MANILA, Philippines (4TH UPDATE) – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Wednesday, February 21, issued a warrant of arrest against Davao del Norte 2nd District Representative Antonio Floirendo Jr for one count of graft over the Tagum Agricultural Development Company (Tadeco) deal.
The court set bail at P30,000. Floirendo posted bail before the Regional Trial Court Branch 11 in Davao City on Wednesday afternoon.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales charged Floirendo for violating a constitutional prohibition on public officials having direct interest in government projects.
The case stemmed from the complaint filed against Floirendo by longtime friend-turned-foe Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. Alvarez had claimed that the government lost of as much as P106,167,191 per year from the Tadeco deal.
Floirendo's family company, Tadeco, entered into a joint venture agreement to lease Bureau of Correction (Bucor) penal 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.
The Commission on Audit and the Department of Justice both recommended the cancellation of the contract.
'Abuse of power, arrogance'
In a statement on Wednesday, Floreindo said he was ready to face his case, as it will give him a chance to clear his name.
"My only hope is for the Speaker to insulate the courts from his established brand of manuevering and undue influence. Despite such setback, I maintain my faith in our justice system because I have not done anything wrong. In the end, I am confident that I will prevail because the truth is on my side," he said.
Floirendo said the developments on the Tadeco case reflected Alvarez's "abuse of power and arrogance."
"The hasty filing of graft charges against me before the Sandiganbayan and the subsequent issuance of the warrant of arrest in connection with the Bucor-Tadeco deal is a clear sign of the existence of abuse of power and arrogance on the part of the Speaker," he said.
"While I welcome the hastily-filed complaint, I would like to point out that this transgression on the part of the Speaker is not only political but a veiled attempt at grabbing the deal for his business and personal interest," he added.
Floirendo expressed confidence that the court would uphold the validity of the Bucor-Tadeco deal.
"All things considered, the filing of the case will reveal that the more than 3-decades old Bucor-Tadeco deal which benefits thousands of inmates and their families and has provided livelihood to thousands of residents and workers, is valid and legal," the lawmaker said.
Alvarez said in statement that he had no other motives in pursuing the case against Floirendo.
"There is nothing political here. My only interest is to see to it that government gets its rightful share in the proceeds of the contract, nothing more, nothing less," Alvarez said.
"Floreindo should be man enough to face this case squarely. The court will try this case on the basis of the available evidence. If he can convince the court that he is innocent, then I will respect its ruling. But if not, he should be prepared to spend the rest of his life behind bars," he added.
Floirendo had anticipated the issuance of the arrest warrant, as Alvarez had announced it days earlier. Floirendo accused Alvarez of having "malicious intent" to smear him.
Alvarez and Floirendo were longtime friends and both close allies of President Rodrigo Duterte until their respective girlfriends had a spat. This reportedly prompted Alvarez to pursue a case against Floirendo, which the former denied. – With a report from Bea Cupin and Mick Basa / Rappler.com