What do you think was the biggest scam in the Philippines?
Long before I was born mayroong scam na mas malaki pa sa lahat ng scams na alam mo. Let me walk you through it. I was not yet born that time but my parents always reminded me about it every time I try to complain about scams and lapses ng government bodies sa pagprevent ng scams.
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LET US BEGIN.
In Japan, for instance, people involved in corruption, or those whose names have been publicly tainted commit hara-kiri (suicide). Honor and integrity are so important in Japan that people would rather kill themselves than live a shameful life.
THE PHILIPPINE COCONUT INDUSTRY
The Philippine coconut industry was responsible for 26% of the volume of the agricultural sector and was reportedly present in 68 of the 81 provinces of the country. Next to sugar, coconut products were also the leading agricultural export of the Philippines, with 37 products and by-products that were exported to 114 countries. The major exports were crude and refined oil, copra meal, desiccated coconut, activated carbon, and oleo-chemicals. About one-third of the Philippine population depended mainly on coconut production for its livelihood.
The legal beginnings of the levy can be found in Republic Act 1145 enacted on June 17, 1954 under President Ramon Magsaysay which calls for the creation of the Coconut Development Fund. Subsequent amendments were made with the enactment of Republic Act 6260 on 19 June 1971 under President Ferdinand Marcos.
The act calls for the creation of a Coconut Investment Fund and a Coconut Investment Company (CIC).
The objective of the CIC was to:
(a) To fully tap the potential of the coconut planters in order to maximize their production and give them greater responsibility in directing and developing the coconut industry;
(b) to accelerate the growth of the coconut industry and other related coconut products from the raw material stage to the semi-finished and finally, the finished product stage;
(c) to improve, develop and expand the marketing system; and
(d) to ensure stable and better incomes for coconut farmers. President Marcos created other funds through P.D. 276, 582, 1468, 961, and 1841, all were to be paid by farmers. Under the promise of ‘developing Ph coco industry’, coco farmers paid P15-P30 per P100 kilos of copras, constituting only 10-25% of their income.
On 30 June 1973, President Marcos created the Philippine Coconut Authority through P.D. 232. The PCA’s mandate was “to promote accelerated growth and development of the coconut and other palm oils industry so that the benefits of such growth shall accrue to the greatest number, and to provide continued leadership and support in the integrated development of the industry.”
The said decree also consolidated the responsibilities and activities of the Coconut Coordinating Council (CCC), the Philippine Coconut Administration (PHILCOA), and the Philippine Coconut Research Institute (PHILCORIN), under one office. P.D. 961 created the Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) which was used by Danding Cojuango to purchase shares of SMC which was then Sorianos’.
CIIF was also used to purchase cronies big oil mills (known as CIIF-Oil Mills Grp) and shares of coco trading and insurance corporations. While the other decrees made ballooning funds, P.D. 1468 revised the Coco Industry Code, giving crony oil mills control over the said funds. Most coco farmers/tenants received receipts for paying, but weren’t registered by PhilCoA (PCA).
In 1975, for two years, coco levy funds paid by coco farmers amounted to 2.14 million pesos, but only 32% of receipts were registered. After P.D. 961 of 1976, and public display of cronyism, such as turning over coco funds to Cojuangco-Enrile, coco farmers defied martial law in protests.
Small protests and defiance were shown by turning CocoFed groups into anti-Marcos meetings. Coco farmers coops/protests grew by 1980 and became a solid foundation of the anti-Marcos movement in the countryside.
The Marcos dictatorship met the coco farmers’ resistance with violence. Most notable of which are the Daet (Camarines Norte) and Guinayangan (Quezon) massacres.
By 1982, coco levy funds extracted P70 billion from coco farmers. Every penny was used by Marcos cronies to entrench themselves in wealth. The funds were siphoned by Marcos and his cronies into at least 14 holding companies: Soriano Shares Inc., ASC Investors Inc., Roxas Shares Inc., ARC Investors Inc., Toda Holdings Inc., AP Holdings Inc., Fernandez Holdings Inc., SMC Officers Corps Inc., Te Deum Resources Inc., Anglo Ventures Inc., Randy Allied Ventures Inc., Rock Steel Resources Inc., Valhalla Properties Ltd Inc., and First Meridian Development Inc.
Additionally, over the 10 years of collection, Cojuangco, Lobregat, Enrile, Eleazar, dela Cuesta, et al. were Board of Directors or Chairs of PCA, UCPB, COCOFED and Unicom. Enrile, then Senate President, was chair of PCA and Unicom, which he used to get equities from Primex Coco, Pacific Royal, Clear Mineral, and other entities. Danding Cojuangco used his coco levy positions to steal money and was used as leverage to further his businesses.
Most notable of Cojuangco’s spoils were the UCPB and the SMC, both of which were purchased directly through coco levy money by Imelda Marcos and Danding Cojuangco.
After the Marcos regime was toppled by the People Power Revolution of 1986, coconut farmers filed numerous cases against Marcos, Danding, and Enrile for squandering farmers’ money.
The 3 are among the 3.5 million coconut farmers, earning an estimated P16,000 annually and belonging to the country’s poorest of the poor. They are victims of the coco levy fund scam from 1971 to 1983 under the Marcos administration, with collected taxes amounting to P9.7 billion. These farmers were taxed by the government, only for their payments to be used by former president Ferdinand Marcos and his alleged cronies, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr, Juan Ponce Enrile, and some others, to invest in and buy businesses for their own benefit.
The coco levy refers to the taxes imposed on coconut farmers from 1971 to 1983 by Marcos and his cronies, promising the development of coconut farmers and the industry in exchange. Cojuangco at the time was appointed chairman of the board of the Philippine Coconut Authority, tasked to collect and manage the funds.
According to the Philippine Commission on Good Government, the initial tax imposed was 55 centavos – the value of which was high in the 1970s – for the first domestic sale of every 100 kilos of copra or its equivalent.
Upon the collection by the PCA of the initial P100 million, they established the Coconut Investment Fund (CIF), a capital stock subscribed to by the government for, and on behalf of, the coconut farmers. The taxes imposed grew as the years went by, reaching P100 per 100 kilos.
The collections, amounting to P9.7 billion, were used by Marcos and his cronies to set up or invest in businesses for their own benefit. This was also used to acquire two huge blocks of shares in the biggest food and beverage conglomerate in the country, San Miguel Corporation.
Despite the billions of pesos they technically own, coconut farmers continue to be among the country’s poorest of the poor. A coconut farmer can be considered lucky if he or she has his or her own land to till. But for the majority, this is a far-fetched dream.
The common rule is 60-40 – 60% of income goes to landowners while 40% goes to tenants. Prices of copra are dictated by the market. Sometimes copra prices could go as low as P6 per kilo and, on rare occasions, as high as P60 per kilo. At present, the price of copra is pegged at P35 to P40 a kilo. If a farmer gets to sell 100 kilos, he could get as much as P4,000 but P2,400 will go to his landowner and he will be left with P1,600.
But before he could take this home, he has to pay coconut pickers if he is not strong enough to do so, fruit collectors, coconut husk removers, and haulers.
These could amount to P200. The remaining amount – P1,400 – has to be shared by co-tenants, usually 3 to 4 persons, leaving each with little to no money left to raise a family.
COCO LEVY FUND SCAM
Umabot ng nasa Php 9.7 billion ang halaga ng nakolektang Coco Levy Funds noon. Matapos ang ilang dekada ng patubo at pag-invest, tinatayang mula Php150 to 363 billion pesos na ang kabuuang halaga ngayon.
SAAN BA GINAMIT ANG MGA PONDONG ITO?
- Inutusan ni Marcos ang PHILCOA noong 1975 na gamitin ang Coco Levy Fund para bilhin ng buo ang First United Bank, na ngayon ay kilala natin bilang United Coconut Planters Bank o UCPB. Ang nag-facilitate ng transakyong ito ay si Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, na isang miyembro ng PHILCOA Board of Directors noong panahong iyon.
- Bilang “compensation” sa pag-facilitate ng acquisition, binigyan si Danding ng 7.22 porsyentong ownership ng UCPB.
- Ginamit ni Danding ang impluwensiya mula dito upang maging presidente at CEO ng naturang bangko.
- Gamit ang nakakadepositing Coco Levy Funds sa UCPB sa ilalim ng pamumuno ni Danding, binili ng UCPB ang 14 na mga CIIF Mills. Dahil rito, nagkaroon ng monopolyo si Danding Cojuangco sa industriya ng kopra sa buong bansa. Ibig sabihin nito ay kay Danding nabebenta ang LAHAT ng aning kopra sa buong Pilipinas.
SMC (SAN MIGUEL CORPORATION)
PAng CIIF Mills ay may-ari ng 27 porsyento ng San Miguel Corporation. Dahil binili ng UCPB ang CIIF Mills, UCPB na rin ang may-ari ng mga San Miguel Shares na ito. Kung susumahin, dahil kontrolado ni Danding ang UCPB, kontrolado na rin niya ang 27 porsyento ng San Miguel.
Ginamit ni Danding Cojuangco ang kanyang impluwensiya bilang President and CEO ng UCPB para umutang ng mahigit Php 2 billion. Oo, presidenteng ng bangko na umutang sa sarili niyang bangko. Ginamit ni Danding ang loan na ito para bumili pa ng karagdagang 20 porsyento ng SMC.
Wala pa ring happy ending ang COCO LEVY FUND SCAM until now.