lease of 5,000 hectares of government land to Tagum Development Co. (TADECO) that was allegedly disadvantageous to the government.
Floirendo denied the charge. He said he was not a board member of TADECO from 2000 to 2007, when it used land owned by the Bureau of Corrections for a banana plantation.
Floirendo, representative of Davao's second district and President Rodrigo Duterte's biggest campaign contributor on record, said the arrest order is a sign of Alvarez's "abuse of power and arrogance."
“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," he said in a statement.
“All things considered, the filing of the case will reveal that the more than 3-decades-old BuCor-Tadeco deal, which benefits thousands of inmates and their families and has provided livelihood to thousands of residents and workers, is valid and legal,” he said.
Floirendo said he was not surprised with the arrest order because Alvarez made it public even before the warrant was issued. He added, he is ready to face the case, which he takes as an opportunity to clear his name.
"My only hope is for the Speaker to insulate the courts from his established brand of maneuvering and undue influence," he said.
"Despite such setback, I maintain my faith in our justice system because I have not done anything wrong. In the end, I am confident that I will prevail because the truth is on my side," he added.
Floirendo's camp has yet to receive a copy of the arrest warrant and complaint but said they will post bail once they do.
Alvarez, meanwhile, told his rival to "stop making empty comments."
"He should concentrate in his defense because he is given due process, sa korte na ito. I-prove nya na talagang he did not commit a crime or a violation of the law,” he told reporters.
Alvarez and Floirendo reportedly had a falling out after their girlfriends feuded in 2016. - with reports from Adrian Ayalin and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News