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Coconut farmers refute Gov. Suarez's denial of scam in coco levy scheme

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Coconut farmers refute Gov. Suarez's denial of scam in coco levy scheme
Quezon Gov. Danilo Suarez introduces presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos to the crowd at Tiaong Convention Center on Mar. 23, 2022.
Philstar.com / EC Toledo

MANILA, Philippines — A national alliance of coconut farmers disputed Quezon Gov. Danilo Suarez’s claim that it was not true that the coco levy fund collected from farmers during the Marcos administration were used to create companies for cronies.

Bantay Cocolevy Alliance said the history of abuse that the coconut industry and its farmers experienced at the hands of the Marcos dictatorship are still seared into their memories.

“If Governor [Danilo] Suarez will not accept what is true about the coconut levy maybe it will be best to remind him of the facts,” they said in Filipino.

The statement came a day after Suarez, in an ambush interview with reporters in Quezon, insisted “there was no scam that happened” in the coco levy scheme.

“In coco levy, the money was never stolen. It was there, it earned interest,” he insisted.

But the Bantay Cocolevy Alliance pointed out that in the historic Cocofed v. Republic ruling, the Supreme Court already identified different schemes and machinations used by the late dictator and his cronies, which the court even referred to as “well entrenched plundering regime of twenty years.”

The SC also declared that 24% of the stocks of San Miguel Corp. are owned by the government to be used for the benefit of coconut farmers and their industry.

Coco levy up to next president

The Bantay Cocolevy Alliance said the only truth Suarez's statements was that the “Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund” has been in effect for a year now.

They stressed: “The proper and thorough implementation of this rests upon the shoulders of the next president, to correct the mistake of the Marcos regime and the abuse of his cronies.”

Suarez repeatedly insisted in different interviews that he believes presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whose candidacy he is backing, will support the appeal of coconut farmers although no explicit commitment was given.

But the alliance asked what assurance coconut farmers can get when presidential aspirant Marcos' goal is to revive the “glory days” of his father’s regime—the same period when coconut farmers were taxed to fund corporations that government allies established.

“What great glory of the dictator is the son referring to that he will bring back? The ‘well entrenched plundering regime of twenty years’?  … Or the amassing of billions of stolen wealth from the nation’s coffers?” they added.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government, the body created to run after Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth, said a total of P9.665 billion—a staggering amount even from 1973 to 1983—was collected, excluding the P100 million from Republic Act 6260, Marcos’ Coconut Investment Act.

The commission stressed: “But these coco levy funds were not used to benefit the farmers, instead diverted to purchase the United Coconut Planters Bank and San Miguel Corp. for the benefit of Marcos and his cronies.”

Suarez said he believes he can deliver a margin of 300,000 to 400,000 for Marcos over his rivals.

“I assure you this would be an unprecedented election result in the coming election,” the governor said Wednesday.

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