REVERSED PUNCH: The Pantaleon Alvarez story: ‘sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind’

Politics, here or elsewhere, has always been a game of addition.

The emergence of Pantaleon Alvarez as congressman of Davao del Norte’s district 1 and eventually as House Speaker seemed to have cast doubt on this assumption.

From the first bill he filed that sought to dissolve marriage to his mass swearing in of individuals (to include politicians in the drug list of President Duterte) to the PDP-Laban as original party members looked on with disapproval, the impression one gets is that of Alvarez walking a thin line between one punch-drunk with power and that of a gutter bully.

Already Davao del Norte is a ‘house’ divided because of Alvarez. In Davao City, original members of the PDP-Laban declared PDP-Laban Mindanao as independent of the PDP national council and went a step further by declaring Alvarez as ‘persona non grata.’

True, he was doing some addition but the time when membership in the PDP-Laban was based on principles has now been thrown out of the window. And at that the rate he is doing, he will end up destroying the PDP-Laban that well-meaning Filipinos like Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, the late Rey Magno Teves, Bicbic Garcia, Cesar Ledesma have taken pains to establish from the rubbles of the Marcos dictatorship.

So obnoxious has he become that no less than an astute judge of character like Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio branded him an asshole.

With Mayor Sara leading the Hugpong ng Pagbabago as the emerging regional party, the PDP-LABAN looks headed for irrelevance in Region XI.

And if Mayor Sara makes good her threat to campaign against Alvarez in his own turn, he will have to fight tooth and nail to survive.

Last week, it was Davao del Norte Gov. Anthony G. Del Rosario’s turn to lambast the House Speaker for having directed the removal of P500Million allotted in the national budget for the concreting of roads in Davao del Norte, alongside those that were supposed to be allotted for the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Zamboanga del Sur.

The youthful governor minced no words in his criticism of Alvarez, whom he recalled had been in out of Antonio “Tonyboy’ Floirendo’s office in 2016 to ask for funds for his congressional campaign.

It is a case of sowing the wind, and now Alvarez must reap the whirlwind.

Here are two side to issues raised during a Congressional hearing on the joint venture agreement between the Bureau of Corrections and the Tagum Agricultural Devt. Corp.

 

The House of Representatives’ Committee on Justice and Good Governance, on February 7, 2018, conducted a hearing on the joint venture agreement (JVA) signed by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Tagum Agricultural Development Co., Inc. (Tadeco) covering5,308.36 hectares of the Davao Prisons and Penal Farm (Dapecol) land. Instead of dealing directly with the legality of the contract, several unrelated issues were instead raised, namely (i) Tadeco’s closure of the plantation roads, (ii)  Tadeco’s restriction of passage to Barangay A.O.Floirendo, which was falsely alleged to be a determining factor in every election in Davao del Norte; and (iii) actual hectarage of Tadeco occupancy under the JVA.

 

  1. PLANTATION ROADS CLOSURE: The  farm roads within the Dapecol penal reservation which has never been classified as a public road. Previously, people were allowed passage here at the acquiescence of Dapecol. No road right of way (RROW) or Deed of Donation has so far been issued to the Local Government of Kapalong, Davao del Norte or Dujali, Davao del Norte. It was closed to public traffic on the strength of a provincial ordinance due to biosecurity protocols following the widespread infestation of fusarium wilt in adjacent farms. The penal farm road is maintained by Tadeco in compliance with its obligation under the JVA.

 

Antonio Floirendo, Jr. : The issue reached the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and it was decided that the people would use another access road because until the fusarium threat remains in adjacent plantations, there is need to protect the BuCor-Tadeco plantation, a source of revenue, tax, employment, etc., from destruction caused by pest attacks.

 

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  1. ROAD ISSUE: The Committee also raised the matter why political candidates not backed byTadeco were not allowed insideBarangay A.O. Floirendo. The restriction, which allegedly to result in victory for favored Tadeco bets, is not supported by official election results, Tadeco candidates for the top Panabo City positions lost, and this was repeated ten years later. In 2001, Tadeco’s bet for mayor in Carmen, Davao del Norte, was defeated; so were the candidates in that same poll in the town of Santo Tomas. As of 2016, total registered voters of Barangay A.O. Floirendo was only 10,223, or 10.08 percent of the entire list of registered Panabo City voters – which number could barely influence the outcome of the elections in the locality.

 

ALVAREZ’S STATEMENT: “Eto kasi and problema dyan. Yang barangay na ‘yan, yan ang determinant factor in every election. Kino-cordon ila ya, para yung result ng elections palaging nananalo yungmayor na sisusuporthan nla. Hindi makapasok diyan yung mga kandidato. Kung sino yong gusto nilang manalo, kung anong boto yan, yun ang lumalalabas. Kaya nagpakuha sila ng barangay diyan para sila lang ang may access. Yun yung kalukohan diyan.”

Floirendo: Alvarez wants the checkpoints in Tadeco dismantled claiming Dapecol lands to government and therefore accessible to the public. But the plantation is managed by Tadeco under the joint venture agreement and cannot just be open publicly for reasons of peace and order, biosecurity protocols, possible vandalisms, destruction of plants, and a host of other factors. On Februry 23, 2018, at 9:00 AM, the PNP regional commander has a conference about this matter at the PNP headquarters in Tagum City.

 

  1. TADECO OCCUPANCY: The Committee wanted a resurvey of Dapecol lands after its own computation yielded 9,000 hectares under the contract. On Feb. 15, 2012, the House Committee on Agrarian Reform, under House Resolution 1481, met and agreed to determine whether there are excess lands beyond the JVA area. On November 7, 2012, the same committee made a recommendation to finish the ground verification on December 2012 so the committee could deliberate on the matter. On May 14, 2013, the final survey was released during the 15thCongress signed by land petitioners and approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The 5,308.36 hectares covered by the JVA does not include areas set aside for the Correctional Institution for Women, NAFCO Elementary School, Davao Prisons and Penal Farm, national roads, and waterways.

 

ALVAREZ’S COMMENTS: “Kaya nga we are requesting na ire-surveyyan, determine ano yang mga provincial roads, ano yung public road hindi dapat nahaharangan yan… Kaya nga yung PNP inimbita rin natingto disarm yung mga tao na yan na nagtsi-checkpoint dyan. Dahil unang-una hindi rin yan pag-aari ng Tadeco, pag-aari yang nga gobyerno—BuCor.”

Floirendo: Signatories to the 2013 survey who conformed with the findings were Elsa C. Gutierrez, president of DASAI & SSLAI; Tanquilino Q. Ore, SSLAI vice-president; Gerardo F. Padilla, deputy superintendent of Dapecol; Engr. Ruela Tan, assistant vice-president for Engineering Services; Engr. Apolinario D. Agustin, LMB, Manila; and Engr. Luisito Gacasan, DENR-LMS, Region XI. Gutierrez and Ore are leaders of the small settlers group wanting to become beneficiaries of the purportedexcess Dapecol lands.  However, the said DENR Survey proved that there are no excess lands within the BuCor Tadeco JVA area.