MS 30th Anniversary XXX

It’s final: Govt owns Danding’s shares in Cocobank

The Supreme Court has ruled with finality that the shares of businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. in the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) belong to the government. In an en banc resolution promulgated Tuesday, the Supreme Court dismissed Cojuangco’s motion for reconsideration of its Nov. 27, 2012 decision upholding the ruling of the Sandiganbayan in July 2003 that declared the disputed shares as among the assets illegally acquired using coconut levy funds. The justices said Cojuangco’s petition had no merit because it was a “mere reiteration of the arguments that have been previously pleaded, submited and resolved by the Court.” In his appeal, Cojuangco argued that his constitutional right to due process and the non-impairment of contract were violated, but the Court disagreed. “The arguments in the motion are too unsubstantial to warrant reconsideration or modification. We find no reason to modify or abandon the challenged cecision,” the Court said, in its ruling written by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. The justices said the new ruling was final. “No further pleadings shall be entertained. Let entry of judgment be made in due course,” the Court said. In the decision approved by eight justices last year, the Court held that the anti-graft court the Sandiganbayan was correct in nullifying the a May 25, 1975 deal with the Philippines Coconut Administration that transferred to Cojuangco by way of compensation 10 percent of the 72.2 percent First United Bank (now UCPB) shares of stocks that the PCA purchased from his uncle, Pedro Cojuangco, using the coconut levy funds. The court noted that Cojuangco in effect received public assets with a value then of P10.88 million, considering his admission that the PCA paid the entire acquisition price for the 72.2 percent shares out of the Coconut Consumers Stabilization Fund, The tribunal said Cojuangco benefitted by owning property acquired using public funds. The Court also ruled that the Presidential Commission on Good Government had presented “conclusive” and “incontrovertible” evidence to prove this before the Sandiganbayan. “Consequently, Cojuangco cannot stand to benefit by receiving, in his private capacity, 72.2 percent of the FUB shares without violating the constitutional caveat that public funds can only be used for public purpose. Accordingly, the 7.22 percent FUB (UCPB) shares that were given to Cojuangco shall be returned to the government, to be used ‘only for the benefit of all coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry’,” the Court ruled. The Court also upheld the anti-graft court’s ruling declaring the government as owner of the 72.2 percent shares of UCBP that the PCA bought using coconut levy funds. In its 2003 ruling, the Sandiganbayan ruled that the use by the PCA of coconut levy funds to purchase shares in UCPB in 1975 was illegal. It also added that a presidential decree that the PCA used to justify its use of the coconut levy funds was never published, and therefore “did not acquire binding force.”
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