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)