As the defendants of the PDAF scam cases face jail terms, the architects of the coco levy scam are scot free. What’s the difference? Is not this a case of malversation of public funds or plunder? Worse still here we are talking of some P150 billion which did not go to the intended beneficiaries!
The travails of the coconut industry, including the latest infestation (cocolisap) that has already destroyed a millions trees and threatens all coconut farms, can be directly traced not only to the criminal neglect of the crop that is our top agriculture export commodity but also to the illegal diversion of the coco levy funds that were designed to promote higher levels of productivity, income and employment in the industry. Millions of families depend on coconut for their existence.
During martial law a spate of presidential decrees were promulgated ostensibly for the benefit of the industry. Instead of helping the industry and its stakeholders, the levi es raised through these executive fiats were unscrupulously diverted to the pockets of the proponents of the levy. Except for a modest amount utilized for scholarships and that devoted to develop a seed garden, the rest of the money exacted from coconut farmers by the government was ironically utilized against the interest of the very farmers who paid the levy and who were supposed to benefit from it.
The poisoned tree which produced the root cause of technical malversation of the funds was the creation of the United Coconut Planters Bank. This was originally owned by the family of P-Noy—the First United Bank. It was converted, using the millions of the coconut levy funds, into bank that was allegedly for and of the coconut farmers.
This was the biggest myth of all. For the bank’s fund instead of attending to farmer’s needs–for example, increasing farm productivity through fertilization, intercropping, replanting and the improvement of the supply chain through adequate warehousing, etc.–was used instead to monopolize the industry and transfer market power to the millers who exploited the farmers. For years by the system of monopoly pricing the, CIIF oil mills pauperized the coconut farmers who lost all incentive to improve their farms. The net result was an industry seriously neglected with overaged trees that yielded less and less through the years causing undue hardships to the coconut farming community which today is the poorest sector of the economy.
These overaged trees uncared for to this day has become susceptible to all kinds of diseases in much the same way as undernourished senior citizens become susceptible to diseases. Worse still, the industry has lost its international competitive edge because it suffers from productivity losses in stark contrast to competing products of other countries, such as palm oil, which has invaded our shores and threatens to dislodge coconut oil in the food market.
Given all these facts well known to this administration the wonder of it all is that PNoy’s government has done little for the cocolisap infestation and the general decline of the Philippine coco industry. Apart from press releases and ineffective action of the government offices tasked to help the afflicted farmers the Aquino administration seem not realize the seriousness of the situation.
Is there a compelling reason why this administration, which has hidden the proceeds of the levy funds after the Supreme Court ordered its release, has been miserly in the disbursement of the money to salvage a slowly dying industry? While it is quick to disburse billions for cash transfer and doles to the poor, using taxpayers’ money, what is this government’s rationale for continuing to lock the coconut farmers’ own money in the treasury when they need it to surmount the fruit borer crisis they now face?
After Yolanda decimated the copra supply in Eastern Visayas, we in the coco industry were so sure that the coco levy funds would be disbursed to rehabilitate the industry. Instead we saw the release of some of the shoe-string budget of the PCA to affect a minimal intervention in the disaster.
And now comes the cocolisap pestilence that threatens to wipe out the entire industry. Again we thought that this administration would hit the ground running with a massive rescue package sourced from the levy fund to meet the serious threat. And again we see this administration is firing blanks and facing up to the threat with press release and propaganda.
Will the coconut levy fund follow the way of the billions in the PDAF, Malampaya, DAP and other sources of funds now discovered by the high court to have been illegally and unconstitutionally disbursed? Heaven forbid!
Cocolisap is a tragedy waiting to happen. Three years ago, the Aquino administration could have nipped it in the bud when Filipino scientists first saw signs of its emergence. It is the result of decades of criminal neglect on the part of the authorities who should be charged with malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance.
Malfeasance is an act of wrongdoing by public officials. Misfeasance under the law is a transgression due to the wrongful exercise of lawful authority. Nonfeasance is the failure of an official to perform an act required by law.
Clearly the conversion of the Coco Levy funds–from its intended uses under the various Marcos presidential decrees for the benefit of the farmers– into projects that clearly did not benefit farmers is a clear case of malfeasance, worse than the PDAF or DAP. On the other hand the illegal transfer of funds from farm projects into only marginally related projects like the erection of a commercial bank or the purchase of shares of commercial establishments is misfeasance. Finally the neglect of the coconut industry, the latest evidence of which is the failure of concerned government officials to prevent the cocolisap crisis is nonfeasance because the officers in charge of the industry have clearly failed to discharge their responsibility under the law.