MANILA, Philippines – Davao del Norte 2nd District Representative Antonio Floirendo Jr is sad that his feud with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has escalated into a graft complaint and a possible congressional probe.
“Admittedly, I am hurt with the action of Speaker Alvarez against me. It not only affects me but also my family, as well as the people of Davao del Norte. But that's politics,” said Floirendo in a statement on Wednesday, March 29.
“What is important is that I know deep down my conscience that I have not done anything wrong, nor have I committed any criminal act,” he added.
A day before, reports came out that Alvarez had filed on March 13 a graft complaint against Floirendo before the Office of the Ombudsman for having an unconstitutional "business interest" while serving as an elected official.
On the same day, the Speaker also filed a House resolution calling for a congressional probe into the alleged anomalous deal between the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Floirendo’s Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation (Tadeco), one of the world's largest banana firms.
The House resolution and the Ombudsman complaint against Floirendo were filed amid rumors that he is supposedly planning to oust Alvarez as Speaker and replace him with Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (READ: Alvarez to his ouster 'plotters': 'Go ahead, make my day')
Floirendo, however, said he is “100%” not a part of any ouster plans against Alvarez.
“If ever there is an iota of truth to the ouster plot, I am 100% not a part of it,” said Floirendo.
The lawmaker, however, also said that a “brotherly misunderstanding” is currently ongoing between him and Alvarez. The Speaker and Floirendo are longtime friends from Davao and are also close to President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Let me make it clear that Speaker Bebot and I have no fight with each other. 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,” said Floirendo.
He also said that he is ready to face any complaints against him "with a clear conscience."
"I still offer a hand of friendship to Speaker Alvarez amidst all that happened 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 9 months," he said.
Tadeco-BuCor deal ‘successful’, not anomalous
The joint venture agreement (JVA) mentioned in the graft complaint against Floirendo allowed Tadeco to lease BuCor-owned land located at the Davao Penal Colony.
Alvarez, however, said in the complaint that the government is “prejudiced” by as much as P106,167,191 per year through the deal.
The JVA also includes a rehabilitation program for Davao convicts, specifying that inmates will work at Tadeco’s banana plantations to generate income for the Bureau of Corrections. Alvarez said the prisoners are given compensation with a substandard rate.
Tadeco president Alex Villoria, however, said the rehabilitation program has been described by BuCor as “very successful”, enough for it to be replicated in the penal colony in Iwahig, Palawan.
“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,” said Floirendo.
“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,” he added.
Villoria also said Alvarez’s accusation that inmates are being payed low is “baseless.”
“This is evident in the high production yield of Tadeco, indicating that the workers are well motivated and very productive. In fact, among all the 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,” he said. – Rappler.com