Supreme Court Order: UCPB is not owned by Cojuanco, Coco Farmers but the Philippine Government

 Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco

In collaboration with former Dictator President Ferdinand Marcos, Philippine President Noynoy Aquino's Uncle Danding Cojuanco, Juan Ponce Enrile, and others the "Coco Levy Fund" was extracted forcibly from Coco Farmers from all over the country.

What is Coco Levy Fund Scam?

The Coco Levy Fund Scam was a controversy in the 1970s and 80's in the Philippines involving the former President Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies. It is alleged that Marcos, Danding Cojuangco, Juan Ponce Enrile, and others conspired to tax coconut farmers, promising them the development of the coconut industry and a share of the investments, but on the contrary were used for personal profit particularly in the purchase of United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and majority stake in San Miguel Corporation (SMC), to name a few.

The issue has not died today, with coconut farmers fighting for justice against the forced taxation, and a share of the Coco Levy Funds' investments. The Coco Levy Fund is estimated to have ballooned anywhere in the range of 100-150 billion in assets.

The recent Supreme Court decision Wednesday, awarding the share of the UCPB to the Philippines Government is the latest turn in the 40-year struggle to bring to poor coconut farmers the benefits of the Marcos-era levies gouged from them

Farmers demand return of coco levy fund after SC ruling on UCPB

Coconut farmers on Thursday hailed the decision of the Supreme Court on the United Coconut Planters Bank case and demanded the immediate return of the funds they said were forcibly extracted from them.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the claimants' movement Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin (Return the Coco Levy Funds to Us, or CLAIM) also called on Congress to immediately tackle and pass House Bill 1327, or the "Genuine Small Coconut Farmers' Fund Act of 2013," filed by Anakpawis party-list Representative Fernando Hicap.

The measure says the coco levy funds shall not be part of the national government's general funds but shall be used exclusively for the benefit of genuine small coconut farmers and mandates the "cash distribution of the recovered funds."

Section 6 of the bill also mandates that the funds "shall be apportioned to all coconut farmers without discrimination/prejudice in the form of cash and other social benefits including but not limited to, pension benefits; medical and hospitalization benefits; maternity benefits; and educational assistance including scholarships."

It also seeks to use the funds "to finance socio-economic projects initiated by small coconut farmers and their organizations and/or cooperatives that shall primarily focus on: livelihood programs and projects meant to provide additional incomes to small coconut farmers; small and medium-scale coconut enterprises, marketing and trading mechanisms, inventions and innovations of machineries and equipment for the development of high-quality coconut and improvement of local coconut production; and, programs that would provide loan facilities for small coconut farmers."

The high court, voting 14-0, ruled that the shares of businessman Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco, chairman of San Miguel Corporation, in UCPB belongs to the government.

The decision rejected an appeal by Cojuangco to overturn a November 2012 ruling that declared unconstitutional provisions of a May 25, 2975 agreement between the crony of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and the Philippine Coconut Authority allowing him "to personally and exclusively own public funds or property."

The agreement provided for the transfer to Cojuangco "by way of compensation," of 10 percent of the 72.2 percent shares of stock that PCA purchased using the coconut levy funds, which came from taxes paid by coconut farmers during the Marcos administration.

"The SC ruling did not only strengthen the small coconut farmers' legitimate claim over the 72.2 percent shares in UCPB but reaffirmed the historical truth that President (Benigno III) Aquino's uncle plundered the coco levy funds," KMP deputy secretary general Winston Marbella said.

Cojuangco is first cousin of Aquino's mother, the late former President Corazon C. Aquino.

Marbella described the UCPB case as the "strongest testament of how Cojuangco and Marcos plundered the coco funds."

But he said the decision that the UCPB shares are owned by government should mean "the funds were owned by the small coconut farmers."

"The government is only a trustee for the small coconut farmers, the genuine and legitimate owners of the funds," he said. "The funds were forcibly exacted from small coconut farmers by the Marcos dictatorship."

"In light of the SC ruling, we demand (that) Aquino … immediately return to small coconut farmers the whole 72.2 percent shares in UCPB, along with the more than P70 billion recovered from San Miguel Corporation in October last year," KMP and CLAIM said.

With report from Interaksyon 

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