Alvarez: Stick to facts, Tadeco probe not linked to personal grudge

Mara Cepeda
Alvarez: Stick to facts, Tadeco probe not linked to personal grudge
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez says he is not going after his erstwhile friend, Davao del Norte 2nd District Representative Antonio Floirendo Jr, by calling for the probe into the BuCor-Tadeco deal

MANILA, Philippines – Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez denied he wants the Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation (Tadeco) probed because he had a falling out with Davao del Norte 2nd District Repesentative Antonio Floirendo Jr.

Paghiwalayin natin, ano (Let’s treat these things separately, okay)? Let us judge the facts as it is,” said Alvarez in an ambush interview on Tuesday, May 9.

Totoo ba na nalugi ang gobyerno dito? Totoo ba na ‘yung kontrata highly disadvantageous to government? ‘Yun ang dapat nating tingnan (Did the government lose money because of this? Is it true the contact is highly disadvantegous to the government?) If it is not highly disadvantageous to the government, then we entertain other reasons and other motives,” he added. 

On Monday, the House committees on good government and public accountability, and justice began their joint probe into the alleged anomalous joint venture agreement (JVA) between the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the banana firm owned by family of Floirendo.

Alvarez and Floirendo are both allies of President Rodrigo Duterte but the two former friends are now embroiled in a political feud after their respective girlfriends fought late last year. (READ: Graft complaint vs Floirendo not about feuding girlfriends – Alvarez)

The fight between the two Davaoeños has since escalated into a House probe and a graft complaint against Floirendo.

The Speaker, however, claims the contract between BuCor and Tadeco “prejudices” the government by P106,167,191 annually. Tadeco chief executive officer and president Alexander Valoria disputed this at the Tuesday hearing.

Alvarez grills Tadeco CEO

During the hearing, Alvarez asked Valoria for his definition of a joint venture. Valoria said it is “a collaboration of parties toward a common objective.” 

Alvarez then asked for the primary objective of Tadeco for entering into a JVA with BuCor.  

“The primary objective, with respect to the JVA, Sir, is the rehabilitation of the prisoners,” Valoria said.

“The objective, of course, of Tadeco is commercial objective. But the vehicle that we were able to pursue that was the JVA, which we separate that from the commercial aspect of it,” he added. 

Alvarez refused to accept Valoria’s explanation, insisting that profit was really Tadeco’s primary objective given that it was a profit-driven firm. 

“The primary objective is profit….You just used the reason to justify a joint venture agreement. Am I correct? Be honest! ‘Wag mo na kaming bolahin! Sabihin mo ‘yung totoo (Don’t fool us! Just tell the truth),” said Alvarez.  

Valoria, however, told the Speaker that he was already being “as honest as possible.” 

“We do have a commercial objective separate to the objectives that we’re trying to achieve also with the BuCor in the JVA. Certainly, we are able to derive also a commercial advantage from that,” said the Tadeco CEO. 

“So the primary objective is for profit. I think that is clear,” said Alvarez, who received an affirmative response from Valoria.  

On July 11, 1969, BuCor forged a deal with Tadeco allowing it to lease BuCor land in 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 JVA also states that BuCor must receive profit shares with respect to the leased lands where the bananas are planted.

In turn, DPPF inmates work in the banana plantation as part of BuCor’s rehabilitation program. 

Tadeco concealing info?

Alvarez, Solicitor General Jose Calida, the Department of Justice, and the Commission on Audit have argued that the BuCor-Tadeco deal is unconstitutional and must be cancelled

Justice Secretary Vitalliano Aguirre II said the “best and fastest” way to void the JVA is through a proclamation by President Rodrigo Duterte. 

But Valoria came to the defense of his company, saying the government even wants to replicate the DPPF rehabilitation program at the Iwahig Penal Colony in Palawan. 

The Tadeco executive also reasoned that the JVA has been subjected to multiple investigations since the 1970s, and every probe found the contract to be aboveboard. All past justice chiefs, he said, “upheld the validity” of the contract.

Asked for his reaction to the past probes into the BuCor-Tadeco deal, Alvarez said in ambush interview: “Iyon ang hindi ko alam dahil matagal ko rin na gustong tingnan yang kontrata na iyan pero it seems na talagang itinatago iyan.” (That’s what I don’t know because I have wanted to look into this for a long time, but it seems they’re really hiding something.) – 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.