WHY ARE THERE PETITIONERS SEEKING THE DISTRIBUTION OF
DAPECOL LANDS? An analysis
There are six prison establishments in the country aside from the premier penitentiary in Muntinlupa. All except for the Correctional Institute for Women in Mandaluyong (there is another in Mindanao within the jurisdiction of Davao Penal Colony), all maintain large tracts of land reserved for penal agro-industrial pursuits. The biggest is in Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm with around 30,000 hectares of undisturbed forest, one-third of which however may be developed into a large-scale plantation. The others have the same vast tracts of land which remain to be developed. That which is situated in Davao Prison and Penal Farm (formerly Davao Penal Colony or Dapecol) is the most organized. It has managed to develop its area in partnership with a company, resulting in an unprecedented foundation of a world class plantation where prisoners were classified to be trained (as a major component of rehabilitation)for further farm education.
Davao Penal Colony perspective
Dapecol prison farm has matured considerably greater in its productive efforts. The area has been transformed into a scientific estate where its product competes in global commerce thereby generating revenues for the country and at the same time sustaining the mandate of corporate growth and reliable correctional administration. Unlike other penal farms in the country, Dapecol prison farm has improved immensely and has literally projected an area worthy of occupancy. It has attracted not only impressions of advanced agricultural endeavor but it has also captivated land speculators out to earn a fortune just by recruiting (and promising) landless farmers from nearby provinces promising land distribution in cahoots with smooth operators.
But what is it in Dapecol prison farm that makes a group crusade for its land distribution? Is it to earn an easy buck if at all Dapecol and/or its corporate partner Tadeco would be cornered in exasperation to come across? Is it because agrarian reform law has loopholes on which land speculators could see through provision which may be used for land distribution, assuming that there are indeed genuine stakeholders who are qualified for that which they are seeking? Is it because there are political considerations to be settled? Is it because the area is worth redeeming because it is already well cultivated and productive? So on and so forth. Menacing as it may seem, these petitioners probably could sense something which is worth the try.
There is seemingly one small detail which these petitioners, these claimants, these operators could see in the arrangement of Dapecol with that of Tadeco that they try to scratch off to reveal the real score. It is in the control of the farm. Based on documents which the petitioners are submitting in agencies where land reform, agrarian concerns and related agricultural claims are evaluated, the recurring theme of “control” over the parcel of land which these people are trying to emphasize and question as a matter of right. Accordingly, the prison farm is not actually controlled by prison administration but by a corporate management group. Hence, according to the petitioner’s view, if prison is no longer the tenable host in control of the area and that it has abnegated the supervision in favor of the private sector, then the land ought to be subjected to land reform by operation of law. That in a nutshell is what drives petitioners, claimants and groups to postulate a challenge on the prison property for distribution via land reform. Is this observation based on fact or at the most has reference in the contractual relationship of parties? It is true that Tadeco is in control in so far as their plants, produce and marketing of their products are concerned. The land remains as it were, under the direct control and supervision of Davao Penal Colony. The security patrol and all security management provision are all exercised by the Davao Prison administration on every perimeter and boundary lines. As a matter of fact, the prison farm has been divided into security districts corresponding the designated training site for inmates’ farm education courses.
Contrary Technical View
The petitioners however would view the fact in another angle based on how Tadeco projects its program. They would challenge the company for mishandling them since most, if not all petitioners, came from the ranks of those workers yanked out by the company. They knew, at least from how company management behaved, that Tadeco is in fact the real controlling agency of the land and that the prison farm is a mere figment or plain fiction. The usual defense submitted by the company through its Union when challenged by outsiders, by the petitioners, is that if at all there is a move to distribute the prison farm via land reform, it should be done to the benefit of company workers who are already residing in the area. And this is the most blatant claim that weakens the view of the farm agreement. Technically, workers are not residents of the prison farm but mere transients occupying barracks which, for all intents and purposes, are built as part of the over-all farm security facility. The prison administration is still to be reckoned as far as management and administration of these barracks are concerned. Even the private security firm patrolling the area are not essentially tasked to contain everything that moves but merely assigned to check pilferage and related offensive behavior of workers in the field. It has always been the prison administration which is in total control of the area as a matter of course.
Prevailing and Actual Conditions
Under this set up, which is not only ideal but actually the real score obtaining, the prison farm is not at all a private venture sustained by a monolithic company but a joint venture program with government at the head of the entire activity. There is no abnegation of roles by all parties except that in the Joint Venture, what counted most is the competence and successful projection it reflects on its ledger that is amplified. And because of its achievement, a lot of sectors would view it not only with envy but also would crave a part for its own advantage even if they would misquote everything and mislead everyone.
There are more than a dozen claimants and petitioners eyeing the prison farm as their prize for agrarian vigilance or plain contempt to seek something which is already organized for their own selfish end. And the list is growing. There is even a deplorable pattern where those who were dismissed from the company joining hands with the unrepentant unemployed, criminal syndicates, shamans and fly by night firebrands, even sympathetic insurgents and innocent progressives were lured by the prospects of a class struggle to bring down an effort all for the sake of settlement. There are pockets of agricultural endeavors scattered on the landscape of Mindanao seeking to succeed but would eventually fail because of these wrangling. And the prison joint venture has always been there at the cross hair of their bids.
There is therefore a need to emphasize the role, the active and principal role of Davao Prison Administration in the scheme of things pertaining the Joint Venture Farming Program. The program exists as a government inspired endeavor after all even if all the trappings of the activity have been supported technically all along by the private sector. It is essentially a government program for a specific and exclusive concern in the mandate for criminal justice administration with emphasis on corrections. The role is clearly delineated and must as a matter of course known not only to all parties concerned but for the entire world to appreciate.
By: P/Supt IV Venancio J. Tesoro
July 4, 2010