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Supreme Court upholds gov’t claim over Cojuangco shares in UCPB

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Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court upheld the government’s claim over shares of businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco at the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB).

In a decision released Monday, the high court dismissed Cojuangco’s petition that questioned the July 2003 decision of the Sandiganbayan, declaring the assets as illegally acquired.

“The (UCPB shares) transferred to defendant Cojuangco are hereby declared conclusively owned by the Republic of the Philippines to be used only for the benefit of all coconut farmers and for the
development of the coconut industry, and ordered reconveyed to the government,” the decision penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. stated.

The high court said the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) has presented sufficient evidence to prove its claim against the said shares.

The high court said the anti-graft court is correct when it nullified the May 25, 1975, deal of the Philippine Coconut Administration (PCA) that transferred to Cojuangco by way of compensation 10 percent of the 72.2 percent shares of First United Bank (now UCPB) that the PCA bought from his uncle Pedro Cojuangco. The court said the fund used to buy said shares was that from the coco levy.

The high court said Cojuangco in effect received public assets valued then at P10.88 million. It took note of Cojuangco’s admission that the PCA paid the entire acquisition price for the 72.2 percent shares out of the Coconut Consumers Stabilization Fund (CCSF).

“Consequently, Cojuangco cannot stand to benefit by receiving, in his private capacity, 7.22 percent of the FUB shares without violating the constitutional caveat that public funds can only be used for public purpose,” the high court said.

“Accordingly, the 7.22 percent FUB (UCPB) shares that were given to Cojuangco shall be returned to the Government, to be used ‘only for the benefit of all coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry’,” it added.

“The UCPB shares of stock of the alleged fronts, nominees and dummies of defendant Eduardo M. Cojuangco Jr., which form part of the 72.2 percent shares of the FUB/UCPB paid for by the PCA with public funds later charged to the coconut levy funds, particularly the CCSF, belong to the plaintiff Republic of the Philippines as their true and beneficial owner,” the high court said.

The anti-graft court in 2003 said that the use by the PCA of coconut levy funds to purchase the 72.2 percent of UCPB in 1975 was illegal.

Under Section 1 of Presidential Decree No. 755, which was cited by the PCA as authority for the use of the Coconut Consumers’ Stabilization Fund (CCSF), was never published and hence “did not
acquire binding force,” the Court added

The high court said, “We cannot, therefore, extend to the said agreement the status of a law. Consequently, we join the Sandiganbayan in its holding that the PCA-Cojuangco Agreement shall be treated as an ordinary transaction between agreeing minds to be governed by contract law under the Civil
Code.”

Eight other justices concurred in the ruling in full-court session while the six others did not participate in the voting.


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