Pangilinan seeks Senate probe into corruption in PH Coconut Authority
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Francis Pangilinan has called for an investigation into alleged corruption in the Philippine Coconut Authority, following the suspension of PCA Administrator Avelino Andal.
Pangilinan, former presidential adviser on food security, filed Senate Resolution 338 directing the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to probe the alleged corruption in the agency tasked to develop the coconut industry for the benefit of coconut farmers, among the poorest of the poor. (READ: Coco levy fund scam: Gold for the corrupt, crumbs for farmers)
This came after Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr, chairperson of the PCA Governing Board, suspended Andal for alleged extortion.
Andal allegedly asked P1.50 per board foot of trees being cut in Basilan, Mindoro, Marinduque, and Quezon. He also supposedly ordered the collection of fees on transport permits, amounting to P90 million in Basilan alone.
"The ongoing rift and grave accusations heaved between PCA and the Office of the Cabinet Secretary cast serious doubt on the integrity, capacity, and reliability of the PCA to administer the Trust Fund which must be investigated," Pangilinan said in his resolution.
Andal has denied accusations and called his suspension a "bogus" order. He then accused the once-ruling Liberal Party of orchestrating the "evil scheme" against the administration, which Pangilinan strongly denied.
Coco levy fund scam
Andal also said the accusations hurled against him are in connection to the expected passage of Senate Bill Number 1233 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act, which Pangilinan sponsored.
But for Evasco, the PCA board is ready to stand by its decision to suspend Andal. He said they are willing to attend the Senate hearing.
“The PCA Board will gladly be there to defend their position,” Evasco told Rappler in a text message.
The bill, pending on 2nd reading in the Senate, seeks to establish the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund estimated at about P100 billion in cash and assets for the benefit of the coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry.
The coco levy is the tax imposed on farmers, only to be used by former president Ferdinand Marcos and his alleged cronies, Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr, former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, among others, to invest in and buy businesses for their own benefit.
The return of the coco levy fund is among the campaign promises of President Rodrigo Duterte. He even signed a manifesto during the 2016 campaign, with his then running mate Senator Alan Peter Cayetano. (READ: Return coco levy to farmers? Duterte's promise and political will) – Rappler.com