The three-million strong Confederation of Coconut Farmers (Confed) on Monday expressed its support for the candidacies of Senators Grace Poe and Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Efren Villaseñor, national chairman of Confed, the largest and broadest alliance of major coconut farmers organizations in the country, said his members have chosen Poe because of her “doable and concrete” programs for coconut farmers.
In the same way, he added, they are supporting Marcos because most of their members have expressed their intention to vote for him.
“Most of our members want Bongbong to be our Vice President, [Sen. Francis] Chiz [Escudero] is only a poor second.”
Confed is composed of organizations comprising 90 percent of the more than 3.5 million coconut farmers in the country spread in 63 provinces.
Villaseñor rushed to the defense of Poe, who he said has been put in a bad light after she was reported to be supported by businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco.
He said the senator is right in saying that the P72-billion coconut levy fund is no longer in the hands of Cojuangco but the government.
“We fully support the statement of [Poe] that the obligation of the utilization of the coconut levy funds is no longer under the control of [Cojuangco], but it is already with the government. [Cojuangco] is a non-issue here because we have already won the cases we filed against him to recover the coco levy fund. The whole fund is under the control of the government,” Villasenor added.
In 2010 and 2012, he said, after they have won the cases against Cojuangco, the money was transferred by the government to the Bureau of Treasury in violation of the Supreme Court (SC) decision, which had ordered that the fund should be put in an escrow account in either the Landbank of the Philippines (LBP), the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) or the United Coconut Planters’ Bank (UCBP).
“The [SC] ordered that the coco levy fund be deposited in an escrow account to either Landbank, DBP or UCPB. However, despite such ruling, Malacañang refused to place the amount in any of the said banks and instead [put]the said amount [at]the Bureau of Treasury. It is our position that Malacañang should be held in contempt of the SC ruling for defying such order,” Villasenor explained.
Worse, he said, Malacañang issued Executive Orders 179 and EO 180 last year, “because it wanted to dispose of the fund without even consulting us.”
“It seems they have other purpose[s]for the fund, maybe for the elections, but it is not for the coconut farmers,” according to Villasenor.
Confed immediately applied for a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the High Court to stop the implementation of the two EOs, which they claimed to be immoral, unconstitutional, illegal and anti-farmer. Their petition was granted and a TRO was issued.
Villaseñor said that after 40 years of struggle to get their hands on the coconut levy fund and four years after they won the case, they are yet to get a single centavo from it.