Gov’t owns 22% of SMC shares
The Supreme Court has unanimously dismissed claims of the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and the Coconut Planters Life Assurance Corp. (Cocolife) to a block of shares in San Miguel Corp. (SMC), which the court had declared as belonging to the state having been purchased using coco levy funds during the regime of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
In a decision issued in August but released this month, the high court ruled that such claims had been settled in its September 2012 ruling, when it said that the 753,848,312 shares in SMC constitute public funds, and “shall be only for the benefit of all coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry.”
Voting 11-0, the high court also cited the importance of finally concluding the protracted litigation and ending “the 27-year battle for the judicial recovery of assets acquired through illegal conversion of the coconut levies collected during the Marcos regime into private funds.”
“It is an important fundamental principle in our judicial system that every litigation must come to an end. Litigation must end and terminate sometime and somewhere, and it is essential to an effective and efficient administration of justice that, once a judgment has become final, the winning party be, not through a mere subterfuge, deprived of the fruits of the verdict,” the ruling read.
UCPB and Cocolife are asserting their respective claims to portions of the sequestered block of SMC shares, saying they had used private funds to acquire the stocks under the name of the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) and the 14 holding companies.
In separate pleas for declaratory relief they won at the Makati Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 59, UCPB said it owned 11.03 percent of the CIIF-SMC block of shares worth P7.84 billion, while Cocolife also claimed 11.01 percent of the shares.
Cocolife further alleged that the CIIF used funds from itself and UCPB to purchase 33,133,266 million common shares in SMC.
But the high court said such claim was hollow, as ownership of the block of shares was already settled when it upheld with finality the ruling of the Sandiganbayan, which “has exclusive jurisdiction over all incidents affecting shares of a sequestered corporation.”
The court ruled that Makati RTC Branch 59 Judge Winlove Dumayas had no authority to handle the civil claim against the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG). It also annulled and set aside Dumayas’ rulings that favored UCPB and Cocolife.
“The allegation that no coconut levy funds were actually used to purchase stockholdings in the CIIF companies is of no moment. Since the CIIF companies and CIIF-SMC block of shares have long been sequestered and placed under the administration of the PCGG, the latter’s functions may not be interfered with by a co-equal court,” said the high court ruling dated Aug. 11.
Acting on the PCGG’s consolidated petitions against Dumayas’ separate rulings on UCPB’s and Cocolife’s civil claim, the high court upheld the PCGG’s “duty to ensure that the sequestered properties are not dissipated under its watch.”
The ruling also cited the doctrine of res judicata, or the final settlement of a legal question which may no longer be pursued by the same parties. The court said this principle barred the “prosecution of a second action upon the same claim, demand or cause of action.”
Under the same doctrine, the high court also invoked the rule of auter action pendent or “conclusiveness of judgment,” which “ordains that issues actually and directly resolved in a former suit cannot again be raised in any future case between the same parties involving a different cause of action.”
No further trial
The ruling, penned by Associate Justice Martin Villarama, said “there is no more necessity of further trial with respect to the issue of ownership” of the shares in question as “they have finally been adjudicated” in earlier court rulings on the case.
Last year, the high court paved the way for the execution of the judgment on the SMC block of shares, a decision that the government hailed as this would funnel P60 billion in funds for the benefit of the estimated 3.5 million coconut farmers across the country.
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