The Coco Levy Fund Scam, Part 1
October 15, 2009 § Leave a comment
From 1973 to 1982, small copra farmers were charged with 15 pesos per 100 kilograms of their copra sold. Thru PD 276 and 414 and RA 6260, PDs 961, 1468 and 1699, these taxes collected from 18 million coconut farmers were put under what is now popularly termed as “coconut levy fund”. The aims of the fund were lofty and ideal. It aims to develop the coconut industry and make it globally competitive.
The fund started as “public funds”, but through the machinations of some of Marcos cronies, allegedly led by Danding Cojuangco, it turned into “private”. Most of the fund, estimated to be worth P 9.7 billion then, were used to purchase stocks in different corporations and some used by Marcos cronies to buy personal properties for themselves.
After 1986, the estimated value of the funds was placed at P 135 billion. Coco levy funds is estimated to be about P 2 billion.
Under the Aquino administration, the PCGG declared that the coco levy funds were plundered by Marcos cronies led by Danding Cojuangco and Cocofed. One hundred officials of Cocofed led by Cojuangco and Lobregat were charged with conspiracy in the coco scam. One hundred billion of coco levy funds were sequestered by government, including that 720 million common shares of San Miguel Corporation, purchased using the funds.
President Ramos issued Executive Orders 277 and 481 declaring coco levy funds as public funds. SMC immediately filed TROs to stop the implementation of the EOs. Then Vice President Joseph Estrada talked with SC Chief Justice Narvasa to delay the decision of the Supreme Court declaring the coco levy funds as “public”.
When Estrada won the presidency, the control of the levy funds were returned to Danding Cojuangco, despite pending graft cases against the SMC chairman. Estrada initiated a “compromise settlement” between Cojuangco and representatives of the coconut farmers.
Estrada then issued EO 313 reversing the earlier Ramos’ executive orders declaring instead that the funds are “private” and authorized the use of its proceeds to pay in full creditors who are actually the cronies of Marcos.
When Estrada was deposed, his successor, Vice President and now President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did not repeal EO 313. Gloria reportedly entered into an “unwritten” compromise agreement with Cojuangco, which allowed the SMC chair to enter into a “mutually beneficial” agreement with the farmers. The agreement, which contemplates giving full control of the funds and SMC shares to Danding, while giving P 20 billion pesos to Arroyo for her 2004 re-election bid, did not materialize.
On December 14, 2001, the Davide Supreme Court ruled that the coconut levy funds which were used to purchase 720 million common shares of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) were “public”, and therefore, not subject to a sale by the corporation.