SC orders entry of judgment in coco levy case

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 10 2014 03:19 PM | Updated as of Dec 10 2014 11:19 PM

MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) has directed that an entry of judgment be made on the case involving the 24-percent block of sequestered shares in San Miguel Corporation (SMC) acquired using coco levy funds during the martial law years.

The decision stamped the final seal on the ruling that the shares, bought using coconut levy funds and registered in the names of the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF), dubbed "CIIF block" of SMC shares, are owned by government and to be used exclusively for the benefit of coconut farmers and the development of the local coconut industry.

Voting unanimously, with five justices inhibiting, namely Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Francis Jardeleza, and three justices on leave, namely Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Lucas Bersamin, and Jose Perez, the high court granted government's plea for an entry of judgment on the SC's September 4, 2012 resolution which affirmed the earlier ruling, dated Jan. 24, 2012 that awarded the shares to government.

"[L]et entry of judgment of the Court's September 4, 2012 resolution immediately issued," the resolution read.

The entry of judgment will pave the way for the processing of the utilization and release of the coco levy funds.

In its September 2012 ruling, the high court junked the motion for reconsideration (MR) of petitioners Philippine Coconut Producers Federation, Inc. (COCOFED), Manuel V. del Rosario, Domingo P. Espina, Salvador P. Ballares, Joselito A. Moraleda, Paz M. Yason, Vicente Cadiz, Cesaria de Luna Titular, and Raymundo C. De Villa for failure to raise new arguments that may warrant a reversal of the assailed Jan. 24, 2012 ruling.

In the Jan. 24 ruling, the high court affirmed a Sandiganbayan decision that directed the reconveyance to the government of the CIIF block of SMC shares in the aggregate amount of P1.656 billion totaling 33,133,266 shares as of 1983. The high court ruled that the CIIF companies and the CIIF block of shares are public funds owned by the government.

These shares are also referred as "Class A and B" SMC common shares in the names of the 14 CIIF holding companies, namely:
1. Soriano Shares, Inc.;
2. ACS Investors, Inc.;
3. Roxas Shares, Inc.;
4. Arc Investors; Inc.;
5. Toda Holdings, Inc.;
6. AP Holdings, Inc.;
7. Fernandez Holdings, Inc.;
8. SMC Officers Corps, Inc.;
9. Te Deum Resources, Inc.;
10. Anglo Ventures, Inc.;
11. Randy Allied Ventures, Inc.;
12. Rock Steel Resources, Inc.;
13. Valhalla Properties Ltd., Inc.; and
14. First Meridian Development, Inc.

The subject shares had ballooned to 753,848,312 common shares from 1983 to Nov. 19, 2009 when government moved for the approval of the sale of the CIIF SMC Series I Preferred Shares.

SAJ Carpio inhibited from the case for being one of the petitioners in a related case; Associate Justices De Castro, and Peralta, former magistrates of the Sandiganbayan, also took no part. Associate Justice Jardeleza also inhibited; he served as SMC chief legal counsel for several years.

Last November, Malacanan, in a dialogue with coconut farmer beneficiaries, promised to issue an executive order (EO) as soon as the SC issues an entry of judgment on the case to ensure that the coco levy fund is utilized to benefit them. The Palace described the EO as a temporary measure while Congress has yet to pass a coco levy fund bill for the fund's effective utilization.