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House committee set to probe Tadeco deal

State auditors are confident that their claim of unconstitutionality in the land lease deal between the government and the Tagum Agricultural Development Co. stands on solid legal ground and ready to face the House of Representatives to defend their audit findings.

This developed as the House Committee on Good Government is set to launch the congressional probe into the allegedly highly anomalous deal that has also prompted a Department of Justice legal study of the issue.

The House panel headed by Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel is determined to conduct the investigation in the wake of accusations that the issue is a mere offshoot of a clash between estranged allies Rep. Antonio Floirendo and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, both of Davao del Norte.

The Commission on Audit has recommended the dissolution of the land deal, signed by officials of the Bureau of Corrections as representatives of the government, that called for the lease of 5,308.36 hectares of land that had been cultivated by Tadeco into one of the world’s largest banana farm.

“We stand on solid ground, we have studied the issue very carefully and came up with the recommendation to dissolve the joint venture agreement,” stated a CoA official who requested anonymity.

A CoA special team of auditors made the recommendation after conducting a review of the JVA, the second agreement that gave Tadeco another 25 years lease to the area that is covered by the Davao Prison and Penal Farm.

Members of the CoA audit team are expected to be summoned by the good government panel to explain their findings
The JVA extension was approved by the BuCor on May 21, 2003, at least a year before the first agreement between the Marcos government and Tadeco was due to expire.

The CoA findings backed the legal opinion of the Office of the Solicitor General that the land deal is void for being illegal.

In its Audit Observation Memorandum No. 2017-013 dated April 25, 2017 submitted to BuCor Director General Benjamin C. de los Santos, government auditors stressed that the JVA violated Section 3, Article 12 of the 1987 Constitution. (Ben R. Rosario)