Alvarez: Floirendo behind reports on P500-M Siargao ‘land-buying spree’
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has accused his rival, Davao del Norte 2nd Dist. Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr., of being behind reports of his alleged P500-million land-buying spree in Siargao island and dared him to file a criminal complaint.
However, Floirendo, in an email, denied this, saying, “Why am I being dragged yet again by the Speaker into his alleged purchases? I have nothing to do with it. I only read about it on media.”
“Besides, the issue does not have anything to do with me. I am not the issue here. It is he who should explain instead of pointing fingers at me or other people,” Floirendo said.
In a press briefing on Monday, Alvarez continued to deny reports that he bought four properties last year.
“As long as it’s mine, I will not deny it’s mine. But, if it’s not mine, they shouldn’t force it, because I would be like a landgrabber. My surname is not Floirendo for me to be a landgrabber,” he said.
He insisted that he had purchased all of his properties when the island was still undeveloped before he joined the government.
It may be recalled that Alvarez’s feud with Floirendo became public after the former filed a graft complaint against the latter for holding shares in Tagum Agricultural Development Corp. when the company entered into a banana-growing joint venture agreement with the Bureau of Corrections in 2003.
Not worth P500 million
During Monday’s press briefing, Alvarez also denied his properties in Siargao, a popular tourist destination in Surigao del Sur province, would be worth P500 million as speculated by property brokers who cited land prices of P15,000-25,000 per square meter.
“It may be possible that one area in Siargao is worth P15,000 [per square meter], but it’s a huge island; it can’t be all P15,000. There are [prices of] P100, P200, P1,000, P2,000,” he said.
He added such property value estimates should not be used to determine the actual worth of his lanholdings because these depend on the agreement between the buyer and the seller.
50th richest congressman
To note, Alvarez declared his net worth to be P86.498 million as of Dec. 31, 2016, placing 50th out of the House’s 294 members at the time. (The congressmen’s 2017 declarations have yet to be made public as of press time.)
“Now, if they think I violated a law, the anti-corruption [act], then, they should file a case, but he [Floirendo] should be the complainant himself,” he added. “I never hid when I filed a case against him in the Ombudsman. ”
According to a report on the Inquirer’s May 13 print edition, records of the General Luna municipal assessor’s office showed there were seven properties in Alvarez’s name, four of which were bought only in 2017.
These properties recorded to have been acquired in 2017 include a 4,856-square meter lot, a 7,295-square meter (sqm) lot and a P1,796 sqm in Barangay Malinao, and a 4,102-sqm lot in Barangay Poblacion Cinco.
The older properties—9,433-sqm and 4,256-sqm properties in Barangay Malinao, and 4,102-square meter in Barangay Poblacion Cinco—were entered into the records in 2013.
The same report quoted Alvarez as telling Davao reporter Funny Pearl Gajunera that the municipal records were erroneous due to the ongoing “general revision” at the office.
In a letter published in the Inquirer’s print and online editions on May 18, Alvarez’s head executive assistant Darren de Jesus already defended the House Speaker.
De Jesus reiterated Alvarez’s claim that the municipal records had errors, and had actually bought the properties much earlier in the hopes that “these would appreciate in value over time.”
“The Speaker laments how he was used by some property brokers in Siargao as part of their marketing strategy to bloat their prices and entice buyers by claiming that the adjacent property is his,” De Jesus wrote.
Meanwhile, the Inquirer also reported Alvarez was planning to meet Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on May 16 to discuss the conduct of a cadastral survey.
On Monday, Alvarez explained that he requested the meeting because “we are building an international airport” because the current airport could not be expanded anymore and its runway’s alignment was not good. /vvp
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