TAGUM CITY—A peasant group has criticized on Friday, March 11, Presidential aspirant, Senator Grace Poe for siding with business mogul Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco Jr. and accused Poe of “reversing the historical truth” on the coconut levy fund issue.
“Small coconut farmers are totally disgusted over Poe’s defense of Cojuangco,” said Antonio Flores, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, in a March 10 statement.
Flores reminded Poe that “small coconut farmers are still contesting Cojuangco’s 20 percent shares in San Miguel Corporation acquired using the coco levy funds.”
“After securing the NPC endorsement, Poe is now turning into a mouthpiece of the biggest plunderer of the coco levy fund. Mahuhulog sa puno ng niyog ang sinumang magsasaka sa niyugan na makakarinig ng pahayag ni Poe (Every coconut farmer would fall from the tree if they hear that Poe’s statement),” Flores stressed.
KMP’s statement came after Poe had explained that Danding Cojuangco has no control over the funds because the funds are now with the government.
“The problem is that Danding Cojuangco doesn’t control it anymore because all the shares (bought with the coco levy funds) are now with the government,” Poe, in a news conference was quoted as saying.
On Thursday, Valenzuela Mayor Rex Gatchalian, spokesperson of Senator Grace Poe, in a statement said that “attempts to muddle the issue of the government’s non-disbursement of coco levy funds, which rightfully belong to coco farmers, will not address the problems of the ailing coconut industry. This is another injustice to our farmers.”
“Senator Grace Poe is committed to helping thousands of poor coconut farmers in the country by increasing the budget allocation for the agriculture sector and tapping the coco levy funds, which the government has been withholding from farmers despite the Supreme Court’s decision with finality that the coco levy funds are public funds and should be utilized to help the coconut industry,” Gatchalian said.
But KMP’s Flores stressed that “the Supreme Court ruling is a product of ‘sweetheart deal’ between Cojuangco and his nephew, President Aquino himself.”
“This is exactly the reason why up to now, under a Cojuangco-Aquino presidency, small coconut farmers are still struggling to recover their money. It’s a Supreme Court-approved uncle-and-nephew political maneuver ganging up against small coconut farmers,” Flores said.
“Instead of giving justice to millions of small coconut farmers by holding Cojuangco accountable, Poe quickly absolved one of the biggest plunderer of the coco levy fund.”
“Poe’s position on the coco levy fund is adding insult to the injury suffered by small coconut farmers during the Marcos regime,” Flores warned.
KMP vowed to “continue to challenge all candidates on the demand for genuine land reform, the return of the multi-billion coconut levy, and free irrigation, among others, and intensify the struggle for genuine land reform.” (davaotoday.com)