MANILA—The House of Representatives on Tuesday started the joint congressional inquiry into the alleged anomalous joint venture agreement (JVA) between the Tagum Agricultural Development Company Inc. (TADECO) and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
In a joint hearing of the committees on justice and on good government and public accountability, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II presented the findings of the DOJ-led fact-finding team, which revealed that the BuCor-TADECO deal is disadvantageous to the government.
Aguirre noted that the JVA between the government and TADECO, a banana firm owned by Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio “Tonyboy” Floirendo Jr., is unconstitutional since no public bidding was conducted and the 5,308.36 hectares of contract area exceeds the 1,000 hectare-limitation under the 1987 Constitution.
Aguirre said he recommended to the BuCor the revocation or rescission of its flawed contract with the Floirendo-owned banana firm and to file appropriate charges in court.
” I believe that it is only the BuCor that could question this particular constitutionality or validity of this contract because BuCor is one of the contracting parties,” he explained.
The Justice chief, however, said that the “fastest way” to end the anomalous deal was for President Rodrigo Duterte to cancel the contract.
“I believe it is the President who could declare this as illegal and cancel the contract immediately,” Aguirre said.
During the same hearing, TADECO president Alex Valoria stressed that the JVA is valid and legal as it passed through 14 Justice secretaries, all of whom upheld its validity.
Valoria said that the banana operations under the JVA created “30,000 jobs in direct, indirect and ancillary roles” and also benefited inmates inside the Davao penal farm through jobs and reformation.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, who filed the House resolution calling for a probe into the “grossly disadvantageous” BuCor-TADECO deal, slammed Valoria for making it appear that the primary objective of TADECO in its lease agreement in the penal colony is the inmates’ rehabilitation, when in fact its aim is to earn profit.
”I think it is clear because the primary purpose of a corporation naturally is for profit,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez also insisted that the agreement between BuCor and TADECO involves a “rental” and not a JVA.
Floirendo recused himself from attending the hearing as a member of the House justice committee “to obviate any perception of personal interference or influence on the outcome.”