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Aquino, Tanada slam veto of coco levy fund bill

/ 12:31 PM February 19, 2019
MARCH 12, 2018 Hundreds of Coconut farmers and supporters of KILUS Magniniyog march to the Senate to demand the immediate approval of Senate Bill (1233) or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Bill. INQUIRER PHOTO / EDWIN BACASMAS

Hundreds of coconut farmers and supporters of KILUS Magniniyog march to the Senate to demand the immediate approval of Senate Bill (1233) or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Bill in March last year. INQUIRER PHOTO / EDWIN BACASMAS

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to veto the Coco Levy Fund bill was assailed by opposition senatorial candidates Former Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada III and Sen. Bam Aquino on Tuesday.

Tañada III said that the veto was based on a “non-existent perpetual trust fund provision.”

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In a statement on Tuesday, Tañada stressed that he was inclined to believe that the Chief Executive has not been informed of the provisions of the proposed law seeking to create a P100 billion trust fund for coconut farmers.

READ: Duterte vetoes coco levy fund bill

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“Upon reading his veto message, the President cited as one of the grounds the establishment of a perpetual Trust Fund that violates Article VI Section 29(3) of the 1987 Constitution. But that provision is nowhere to be found in the bicam report,” the former House deputy speaker said.

“What it provides is the P5 billion annual disbursement for a period of 25 years or until such time the fund is fully utilized.”

Long battle

Tañada likewise lamented that the House and Senate bills creating the coconut farmers and industry trust fund were the product of a long-drawn legal struggle that went all the way to the Supreme Court (SC).

“The trust fund amounts to P80 billion pesos. Simple math would tell us that the P5 billion pesos disbursement a year would not last beyond 20 years. Where is the perpetual character of the fund there?” the senatorial candidate asked.

Tañada further argued that if the President nor his legal team have no time to closely read a measure declared as a priority by this administration, “they should have just allowed it to lapse into law.”

Senate Bill 1233 and House Bill 5745 are the farthest that the coco levy bill has been through under the Duterte administration.

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Money matters

Of the estimated P200 billion coco levy funds, some P80 billion is now with the Bureau of Treasury after the SC ruled in favor of the coconut farmers, according to Tañada.

He added that while the Aquino administration tried to make the fund available for the coconut farmers’ use via an Executive Order, the High Court issued a TRO on its implementation.

‘Back to zero’

Sen. Aquino also lamented that the bill is now back to zero and would have to be refiled in the 18th Congress.

“Nakaka-disappoint talaga ‘yung pag-veto sa coco levy fund, matagal na ho ‘yang pinaglalaban ng ating mga magsasaka at ‘yung perang ‘yan ay pera ho nila,” Aquino told reporters during the opening of his volunteers’ headquarters in Quezon City.

Like Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, Aquino also blamed the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office (PLLO) which he said had a lot of chance to bring up issues on the bill while it was still in Congress.

READ: Sotto hits PLLO over vetoed bills: We don’t consult a ‘crystal ball’

“Nandyan naman ‘yung lahat ng opportunity para sabihan kung ano ‘yung wishes, intentions, recommendations ng Executive and again our Senate President has said na yung PLLO natin parang hindi functioning o parang hindi ho nagawa ‘yung trabaho nya,” the lawmaker who seeking reelection, said.

“Ang kawawa na naman ho dito ‘yung magsasaka natin,” he added as he vowed to support the measure if elected to the 18th Congress.

The Chief Executive earlier justified his veto of the bill saying it lacked “vital safeguards” to avoid past mistakes and may violate the Constitution. / gsg

READ: Duterte explains veto: Coco levy bill lacks ‘vital safeguards’

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TAGS: Bam Aquino, Coco Levy Fund bill. veto, duterte, Erin Tañada
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