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MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) acquitted former Davao del Norte 2nd District representative Antonio Floirendo Jr. in a graft case related to his company’s transaction with the government.
The SC’s 2nd Division reversed an August 2020 decision by the Sandiganbayan that convicted Floirendo of graft for violating Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. He was found guilty due to his financial interest in Tagum Agricultural Development Company (Tadeco), in which he owns 75,000 shares.
Tadeco has had a joint venture agreement (JVA) with the Bureau of Corrections since 1969. Under the deal, the Floirendo-owned company uses about 3,000 hectares of the Davao Penal Colony as a banana plantation. The deal was renewed for another 25 years in 2003, when Floirendo was already a congressman.
The Sandiganbayan found Floirendo guilty of violating Section 3(h) of the anti-graft law, which prohibits “directly or indirectly having financing or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the Constitution or by any law from having any interest.”
But the SC, in its ruling released on March 23, said Floirendo should have been acquitted because of lack of sufficient evidence that proves he received any financial benefit from the JVA in 2003, or that he used his position to benefit the joint venture.
The High Court also said that the prosecution failed to prove there was conflict of interest, as the constitutional prohibition “pertains to financial or monetary interest where there is an active participation or intervention that needs to be performed by the public officer for a pecuniary benefit.”
“If the public officer is not involved in advancing an interest, as when they have not actively participated in a transaction, then it cannot be said that a violation of the constitutional prohibition occurred,” the SC said.
It added that the Constitution does not see lawmakers “at the mercy of the anti-graft law for their nominal shareholdings in just about any corporation in whose favor the government has actually granted and will in the future grant contracts to.”
The graft case stems from a complaint filed by former House speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Floirendo’s once ally-turned-foe, who served as representative of Davao del Norte’s 1st District. – Rappler.com