Floirendo’s camp to file MR on graft case

Published August 27, 2020, 8:04 AM

by Ivy Tejano

DAVAO CITY – Former Representative of the Second District in Davao del Norte province and businessman Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo Jr. will file a motion for reconsideration following the decision of the Sandiganbayan convicting him of graft.

The Sandiganbayan found Floirendo, who is a close ally of President Duterte, guilty of graft over an anomalous land deal with the Bureau of Corrections (Bucor). Floirendo was sentenced to six to eight years in prison and was perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

Floirendo’s camp said the decision of the Sandiganbayan is not yet final and executory, thus, they will file a motion for reconsideration.

It added that the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) has an “automatic renewal” clause, thus, whether Floirendo was a congressman or not at the time of the renewal was immaterial since the JVA would automatically be renewed.

“The Sandiganbayan’s decision on the case of Floirendo would send a chilling effect on all members of Congress because a holding of less than one percent in any company will now make them liable for criminal action,” it said.

A 23-page decision released on Wednesday said Floirendo was guilty of violating Republic Act No. 3019,  the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, particularly Section 3(h) which states the following practice is unlawful: “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.”

The decision said the prosecution proved that Floirendo had indirect financial interest in a 2003 joint venture agreement between the Tagum Agricultural Development Co. Inc. (TADECO) and the BuCor as he owned 75,000 shares in TADECO stock even after he was elected congressman of the 2nd District of Davao del Norte.

The Sandiganbayan added that Section 14, Article VI of the Constitution states that members of the House of Representatives are prohibited from having direct or indirect financial interest in contracts with the government.

“The accused never denied that he had indirect financial interest in said 2003 JVA. He merely insists that such interest does not fall within the prohibition under Sec. 14, Art. VI of the Constitution,” the decision read. The decision was signed by Associate Justices Sarah Jane T. Fernandez (chairman), Karl B. Miranda, Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta, Ronald B. Moreno, and Kevin Narce B. Vivero.

The court said Floirendo contended he never participated in the negotiation or transaction of the JVA, that his shares in Tadeco were insubstantial, and that he was only required to divest of shareholdings when there was a conflict of interest.

Vivero, however, gave a dissenting opinion that argued there was no conflict of interest and Floirendo did not exert effort to influence, or in any way intervened to ensure the approval of the JVA between Tadeco and Bucor; and that the former lawmaker should be acquitted of the charges levelled against him.

Former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez filed graft charges against Floirendo in 2017, for the Davao del Norte solon’s alleged unlawful business interest in a government deal. According to Alvarez, Tadeco leased over 5,000 hectares of land from Bucor in 1969 for the banana plantation.

The JVA of the land lease was renewed for another 25 years in 2003, when Floirendo was the incumbent congressman. The Ombudsman charged Floirendo for graft in September, 2017, and denied the solon’s plea for reconsideration in January, 2018. The Sandiganbayan issued an arrest warrant against Floirendo over the deal, but he posted a P30,000 bail for his provisional liberty.