Gang of four
These must really be exciting times for the $1-billion a year banana exporting industry.
In the past three months, its biggest company called Tadeco became the target of a synchronized assault from four powerful government agencies.
Surely they got the inspiration from House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, a close friend and political ally of the motor-biking Duterte Harley.
Last week, industry big boys also had to troop to the Department of Defense, after the NPAs attacked Lapanday Foods of the Lorenzo family in Davao City, burning some P2 billion worth of equipment.
From what I gathered, the industry sought the meeting with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana directly, as foreign firms Dole and Del Monte wanted to move their business to other countries such as Indonesia.
Anyway, threat of more NPA attacks in the future evidently worried the industry, perhaps in the same breath as the attacks by the gang of four agencies on Tadeco.
The Tadeco affair resulted from the quarrel among concubines of leading political figures in the administration.
And so the Department of Justice fired the first volley. Media somehow got hold of a very old DOJ review of some deal involving Tadeco.
Alvarez thus called on the House of Representatives to investigate the “lease” arrangement between the Bureau of Corrections and Tadeco. He then asked the DOJ, the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Solicitor General to look into what he called anomalous deal.
Among his complaints was the “low” rental, at P5,000 per square meter a year, paid by Tadeco to Bucor for some 5,600 hectares of what he called “prime” land in the Davao Penal Colony.
He claimed that Tadeco got the lease without any bidding.
In the first place, the arrangement between Tadeco and Bucor was a joint venture agreement, or JVA. It was not a lease, and no rental was involved. Bucor was not the landlord; Tadeco, not the tenant.
The joint venture simply allowed Bucor to get its share in the profits and other income from the banana plantation managed by Tadeco.
It started in 1968, when what became the country’s biggest banana plantation was just a swamp of a penal colony, not fit for any form of farming.
In the JVA, Bucor put in the land as its capital, while Tadeco shouldered all the cost to drain the swamp of water, build facilities such as roads, and irrigation and drainage systems, and provide the technology and training to inmates.
Bucor used the JVA as its reformation program for inmates, even requiring Tadeco to hire them after they served their sentences.
At current prices, by the way, the cost of such a development would come up to at least P400,000 per hectare, for which Bucor did not pay a single centavo.
In 2004, the DOJ (as lead agency of Bucor) amended the agreement to include other benefits for the inmates.
Thus in the past 12 years, Bucor itself got only about P500 million in profit and production sharing, but the inmates received more than P1 billion in stipends.
Still, Alvarez insisted that the deal was anomalous, because to him, Tadeco should pay “market rates” for the land owned by Bucor.
In effect, his claim on the “anomaly” should indict all the justice secretaries in the past – some 14 of them – who did not lift a finger against it, even including Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Franklin Drillon, both DOJ heads at one time.
Aside from the House investigation, not to mention the DOJ panel investigation, plus the COA investigation, the Office of the Solicitor General got into the fray.
The OSG was not conducting any formal investigation on the matter whatsoever. It was just that, from out of the blue, the OSG declared it all as illegal.
As I said, four government agencies ganged up on Tadeco, using the resources of the government, paid for by taxpayers.
And all because of the quarrel between concubines!
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