PCGG questions anew Danding shares in SMC
Says Marcos diaries prove Danding Cojuangco was a Marcos crony
MANILA, Philippines - The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) has filed a motion before the Supreme Court (SC) questioning anew its decision awarding 20% of shares from San Miguel Corporation (SMC) to business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr.
The motion, in particular, seeks to reinstate a second motion for reconsideration, which is technically a prohibited pleading.
The high court had expunged the motion, disallowing the PCGG from presenting evidence to prove that the coco levy funds were used to buy the SMC shares.
In its original decision dated April 12, the high court said there was no definition of ill-gotten wealth, and that the close association between former president Ferdinand Marcos and Danding Cojuangco had to be proven in order to establish a case for ill-gotten wealth.
Citing hand-written entries in pages of Marcos' diaries, PCGG executive director Marco Sardillo said they have evidence to prove Cojuangco was a Marcos crony.
“A crony can very well be a long-time companion as well as it establishes a friendship way back since 1970s…Apparently Mr. Marcos found Cojuangco important enough to actually write about him in his diaries," Sardillo told ANC's "Headstart" on Tuesday.
Cojuangco supposedly informed Marcos of the whereabouts of Commander Dante, a leader of the New People’s Army, and where late Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. hid him.
“Mr. Marcos quite clearly states, ‘The Congressman close to me, Congressman Cojuangco’,” Sardillo said.
“June 10, 1971... Mr. Marcos visited Tarlac on the birthday of Congressman Cojuangco…Danding suspects that Ninoy is hiding him in either Antipolo, Bumigay or the Joe Roxas Ranch in Bataan,” he added.
Cojuangco's son, Mark, insists his father is not a Marcos crony.
"And definition sa diksyunaryo ng crony, kabarkada na ka-edad mo. Ang tatay ko is much much younger than Marcos, as a matter of fact, Marcos was old enough to be his father... Nirespeto niya si Marcos as a leader, pero to say crony siya, na pwede diktahan ang Presidente, malayo po yon,” the younger Cojuangco said.
Crony or not?
Defending his father against accusations he cheated the coconut farmers of their money, Mark said his father should even be credited for providing direction to the coconut industry.
"Dalawa ang coconut levy: yung share ng farmer at yung share ng father ko. Kwentahin nila yung share nung farmer and from where it came from at sabihin nila sa akin kung masama ang tatay ko for making the collection of a certain amount as big as it is today for the coconut farmer,” he said.
“Dati may direction ang coconut industry, kaya nga bili yung yields, si-net up yung petrochemical plants to add value to the coconut, kaya nga nagkaroon ng replanting program para dumami yung ani bawat hektarya ng coconut farmer,” he added.
He said his father should be commended for what he did for the industry.
Joey Faustino, executive director of the Coconut Industry Reform Movement, however questioned the Supreme Court ruling favoring Cojuangco, citing the admission by Cojuangco's own lawyer, that the tycoon used loans from the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and advances from the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) to buy the SMC shares.
"As president of all these companies, and utilizing public money, Mr. Cojuangco now borrows from UCPB to buy a portion of the shares in SMC. In one of the manifestations in court, [lawyer Estelito Mendoza] has admitted they indeed borrowed this money from UCPB,” he said.
He noted, “but funny this Supreme Court, at least the block of 7 [magistrates who voted in favor of Cojuangco], merely calls this a proposed evidence and tells people it was not proven at all that Cojuangco was a crony of Mr. Marcos."
Faustino further wondered how the case could still be pending until today, considering the Sandiganbayan had already ruled on another block covering 27% shares of SMC.
He lamented how the ruling changes depending on who's in power.
"We're really so sad it took an Aquino administration to take this coco levy fund away from Mr. Cojuangco for the people and the country. Now, it's taking another Aquino administration to give it back to Mr. Cojuangco," he said.
"You have Cojuangco-related people in UCPB, people from SMC and UCPB are interchangeable,” he added.
"We were so happy with the decision of the Sandiganbayan saying UCPB, CIIF and oil mills and a bigger part of the SMC is public-owned by government and coconut farmers. I don't know how they can reverse that…We fear now that if it’s in the SC, it can be reversed," Faustino said.
He added they will not give up their quest to have the SMC shares returned to the coconut farmers, however long it takes.
"To us, it is not a question of hope or not. We cannot let go of this battle and we will fight it in every way we can."
In an open letter published in newspapers today, farmer groups and non-government organizations appealed to Danding Cojuangco to give his nephew, President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, the freedom to break his silence and state his support for the farmers.
A hundred farmers who marched from Quezon Province to Manila last week are set to also submit a hundred handwritten letters to the SC today to demand justice in their case.