Treat Tadeco deal as agrarian issue, opposition solons urge Alvarez
The opposition lawmakers in the House of Representatives challenged Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to view the allegedly anomalous banana land deal between the government and the Tagum Agricultural Development Co. (Tadeco) as an agrarian reform issue instead of a way to get back at his rival Davao Del Norte Rep. Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo Jr.
In a press conference Tuesday, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said he as chairperson of the House agrarian reform committee in the 8th Congress investigated the same joint venture agreement between Tadeco and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and found out that the banana plantation may be distributed to the farmer beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp).
Lagman said his committee in 1990 forwarded to the Office of the President and the Department of Justice, which has jurisdiction over BuCor, to put the Davao Penal Colony land under agrarian reform program to qualified beneficiaries without prejudice to Tadeco’s leasehold agreement with the recipients.
Lagman urged Alvarez, who filed the resolution for the probe, to investigate other plantations in penal colonies which may be disadvantageous to the government and thus be better off be distributed among farmers tilling the land.
“The issue here is it’s disadvantageous to government. It is disadvantageous to the agrarian reform beneficiaries, who should be the recipients of this Carp-able land a long time ago,” Lagman said.
“We are urging the Speaker and government to (look into) the committee report we prepared way back 27 years ago where we recommended the land covered by the joint venture agreement between Tadeco and the BuCor should be distributed to agrarian reform beneficiaries,” Lagman said.
Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin also said Alvarez should instead look at the Tadeco deal as an agrarian reform issue more than a political one.
“If this is an agrarian reform issue, not just a political issue, the Speaker should really use his influence to complete the process of agrarian reform. But if he limits it to Tadeco, this will just be construed as political infighting of allies of President Duterte,” Villarin said.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat recommended the leadership to also look into the Carp-able lands in state universities and colleges and military reservations.
The “Magnificent Seven” independent minority issued the call while the House started its investigation into the allegedly anomalous joint venture agreement between the government and Tadeco, a banana firm owned by Floirendo.
During the hearing, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao also urged Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to look into parcels of land in the Davao Penal Colony which may not be covered under the joint venture agreement but have been tilled for years by farmers who deserve to be granted the land as agrarian reform beneficiaries.
A day before the House probe began, the House leadership stripped Floirendo of his membership in the powerful Commission on Appointments, in charge of confirming the appointments of government nominees, following his absent vote on the administration death penalty bill.
While Floirendo’s ouster from the CA only meant that Alvarez stayed true to his word to strip of committee positions the lawmakers who voted against or were absent to vote on the bill restoring capital punishment on drug-related offenses, it also capped his offensive against his rival before the start of the House probe.
Floirendo and Alvarez used to be allies but they had a falling-out following a tiff between the two congressmen’s girlfriends.
Alvarez even filed a graft complaint before the Ombudsman against Floirendo for Tadeco’s allegedly disadvantageous contract and his alleged conflict of interest.
The Commission on Audit and a Department of Justice fact-finding committee have reported to Alvarez’ office that the land lease deal between Tadeco and BuCor to use 5,308.36 hectares of land in the Davao Penal Colony for a banana plantation is disadvantageous and unconstitutional.
Alvarez alleged that Floirendo has a personal interest in the contract which was entered into in 2003 when the latter was already a congressman. The Constitution bars members of Congress from entering into contracts with the government.
Alvarez filed the graft complaint after his girlfriend Jennifer Vicencio had a spat with Floirendo’s longtime partner Cathy Binag. Admitting his affair, Alvarez denied filing the complaint out of a personal vendetta.
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