Ombudsman affirms raps vs Floirendo
MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman has afiirmed the filing of graft charges against Davao del Norte second district Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. for his business interests in a banana plantation doing business with the government.
In an 12-page order issued on Dec. 28, 2017 and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales last Monday, the ombudsman said Floirendo failed to raise any valid arguments that would warrant the reversal of its earlier decision.
In a ruling on Sept. 4, 2017, the ombudsman said there are sufficient grounds to file charges against Floirendo before the Sandiganbayan for violation of Section 3 (h) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The provision prohibits government officials from directly or indirectly having financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction in which he is prohibited by by any law from having any interest.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who filed the complaint, said Floirendo continues to be a board member of Tagum Agricultural Development Co. Inc. (Tadeco) even after his election as congressman in 2003.
Tadeco entered into a joint venture agreement (JVA) with the Bureau of Corrections in 1969 which allowed the firm to lease 3,000 hectares of land in the Davao Penal Colony for a banana plantation.
Tadeco is the world’s largest contiguous banana plantation and engaged in the production and export of Cavendish bananas to Japan, Hong Kong, China, Korea, Middle East, Russia, Malaysia and Singapore under the Del Monte and Dole brands.
The ombudsman found merit on the allegations that Floirendo owned 75,000 shares of stocks and even became vice chairman of Tadeco in 2008 even though he ceased being a board member following his election.
The court said Floirendo’s failure to divest his interest in Tadeco violates the Constitution, which prohibits members of Congress from having direct or indirect financial interest in any contract with the government.
The ombudsman gave no credence to Floirendo’s arguments that Article VI, Section 14 of the Constitution should be interpreted together with the Code of Counduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Floirendo said this means only holdings of “substantial stocks” in private corporations with contracts with the government is prohibited.
“The two provisions are entirely independent of each other and should both be complied with by a member of the House of Representatives,” the ombudsman said.
The court also dismissed Floirendo’s request to reopen the investigation to present additional evidence to prove that he was neither involved nor intervened in the negotiations of the JVA signed in 2003.