SPEAKER Pantaleon Alvarez on Wednesday said a barangay created by the Tagum Agricultural Development Corporation (Tadeco) inside the vast banana plantation it operates in Panabo, Davao del Norte decides the result of elections in the locality.
“Eto kasi ang problema dyan: yang barangay na yan, yan ang determinant factor in every election. Kino-cordon nila yan, para yung result ng elections palaging nananalo yung mayor na sinusuportahan nila. Hindi makapasok dyan yung mga kandidato,” Alvarez said at the joint hearing of the House Committee on Good Government and the Committee on Justice on the controversial land deal between the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Tadeco.
The Speaker was referring to Barangay A.O. Floirendo, which he described as isolated. Alvarez said the Floirendos restricted access to the barangay to ensure the family’s continued political dominance in the area.
“Kung sino yung gusto nilang manalo, kung anong boto yan, yun ang lumalabas. Kaya nagpakuha sila ng barangay diyan para sila lang ang may access. Yun yung kalokohan diyan,” Alvarez said.
The alleged poll anomalies purportedly perpetrated by Tadeco and the Floirendo family was revealed at the continuation of the House investigation of the contract between Tadeco and Bucor for being grossly disadvantageous to the government.
The inquiry was spurred by Resolution No. 876 which Alvarez had filed.
Earlier, the committee approved a motion to conduct a private survey of the areas operated by Tadeco and adjacent properties to determine which are public and private lands.
The panel also wanted to pinpoint location of public roads traversing the Tadeco-operated areas and public infrastructure that should be accessible to the public.
“Kaya nga we are requesting na ire-survey yan, determine ano yung mga provincial roads, ano yung public roads hindi dapat nahaharangan yan,” Alvarez said.
The Speaker directed the Philippine National Police to disarm any private armed guards found restricting access to public roads inside the Tadeco area of operation.
“Kaya nga yung PNP inimbita rin natin you disarm yung mga tao na yan na nagtsi-check point dyan. Dahil unang- una hindi rin yan pag-aari ng Tadeco, pag-aari ng gobyerno—Bucor,” Alvarez said.
Tadeco president Anthony Valoria said the company had no objection on the conduct of the survey.
Valoria claimed that barangay roads traversing the Tadeco-operated properties are open to the public but admitted that armed guards are present in certain areas ostensibly to protect private property and guard against other threats such as the New People’s Army.
“What is gated is private land,” Valoria said.
Speaker Alvarez cautioned Valoria to be careful in his testimony because he is under oath and may face possible penalties if he is found lying.
Alvarez said he personally knows that there were gates in certain parts of the property.
The former surveyor of Panabo, Davao Del Norte, Engr. Ruben Tacugue told the committee that he went to the same area last week but found that access was still prohibited.
Tacugue said in 1996 he was hired by a private individual to conduct a survey to determine if the adjacent Tadeco-operated lands overlap with the boundaries of his property.
He said that under Proclamation 103, series of 1948 set aside a 10-hectare agricultural land in the municipality, which Tadeco was allowed to use. However, he said he was surprised to find out that the actual area of the property under the proclamation is around 14 hectares.
Taqugue also said it was difficult to conduct the survey because Tadeco prohibited entry to the area.
“Hindi kami makapasok pag walang permission ang Tadeco,” he said.
In the same hearing, the House committees also censured Bucor officials for failing to initiate legal action to void the Bucor-Tadeco land deal as recommended earlier by the Department of Justice.
Aside from the questioning the Bucor-Tadeco land deal Alvarez has filed graft charges against Davao Del Norte 2nd District Rep. Antonio Floirendo, Jr. for having financial interest in the Bucor-Tadeco land deal while serving as lawmaker in violation of the law.
Last month the Office of the Ombudsman affirmed the indictment of Rep. Floirendo in connection with the case.
According to the Ombudsman, Rep. Floirendo violated Article VI, Section 14 of the 1987 Constitution, which states that no member of Congress is allowed to intervene in any government contracts before any agency for his pecuniary benefit during his term of office.
Tadeco sent the following statement to ConceptCentral in response to the above news item:
Official Statement of Mr. Anthony B. Sasin, Chairman of the Board, TADECO, re the allegations of Speaker Alvarez that the Floirendo family is isolating Brgy. A.O. Floirendo during elections to ensure victory of their candidates.
“There is no truth to these allegations. During campaign period, for varying security concerns and considerations, access to TADECO properties requires coordination in order to ensure biosecurity against plant diseases, safety of the workers, residents, properties, and assets situated within TADECO.
“All legitimate political organizations, parties, and candidates are provided equal opportunities to conduct sorties and activities without hampering the production and commercial activities of the Company.
“Furthermore, Election poll watchers from different contesting parties and candidates, not to mention the various watchdog organizations, are allowed unfettered access during election day until canvassing. This information is readily and publicly accessible and verifiable with the COMELEC.”