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Floirendo’s partner: Spat with Alvarez’s girlfriend tip of iceberg

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Floirendo’s partner: Spat with Alvarez’s girlfriend tip of iceberg

Personal and political feuds between President Duterte's two biggest allies cause tensions in his circle
/ 03:25 PM March 29, 2017
Pantaleon Alvarez (second from left) and Antonio Floirendo Jr. (second from right) were good friends and were all smiles in late 2015, as they filed their certificates of candidacies for Congress for the 2016 national elections. With them were Alvarez's wife, Emily (left) and Floirendo's partner, Cathy Binag. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Pantaleon Alvarez (second from left) and Antonio Floirendo Jr. (second from right) were good friends and were all smiles in late 2015, as they filed their certificates of candidacies for Congress for the 2016 national elections. With them were Alvarez’s wife, Emily (left) and Floirendo’s partner, Cathy Binag. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

TAGUM CITY, Davao del Norte – For Davao del Norte 2nd district Representative Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo Jr., politics was House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s motivation for suing him for graft over his family’s banana business deal with the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor).

But for Floirendo’s common-law-wife, Cathy Binag, the kink in the relationship of the two Duterte allies started when Alvarez’s wife, Emily, and their children ran to them for help over the Speaker’s reported womanizing.

Floirendo and Alvarez had always been the best of friends. In the 2016 elections, Floirendo bankrolled Alvarez’s campaign for the congressional seat of Davao del Norte’s 1st district. He also aggressively backed him up for the speakership.

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Binag said that the relationship between Floirendo and Alvarez turned sour when she had an altercation with the Speaker’s companion during the Masskara Festival in Bacolod in October 2016.

“Totoo lahat iyan,” Binag said.

However, she said that other factors later compounded the situation.

Alvarez did not reply to the Philippine Daily Inquirer when sought for his comment.

In a statement, Floirendo said his apparent falling-out with Alvarez started when rumors swirled, about removing the Davao del Norte 1st district congressman from the speakership and replacing him with with former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He denied any hand in efforts to have Alvarez ousted though.

“I did not give any statement then to defend myself as there was no truth to it at all. I never attempted to talk to Arroyo nor would I ever support any plot to oust Speaker Alvarez, who in the first place, is a good friend of mine and whom I fully supported during the last election and in his bid for the speakership,” Floirendo, son of banana king Antonio Floirendo Sr., said.

“If there is any iota of truth to the ouster plot, I am 100 percent not a part of it,” he said.

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Floirendo admitted he was hurt by the actions of Alvarez, saying it has affected not only him and his family but also the people of Davao del Norte.

“But that’s politics. What is important is that I know deep down in my conscience that I have not done anything wrong nor I have committed any criminal act,” he said.

In his complaint dated March 13, Alvarez accused Floirendo of violating the anti-graft and corrupt practices act because he was still a congressman when his company, the Tagum Agricultural Development Company Inc. (Tadeco), renewed a 25-year joint venture agreement (JVA) with the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), which runs the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) on May 21, 2003.

The JVA between the two entities was first inked in 1969.

The House speaker said his colleague had violated the law because “Floirendo had a clear financial and pecuniary interest in the said JVA.”

Tadeco said Alvarez’s allegations — that its JVA with BuCor for the use of Dapecol land was grossly disadvantageous to the government — was erroneous.

“Tadeco continues to perform its obligations and responsibilities under the JVA confident in its contributions to the government and socio-economic development. Thus Tadeco is befuddled as to the real reasons why Speaker Alvarez has initiated this inquiry,” the firm said in a statement.

It said the arrangement was not a lease agreement but a joint venture “that is primarily aimed at the rehabilitation of inmates at Dapecol.”

“Furthermore, the JVA has been reviewed and found to be advantageous to the government numerous times by the executive and the legislative departments in past administrations. In fact, the most recent review in the 15th Congress in 2012 once again arrived at the same positive conclusion regarding the JVA and its benefits to government. The Department of Justice, through its representative Atty. Teresita Domingo, during said congressional review, stated that the JVA is actually above board,” Tadeco said.

The banana firm also denied reports it has been abusing workers, saying the company has been enjoying high production yield due in part to “well-motivated and very productive workers.”

“In fact, among all banana companies in the Philippines, Tadeco has been branded as a champion on labor and community relations. It is a regular recipient of awards in the field of labor-management relations,” the firm said.

Tadeco said it has also been open for rate adjustments in its payments to BuCor since the JVA was renewed in 2004, saying the rates agreed during the time were “the most competitive” then.

Under the deal which covers 5,308.36 hectares of Dapecol land, Tadeco pays the government through BuCor P26.54 million yearly, as guaranteed annual production share, and an additional 10 percent every five years.

“As can be understood, the changes in economic conditions over the past 13 years have affected the competitiveness of such rates. Tadeco understands this and stated back in 2011 its willingness to discuss and adjust the rates as it had done in the past,” Tadeco said, adding efforts to adjust rates did not gain momentum due to frequent changes in the BuCor leadership.

Floirendo wants to offer a hand of friendship to Speaker Alvarez “for the benefit of the people of Davao del Norte and to show my full support to the Duterte administration that is doing amazingly well for the past nine months.”

“Let me make it clear that Speaker Bebot and I have no fight with each other,” Floirendo said. “If ever there is a conflict, it could be likened to a brotherly misunderstanding which I am sure would be patched up in no time at all. And I would like everyone to know that I tried and reached out to him but he refused to talk to me since this all started,” he added.

In a follow up statement, Floirendo declined to directly comment on Binag’s claim but said if the issue was fueled by “personal matter,” he would like to thresh it out with Alvarez.

“If our quarrel stems from a personal matter between Speaker Alvarez and myself, I appeal to the Speaker to meet with me personally so that we can settle this like gentlemen,” he said.

“For now, I ask the public not to be swayed by false allegations, especially my constituents in District 2, Davao del Norte,” Floirendo added.

He noted though that even before the filing of the graft complaint, Alvarez had already been issuing public statements against him.

“I had tried reaching out to him at that time but to no avail,” he said, adding that “Because these allegations happened 14 years ago, I am curious as to his real intentions and the real issues. I just hope that this is not due to some vested interests.”

He also denied dipping hands into the Tadeco and Bucor deal.

“Meanwhile, I can assure everyone that I was not in any way involved in the negotiation of the JVA between the Tadeco and Bucor in 2003,” he added.

Floirendo said he has not received a copy of the complaint. He said his lawyers would look into it.

“I will face this case with clean hands and I am positive that the allegations therein will easily be disproved,” he said.  (With an additional report from Allan Nawal, INQ) SFM

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TAGS: Antonio "Tonyboy" Floirendo Jr., banana plantation, Bureau of Corrections, Cathy Binag, conflict of interest, congressmen, Crime, criminal complaint, Davao Del Norte, Davao Penal Colony, girlfriends' spat, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Graft, House of Representatives, House Speaker, joint venture agreement, Justice, law, lawmakers, Legislators, Pampanga, Pantaleon Alvarez, personal feud, Philippine Congress, Philippine president, Politics, Rodrigo Duterte, speakership rumors, Tadeco, Tadeco's joint venture agreement with the Bureau of Corrections over Dapecol land, Tagum Agricultural Development Company Inc.
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