MANILA, Dec. 2, 2011— An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines is seeking a resolution of cases related to the coco-levy fund scam, as he called on President Benigno Aquino III to intervene on the issue.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said Aquino should show “political will” to return billions of pesos in coconut levy funds allegedly stolen from coconut farmers decades back.
“CBCP-Nassa reiterates its continual appeal to President Aquino to break his silence on social issues and for once come to the defense of the farmers,” said Pabillo, chairman of the CBCP’s National Secretariat for Social Action.
While the church welcomes Aquino’s respect for the subsidiarity of government agencies, Pabillo said, he is also duty bound to protect the rights of the poor farmers.
According to him, the President must also ensure that considerations of the farmers’ wellbeing always precede his decisions and actions.
“We further implore that he stay faithful to the promise made by his mother, the late President Cory, to render justice to the coconut farmers, whose suffering was first and foremost perpetuated by their relative,” added Pabillo.
The Supreme Court has yet to decide on the ownership of 27 percent of coco levy shares at San Miguel Corp. (SMC) despite findings that it was public fund.
The other 20 percent share of SMC, which also came from the same coco levy fund, was already decided in favor of former Ambassador Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, uncle of the president.
But Pabillo said the ruling favoring Cojuangco was based on mere technicalities devoid of social merit.
The prelate then appealed to the “sense of justice and compassion” of the magistrates of the High Court.
“SC’s inexplicable pronouncement eroded the trust not only of the coconut sector, but also the nation as a whole, to the impartiality of the judiciary,” he said.
“A reversal of their decision will not only restore public confidence but also herald the end of a painful and humiliating dominance of wealth and power over our justice system,” added Pabillo.
The coco levy fund scam was a controversy in the 1970s and 80’s involving the late and former president Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies.
It is alleged that Marcos, Cojuangco 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 and majority stake in SMC.
“The escrowed levies, now estimated to value over a hundred billion, will be a sizeable infusion to the social services for the coconut industry.”
“The Church hence hopes that an immediate and long-term program will be conceived to guarantee that the money will truly benefit the poorest of the poor, and end the cycle of hunger and poverty that hounded them for generations,” he said. [Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews]