Lawmakers want BuCor-Tadeco deal probed over land distribution

Mara Cepeda
Lawmakers want BuCor-Tadeco deal probed over land distribution
The Makabayan bloc says hectares of land at the Davao Prison and Penal Farm were no longer distributed to farmer-beneficiaries after the BuCor-Tadeco deal was sealed

MANILA, Philippines – A second resolution calling for a congressional probe into the alleged anomalous deal between the Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation (Tadeco) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) has been filed at the House.

House Resolution (HR) Number 953 was filed by the following Makabayan bloc lawmakers:

  • ACT Teachers Representative France Castro and Antonio Tinio
  • Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao
  • Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate
  • Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Arlene Brosas and Emmi de Jesus
  • Kabataan Representative Sarah Elago

According to their resolution, several hectares of land that were supposed to be given to farmer-beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) were no longer distributed after Tadeco and BuCor sealed their contract. 

A July 11, 1969 deal allowed Tadeco to lease BuCor-owned land – in short, a government property – located at the Davao Prison and Penal Farm (DPPF).

This was renewed on May 21, 2003, with BuCor guaranteed an annual production share of P26,541,809, which will automatically increase by 10% every 5 years. The joint venture agreement (JVA) also states that BuCor must receive profit shares with respect to the leased lands where the bananas are planted.

According to the lawmakers, the DPPF used a deed of transfer to turn over 550 hectares of its land covering the Kapalong sub-colon and 100 hectares under the Panabo sub-colony on September 6, 1990.

The Department of Agrarian Reform distributed 446.141 hectares to 896 farmer-beneficiaries of the Kapalong sub-colony. But the 100 hectares under the Panabo sub-colony were no longer distributed following the BuCor-Tadeco deal.  

“Whereas, the disposing of land of Dapecol (Davao Penal Colony) was not possible as the Department of Justice through the Bureau of Corrections  entered a 25-year Consolidated Joint Venture Agreement with Tadeco for its banana plantation covering 5,212.46 hectares in September 26, 1979 which was renewed its contract on May 21, 2003,” said the Makabayan bloc. 

They also noted that when detained Senator Leila de Lima was still justice secretary, she told DAR “there is no excess land in the Dapecol for CARP coverage and distribution to speak of.”

The former justice secretary also reportedly said “the portion being claimed by is specifically used as training ground for the rehabilitation of inmates and regionalization plan of BuCor.”

The Makabayan also said that DPPF prisoners who are sent to work in Tadeco’s plantation will only up becoming landless farmers upon their release. 

The lawmakers are now asking the committee on agrarian reform to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, “to determine the actual remaining hectarage of Dapecol and urging for the deed of transfer from Dapecol-BuCor to the DAR, particularly the 5,212.46-hectares land under the JVA between BuCor and Tadeco, for the purpose of land distribution to qualified farmer-beneficiaries.” 

HR 953 is the second resolution seeking a probe into the Tadeco-BuCor deal. Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier filed HR 867 as he raised flags that the contract is disadvantageous to the government. (READ: Alvarez files graft complaint vs Rep Floirendo

Tadeco is owned by Alvarez’s longtime friend and Davao del Norte 2nd District Representative Antonio Floirendo Jr, with whom the Speaker is now embroiled in a political feud. (READ: Graft complaint vs Floirendo not about feuding girlfriends – Alvarez)

Separate investigating panels formed by the Department of Justice and the Commission on Audit found the deal to be unconstitutional and even recommended its cancellation. Solicitor-General Jose Calida is of the same opinion.

The House committee on good government and public accountability as well as the justice panel are set to conduct a joint probe into the BuCor-Tadeco deal on Tuesday, May 9. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.