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The government may now use the coco levy funds, estimated to be at least P71 billion, and let the money benefit the industry and the coconut farmers.
The Supreme Court sitting en banc on Wednesday granted the request of the Office of the Solicitor General to issue an entry of judgment on its decision in one of the coco levy cases.
"The Court, voting unanimously... granted the (OSG request) and accordingly directed that entry of judgment of the Court’s September 4, 2012 Resolution be immediately issued," SC Public Information Office chief and spokesman Theodore Te told reporters in a briefing.
Five magistrates did not take part in the deliberations, namely Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Francis Jardeleza.
On leave were Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Lucas Bersamin, and Jose Perez.
The OSG filed a motion for partial entry of judgment on October 14, 2014. It then filed a manifestation and supplemental motion for partial entry of judgment a week later, on October 20, 2014. Both motions addressed the court's September 4, 2012 resolution.
In January 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of government that a 31-percent bloc of San Miguel Corp. shares was bought using the coconut levy funds – which constitute public money – with a caveat that the money should be used solely for the benefit of farmers and the industry. The ruling became final on September 4 that same year.
Although the government was still contesting ownership over a block of treasury shares inadvertently excluded, the issue “is severable from the government’s ownership of the 753,848,312 SMC Series 1 preferred shares over which there is no longer any dispute,” Solicitor General Florin Hilbay noted in a “motion for partial entry of judgment.”
A clerk of court is tasked to enter a final order in the book of entries of judgments if no appeal or motion for new trial or consideration is filed within 15 days, according to Rule 36 of the Rules on Civil Procedure on "Judgments, Final Orders and Entry Thereof."
The high court's original ruling in January upheld – but modified – a decision by the anti-graft court that declared the San Miguel shares as having been bought with coco levy money, and may thus be considered as public funds.
The controversial fund came from taxes imposed on coconut farmers during the martial law years by alleged cronies of then President Ferdinand Marcos, including Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco, with the promise of sharing investments and development of the industry.
The collections were allegedly used to fund the personal concerns of the Marcos cronies, including a majority stake in food and beverage giant San Miguel – now a diversified conglomerate.
The fund was sequestered after Marcos was ousted during the February 1986 People Power revolution.
The January 2012 ruling ordered that the 753,848,312 San Miguel shares be used by government to help the 3.5 million underprivileged farmers and their families.
The funds are now in escrow in United Coconut Planters Bank, where Cojuangco served as president and director through most of the Marcos years. – VS, GMA News