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‘Sauce for the goose and not for the gander’

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The leaders of the House, so we’re told, are now laying the groundwork for the “ouster” of one of their wealthiest colleagues: Rep. Tony Boy Floirendo of Davao del Norte, owing to his indictment for alleged graft by the Office of the Ombudsman.

Floirendo, listed among the Top 10 richest congressmen in 2017 with a fortune pegged at around P500 million, was charged with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (or Republic Act No. 3019) for failing to divest 75,000 shares in the Tagum Development Corporation (Tadeco), longtime lessor of some 3,000 hectares of land from the Davao Penal Colony for its banana plantation.

A senior staffer in the Office of the Ombudsman, who requested anonymity to be able to speak frankly, said Floirendo, son of former Marcos associate Antonio Floirendo Sr., may be up to his neck in cow dung as the Constitution expressly prohibits members of Congress from having direct or indirect financial interest in any government contract (in this instance, it’s Tadeco).

In elevating Floirendo’s case, the Ombudsman has asked the Sandiganbayan for issuance of a suspension order “to prevent him from intimidating witnesses” who may be called upon to testify against him in court.

Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas told reporters the House would be only too willing to comply with any order from the anti-graft court.

He said, in the past, the leadership has respected and implemented without too much fuss all suspension orders emanating from the Sandiganbayan. Cited as examples were Ruffy Biazon of Muntinlupa, Amado Espino of Pangasinan, L-Ray Villafuerte of Camarines Sur, Michael Romero of 1-Pacman partylist and Jerry Trenas of Iloilo.

Having said that, allow me to digress a bit. Because there was utterly nothing mentioned about the curious case of Cebu Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia – a staunch supporter of the incumbent administration and one of the pitbulls used in the prosecution of Sen. Leila de Lima – who was recently ordered ousted from the legislature by Mrs. Conchita Carpio-Morales.

In a Jan. 15, 2018 decision, the Ombudsman permanently disqualified Ms. Garcia from holding public office after being found guilty of grave misconduct for not securing approval from Cebu’s Sangguniang Panlalawigan before greenlighting a P25-million project in 2012 while still ensconced in the Capitol.

House officials, as per several news reports, pooh-poohed Mrs. Morales’ directive as there is supposedly nothing provided in the Constitution detailing how it can be carried out.

“Why would we waste our time on something that has no legal basis?” Farinas added.

Under existing rules, Farinas said it is only the House that may discipline the membership, and no one else from the other two co-equal branches of government (meaning the executive and the judiciary) can meddle in its internal affairs.

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