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By Jun Ledesma
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
THE life of Presidential Commission on Good Government had been recommended to be finally terminated. If there was anything commendable done by this graft-ridden agency, it is the decision made by the newly installed Chairman Andres Bautista. He must have sensed from day one that his predecessors have only fleeced PCGG of its resources.
It was graft-ridden from the time of its inception. The sequestration forces bled the funds of the agency and ripped off resources of companies that they took over from persons they dubbed as “cronies” of dictator Marcos. But there were cronies and there were those who for sheer necessity have to resort to corporate strategy to connect with Malacanang to preserve their business which they had built through the years. But the sequestration forces were like hungry detergents. Many thought their time has come and it’s now their turn to amass wealth. Every successful venture and business was suspect and has to be placed in sequestration block.
In Davao not a few successful enterprises were subjected to sequestration proceedings. Among these are the aquaculture and agriculture enterprises of Danding Cojuangco. The fault of Danding was to borrow P20 million from the Philippine National Bank, which was branded by PCGG as behest loan.
But any bank would have lent Cojuangco any amount knowing the excellent credit standing of Danding. But in a brief period the businessman was able to repay PNB. The money, was part of the investment of Danding in developing a 1,000 hectares of land in Hagonoy planted with dwarf coconut (a cross of Ivory Coast variety and Catigan Bilaka), which the Cojuangco agriculture research and development produced at Bugsok Island off the coast of Iloilo. In between rows of coconuts were cacao trees. The ventures were so successful it was so awe-inspiring to see dwarf coconuts bearing so many nuts and cacao trees full of fruits that are five times as big as the native varieties!
Such was the picture of a successful agricultural venture. Hundreds were employed. When PCGG forces came pilferage was the order of the day. In no time at all the farms deteriorated into total destruction. But the coconut and cacao plantations were not only the ventures which PCGG had pillaged. Elsewhere in Davao del Sur a successful prawn project owned by Cojuangco also closed leaving behind employees who lost their jobs in the process.
PCGG also attempted to fleece Tagum Agricultural Corporation (Tadeco) a flagship of the late Don Antonio Floirendo. Anflo was a successful pioneer who started off as the distributor of Ford motors in Mindanao. An ace salesperson Floirendo loved agriculture and developed his freshly acquired property in Marapangi for abaca when abaca fiber was selling well in the world market.
Later Floirendo obtained a lease over a swampy land straddling the towns of Sto. Tomas and Panabo, which he planted with Cavendish bananas. Acquiring the land was no easy feat because there were other firms interested to lease the idle property among them Gomez Cellulose Inc. Floirendo finally got the lease with the help of Sen. Benigno Aquino who fought in defense of Tadeco proposal over GCI which wanted to pursue abaca. At that time abaca was being attacked by a dreaded mosaic disease compounded by the plummeting of the price of the fiber in the world market owing to the emergence of synthetic fiber. The senator was confident that Cavendish bananas was a better dollar-earner than abaca. The late senator was prophetic.
Fast forward to the sequestration year, Floirendo became a target of PCGG. Any Dabawenyo who kept track of the hard work and diligence of the man whom we later called “Mr. White Hair” knew that the hardy pioneer labored like no other to make his ventures succeed. For PCGG to even plan sequestering the properties of Floirendo is immoral and dubious. Ultimately the Floirendo was able to wiggle out of the stranglehold of the diabolic sequestration forces.
It is not because I detested the move of then Pres. Cory Aquino to run after ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos, Benedicto, Ver and Campos to name a few but to place Floirendo in the category of Benedicto for example is simply a supreme act of injustice. If I were to quote a chairman of PCGG: “Floirendo was a giver never a taker.”
Admittedly, PCGG was able to recover billions of ill-gotten wealth but it lost billions more because of shenanigans. In the final analysis, the foreign lawyers and crooked members of the sequestration forces earned more than what the Philippine government realized.
The decision to finally end the tenure of PCGG under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III will put an end to corruption in the agency and its closure is well timed.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 09, 2013.