SPEAKER Pantaleon Alvarez and Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo Jr. all but admitted Wednesday that animosity involving their women got in the way of their once strong alliance.
Alvarez has filed a graft complaint against Floirendo before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the 2003 joint venture between the Floirendo family-owned banana firm Tagum Agricultural Development Corp. (Tadeco) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), which supposedly allowed Tadeco to lease part of land of the Davao Penal Colony at a bargain.
The same contract also guaranteed BuCor an annual share of P26,541,809 on production that will automatically increase by 10 percent every five years, and that BuCor must receive profit shares.
DZMM radio anchor Noli de Castro on Wednesday asked Alvarez about the reported shouting match between Alvarez’s female companion and Floreindo’s partner, Cathy Binag, during the Masskara Festival in Bacolod City last October.
Alvarez admitted to the affair and the incident but said these should be viewed separately from the Ombudsman complaint.
“This Tadeco contract has been kept for so long. Nobody was able to peek on it because there was an effort to hide it,” the speaker, who is also representing Davao del Norte, said.
Alvarez is married to businesswoman Emelita “Emily” Apostol-Alvarez, with whom he has four children.
Floirendo has long been estranged from his wife, Miss Universe 1973 Margarita Moran. Emily’s running to Floirendo and Binag because of marital woes reportedly got the goat of the House speaker.
Alvarez insisted there would be no love lost between him and Floirendo, saying he didn’t owe his successful speakership bid to the Davao-based business magnate.
“He did not help me to become the speaker, and even if he is a major contributor to the President, it is not a license for him to steal from government coffers,” Alvarez added.
Floirendo is the top donor of then Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s presidential campaign, pitching in P75 million.
Unlike Alvarez, Floirendo is in a conciliatory mood, saying they would eventually iron out their differences.
“If our quarrel stems from a personal matter between Speaker Alvarez and myself, I appeal to the Speaker to meet with me personally so that we can settle this like gentlemen. For now, I ask the public not to be swayed by false allegations, especially my constituents in District 2, Davao del Norte,” Floirendo said in a separate statement provided by his lawyer, Nicolas Banga.
“Let me make it clear that Speaker Bebot and I have no fight with each other. I still offer a hand of friendship to Speaker Alvarez. If ever there is a conflict, it could be likened to a brotherly misunderstanding which I am sure would be patched up in no time at all. I would like everyone to know that I tried and reached out to him but he refused to talk to me since this all started,” Floirendo added.
He also denied he was out to oust Alvarez as speaker.
“I did not give any statement then to defend myself as there was no truth to it at all. I never attempted to talk to Arroyo nor would I ever support any plot to oust Speaker Alvarez who, in the first place, is a good friend of mine and whom I fully supported during the last election and in his bid for the speakership,” Floirendo said.
“If ever there is an iota of truth to the ouster plot, I am not a part of it,” he added.
On the allegations involving Tadeco, he said: “Because these allegations happened 14 years ago, I am curious as to his real intentions and the real issues. Meanwhile, I can assure everyone that I was not in any way involved in the negotiation of the Joint Venture Agreement Tadeco and BuCor,” Floirendo said.
On her Facebook page, Floirendo’s partner Binag seemed outraged, saying: “Loyalty to your friends ends when money is involve[d]. When your ambition to become rich and famous is more important than your friendship. – read this! – greed and arrogance will never win.”
“You don’t bite the [hand]that feeds you….”
‘Start walking to prison’
Alvarez did not comment on rumors that Floirendo was plotting his ouster to install former president turned Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga as speaker, but expressed confidence that such attempts won’t prosper.
“That’s nothing. Go ahead. I did not dream of this position so I can let it go anytime,” Alvarez said.
He insisted that Floirendo was guilty of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act which prohibits public officers 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.”
“He was still a sitting congressman in 2004. This is a violation of the Constitution and the Anti-Graft law. It’s clear that he has a problem. He did not divest his interests in Tadeco, and that means he should now start walking to prison. I am not joking. I am a lawyer. I know what I am doing,” Alvarez said.
“We should focus on the Tadeco contract. Its contract was renewed in 2004 without public bidding. They developed the land by employing the inmates. Tadeco is renting the entire 5,308 hectares of land for just P5,000 per year while the market value is at P1,535 per hectare. The question is, was the government on the winning or losing side in this deal? That’s it,” Alvarez added.
WITH A REPORT FROM JAMES GALVEZ