Ombudsman junks Floirendo appeal on looming graft indictment
It’s final: Prosecutors of the Ombudsman would soon charge Davao del Norte 2nd Dist. Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. with graft for having a financial interest in a banana company that has a joint venture agreement with the Bureau of Corrections.
In a 12-page order signed January 15, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales denied Floirendo’s appeal on her September 4 resolution finding probable cause to indict him for violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The said graft law provision prohibits public officers from having an interest in any transactions prohibited by the Constitution.
Article VI, Section 14 of the 1987 Constitution states that no senator or House member shall “directly or indirectly, be interested financially in any contract with, or in any franchise or special privilege granted by the Government… during his term of office.”
The Ombudsman applied this to BuCor’s joint venture agreement with Tagum Agricultural Development Corp. (Tadeco) in 2003.
Floirendo was serving as representative at the time, while holding 75,000 shares in the company worth P7.5 million. Most of Tadeco’s stocks were also owned by the Floirendo family through the holding company Anflo Management and Investment Corp. (Anflocor).
In appealing the approval of his indictment, Floirendo asked the Ombudsman to reopen the investigation of the case for the submission of additional documentary and testimonial evidence proving he had no participation in the negotiation and approval of the JVA.
But, the Ombudsman stood pat and said whether or not he had any participation was “immaterial,” because “mere possession of prohibited interest” was sufficient to press criminal charges against him.
The resolution arose from Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s March 13 complaint questioning the joint venture agreement covering 5,308.36 hectares of Davao Penal Colony land, which was first entered into in 1969 and extended for another 25 years in May 21, 2003.
The Commission on Audit in an April 25 audit observation memorandum said the Tadeco agreement was unconstitutional for exceeding the 1,000-ha ceiling set by the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions, and the 1,024-ha cap by the 1935 charter, on the lease of land to private corporations.
COA also said it violated the 1987 Constitution’s 50-year limit on the use of public lands by private corporations. The agreement also covered inalienable “reserved lands” that are “beyond the commerce of man.” Lastly, it found the selection of Tadeco did not go through public auction as required by Section 26 of Commonwealth Act No. 141, or the Public Land Act.
In its June 29 annual audit report of the BuCor, COA recommended criminal action against former officials of BuCor and its parent agency, the Department of Justice, who approved the penal land’s long-term use.
Tadeco, the world’s largest contiguous banana plantation, sells its produce to the Del Monte and Dole brands. Floirendo was the top financier of President Duterte’s election campaign, shelling out a total of P75 million, or a fifth of the P376.01-million kitty.
Although the two were Mr. Duterte’s major allies from the Davao region, speculation arose that Floirendo and Alvarez’s dispute arose from a fight between Floirendo’s longtime partner and Alvarez’s girlfriend, who confirmed the spat took place.
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