“Usual suspects” behind draft EO legitimizing PNoy’s illegal use of coco funds
The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and the claimants movement Coco Levy Fund Ibalik sa Amin (Claim) today assailed Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan’s “slip of tongue” that the Aquino administration is already using the controversial coco levy funds.
The KMP was referring to reports quoting Pangilinan saying that “the coco levy fund was separate from the budget of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA)” but stressed that “at present, the PCA was handling the funds and therefore, it is the PCA’s governing board which would have the final say regarding the utilization of the fund.”
“All along, small coconut farmers were made to believe that their money was in the Bureau of Treasury, intact, and never been handled by any agency. Pangilinan’s slip of tongue is hell-raising,” KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano said asking, “Since when did the PCA started handling the coconut levy funds? Who gave the PCA governing board the authority to have the final say on the utilization of small coconut farmers’ money?”
Mariano said Pangilinan’s statement “bolsters strong doubts that Aquino and his finance managers are already spending the multi-billion coconut levy funds’ interests and dividends a la intelligence fund that is concealed from public scrutiny.”
“A no-holds-barred auditing of the coconut levy funds is politically necessary especially in light of the left-and-right issues of corruption and plunder under the Aquino government,” Mariano said adding, “since the Supreme Court declared the coco levy funds as public funds in December 2001, no public auditing has been done on the small coconut farmers’ money.”
The KMP and CLAIM accused that the draft executive order giving Aquino the opportunity to dip his hands on the funds was “cooked by the usual suspects” who have hatched several failed bids to monetize and advance from the coco levy funds.
“The draft executive order was orchestrated by the National Anti-Poverty Commission-led multi-sectoral task force on the coco levy. It is aimed to legitimize the administration’s current illegal spending of the coco levy funds,” says CLAIM spokesperson Nestor Villanueva.
In January 2013 or months before the elections, the KMP and CLAIM exposed former Akbayan president Joel Rocamora who heads the “task force” attempt to advance P1.6 billion from the coco levy funds for his anti-peasant poverty reduction roadmap of the coconut industry.” The NAPC is pushing for the P11.17 billion five-year “Poverty Reduction Roadmap of the Coconut Industry” that includes the corruption-ridden “conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, the “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps),” and the failed Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER).
“Small coconut farmers have long rejected this anti-farmer roadmap by Aquino and NAPC. The components of this roadmap are exactly the reasons why small coconut farmers suffer from dire poverty,” Villanueva said adding: “the election fever is officially on and Aquino’s coco levy mafia are once again targeting the small coconut farmers’ money.”
Under the proposed EO prepared by the NAPC-led multi-sectoral task force, the KMP said, Aquino would position himself as chairperson of a so-called Coconut Farmers Trust Fund Coordinating Committee that enjoy extraordinary powers, including but not limited to the appointment to the said council of his similarly corrupt bureaucrats in the Department of Agriculture, the Philippine Coconut Authority, the National Economic Development Authority, and the National Anti-Poverty Commission.”
The KMP and CLAIM are pushing for the approval of a legislative measure, House Bill 1327 or the proposed creation of the “Genuine Small Coconut Farmers Fund” authored by Anakpawis party-list Representative Fernando Hicap.
The groups said that under HB 1327, small coconut farmers will be the primary beneficiaries of the fund “in the form of cash and other social benefits including but not limited to pension benefits, medical and hospitalization benefits, maternity benefits, and educational assistance including scholarships, among others.”
“Cash distribution will be in the form of social benefits. This is not a dole-out and a far cry from the corruption-ridden conditional cash transfer (CCT) program of the Aquino administration,” Villanueva said.
Under HB 1327, “socio-economic projects initiated by small coconut farmers and their organizations and/or cooperatives financed by the Coconut Farmers’ Fund shall primarily focus on: livelihood programs and projects meant to provide additional incomes to small coconut farmers; small and medium-scale coconut enterprises, marketing and trading mechanisms, inventions and innovations of machineries and equipment for the development of high-quality coconut and improvement of local coconut production; and programs that would provide loan facilities for small coconut farmers.”
“All coco levy funds acquired assets, investments, and corporation shall be turned over to the Small Coconut Farmers Council. The SCFC shall directly manage the operations of the CIIF-Oil Mills Group, 14 Holding Companies, United Coconut Planters’ Bank, Cocolife, and other corporations acquired through the coco levy funds for the benefit of small coconut farmers,” it added. #