WHAT is the status of the estimated P76-billion coco levy funds? Is it still intact?
These are the questions Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan want answered by the government as the Senate continues its deliberation on the bill actualizing the Supreme Court decision on the funds collected from coconut farmers during the Marcos regime.
During the Senate amendment period of the proposed law Monday, the 48th anniversary of Marcos’s declaration of martial law, Pangilinan asked Sen. Cynthia Villar, sponsor of the bill, about the status of the coco levy funds held by the Bureau of Treasury (BTr).
“What we’re now seeing is that because it is an income, na-co-mingle na yung funds? And na-co-mingle na po sa general fund yung coco levy fund?” Pangilinan asked after Villar presented the BTr’s proposed amendment to stagger the release of the P76 billion thus:
– 1st year: P10 billion
– 2nd year: P10 billion
– 3rd year: P15 billion
– 4th Year: P15 billion
– 5th year, P25 billion, “and any amount accruing, including interest, to the special account in the general fund”.
Villar explained that the coco levy funds were entered into the government accounting records as “income” when they were turned over to the BTr under the previous administration, and once transferred to the proposed coco levy trust fund will be considered “expense”.
“Ibig sabihin, kasama na yan sa lahat ng pondo. At dahil wala na nga po yung revenue sa ngayon, bagsak ang revenue natin, wala na yung pondo o wala na yung malaking pondo kaya ngayon ilalabas nang unti-unti. Tama po ba yon?” Pangilinan asked.
Villar answered in the affirmative and said that the coco levy fund was not given to a “definite fund.”
“It was considered an income kaya nag-co-mingle,” said Villar.
The amendment was approved, however, Pangilinan manifested to introduce amendments to the amendments of Villar.
In August 2018, the Sandiganbayan issued a resolution ordering the transfer of coco levy funds and assets to the government.
The resolution directed the PCGG, the BTr, the Governance Commission for Government Owned and Controlled Corporations and the Office of the Solicitor General to “immediately and without further delay cede, transfer, convey and/or reconvey title to the plaintiff Republic of the Philippines of the shares of stock in the 6 CIIF companies and 14 CIIF holding companies, as well as deposit money and funds constituting the coconut levy or accruing from the coconut levy assets in the Special Account in the General Fund for Coco Levies with the Bureau of Treasury with respect to the 753,848,312 Converted SMC Series 1 Preferred Shares.”
The said SMC shares were estimated to be worth over P76 billion.
The coconut levy was a tax imposed by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos between the 1970s and 1980s purportedly for the benefit of the coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry.
The taxes collected were allegedly used to fund businesses owned by Marcos cronies.
After Marcos was deposed in 1986, coconut farmers, with the help of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, filed court cases to recover their investment. For over 40 years, the money was trapped in court disputes.
In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that the coco levy fund is a public fund and awarded to the government solely for the benefit of the coconut farmers and the development of the coconut industry.