THE Sandiganbayan has sentenced former Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. to six to eight years imprisonment after finding him guilty of one count of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019).
A special division of five justices of the anti-graft court voted four against one to convict Floirendo for holding an unlawful financial interest in a private company that had an existing contract with the government.
Associate Justice and Sixth Division chairperson Sarah Jane T. Fernandez penned the 19-page majority decision concurred in by Associate Justices Karl B. Miranda, Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta and Ronald B. Moreno.
The lone dissent came from Associate Justice Kevin Narce B. Vivero who submitted the opinion that the 75,000 shares held by the accused former congressman comprising just 0.89 percent of the total outstanding stocks of Tagum Agricultural Development Co. Inc. (Tadeco) was too “insubstantial” to be deemed covered by the definition of prohibited interest.
The majority ruling however prevailed that for failing to divest himself of his shares in Tadeco, Floirendo committed a criminal offense punishable under RA 3019.
“In fine, the accused’s indirect pecuniary or financial interest … falls within the prohibition under Section 14, Art. VI of the Constitution. The prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt all the elements of violation of Section 3 (h) of RA No. 3019,” the court ruled.
The case information filed on February 9, 2018 alleged that Floirendo held on to his 75,000 shares in Tadeco despite the constitutional prohibition when the company signed a renewal of its land lease deal with the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) on May 21, 2003. At the time, he was the incumbent representative of the second legislative district of Davao del Norte.
Testifying in his own defense, the accused argued that he was not an incorporator of TADECO since the company was created in 1950 before he was born.
He likewise invoked lack of knowledge regarding the joint venture agreement between the Tadeco and the BuCor, saying he never had a chance to read the document as he had no involvement in the negotiations.
However, he admitted that he owned 537,950 shares in Anflo Management and Investment Corporation (Anflocor) which controls a majority stake in Tadeco.
He clarified that he is a member of the Anflocor board of directors but that he ceased to be a board member in Tadeco when he ran for Congress in 1998.
However, the court held that regardless of lack of involvement in the negotiation and the execution of the JVA on the part of Floirendo, merely being directly or indirectly invested in a contract with the government or any agency thereof already constitutes a criminal offense.
“Actual intervention, although undoubtedly prohibited… is not required. Verily, a public official or employee is required to divest himself or herself of his or her shareholdings because he acquired the shares even before he was elected as a member of the House of Representatives,” the Sandiganbayan said.
On top of incarceration, the court also imposed against Floirendo the additional penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office.