Duterte, Cayetano vow to distribute coco levy fund in a month if elected
The tandem of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano vowed to distribute the multibillion-peso coconut levy fund to farmers within a month should they be elected in the upcoming national elections.
“All it takes is political will. The Supreme Court already decided to return the fund to the farmers. Thus, if elected, in just the first month of our term, Alan and I will immediately give the fund back to the coconut farmers. Failure to do so is tantamount to Estafa,” Duterte said in a statement.
The tough-talking mayor was referring to the high court’s 2012 ruling that coco levy assets should benefit coconut farmers.
Duterte’s camp earlier called Sen. Grace Poe, who is also seeking the presidency, a “puppet” for supposedly defending businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. over the controversial coco levy issue.
Poe, who has been leading in recent preference surveys, said the government should be blamed for the nondisbursement of coco levy funds to farmers even after 40 years since they were forced to pay taxes and despite the high tribunal’s ruling.
Asked about the stand of Poe and her running mate Sen. Francis Escudero, Duterte said it was “their problem” and none of his business.
“The Supreme Court has said that the money belongs to the people. Matagal na ‘yan (It’s been a while). By this pronouncement, it should have been given to the rightful owners,” he said in a meeting with farmers at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños.
“As far as I’m concerned, Alan and I will only protect the interest and welfare of the coconut farmers. If other candidates prefer to protect the big and powerful, we, on the other hand, will protect the small and the weak,” Duterte said.
Cayetano, meanwhile, said Poe and Escudero’s position in the issue was “grossly erroneous” and revealed a lack of “knowledge and courage.”
“Ang kailangan sa issue na ito ay matapang na solusyon at mabilis na aksyon. Hindi pwede dito ang protector ng mayayaman o liderato na pateka-teka,” he said.
(This issue calls for a bold solution and quick action. We don’t need a protector to the wealthy or a sloppy leadership.)
Cayetano said he and Duterte would push for “bold solutions” to reverse the administration’s supposed “privatization plan” by converting the coco levy assets into stakeholders-shareholders-state equity partnership and to use the funds to create village-level farm-based processing industries.
In March 2015, President Benigno Aquino III issued Executive Orders 179 and 180 that aimed to privatize the coco levy funds, but were suspended by the Supreme Court.
The coconut farmers’ funds were allegedly used by Cojuangco, Aquino’s uncle, to acquire the United Coconut Planters Bank, San Miguel Corporation, and other businesses. IDL
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