DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 August) – Former Davao del Norte 2nd District representative Antonio “Tony Boy” Floirendo Jr. will submit a motion for reconsideration of the Sandiganbayan’s decision finding him guilty of graft for his “indirect” financial interest in the land lease agreement between Tagum Agricultural Development Company (TADECO) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) in 2003.
In a statement, Floreindo’s camp said the decision was not yet final and executory, and reiterated that the 2003 joint venture agreement (JVA) has an “’automatic renewal” clause, maintaining that whether he was a congressman or not at the time of the renewal was immaterial “since the JVA would automatically be renewed.”
“The Sandiganbayan decision on the case of Mr. Floirendo would send a chilling effect on all members of Congress because a holding of less than 1% in any company will now make them liable for criminal action,” it said.
In a 23-page decision released on Wednesday, the Sandiganbayan sentenced the former lawmaker to an imprisonment of six to eight years with a perpetual disqualification from holding public office after he was found guilty of violating Section 3(h) of Republic Act 3019, known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act based on the complaint filed in 2017 by then House Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez.
TADECO and BuCor entered into a JVA in 2003, allowing some areas within Davao Prison and Penal Farm to be developed into a banana plantation and to tap some inmates as workers during Floreindo’s term as representative from 2001 to 2004.
The lawmaker owned 75,000 shares in TADECO and 537,950 shares in ANFLOCOR, which manages operations of the Anflo Group of Companies, including the banana firm. The shares were acquired from 1977 to 1996, prior to being elected as a member of the House of Representatives.
Citing Section 3(h), the Sandiganbayan maintained that public officials are prohibited from “directly or indirectly having financial 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 court added that Section 14 of Article VI of the Constitution prohibits House members from “having direct or indirect financial interest in any contract with, or in any franchise or special privilege granted by the government.”
The Sandiganbayan dismissed the position of the accused that he did not intervene in the negotiation and the execution of the land lease, and that he was not required to divest himself of his stocks because he acquired them prior to his election and there was no conflict of interest at the time of its execution.
The court said the actual intervention was unnecessary because being indirectly interested financially in a contract with the government falls within the prohibition under the Constitution while Section 9 of RA 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, requires divesting of shareholdings within 60 days from assumption of office when “such pecuniary or financial interest becomes prohibited.”
“The accused should have divested himself of his shares in TADECO and ANFLOCOR, which owns 56% of TADECO’s shares of stock, upon execution of the 2003 JVA because the accused’ holding of shares in said corporations was prohibited under Section 14, Art. VI of the Constitution.”
The court likewise dismissed the position of Floirendo that the prohibition applies only to those with substantial shareholdings since the Constitution and RA 3019 do not specify that it only applies to “substantial shareholdings.” (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)