Issue date: April 17, 2017

DoJ to release legal opinion on BuCor-Tadeco agreement this week

THE Department of Justice (DoJ) is set to release its legal opinion on the allegedly anomalous joint venture agreement (JVA) between the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Tagum Agricultural Development Co. (Tadeco) this week.

The 2003 lease of 5,300 hectares of the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) to Tadeco is central to the graft complaint filed by House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez against Tadeco-owner Davao del Norte 2nd District Representative Antonio R. Floirendo, Jr. before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Dapat matapos namin ngayong linggong ito (We should have this finished this week),” Justice Secretary Vitaliano N. Aguirre II said in a news conference earlier last week.

Mr. Aguirre has administrative supervision over BuCor, an attached agency of the DoJ. He earlier refused to divulge details saying he “will be preempting [this] because it has been under study.”

Upon Mr. Alvarez’s request, the DoJ on April 4 created a six-man panel headed by Chief State Counsel Ricardo Paras III to review the said agreement. Others in the panel are Director Maria Charina Buena Dy-Po (vice-chairman, technical staff), State Counsel Precious Pojas (legal staff), State Counsel Melvin Suarez (legal staff), State Counsel Noel Adriatico (technical staff) and Catherine Angela Maralit (technical staff).

In his letter to the DoJ, Mr. Alvarez sought the declaration of the JVA as null and void, claiming it was entered into by the parties “without legal basis” and the terms and contracts of the deal were “grossly disadvantageous” to the government.

Under the 2003 contract, both parties renewed for another 25 years BuCor’s lease to Tadeco of 5,308.36 hectares in the Dapecol at an annual P26.54 million, with an increase of 10% every five years.

However, Mr. Alvarez claimed the deal was based on “low lease rates” of at least P5,000 per hectare per year as compared with the prevailing lease rates of at least P35,000.

Last month, Mr. Alvarez sued his known ally, Mr. Floirendo, whose family owns Tadeco, for conflict of interest when their company bagged the deal in 2003.

The House Speaker said Mr. Floirendo in 2003 was on his second term as Davao del Norte representative while also serving as a stockholder at the banana plantation, hence violating Section 3 (h) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Mr. Alvarez had also filed House Resolution 867 calling for a congressional probe on the 2003 agreement.

In that resolution, Mr. Alvarez, who represents the first district of Davao del Norte, said the government is “prejudiced, at the very least, by as much as P106,167,192.00 per year.”

Tadeco President Alex Viloria, for his part, assured cooperation with the probe. Mr. Viloria said the DoJ investigation will be an opportunity to answer the accusations.

Mr. Aguirre said the DoJ wanted to release its opinion after the Lenten season holidays.

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