Grace Poe camp clarifies stand on coco funds
The camp of presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe has decried what it said were attempts of her political rivals to muddle the issue of the government’s nondisbursement of coco levy funds, which the senator believes rightfully belong to coconut farmers.
Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian, Poe’s campaign spokesperson, said she is “committed to helping thousands of poor coconut farmers in the country by increasing the budget allocation for the agriculture sector and tapping the coco levy funds.”
In a statement, Gatchalian said the government has been withholding the coco levy funds from farmers despite the Supreme Court’s decision with finality that these are public funds and should be utilized to help the coconut industry.
Poe is the vice chair of the Senate agriculture committee.
“The Supreme Court has rendered its ruling on the real ownership of the coco levy funds, and with this decision, the ball is now in the government’s court whether it wants to abide by the high tribunal’s ruling to distribute the funds or not to our coconut farmers, who comprise majority of the poorest in the country,” Gatchalian said.
The spokesperson of the Liberal Party (LP)-led Daang Matuwid coalition on Friday mocked Poe for her stance regarding the thorny issue of the coco levy fund.
Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez said Poe should explain to the public why she refused to be a coauthor of a pending bill seeking to put the multibillion-peso coco levy money into a trust fund.
Poe, the perennial leader in preelection voter preference surveys, has been roundly criticized in social media for defending business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. on the issue of the coco levy fund.
By coming to the defense of Cojuangco, Poe has been unmasked, according to independent senatorial candidate Walden Bello.
The former Akbayan representative said Poe came to the defense of her and her running mate Sen. Francis Escudero’s political patron, Cojuangco, “the main muscle behind the theft of millions of pesos in coco levy funds from small coconut farmers under the Marcos dictatorship.”
“To shrug off any responsibility on the part of their patron is to deny the historical injustice that was done to millions of small coconut farmers forced to pay the levy that Danding used for his personal gain,” he continued. With reports from Marlon Ramos, DJ Yap and Dona Z. Pazzibugan
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