The Supreme Court has upheld a ruling issued by the Sandiganbayan in 2004 declaring that 7.2 percent in shares of the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) transferred to businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. were owned by the government.
The affirmation, penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., denied Cojuangco’s petition arguing that the high court had already ruled on the controversial coconut levy fund.
The high court declared as unconstitutional provisions in the agreement between Cojuangco and the Philippine Coconut Administration (PCA) in 1975 which allowed the businessman “to personally and exclusively own public funds or property.”
Cojuangco is known to have been a crony of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and is the uncle of President Aquino.
The agreement had provided for the transfer to Cojuangco “by way of compensation” of 10 percent of the 72.2 percent shares of stock that the PCA purchased using the coco levy fund.
“In sum, Cojuangco received public assets—in the form of UCPB shares with a value of P10.88 million in 1975, paid for with coconut levy funds,” the court said.
It noted that Cojuangco had admitted that the PCA paid the entire acquisition price for the 72.2-percent shares, “which is a clear violation of the prohibition, which the court seeks to uphold.”
“We, therefore, affirm, on this ground, the decision of the Sandiganbayan nullifying the shares of stock transfer to Cojuangco. Accordingly, the UCPB shares of stock representing the 7.22 percent fully paid shares subject of the instant petition, with all dividends declared, paid or issued upon thereon, as well as any increments thereto arising from, but not limited to, the exercise of preemptive right, shall be reconveyed to the government of the Republic of the Philippines, which as we previously clarified, shall be used ‘only for the benefit of all coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry.’”
The high court stressed that Cojuangco was not entitled to the UCPB shares which were bought with public funds and as such, were considered public property.
The high court reiterated its January 2012 ruling that the Sandiganbayan had jurisdiction over the subdivided amended complaints that included Cojuangco’s.