POSTSCRIPT / November 19, 2017 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Of course, they are interested!

YESTERDAY’S head “Mocha, Roque not interested in seeking Senate posts” illustrates how tricky it sometimes is to write a headline that faithfully tells the full story within the cramped space allotted for a one-liner.

Mocha is, of course, Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, and Roque is presidential spokesman Harry Roque. They have been mentioned by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez as being considered for inclusion in the ruling PDP-Laban party’s senatorial slate in 2019.

Most discerning readers, we assume, know that the head does not tell the whole story. It is obvious that, having basked in the limelight, the two staunch defenders of President Rodrigo Duterte are titillated by the thought of becoming senators.

As frontline Palace performers, the high-profile duo could ride on Duterte’s still-wide following and win in the 2019 senatorial election. Whoever the strongman endorses now is a likely winner. (Beyond the 2019 midterm hump is something else.)

Philippine elections are just popularity contests run by machines fueled by tons of money. Platforms, fitness for office, integrity and all those lofty concepts are irrelevant on the ground. As the record shows, even jokers with nary a clue of what legislation entails could become senators.

While the news head said Mocha and Roque were not interested, the body of the story showed that, indeed, they were. The same “kunwari ayaw” (feigning lack of interest) pretense was used by Duterte in 2015 before he announced later in the game his true presidential intent.

Mocha claimed that she “currently doesn’t have plans” of running – her only intention, she said, was “to help the administration serve the nation” – but added that if the President told her to run, she would. Just keep blogging, Tatay Digong’s marching order would come soon enough.

In his spiel, Roque explained his alleged reluctance by pleading he did not have the money for a campaign (which some estimates placed at P500 million). That was loud and clear enough a notice for the usual capitalists/bettors to hurry with the mobilization funds.

Lest they be forgotten, btw, other administration senatorial nominees mentioned were: Rep. Karlo Nograles (Davao City), Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Negros Occidental), Rep. Geraldine Roman (Bataan) and former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino.

It is interesting that Senate President Koko PImentel, head of the PDP-Laban and a reelectionist, was not mentioned by his counterpart in the House.

• Floirendos’ pioneering in Davao traced

BACK in Davao, Alvarez seems to have found in securing a better deal for the government for the use of the now-developed farmlands of the Bureau of Corrections an opening to get back at Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr. over personal matters known only to them.

Taxpayers’ money and legislative time are being wasted on another House inquiry harassing the Floirendos, who Alvarez claims built their fortunes on their 1969 joint venture agreement with the Davao Penal Colony.

It was in the pre-martial law Senate, which we covered for the old Manila Times, where we first heard of the original “banana king” — Don Antonio Floirendo Sr., a mining engineer who started out as a merchant in Divisoria and prospered way before World War II and beyond.

With the government moving to develop post-war Mindanao, Floirendo tried his hand in Davao together with his wife and a brother-in-law. He became in 1947 the exclusive Ford dealer there with his Mindanao Motors Corp. in Cagayan de Oro, the first vehicle distributor on the island. He opened the Davao Motor Sales (Damosa) in 1948 — 10 years before Alvarez was born.

Don Antonio supplied Ford vehicles of all types so that virtually all private vehicles running in Mindanao at that time were from his dealership. He was acknowledged as the man who put Mindanao “on wheels.”

In 1950, Don Antonio bought 60 hectares of land in Marapangi, Toril, in Davao City, where he put up the Nenita Stock Farms with an initial 25,000 head of swine, then the biggest hog farm in Asia. He complemented this with Triple A abattoir, Asia’s most modern slaughterhouse back then.

That same year, he founded the Tagum Agricultural Development Co. Inc. (Tadeco), which Fortunemagazine described then as the most modern abaca farm in Davao and the biggest abaca plantation in the world.

The Bureau of Prisons in the Davao Penal Colony (Dapecol) then entered into an agreement with Tadeco for the government agency to take charge of the farming of abaca in their 200-hectare land. Tadeco was among the companies frequently visited by presidents and cited as one of Mindanao’s iconic companies.

President Elpidio Quirino signed Proclamation 247 on April 2, 1951, allocating 1,023.8574 hectares of Dapecol land to Tadeco. Continuing to move forward, Don Antonio opened on March 18, 1953, the Panabo Hemp Co. Inc.

We are recalling these facts to show from what we know from way back that even before the elder Floirendo founded Tadeco, the pioneering family already owned and operated billions of pesos worth of assets in real property, business establishments, heavy equipment, and investment funds.

It does not seem fair to make it appear that the Floirendos just stumbled upon riches in Mindanao, then spotted and grabbed land of the Davao Penal Colony from the Bureau of Corrections.

If the terms of their contracts with the government need adjustment to suit present realities, then they should be renegotiated — instead of somebody creating a political spectacle smeared with personal issues.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 19, 2017)

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