“Aquino and his coco levy mafia are now on electoral fund-raising mode and are drooling to plunder the small coconut farmers’ money while they are still in power.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – – Farmers lauded the recent Supreme Court decision stopping the privatization of coconut levy assets.
Theodore Te, spokesperson of the Supreme Court, announced Tuesday, June 30, that the high court issued a temporary restraining order effective immediately and until further orders from the Court against the implementation of Executive Order Numbers 179 and 180.
Issued by President Benigno Aquino III last March, both EOs will privatize the government’s shares in the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) Oil Mill Group. The high court acted on the petition filed May 20 by the Confederation of Coconut Farmers’ Organizations of the Philippines (CCFOP Inc.) against EOs 179 and 180.
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM) welcomed the SC order stopping what they call as “plunder” of coco levy funds.
Nestor Vilanueva, CLAIM national spokesperson, said, “Aquino deceived, deprived, and denied small coconut farmers of their just and legitimate claim over hundreds of billions of pesos worth of coco levy fund and assets.”
The coco levy refers to taxes or exactions collected during the martial law years from coconut farmers, planters and millers. Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr., uncle of President Aquino used the coco levy to purchase UCPB, six coconut oil mills, 14 holding companies, and SMC. According to the Presidential Commission on Good Government, the coco levy assets amount to P93 billion.
“What the coconut farmers have long been demanding is for the coco levy funds to be returned to them in order to finally rectify the decades of gross injustice which they have had to suffer in the colluding hands of the government and its corporate partners during the Marcos dictatorship and thereafter under succeeding anti-peasant regimes,” Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap said in a statement.
In 2014, the Supreme Court affirmed its 2012 and 2001 decisions declaring the multi-billion coco levy funds as public funds that should ultimately benefit the coconut farmers from whom the funds originally came.
Hicap said, “Instead of subscribing to the Supreme Court, Malacanang, through its issuance of the said EOs is practically defying the high tribunal’s ruling by setting up the stage for the privatization of the coco levy funds and assets that would merely resume the cycle of big business and crony plunder of these multi-billion funds and properties.”
Scap ‘copycat’ bills
In the light of SC ruling, KMP and CLAIM demand Congress to halt the proceedings of all pending bills seeking to privatize coco levy funds and assets.
The groups cited Senate Bill 2675 authored by Senator Cynthia Villar a similar House Bill that was approved by the House committee on agriculture last June 10.
Hicap called on coconut farmers to remain militant especially because the allies of the President in Congress are cooking up a law that is very much a clone of EO 179 and EO 180.
Hicap lamented the Committee on Agriculture and Food’s substitute bill, which, he said, justifies the privatization of the coco levy funds and assets. The said substitute bill gives the President the ultimate discretion in the selection of the members who would sit in the body that would be mandated to administer the coco levy funds and assets. Hicap is the original author of House Bill 1327, which seeks the outright return of the coco levy funds to small coconut farmers. His bill, however, has been overridden by the committee’s substitute bill.
KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano said small coconut farmers should not let their guard down.