Alvarez wins again as Ombudsman upholds Floirendo indictment

MANILA, Philippines – House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez won another round as the Office of the Ombudsman upheld its earlier indictment of Davao del Norte 2nd District Representative Antonio Floirendo Jr over the controversial Tagum Agricultural Development Company (Tadeco) deal.

In a resolution signed on December 28, 2017, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales denied Floirendo’s motion to reopen the case to allow him to submit additional documentary and testimonial evidence.

Longtime friends before a feud that allegedly stemmed from the spat of their respective girlfriends, Alvarez and Floirendo now find themselves at the start of a long legal battle.

Both men from Davao are close to President Rodrigo Duterte.

Motion to reopen

In the September 2017 indictment, Morales found probable cause to charge Floirendo of graft for having financial interest in the government’s deal with Tadeco, a company his family owns.

The Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) leased 5,000 hectares of land to Tadeco to use for their banana plantation business.

Floirendo’s main defense is he was never part of Tadeco’s deal with Dapecol. His additional evidence would have been documents to show he was not part of the negotiation and execution of the contract.

In her latest resolution, Morales repeated her ruling: “that he did not intervene in the negotiation leading to the forging of the contract or at any time acted with conflict of interest is immaterial.”

Section 3(h) of the anti-graft law, which Floirendo was indicted for, is divided into two parts.

The provision 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."

First offense is conflict of interest or a public official's intervention, and the 2nd offense is prohibition by the Constitution.

“Respondent-movant is being indicted under the second mode, wherein mere prohibition by the Constitution or by law of financial interest in a contract suffices,” Morales said in the latest resolution.

Section 14, Article VI of the Constitution prohibits a senator or a member of the House of Representatives to be “directly or indirectly interested financially in any contract with, or in any franchise or special privilege granted by the Government, or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including any government-owned or controlled corporation, or its subsidiary, during his term of office.”

“The motion to reconsider the September 2017 resolution and to reopen the case for submission of additional documentary and/or testimonial evidence is hereby denied,” Morales said.

Tadeco deal

The current contract between Tadeco and Dapecol will last until 2029. 

Alvarez filed a House Resolution seeking an investigation into the deal which, he said, puts the government at a loss by as much as P106,167,191 per year.

Solicitor General Jose Calida also eventually declared the deal illegal, citing a violation of the Public Land Act and exceeding the prescribed 50-year period of government lease, among others.

The lease deal started in 1969, which means it would reach 60 years by 2029. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.