Farmers angry over dismissal of coco levy graft charge vs. ‘plunderers’

While chief presidential counsel Juan Ponce Enrile rejoiced, farmers fumed at the Supreme Court (SC) decision dismissing the P840.7 million graft case against those accused of misusing the controversial Coconut Industry Development Fund (CIDF, the coco levy fund).

Reacting to the high court’s decision, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the dismissal of the charges against Enrile and others accused is a great disservice and direct affront to small coconut farmers and their heirs

Sana naisip din ng Korte Suprema ang kapakanan at kinabukasan ng mga magniniyog at ng kanilang mga tagapagmana na lampas limang dekada nang naghihintay na maibalik sa kanila at mapakinabangan man lang nila ang pondo ng coco levy. Naghihintay pa rin ang mga magniniyog na maibalik sa kanila ang coco levy,” the KMP said.

(The SC should have thought about the welfare and future of the coconut farmers and their heirs who have waited for more than five decades for their monies to be given back to them.)

In finally issuing a decision on the 33-year old case, the SC ordered the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to dismiss the charges against Enrile as there had been a clear violation of his right to speedy disposition of cases.

Other respondents in the graft case were Jose C. Concepcion, Rolando Dela Cuesta, Narciso M. Pineda, and Danilo S. Ursua.

The same ruling also ordered the dismissal of the graft case against Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., Jose Eleazar Jr., Maria Clara Lobregat, and Augusto Orosa “due to their supervening deaths.”

In an interview by GMA Integrated News, Enrile thanked the high court for its decision, saying there had been no hearings conducted.

“It was not a case of speedy trial; it was already a case of no trial,” he said in Filipino.

Enrile also justified their use of billions of pesos from the coco levy fund, explaining the money funded the establishment of the United Coconut Planters Fund, bought San Miguel Corporation shares, bought coconut oil mills as spent on interventions to solve the scarcity of coconut oil products during the Ferdinand Marcos Sr. presidency.

The KMP however said that all Enrile and his co-accused did was extort the fund from small coconut farmers and plundered for their personal interests.

“[The] coco levy fund scam will be forever regarded as the scam of the century perpetrated by the Marcoses and their cronies,” the KMP said.

The farmers’ group added that the dismissal of graft charges against Enrile and others have victimized the farmers all over again.

“Who will afford them (small coconut farmers) the same consideration that the SC granted Enrile et. al. All administrations post-Marcos Sr. failed to return the coco levy fund to its rightful owners — the coconut farmers and their heirs,” KMP said.

The coco levy fund was sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government under the Corazon Aquino government that filed the graft charges against Enrile and others in February 1990.

The fund has since grown and is estimated to be worth P75 billion pesos. The Rodrigo Duterte administration however transformed the fund into a privatized investment account that the KMP said poor coconut farmers cannot control, manage, nor take benefit from. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Cagayan execs urge new Ceza chief: probe Port Irene ‘skeletons’

Report and photo by Melvin Gascon

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya—Local leaders in Cagayan recently called on the newly-installed administrator of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (Ceza) to launch an “honest-to-goodness” investigation of supposed irregularities in the operations of its freeport in Santa Ana town.

Gov.  Manuel Mamba urged lawyer Raul Lambino, who took his oath as new Ceza administrator last July 24, to immediately order a probe “to stop all illegal activities and corruption perpetuated by the past administration.”

The governor said the new Ceza chief should reassess the viability of Port Irene as an international port, the operations of which, he said, have been marred by allegations of corruption.

“Billions of public funds have been poured into Port Irene, for which only a pittance was derived by government in the last 23 years of its existence, and for which transparency and accountability in its operation is seriously demanded,” Mamba said. 


Port Irene is the main port of the CSEZFP in Casambalangan village in Santa Ana, which for several years became the hub of two of Ceza’s controversial industries: used car importation and export of magnetite sand.

It is also the location of the P5-billion breakwater project, for which the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago raised red flags in a Senate expose for alleged overpricing, having been constructed by a firm linked to Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. 

Enrile was the main author of Republic Act 7922, the law which created CEZA and declared inclusion of the entire Santa Ana town and two island territories of Aparri town within the economic zone. 

Enrile’s daughter, Katrina, sits as a Ceza board director.

In 2013, the sale of second-hand vehicles at the Cagayan freeport was stopped after the Bureau of Customs clamped down on the trade by refusing to process their release and registration papers, citing a Supreme Court ruling earlier nullifying an executive order Ceza used as basis for the importations.

The shutdown led to the eventual wastage of about 900 second-hand vehicles imported from Japan and Korea, which until today are left rotting in a five-hectare car depot in Casambalangan.

The shipping of magnetite sand, meanwhile, was halted in 2014 following the departure of several Chinese firms earlier given what critics described as “dubious” permits to extract black sand (magnetite) from the coastal and riverbank communities of northern Cagayan.


According to government records, Chinese firms shipped out more than 2.4 million tons of magnetite from Cagayan to China through Port Irene for a period of five years, from 2009 to 2014.

Two of its biggest licensees for its gambling operations, Eastern Hawaii Gaming and Leisure and Meridien Vista Gaming Corp., have been dragged in suits and investigations over alleged money laundering and illegal gambling operations.

Ceza-issued working visas were also cited at a Senate investigation last year for their involvement in alleged human trafficking, economic sabotage and bribery charges against Chinese gambling operator Jack Lam.

“(The previous use of Port Irene) has been a waste of opportunity and government funds in its 23 years of existence. We have to look for a new alternative port that is more secure, and can allow the entry of bigger ships with international routes,” Mamba said.

Santa Ana Mayor Darwin Tobias, for his part, also said Lambino should first clean up the mess that was left behind by his predecessor, to “start with a clean slate.”

“He should be wary whom he trusts (within Ceza) because there are some people there who are behind all the anomalies that hounded the agency for many years,” he said.

Tobias, who sits as a member of the Ceza board, expressed hope, however, of having “better” working relations with Lambino. 

Ceza and the Santa Ana government have perennially been at odds over conflicts of policies between officials, mainly between Tobias and Jose Mari Ponce, the former Ceza administrator and Lambino’s predecessor.

Things came to a head in 2013 when Ponce’s son lost to Tobias in a hotly-contested mayoralty race.

Upon taking up his post, Lambino, in a press statement, announced his plans of repairing Port Irene, the dredging of its “heavily silted” seabed, and the construction of additional wharves “to expand its capacity.”

“As the President’s personal choice, I will lead by example and turn the (CSEZFP) into his vision of a vibrant economic growth center that is efficient and clean and free of corruption,” said Lambino, described as “a stalwart” of President Duterte’s party”, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan (PDP Laban).

He vowed to transform CSEZFP “into a bustling economic growth center and tourist destination and a major trans-shipment and logistics hub in Northern Luzon.” #