Davao del Norte Second District Representative Antonio Floirendo, Jr. has filed a P10 million libel rap against former friend and political ally now arch-foe former House Speaker First District Rep. Pantaleon D. Alvarez.

In the criminal complaint filed with the office of the city prosecutor in Quezon City on August 22, 2018, Floirendo said Alvarez accused him of “spreading false rumors,” and alluded to the Floirendos as “land grabbers.”

Floirendo said Alvarez’s defamatory statements, published in Manila-based newspapers and broadcast by national television networks, not only slandered his person but also “blackened the memory of his father, the late Antonio O. Floirendo, Sr.”

The case stemmed from Alvarez’s statements in a press conference following media reports about P500 million worth of properties in Siargao in Surigao del Norte alleged as owned by the then Speaker of the House of Representatives. Alvarez, ousted as Speaker in a coup in July, blamed the publication of the report on Floirendo.

“The imputation that I was behind spreading false rumors regarding his properties and that my family and I are land grabbers is part of Alvarez’ effort to injure my reputation and character,” said Floirendo.

“Alvarez did not mince words in identifying my family and I as land grabbers,” he said. “His statements are calculated to detract from the real issue at hand—his acquisition of numerous properties under mysterious circumstances.”

Floirendo also said Alvarez’s attacks blackened the memory of his father, the late Antonio O. Floirendo, Sr.

The late industrialist, a respected figure in Davao del Norte, is the founder of Tagum Agricultural Development Company (Tadeco), the Philippines largest exporter and producer of Cavendish bananas. The pioneering Tadeco, founded in the 50s, is widely credited for its contribution to the economic development of Davao del Norte and making the province the country’s banana capital and for placing the Philippines in the world map of top banana producers.

“I emphasize that my father was considered a captain of industry, a pioneering entrepreneur and a pillar of the banana industry. Having passed away already, he is now unable to confront the allegations him.”

Floirendo and Alvarez, who both supported President Rodrigo Duterte’s presidential run in 2016, are longtime buddies but their friendship soured in 2016.

Since then, Alvarez, also the secretary general of the then ruling majority but now minority party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino/Lakas ng Bayan (PDP/Laban), had hounded with a House investigation a land deal covering the 5,300has Davao Penal Colony reservation area between the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Floirendo-owned Tadeco. Alvarez also filed a graft rap against his former friend and benefactor in connection with the Tadeco-BuCor Joint Venture Agreement (JVA).

The filing of the libel rap against Alvarez is the latest tragedy that has befallen the former House Speaker.

His reelection in the 2019 mid-term is seen as in peril, with Floirendo and his cousin Governor Anthony del Rosario in the campaign to frustrate his return to Congress. Reports say Alvarez will put his reelection on the line against former governor and congressman Rodolfo del Rosario, the governor’s father.

Presidential daughter Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte has also joined the fray and has vowed to derail the reelection of the ex-Speaker after Alvarez called as an “opposition party” the Hugpong Ng Pagbabago (HNP), a regional political party she organized along with the governors of the Davao Region in support of the Duterte administration.

Inside the PDP/Laban, there are also moves to oust Alvarez as secretary general if not kicked out of the party which has now been reduced to a minority party in the House after former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo replaced Alvarez in a coup on July 23. ROGER M. BALANZA

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