MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has found sufficient evidence to indict Davao del Norte Representative Antonio Floirendo for the graft complaint filed by his erstwhile buddy, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, over a deal between banana grower Tagum Development Corp. and the Bureau of Corrections.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved on September 18 the 11-page resolution of Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer II Voltaire Africa recommending that Floirendo be criminally charged before the Sandiganbayan for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
“All in all, this Office finds that the complaint offered sufficient evidence showing that respondent probably committed a violation of Section 3 (h) of RA 3019 and thus there is probable cause to indict respondent for the offense,” Africa said in the resolution.
Alvarez and Floirendo, whose family-owned firm is the largest banana producer in the country and was the largest contributor to the campaign of President Rodrigo Duterte, had a falling out early this year, reportedly because of a spat between their respective partners.
Alvarez alleged Floirendo committed graft when Tadeco signed an amended agreement with Bucor on May 21m 2003 to use land within the Davao Penal Colony for a banana plantation. At the time, Floriendo was serving as representative of Davao del Norte and also directly owned 75,000 shares in Tadeco.
He also owned 537,950 shares of Anflo Management and Investment Corporation, the listed parent company of Tadeco, in which it also owns 4,730,000 shares with a subscription cost of P473 million.
Floirendo argued that, aside from being a public officer in 2003, the other elements of his alleged offense were not established as he did not have any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in the 2003 agreement between Bucor and Tadeco.
But the Ombudsman noted that there is no dispute that he was a public officer at the time yet had a direct and indirect financial interest in the contract through his ownership of shares in Tadeco and Anflocor, which would also likely violate Art. VI, Section 14, of the 1987 Constitution.
The provision bars members of Congress from directly or indirectly having financial interests in any contract with, or in any franchise or special privilege, granted by the government or any of its agencies, during thei term of office.
“A plain reading of the constitutional provision shows that respondent probably breached it,” the resolution said.
The Ombudsman also dismissed Floirendo’s claim that there was no conflict of interest because he was not involved in the negotiation of the 2003 Agreement and Congress had nothing to do with the deal.
“The argument is unavailing as he is charged under the second mode of Sec. 3(H) of RA 3019 in which mere prohibition by the Constitution or by law of financial interest in a contract suffices,” the resolution said.
READ THE RESOLUTION FROM THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN: