New hearings on coco levy fund set
The Sandiganbayan has ordered a new round of hearings on the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF), known as coco levy funds, 14 years after the Supreme Court ruled that the funds were owned by coconut farmers.
In a 19-page resolution dated last Dec. 29, the court’s Second Division set a new round of hearings beginning on Jan. 29 to hear the arguments of companies that claimed their investments would be adversely affected by the May 7, 2004, partial summary judgment.
Funds turnover postponed
The resolution, penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick L. Musngi with the concurrence of Associate Justices Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and Lorifel L. Pahimna, effectively postponed anew the turnover of the funds to coconut farmers.
The coco levy funds came from forced collections from coconut farmers during martial law, and were used to invest in a number of companies that were now among the biggest in the country.
The funds are estimated to amount to anywhere from P100 billion to P150 billion.
The sequestered United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and United Coconut Planters Life Assurance Corp. (Cocolife) sought the new hearings, objecting to the government’s plea to execute the 2004 judgment that the Supreme Court upheld in its Jan. 24, 2012, decision.
“It is prudent to give the parties the opportunity to expound on their respective positions on the relevance of the said decision in resolving the clashing positions,” the resolution read.
A new round of hearings would likely delay the resolution of the government’s plea for a partial writ of execution on the judgment covering six companies known as CIIF Oil Mills Group (CIIF-OMG), their 14 holding companies, and the holding companies’ 33.13 million shares of stock worth P71.04 billion in San Miguel Corp. (SMC).
UCPB had objected to the government’s moves, claiming the partial execution would prejudice its direct interest in CIIF-OMG and the resulting 11.03 percent interest in the holding companies and the CIIF block of SMC shares.
It said the partial execution of the judgment would amount to “distribution of corporate properties without lawful dissolution.”
Instead, the bank made a counterproposal to surrender to the government the stock certificates of the CIIF companies acquired as administrator of the CIIF, while keeping the shares it acquired as a universal bank.
This would make the government and the bank both stockholders of the CIIF companies.
Like UCPB, Cocolife claimed its P7-billion investment in the CIIF companies would be affected.
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