By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division reiterated its denial of Davao Del Norte Rep. Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo Jr.'s bid to quash his graft charge in relation to the reportedly anomalous joint venture agreement between the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Tagum Agricultural Development Company (TADECO) in 2003.
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Floirendo was accused of violating Section 3(h) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act because he owned most of TADECO's shares of stocks while serving as the representative of the 2nd District of Davao Del Norte from 2001 to 2004.
Section 3(h) of R.A. 3019 prohibits local officials from having financial or pecuniary interest "in any business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity.
In his motion for reconsideration, Floirendo once again reiterated that the facts charged in the Information do not constitute an offense.
He argued that it is "absurd" to ban any member of Congress from being a "mere passive investor of insubstantial amount in a company that enters into contract with the government."
Floirendo added that it is another absurdity to presume that he already violated the law by reason of his family's ownership of controlling shares in a company that transacts with the government without any allegation that he himself takes part in the exercise of such "control."
However, the anti-graft court found his arguments lacking in merit since these were "a mere reiteration or rehash of those in his motion to quash Information. These had already been considered and found to be without merit in the assailed resolution. Hence, it is unnecessary to discuss them anew."
The court stressed that it found the facts charged in the Information sufficiently allege the essential elements of graft, and the other arguments of Floirendo are matters of defense which are better threshed out during trial.
The seven-page resolution is penned by chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez with the concurrence of Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero.
On July 11, 1969, TADECO signed a contract with BuCor for the former's right to use and develop a banana plantation of 3,000 hectares within the Davao Penal Colony, which would last 25 years. The contract was renewed on September 26, 1979, followed by the most recent agreement on May 21, 2003.
Based on the new contract, BuCor will receive a guaranteed annual production share of P26,541,809 as well as profit shares, and it will increase by 10 percent every five years just as long as TADECO is allowed to use 5,308.36 hectares of land.