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Ombudsman prosecutors want Floirendo suspended from House

MANILA, Philippines – Prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman have asked the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to suspend from office Davao del Norte 2nd District Representative Antonio Floirendo Jr. 

In a 6-page motion, the Ombudsman prosecutors told the Sandiganbayan's 6th Division that Floirendo should be suspended over the alleged anomalous deal between the Bureau of Corrections and the Tagum Agricultural Development Company (Tadeco), the company of Floirendo’s family. 

The prosecutors who filed the motion are Omar Sagadal, deputy special prosecutor; Karen Funelas, acting director, Prosecution Bureau XIII; Ian Mateo, assistant prosecutor II; Castelo Fama, assistant special prosecutor I; and Maria Theresa Vargas, assistant special prosecutor I.

The prosecutors argued that suspending Floirendo would “prevent him from committing further acts of malfeasance in office.” 

“In view of the foregoing, the Plaintiff respectfully moves for the suspension of said accused from office pending the prosecution of the present case,” they said.

“Verily, such suspension pendente lite is aimed not merely to prevent the accused from intimidating witnesses or otherwise hamper the prosecution of the case, but also to prevent him from committing further acts of malfeasance in office,” the prosecutors added.

The prosecutors cited Section 13 of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which says any incumbent public official “against whom any criminal prosecution under a valid information under this act…is pending in court shall be suspended from office.”

Tadeco had entered into a joint venture agreement to lease BuCor land for a banana plantation on July 11, 1969. This was renewed on May 21, 2003, with BuCor guaranteed an annual production share of P26,541,809, which will automatically increase by 10% every 5 years.

In March 2017, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez filed a complaint against Floirendo, saying the government lost as much as P106,167,191 per year from the BuCor-Tadeco deal.

Alvarez and Floirendo used to be friends and political allies but had a fallout reportedly caused by a spat between their respective partners.

The House of Representatives later launched a probe into the matter, while the Commission on Audit and the Department of Justice both recommended the cancellation of the contract.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales already charged Floirendo for violating a constitutional prohibition on public officials having direct interest in government projects. 

In February, the Sandiganbayan issued a warrant of arrest against Floreindo for one count of graft. He posted bail on the same day. (READ: Floirendo says arrest warrant out for him over Tadeco controversy– with reports from Lian Buan/Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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