ANTI-corruption advocates on Monday called for an investigation into the joint venture between banana exporter Tagum Agricultural Development Co. Inc. (Tadeco) of the Floirendo family and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) that House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez claims is anomalous.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) said the terms on the land rental and profit sharing signed by Tadeco and BuCor in May 2003 were grossly disadvantageous to the government.
Dante Jimenez, founding chairman of the VACC, said the government should get a bigger share from Tadeco because the company had recovered its banana plantation investments after nearly five decades in operation.
The VACC chief was referring to the 25-year deal involving a 5,308-hectare property at the Davao Penal Colony. Under the agreement, Tadeco committed to give BuCor P26.5 million per year or a rate of P5,000 per hectare.
The government agreed to a share of export revenues of P1.32 per box or just 0.22 percent of a box of bananas whose average price is P600 per box. This means that out of 30 million boxes sold per year, the government only gets P40.584 million while Tadeco earns P18 billion.
Jimenez said the government should be getting at least P1 billion in rent and P900 million in profit share from Tadeco annually.
Tadeco is owned by the family of Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo Jr. who has been charged by erstwhile close friend Alvarez with graft before the Office of the Ombudsman, as Floirendo was a congressman when the deal was signed.
Alvarez in his complaint said Floirendo violated section 3(h) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for “having financing 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 speaker also filed House Bill 867 calling on the House Committee on Good Government and Accountability to immediately conduct an inquiry into the deal and the supposed ill treatment of workers in the Tadeco banana plantation.
Jimenez backed Alvarez’s complaint. “This is to place first the interest of the country and government over and above personal interests and pursue seriously President Duterte’s advocacy against corruption in all forms,” he said.
Alvarez seen keeping post
Alvarez’s graft complaint against Floirendo led to the outing of the former’s affair with a certain Jennifer Maliwanag Vicencio by the latter’s partner, Cathy Binag. Binag claimed last week that the relationship between long-time friends Alvarez and Floirendo soured after her argument with Vicencio during the Masskara Festival in Bacolod City last October.
Two House members said Alvarez was unlikely to be ousted over the disclosure of his extramarital affair and an earlier move to replace some House leaders over their “no” vote on the death penalty bill.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday defended Alvarez, saying affairs were common among politicians.
“I don’t see any reason for a change in the speakership because the speaker has the full trust and confidence of the President,” said Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert “Ace” Barbers, who belongs to the Nacionalista Party that is part of the House “Super Majority” bloc.
“You have to give it to the speaker for having the guts to say it in public…As for Congress, we have more pressing matters that we should address over this,” Barbers told reporters.
Rep. Arlene Brosas of Gabriela party-list said: “I haven’t heard anything about replacing the speaker. There are a lot of issues between the speaker and Congressman Floirendo, but this is primarily about the Tadeco contract. Any attempt to replace the Speaker will have an economic and political motive, and we would oppose any speaker who will have anti-people policies.”
Duterte hit for defending Alvarez
Brosas, however said the President should promote respect for women instead of defending Alvarez.
Duterte and Alvarez have condemned Sen. Leila de Lima for having a romantic relationship with her former driver, Ronnie Dayan, who is married.
“It is not only the duty of Gabriela to fight this double-standard practice. This fight should be carried on by both women and men, especially the President,” Brosas said.
“The President should push for the rights of women and should not perpetuate this wrong notion of viewing women [in a different standard].”.
LLANESCA T. PANTI