CBCP urged to back coco farmers’ council, junk ‘coco levy EOs’

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MANILA, March 25, 2015—The militant Anakpawis Partylist has urged the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to oppose President Benigno S. Aquino III (PNoy)’s move to allegedly privatize the coco levy fund through Executive Orders (EO) 179 and 180, instead of giving it back directly to poor coconut farmers.

Coconut farmer groups and their supporters rally for the just management of the billion-peso Coco Levy Fund. (Photo: CBPCPNews)

‘So appropriate’

In a statement released March 23, Anakpawis Rep. Fernando “Ka Pando” Hicap notes the Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM)’s anti-corruption drive “Huwag kang magnakaw” (Thou shalt not steal), which the partylist wrongly attributes to CBCP, “is so appropriate” in the light of the controversy surrounding coco levy fund.

“[…] we urge them [CBCP] to oppose government moves to renew its plunderous ways with regard to the billions of pesos of coco levy fund,” he says.

Coco Farmers’ Council

Hicap, himself a small coconut farmer and fisherman from Sorsogon, authored House Bill (HB) 1327, or the “Genuine Small Coconut Farmers’ Fund,” that proposes forming a Small Coconut Farmers Council set to manage the coconut levy fund, and which he hopes CBCP will support rather than the PNoy-backed EOs.

According to him, 11 regular members are to run the council, of whom nine will come from the ranks of small coconut farmers, and two from non-government organizations (NGO) which honestly push for the interests of farmers.

Social justice violations

Hicap laments Aquino’s addition to billions worth of public fund, similar to the DAP fund, “violates social justice and deprives small farmers of their rights.”

Anakpawis explains PNoy’s EOs are “blueprinted with neoliberal policies of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization,” adding that this nephew of former President Marcos’ crony, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco is “selling out the ‘blood and sacrifices’ of Filipino coconut farmers who fell victims during the Martial Law years.”

Another Cojuangco

The party list recalls that a Cojuangco had allegedly “plundered” the coco levy fund during Martial Law, while yet “another Cojuangco is again plundering the fund,” and dismisses both as “agents of social cancer that should be resisted.”

“Is agrarian reform possible when farmers are being robbed of billions of pesos by regimes such as Aquino’s? It is not, thus, we are calling to oppose Aquino’s plunder and press for his resignation,” Hicap shares.

‘Thou shalt not steal’

Meanwhile, in his message to a group of coconut farmers who had come to Manila in Nov. 2014 after a three-month walk from Davao, CBCP president, Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, reassures them that not to use the funds for their benefit is against the seventh commandment: “Thou shalt not steal.”

Through its “Huwag kang magnakaw” campaign, RCAM hopes to uproot culture of stealing on all levels of Philippine society, plant the “seed of honesty, integrity, and generosity,” and “reclaim the stolen dignity of the Filipino people.”

Visita Iglesia

In view of the forthcoming Holy Week, Manila Archbishop Luís Antonio G, Cardinal Tagle invites Catholics to back the initiative by wearing “Huwag kang magnakaw” shirts during the traditional Visita Iglesia on Holy Thursday.

“May we call upon all of you to continue supporting our ongoing campaign ‘Huwag Kang Magnakaw’ as one expression of the call to repent and believe in the Gospel. The Lenten season provides us with the opportunity to examine ourselves individually and collectively in relation to the 7th Commandment,” the prelate says in a circular. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCPNews)

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