Bishop prays for SC’s change of heart on coco levy case

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MANILA, Sept. 20, 2012— A Catholic bishop called on the Supreme Court to revisit its ruling on the coco levy case as he pray for the ‘change of heart’ among magistrates on the issue.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo believes that farmers are the rightful owners of the multi-billion coco levy funds and not businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco.

“What we are praying is the change of heart and change of mind of our justices in the Supreme Court. That change in their decision would depend on how their views will change,” Pabillo said.

The church official made the statement during his homily at a Mass with nearly 2,000 coconut farmers from Luzon at the Caritas Manila compound Thursday.

“One of our best weapons is prayer. Let us pray for our justices,” he added. “Those who are in power are seemingly doing nothing that’s why we need to call their attention and wake them up.”

Pabillo chairs the National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

After the liturgical celebration, the nearly 2,000 coconut farmers from different provinces in Luzon marched to the Supreme Court, also in Manila, and demanded full recovery of the hefty funds.

The farmers also filed a complaint with SC’s Committee on Ethics and Ethical Standards over the  controversial April 12, 2011 ruling awarding “with finality” to Cojuangco the coco levy funds invested in 20 percent shares of San Miguel Corporation (SMC).

Atty. Marco Antonio Luisito Sardillo, a Manila-based volunteer lawyer of the farmers, said the decision was based on SC’s interpretation that the 20 percent share is not ill gotten.

He, however, said that it totally contradicts the SC’s decision in January 2012 where it ruled that another block of SMC shares representing 27 percent or 33,133,266 of the total capital stock of the company belong to the government to be used for the coconut industry and the farmers.

“The challenge really… is there a law referring to ill-gotten wealth? We are not trying to argue with the SC about the interpretation of the law but that’s just the really the issue here,” Sardillo said.

The coco levy fund is a massive multi-billion peso largesse created by levies imposed on coconut farmers in the 1970s that were channeled to corporations owned by people close to the late President Ferdinand Marcos.

The farmers were also assured of development of the coconut industry and a share in the investments.

“Martial law is over but coco levy plunder continues, as attempts to recover the levy are constantly being thwarted by the rich and powerful,” Maribel Luzara, a farmer leader from Bondoc Peninsula, said in Tagalog.

A separate letter from the Nassa was also delivered personally by its executive secretary Fr. Edu Gariguez to the Ethics Committee calling for investigation on the 2011 decision.

“We request that the Ethics Committee investigate this matter—considering that this error has given rise to the anomalous decision in the case of Republic vs. Cojuangco,” said Gariguez in his letter.

“We trust the Court will find its investigation, the answers that our 3.4 million country’s coconut farmers seek,” he also said. [RL/CBCPNews]

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