Due for retirement next month, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales yesterday bared to use her remaining days in office in pursuit of possible additional graft cases against Davao Del Norte 2nd District Rep. Antonio Floirendo, Jr.
The Sixth Division of the Sandiganbayan arraigned Floirendo on May 25 for alleged violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019) over a land deal between the Floirendo-family owned Tagum Agricultural Development Co., Inc. (Tadeco) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
In a television interview, Morales said they are looking into Floirendo’s possible involvement in other questionable deals with government agencies through the reported 40 private companies the lawmaker is said to also possess interests in. “It’s possible that there is no contract but transactions were conducted. If you are involved in the process and the law prohibits your involvement, then it’s possible that a case would be filed against you,” Morales said.
Morales, set to retire this July after seven years as top graft buster, said there would be no letup in the investigations against other government officials similarly suspected of having used their positions to advance their business interests.
Morales, however, refused to divulge details to her claim.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez filed a case against Floirendo on March 13, 2017, questioning Floirendo’s financial interest in the Tagum Agricultural Development Corp., a banana exporter, which in 2003 entered into a joint venture with the BuCor.
Floirendo, while not completely divesting his ownership of Tadeco, was serving as a congressman when the deal was made. Alvarez alleged Floirendo had pecuniary interest in Tadeco when he influenced the deal with the Bureau of Corrections in 2003.
Alvarez’s lawyers were allowed to assist and coordinate with the prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman when the trial of the case against Floirendo commences.
A three-page resolution on May 23 by the Ombudsman’s Sixth Division granted Alvarez lawyers Edgardo de Jesus and Paul Joseph Mercado to “assist and coordinate” with the state prosecutors in handling the case against Floirendo.
After his arraignment, the anti-graft court required Floirendo to appear before the tribunal on August 15, 2018– the start of the trial.
The prosecution has lined up at least 18 witnesses to testify against Floirendo.
In indicting Floirendo, the Ombudsman noted that the land deal was renewed for another 25 years in 2003 when Floirendo was an incumbent congressman and still owning 75,000 shares in Tadeco with a subscription cost of P7.5 million.
The Ombudsman stressed that under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, a public official is prohibited from directly or indirectly having financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract, or transaction, where he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity as a government official.
The Ombudsman said that at the time, Floirendo also owned 537,950 shares in Anflo Management and Investment Corporation (Anflocor), which in turn owned 4,730,000 shares of Tadeco amounting to a subscription cost of P473 million. Anflocor is the listed parent company of Tadeco.
Aside from the graft case against Floirendo, Alvarez also filed House Resolution No. 867 seeking to probe the Tadeco-Bucor deal for being disadvantageous to the government.