In July 2003, the Sandiganbayan ruled that businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. had illegally acquired United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) with coconut levy funds and forfeited his shareholdings there in favor of the government.
Cojuangco was an official of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) tasked by then President Ferdinand Marcos to administer the coconut levy collected from coconut farmers between 1973 and 1982.
In 1975, Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 755, which authorized the PCA, whose board included Cojuangco, to use the levy funds to buy 72.2 percent of First United Bank (FUB), which was later renamed UCPB. Cojuangco became its president and chief executive officer.
UCPB became the administrator of the Coconut Industry Investment Fund, which held numerous assets, including San Miguel Corp. shares and the majority or controlling shares in shipping and insurance firms, a cocoa plantation, a management company, 10 trading companies and seven copra trading companies and six oil mills.
In 1986, shortly after the Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled the Marcos regime, all coco levy-acquired assets were sequestered by the Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG), but control of UCPB went to Cojuangco when Joseph Estrada became President in 1998.
In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled that the coco levy funds were “public in character,” though it left it to the Sandiganbayan to decide who owned the assets acquired with the funds.
In its 2003 ruling, the Sandiganbayan declared unconstitutional PD 755, and declared null and void the transfer of the shares of stock of FUB/UCPB by the PCA to Cojuangco, which cost the PCA more than P10 million in 1975.
In 2004, the Sandiganbayan ruled that the 7.2 percent in UCPB shares transferred to Cojuangco were owned by the government. The high court affirmed this ruling in November 2012, stressing that Cojuangco was not entitled to the UCPB shares that were bought with public funds and, as such, were considered public property.—Inquirer Research
Source: Inquirer Archives