MANILA, Philippines – The United Coconut Planters Life Assurance Corporation (Cocolife) has asked the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to allow its direct negotiation with the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to settle the award of coco levy funds.
In a much-awaited ruling in August, the Sandiganbayan said that at least P75 billion in coco levy funds and assets belong to the government, and by virtue of a Supreme Court ruling, shall be used for the benefit of farmers and the coconut industry.
The August ruling was expected to end years of legal dispute and clear the way for the government to pass the necessary issuances to start awarding the money to benefit farmers.
In a motion sent to the Sandiganbayan’s 2nd Division, however, Cocolife said that without an amicable settlement, the issue will once again be tied up in complex litigation.
A negotiated settlement, it said, would “pave the way for a swift execution of the partial summary judgment.”
“Movant is exploring the opportunity to address the matter through amicable processes by directly negotiating with representatives of the government through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG),” Cocolife said.
Cocolife is one of the companies created using coconut levy funds during the Marcos regime. Following the ouster of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, government investigators found that taxes paid by poor coconut farmers funded such crony-owned companies.
Cocolife is insisting that the best way to move forward is to deal with the PCGG, an agency which has once expressed openness to withdrawing civil suits against the Marcoses and their cronies “depending” on future policies of the Duterte administration.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier said there was a discussion with the Marcoses to return their ill-gotten wealth in exchange of dropping suits.
Solicitor General Jose Calida, a loyal supporter of the Marcoses, is also trying to get the PCGG under his direct supervision. (READ: Court drops $5-M Marcos wealth case, leaves it to Calida to pursue)
“Given PCGGs contemplated role under the pending legislation, movant believes that there is a good chance to give an opportunity for a negotiated settlement,” Cocolife said.
Meanwhile, Congress approved the final version of the coconut levy bill on August 1 but the measure failed to meet farmers’ expectations. The bill that provides guidelines for the distribution of the funds to farmers is awaiting Duterte’s signature. (READ: Final version of coco levy bill shatters farmers’ hopes)
Farmer groups have called on Duterte to ensure that the law will truly benefit them.
Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) assets are estimated to be around upwards of P83 billion, based on 2015 PCGG estimates. This includes at least P74 billion from the redemption of San Miguel Corporation shares currently held by the Bureau of Treasury. – Rappler.com