SC orders PCGG to comment on UCPB, Cocolife appeal on coco levy funds
The Supreme Court has ordered the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to comment on an urgent plea that the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and the Coconut Planters Life Assurance Corporation (Cocolife) filed seeking the reversal of the court’s ruling against their claim to part of San Miguel Corporation’s (SMC) shares earlier declared as state property.
In a full court resolution issued Tuesday, the high court directed the PCGG to comment within 10 days of notice on the urgent motion for reconsideration that UCPB and Cocolife filed to assert their respective claims to the SMC shares, which the Supreme Court had ruled to be government property having been acquired using coco levy funds.
The funds, which came from taxes collected from coco farmers during martial law, are believed to have gone to the pockets of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies.
In its ruling on Aug. 11, the high court annulled and set aside Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 59 Judge Winlove Dumayas’ favorable rulings in the separate civil cases of UCPB and Cocolife, saying it should not have taken cognizance of the case as the Sandiganbayan had “exclusive jurisdiction over all incidents affecting shares of a sequestered corporation.”
Saying they had used private funds to acquire stocks under the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) and 14 holding companies, UCPB is laying claim to 11.03 percent of block of shares worth P7.84 billion, while Cocolife is claiming 11.01 percent of the shares.
Cocolife further alleged that the CIIF used its funds and those of the UCPB to purchase 33,133,266 million in common shares in the SMC.
In junking the lower court ruling, the high court upheld PCGG’s “duty to ensure that the sequestered properties are not dissipated under its watch.”
The high court also ruled that the issue of whether the SMC shares were public property had already been settled and thus could no longer be subject to contrary claim, under legal doctrines on the conclusiveness of judgment.
The ruling, penned by Associate Justice Martin Villarama, also cited the importance of concluding “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.”
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