Davao del Norte Vice Governor Alan “Aldo” Dujali might have preempted the possible grandstanding or lengthy deliberation on the now controversial Tagum Agricultural Development Co. (TADECO)-Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) by the body’s committee of the whole as he laid down his suggested rule in tackling the legislative matter next week.
Davao del Norte is where the vast plantation of TADECO sprawls straddling across at least the four municipalities of BE Dujali, Panabo, Carmen and Sto. Tomas.
During the convening of the committee of the whole right after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan session Tuesday, he said that the committee’s hearing on TADECO-BuCor JVA is in aid of legislation and “is not a venue for debate and deliberation but is only a venue to present insights, facts and sentiments” on the issue.
The SP agreed to allow interested SP members to submit their position papers up until 5 P.M. Thursday for them to read them on the weekend, and convene again on Monday at 10 a.m. to make appropriate resolution.
Board Member Francisco Remitar said in an interview after the session that he has “no comment yet” on his vote whether he will support the JVA or not.
But a Capitol insider said that Governor Anthony del Rosario had met the board members in luncheon meeting at his office Tuesday before the session and accordingly he had called on board members “to support the JVA”.
The TADECO-BuCor JVA became a legislative matter to tackle when in last month’s session the Liga ng mga Barangay provincial president Miguel Niez made a privilege speech asking the body to come up a resolution supporting the JVA. The matter was inevitably referred to the committee of the whole in which the vice governor is the chairman and presiding officer.
The JVA that covers 5,308 hectares, comprising more than half of Tadeco’s plantation area, has been sought for cancellation by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. The Department of Justice (DOJ), the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Solicitor General (SolGen), acting on separate investigations, have all declared as “unconstitutional and illegal” the land deal between the Floirendo family-owned TADECO and the BuCor.
A joint committee probe of the committee on justice and good government is running at the House of Representatives where two hearings probing the JVA had already been conducted in May 9 and May 30.
By and large, TADECO stakeholders were pushed to defensive wall by grilling legislators during the two hearings.
Meanwhile, TADECO has been lobbying to various sanggunians in the province in the bid to shore up local support and it got some resolutions supporting JVA, but it would remain to be seen if the resolutions have no bearing to the weight of Alvarez and the DOJ’s legal contestations at the national level.
A probe or even deliberation of the JVA at the SP level is seen among quarters as not only a duplication but it might result as well to narrow and myopic outcome compared to the more exhaustive probes with primary evidences and top resource persons and witnesses in Congress. (mindanaosunchronicle.com/Cha Monforte)
WHAT WENT BEFORE
In the House of Representatives’ Press and Public Affairs Bureau press release dated May 16, 2017:
“House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (brushed) aside the innuendo being floated by the Floirendos that the DOJ, COA and SolGen had been coerced into declaring Tadeco’s sweetheart deal with Bucor as patently detrimental to the interest of the government and the Filipino people.
“Who are they trying to fool?” asked Alvarez, referring to “Tadeco’s wild imaginings and revisionist take on the deal that had allowed them to deprive government of billions of pesos in lease payment and share from the sale of bananas pocketed by Tadeco instead of going to the national coffers.”
“Ang hirap sa Tadeco, sila lang ang nagsasabi na walang problema ang contrata nila while all concerned government agecies are one in saying that their contract is violative of the constitution hence illegal,” Alvarez stressed.
Alvarez urged officials of Tadeco to just address directly the legal questions “instead of muddying the issue” after the DOJ, COA and SolGen slammed the Tadeco-Bucor land-lease deal.
“Nililihis nila yung usapin. Ganito na lang, pag-usapan natin yung kontrata. Tingnan natin yung kontrata, talo ba yung gobyerno o hindi? Meron bang iregularidad sa kontrata na to o wala?” said Alvarez.
Alvarez pointed out that a DOJ fact-finding has investigated the contract and declared it illegal. In the joint hearing of the House Committee on Good Government and Committee on Justice last May 9, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II adopted the position of the fact-finding body.
Aguirre recommended that the deal between the Floirendo-family owned Tadeco and Bucor be revoked by the President or for the bureau to file an appropriate action in court to nullify the supposed Joint-Venture Agreement (JVA).
He also recommended that the President issue a proclamation reclassifying the DPPF lands as alienable and disposable before the Bucor is allowed to enter into agreements for the concession of its property, subject to bidding requirements under the law.
Alvarez insisted that Tadeco’s rental fee of P5,308 per hectare and the P1.80 government share per box of bananas is prejudicial to the government. He added that Tadeco’s refusal to bare the price they get per box of bananas belies Tadeco’s claim of a JVA with Tadeco.
“We are talking about a fully developed plantation here and they are paying just P5,308 per hectare? How can anyone turn a blind eye to government being shortchanged when the lease amount per hectare per year for raw, undeveloped land is P25,000 to P35,000?” said Alvarez.
We are talking about a fully developed plantation here, the lease amount per hectare/ per year for RAW land is 25 to 35k.
“Alam mo mababang-mababa talaga yan. Kasi kung sinasabi mong joint venture yan with the government, eh dapat pinapaalam mo doon sa ka-joint venture mo: Magkano ba yung presyo ng saging na binibenta natin para alam naman niya kung tama yung binibigay mong share sa kanya per box,” Alvarez said later in an interview.
Likewise, Alvarez cited the Commission on Audits six-page Audit Observation Memorandum dated April 25, 2017 and addressed to Atty. Benjamin Delos Santos, Director General of BuCor, which also found the Tadeco-Bucor deal unconstitutional.
The memorandum, signed by Audit Team Leaders Josefina Gonzalez and Supervising Auditor Flordeliza Arez noted, among others, that the 1935 Constitution governing the 1969 deal between BuCor and TADECO allows only a maximum of 1,024 hectares of public lands to be leased.
Since BuCor allowed the holding or lease of an agricultural land of 3,000 hectares to TADECO, the December 26, 1969 Agreement, together with its addendums and amendments violates the constitution, according to the COA memorandum.
“Similarly unconstitutional is the May 21, 2003 JVA because the 5,308.36 hectares landholding of TADECO over an agricultural land, which was allowed by the BuCor, far exceeded the limitation of 1,000 hectares provided under the 1987 Constitution,” it added.
According to the COA, it does not matter if the contract or agreement entered into between BuCor and TADECO is worded as Agreement, Leasehold Share and Tenancy, or JVA.
“What is obvious is the excessive holding of agricultural land by TADECO, which under the May 21, 2003 JVA consisted of 5,308.36 hectares, is a violation of the provisions of Section 3, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, limiting the holding of corporations to only 1,000 hectares. This being so, the JVA is unconstitutional,” COA said
Last April 27, Solicitor General Jose Calida also issued a legal opinion saying the Tadeco-Bucor land deal as illegal and similarly sought its nullification.
According to the SolGen, the JVA signed in 1969 violated the Constitution and Commonwealth Act 141 or the Public Land Act, explaining that the 5,212.46-hectare land within the Davao Prison and Penal Farm (formerly Davao Penal Colony) in Panabo City was a land of public domain.
As a land of public domain, Calida said the property belongs to the government and that “the Constitution only allows private corporations to hold lands of the public domain through lease for a total period not exceeding 50 years.”
“Assuming that the JVA is a lease, the initial agreement was entered into in 1969, extended for 25 years in 1979 and extended for another 25-year period in 2003. TADECO’s use and occupation of the DAPECOL lands should cease by 2019. The JVA cannot be allowed to last until 2029,” Calida said.
The Solgen added that the JVA covers 5,212.46 hectares, over and above what is allowed in the Constitution which is just 1,000 hectares.
Calida pointed out that under the Public Land Act, agricultural lands such as DAPECOL may only be disposed through homestead, sale, lease, or confirmation of imperfect title.
“It should be noted that BuCor and TADECO entered into a Joint Venture Agreement. Clearly, a Joint Venture Agreement is not one of the modes by which agricultural public lands may be disposed of,” Calida has said.
BuCor was entitled to an annual production share of P26,541,809 and a mandatory increase of 10 percent every five years while TADECO is given “free and uninterrupted use” of DAPECOL’s land.
“These stipulations clearly show that what TADECO and BUCOR entered into was not a lease, but a joint venture for the purpose of operating a banana plantation within DAPECOL,” Calida said. “This is a clear violation of the Public Land Act.”
The agreement, likewise, failed to comply with the Public Land Act’s competitive bidding requirement. “The right to lease the DAPECOL land must be made through a public auction where bidders are required to submit sealed bids,” Calida said.”