Duterte veto of coco levy bill to exclude farmers from fund control, says group

CHOSEN ELEVEN President Duterte points to the candidates he is endorsing in the May midterm elections during his speech in the City of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan province, on Thursday night. —MALACAÑANG PHOTO

LUCENA CITY – National farmers group Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan) likened the controversial veto of President Duterte on the proposed coconut levy fund bill to a “tokhang” operation in the government bloody drug war.

“His (Duterte’s) veto was like the police ‘tokhang’ operation. It was a swift and deadly move to exclude the farmer’s majority representatives from the council that was originally tasked to decide the disposition of the coco levy fund,” Jansept Geronimo, spokesperson of Katarungan, said in an interview on Tuesday.

He said the president does “not really want to include farmers from the management of the fund.”

“His administration wants full control of the fund and to spend it the way and the manner they solely wish,” he said.

Geronimo called on all farmers groups in the country to unite, set aside political differences and wage continuous struggles for the return of the coconut levy fund.

“The fund was from the sweat, blood, and sacrifices of the country’s coconut farmers. It’s not government money,” he stressed.

Geronimo said the coconut farmers’ struggle for justice on the coco levy would last and go beyond the presidency of Duterte, if necessary.

“Coconut farmers will never forget that the man who promised change and empathy reneged on his promise and failed millions of poor coconut farming families,” he added.

Geronimo recalled that during the presidential election campaign, Duterte had promised in Catanauan, Quezon that the funds would be distributed to coconut farmers within 100 days of his presidency.

“He promises something when it is convenient. Then he so easily turns back on such promise. It’s a total reversal of what farmers expected from him,” Geronimo said.

He accused Duterte of “perpetuating the injustice” committed against the coco farmers.

Last week, Mr. Duterte vetoed the measure seeking to create a P100-billion trust fund for coconut farmers.

The bill had to go through the bicameral conference committee twice as the Palace raised issues with the composition of the council that will manage the fund and the lack of sunset provisions for the funding for coconut farmers.

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