MANILA—Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Thursday said he is initiating a congressional probe, as well as an audit, on the lease-property contract between the government and a Davao banana exporter owned by the biggest campaign financier of President Rodrigo Duterte.
In a radio interview aired over dzRH, Alvarez stressed that Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. could face graft and plunder complaints should his banana exporting firm, Tagum Agricultural Development Inc. (Tadeco), be proven guilty of allegedly shortchanging the government on its profit-sharing scheme.
Floirendo was the biggest donor for Duterte’s campaign last year, having contributed PHP75 million based on the President’s report to the Commission on Elections (Comelec)
“Wag po kayong mag-aalala, ‘yan ay sisilipin din ng Kongreso,” Alvarez said in response to the Department of Justice (DOJ) plan to ‘revisit’ the lease-property contract between the government and Tadeco.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II reportedly ordered a review of the 25-year lease contract that will lapse 12 years from now between the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Tadeco after receiving complaints that the company’s annual payments — both lease and profit sharing — were reportedly only a fraction of the prevailing market rate.
“Unang titingnan natin dito kung tama ba ‘yung dineklara na export at kung nagtutugma-tugma ito kasi kung hindi, napakalaki po ng talo ng gobyerno dito at kung ito ay mahigit PHP50 million, siguradong plunder po ito,” Alvarez said.
“Pangalawa, kung ang kontrata ba ay na-renew noong panahon na kongresista si Cong. Floirendo, kasi po, kung nangyari po ‘yun ay talagang malinaw na paglabag po ‘yan dun sa anti-graft law. Iyung contracts with the government na pinagbabawal po ng batas habang ikaw ay nanunungkulan as a public official,” the House leader pointed out.
Alvarez said he will also look into the veracity of the reports about the lease agreement where the government would get a guaranteed payment of PHP26.542 million per year for using the Davao Penal Colony’s 5,308 hectares of land — or about PHP5,000 per hectare.
“If the reports are true, the government is losing big. Napakalaki po ng lugi ng gobyerno,” Alvarez said.
“We would also look into why the contract given was for 25 years. Ang kalakaran d’yan sa pagkaalam ko five to 10 years. Ten years pinakamatagal kasi mabilis po ang pagbago ng presyo ng saging kaya po marami po dapat na alamin d’yan,” he added.
The Speaker said his position against Floirendo clearly shows the firm resolve of the Duterte administration’s to investigate even their allies.
“Ito nga ang sinasabi ko na ‘yung administrasyon ngayon ay wala pong pinipili ‘yan kung kaibigan mo o kalaban mo, supporter mo o hindi. Kung nadehado ‘yung gobyerno ay talagang aalamin natin ‘yan at dito sa anggulong ito marami rin akong nakikita na pupuwedeng alamin dahil percentage on sharing kasi ang share ng government dito doon sa export,” the Speaker stressed.
“Rest assured that this government will always be on the side of the people. Iyung Kongreso po, ‘yung House of Representatives will always be on the side of the people,” Alvarez said.