Supreme Court: Coconut Levy Funds Under Eduardo Cojuangco Are Government Owned

In a ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) en banc written by Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. dated Nov. 27, 2012 and with a vote of eight justices and six inhibitions, the SC denied the petition of Cojuangco questioning the ruling of the Sandiganbayan in July 2003 which declared that the subject shares as part of assets were illegally acquired from coconut levy funds.

“The (UCPB shares) transferred to defendant Cojuangco are hereby declared conclusively owned by the Republic of the Philippines to be used only for the benefit of all coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry, and ordered reconveyed to the government,” the SC ruling said.

The High Court ruled with finality that subject shares in the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) are government-owned.

It can be recalled that the Sandiganbayan has ruled in 2003 that the use by the PCA of coconut levy funds to purchase the 72.2 percent of UCPB in 1975 as illegal.

The Sandiganbayan said that the required publication under the law was also not complied with as mandated by Section 1 of Presidential Decree No. 755, which was cited by the PCA, as authority for the use of the Coconut Consumers’ Stabilization Fund (CCSF).

The said law grants PCA authority to enter into an agreement for the acquisition of a commercial bank for the benefit of the coconut farmers.

The SC gave credence also to the findings of the Sandiganbayan that it cannot uphold the agreement between PCA and Cojuangco.

The High Court said that the Sandiganbayan’s ruling was tenable in nullifying the May 25, 1975 deal of the Philippine Coconut Administration (PCA), which transferred to Cojuangco by way of compensation 10 percent of the 72.2 percent First United Bank (now UCPB) shares of stocks that the PCA purchased from his uncle, Pedro Cojuangco, using the coconut levy funds.

The SC ruled that the Sandiganbayan is correct in declaring the state as owner of the 72.2 percent shares of UCBP paid by the PCA using coconut levy funds.

Accordingly, the 7.22 percent FUB (UCPB) shares that were given to Cojuangco shall be returned to the Government, to be used ‘only for the benefit of all coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry’,” the decision said.

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