Duterte proclamation ‘best’ way to void BuCor-Tadeco deal
MANILA, Philippines – A presidential proclamation will be the “best and fastest” way to void the alleged anomalous deal between the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation (Tadeco), Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II told lawmakers on Tuesday, May 9
At the first day of the House probe into the BuCor-Tadeco deal on Tuesday, Aguirre said this was his recommendation in relation to the alleged flawed joint venture agreement.
“I believe it is only the Bureau of Corrections that could question this particular [deal], the constitutionality or the validity of this particular contract because BuCor is the contracting party. But I recommended that the same be cancelled by the President because that’s the easier way,” he said.
He argued that it would take a “very long time” if BuCor were to file a case against Tadeco, which is owned by the family of Davao del Norte 2nd District Representative Antonio Floirendo Jr.
“In order not to prolong this…the best and fastest way is for the President to cancel this contract. Otherwise, the alternative is for BuCor to file the appropriate action in court for the declaration of nullity of this contract,” said Aguirre.
“[I recommend the] revocation or rescission of the contract by the President pursuant to Section 1a of PD (Presidential Decree Number) 1585 entitled, 'Prescribing certain standards,'” he added.
The House panels on good government and public accountability and on justice are probing the decades-old BuCor-Tadeco deal that allowed one of the the world's biggest banana firms to lease 5,308.36 hectares of land from the Davao Prison and Penal Farm (DPPF).
In turn, inmates are sent to the banana plantation to work as part of BuCor’s rehabilitation program.
'Reclassify Davao penal colony'
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who is at odds with Floirendo, raised red flags over the deal. Alvarez alleged that the contract is detrimental to the government, which is “prejudiced” by as much as P106,167,191 annually.
Alvarez also alleged that inmates are supposedly “ill-treated” and paid substandard wages by Tadeco.
During the hearing, Aguirre affirmed the earlier findings of a DOJ fact-finding panel that the contract is unconstitutional.
Separate teams from the DOJ and the Commission on Audit said the deal is unconstitutional because the 1987 Constiutiononly allows 1,000 hectares of public agricultural land to be leased to a private corporation.
Aguirre also recommended Duterte to reclassify the DPPF as alienable and disposable land so that the land can be leased to another company that can hire the Tadeco plantation workers.
“We are aware also of the many individuals who were supposed to be workers in the farm or the penal farm of the BuCor and in order that they will not be out of work so to speak in this [piece] of land, we would like to remind the President reclassify them into an alienable disposable land in order that the BuCor or the government will be able to enter into contract with other entities in accordance with the Constitution and the Public Land Act,” said Aguirre.
The House leadership was in full force during the hearing, with Alvarez and Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas seated in between the two committee chairpersons presiding the hearing – Surigao del Sur 2nd District Representative Johnny Pimentel and Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali.
Alvarez and Floirendo are allies of Duterte – the Speaker secretary-general of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) while Floirendo was one of the biggest campaign donors of Duterte.
The two Davao lawmakers had a falling out supposedly after their girlfriends had a fight last year.
Alvarez has since filed a House resolution calling for a probe and a graft complaint against Alvarez over the BuCor-Tadeco deal. The Speaker had said that his complaints against Floirendo were not linked to their feuding girlfriends. – Rappler.com