Thinking Pinoy: #PiliPinasDebates2016: Duterte, Binay, Roxas and Poe on Coco Levy

March 25, 2016

#PiliPinasDebates2016: Duterte, Binay, Roxas and Poe on Coco Levy



Poe uses so many words to say so little, the public fails to see the forest for the trees. Let Thinking Pinoy help you scrutinize her answer and see the truth for what it is.


Before we go any further and if you’re not familiar with the Coco Levy Issue, I highly suggest that you check out two of my previous articles so you can gain a bit of working knowledge on the topic.

The articles are:


Now, assuming that you're already familiar with Coco Levy, let’s proceed.


The Lourd asked, Poe “answered”



During the first segment of PiliPinasDebates2016, panelist Lourd de Veyra asked Grace Poe:

Aminado ka na pinahihiram ka ng eroplano ng San Miguel Corporation, suportado rin po kayo ng NPC. At sa umano’y pagtatanggol kay Danding Cojuangco sa issue ng coco levy funds, ay tinawag pa kayo ng kampo ni Mayor Duterte na puppet. Ang tanong, pabor ka ba na bawiin pa ng gobyerno at natira at ngayo’y pinagtatalunan pang Coco Levy Assets. Kung oo, paano mo babalansehin ang interes ng lagpas 3.5 million coconut farmers. Ilang dekada na rin po silang naghihintay.

Just like when Duterte asked Poe about the Spratly's, de Veyra’s question is straightforward:

Are you in favor of sequestering the remaining Coco Levy Assets? If so, how would you balance public interest and the need to assuage your campaign donor Danding Cojuangco?

Poe said:

Okay, Lourd, unang-una nais kong sabihin ito. Hindi ko dinidipensahan si Danding Cojuangco. Ang pera na iyan, halos 70 billion, ay hawak na ng gobyerno. Nais ko ding sabihing hindi si Mayor Duterte ang nagsabing ako ay puppet, kung ang isang miyembro ng kanyang campaign team na siya mismo nagsabi hindi naman siya.

Ngayon, paano natin gagawin yan?

Ang pera na iyan ay hawak na ng gobyerno ngayon. Gusto ni President Aquino na magkaroon ng executive order kung paano gagastusin yan, pero ito ay pinetisyon ng mga magsasaka, nagtatanim ng mga niyog na nagsasabing hindi puwede ‘yan. Kaya ang Korte Suprema, nagdesisyon na dapat isang batas ang ipapasa kung papano gagastusin ang perang iyan. Ngayon, ang batas na ito ay dinedebate pa rin sa senado. Hindi ko pinirmahan ang batas na ito sa simpleng pananaw lamang na kailangang may representasyon ang mga magsasakang nagtatanim ng niyog. Kailangang mapunta sa kanila ang pera, kailangan ay research and development, at kailangan ng scholarships para sa kanilang mga anak.

Tinatayang 95 million coconut trees ang senile sa ating bansa na kailangang palitan. Ito, ilang dekada na, kinamatayan na ng mga magsasaka ang fund na ito. Dapat mapunta sa kanila. Malinaw na ang perang ito ay wala na kay Danding Cojuangco, at kahit nasa kanya pa man, ako’y magiging patas, tumulong ka man sa akin o hindi. Pinatuyan ko sa aking mga pagdinig, kaibigan man kita o hindi, ang aking unang-unang responsibilidad ay sa mga taong naghalal sa akin.

To summarize, Poe said 5 things:
  1. Duterte didn’t called her a puppet: it was someone from the Duterte camp.
  2. All Coco Levy Funds are now government property. Coco Levy assets are not with Danding anymore.
  3. PNoy issued an EO to dispense Coco Levy.
  4. SC TRO’d EO per a coconut farmer group’s petition.
  5. A relevant bill is being discussed in the Senate, Poe did not sign the bill.
  6. Poe will be fair because her loyalty belongs to the electorate.


As to the Duterte-calling-her-a-puppet issue, that’s between the two candidates. I will delve on the coco levy issue per se.

It’s interesting to note that Poe’s statement is identical to what she said earlier in March, where she said that Coco Levy Assets are not with Danding anymore, that it is now in government custody, that SC declared President’s Aquino’s EO is unconstitional after a “coconut farmers’ group” complained.

When I first wrote about this, I explained how Poe was wrong. But now that she probably learned about COIR’s statement, it’s reasonable to say that Poe is downright lying.

First, de Veyra was not asking about the 27% of SMC that the government owns. He was referring to everything else.

The Coco Levy Funds,  initially amounting to Php 9 billion in the 1980s, ballooned to over Php 150 billion over the decades [Manila Standard]. The Government’s 27% share in SMC amounts to just Php 62 billion. Now, another Danding-owned 20% chunk of SMC (about Php 45 billion), illegally funded by UCPB, was declared Danding’s property by the Supreme Court through legal magic [Philstar]. Ergo, assuming that the collective 47% of SMC has been settled, there’s still some Php 43 billion that is not accounted for.
After the flak she got after her March 9 statement, Grace already knows all of these. However, she insists on her narrative that doesn’t correspond with reality.


Second, does she know what that “coconut farmers’ group” is?
The group Poe referred to was the Philippine Coconut Producers Federation (COCOFED). However, COCOFED was one of the major players in the coco levy scam. They weren't the victims, they were the victimizers. COCOFED is a group of big business and landowners considered as allies of Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco [ABS-CBN, Rappler].
So who was against PNoy’s Executive Order? It wasn’t the small and poor coco farmers. It was Danding Cojuangco through his puppet COCOFED.

Third, Poe lied. She actually signed that senate bill.
Poe signed Senate Bill 2675 – Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act of 2015, or “an act declaring the coconut levy assets as a trust fund, providing for its management and utilization, authorizing the Privatization and Management Office to dispose the coconut levy assets, and for other purposes.” [Rappler]
Poe is dangerously confused. Here’s a presidential candidate with an abysmal memory.

Fourth and most importantly, Grace Poe’s Loyalty.
At this point, its easy to see that San Miguel Corporation is equivalent to Danding Cojuangco. Now, let’s examine how deeply embedded Danding/SMC is in Grace Poe’s personal and political life.
  • Niel Llamanzares, Poe’s husband, is an SMC executive [Rappler]
  • Alex Poblador, Poe’s chief legal counsel, is an SMC director [SMC website].
  • SMC owns Poe’s campaign aircraft [Rappler].
  • The Nationalist Peoples’ Coalition (NPC), headed by Danding, is Poe’s single biggest campaign donor [Rappler].
Danding is the single biggest enabler of your presidential campaign. Even your husband’s career is in Danding’s hands. So how, Senator Poe, can you make us believe that you owe them nothing?

San Miguel Executive Niel Llamanzares (R) is Grace Poe's husband.

Binay enters the fray 


An exchange between VP Binay and Poe ensued:

Binay: Ito ang mga pagkakataong talagang pangako ng pangako, ha? Na itong perang ito ay gagamitin dito, gagamitin doon. Madamme Senator, nandiyan pa ba ang pera? Wala na ho ang pera, papel na lang ang natitira.

Poe: Paano niyo po nasabi?

Binay: Pinag-aralan rin po namin yan.

Poe: Pinag-aralan o pinadaan lang sa PhilRem?

Binay: Ang layo naman ng PhilRem. Ikaw talaga, isa ka pa sa kasama ni Goebbels. Ano naman ang koneksyon ng Philrem dito? Sinasabi ko iyo, alam mo bang ang pera na gusto mong gastusin, wala na? Pulos papel na lang ang natira.

Poe: Mismong Korte Suprema ang nagsabi, “Gumawa kayo ng batas kung paano gagastusin ito.” Kung ang Korte Suprema mismo ay nagsabing andiyan ang pera, kung walang pera ay malaking imbestigasyon ‘yan. Basta ito ang malinaw, nai-turnover yan. Dati’y nag-umpisang ang perang ‘yan ay 9 billion, pero nai-invest at naging 70 billion. Kung kulang-kulang man, e di imbestigahan natin. Pero ang importante, hindi napunta sa bulsa ko yan.

Binay: Ang sinasabi ko sa iyo, “Ang pangako mo, mangyayari ba?”

Poe: Dapat mangyari.

Binay: Pero alam mo kasi.. Korte Suprema, isinasama mo dito, hindi ko naman sasamantalahin at sasabihin sa tao na hindi ka naman abogado. Kailan pa ba ang desisyon ng Korte Suprema? Ang sinasabi ko sa iyo ay wala nang pera sa ngayon.

Poe: Ngayon, ganito na lang ang sasabihin ko. Kung wala na ang 70 billion, ang underspending ng ating gobyerno ay 723 billion magmula 2011 hanggang 2016. Pupunuan ko ang 70 billion para maibigay sa ating mga coconut farmers. Kahit na paunti-unti, mararating yan sapagkat tayo ang isa sa mga pinakamataas na exporter ng coconut sa mundo. Kailangan natin silang tulungan. Ngayon, ibabalik natin sa kanila ang pera na iyan. Pero ang mahalaga, wala akong pinoprotektahan na kahit sinong interes.

Okay, this is where things get messy, particularly because Binay is a excruciatingly weak debater.


Regardless, Poe said 6 things in this exhange:

  1. SC requires government to create a law that will cover the sequestered SMC shares.
  2. Coco Levy started with 9 billion and is now 70 billion.
  3. All Coco levy assets have been sequestered.
  4. What’s important is that the funds never entered Poe’s pockets.
  5. Poe will use government savings to return compensate farmers for their coco levy-related losses.
  6. Poe insisted she is not protecting Danding.

Again, this is another instance where Poe muddles the facts to conform to her own deliberately myopic understanding of the coco levy issue.

First, a majority of coco levy assets have yet to be sequestered.
The SC did require a law to dispense coco levy assets, but it covers only the Php 62 billion in SMC shares, which the government now owns. The decision DOE NOT cover the remaining coco levy assets pegged at over Php 88 billion. Needless to say, NOT ALL coco levy assets have been sequestered.

Second, the funds may have never entered Poe’s pockets, but she’s obviously benefitting from it.
The bulk of Danding’s net worth comes from stolen coco levy-funded assets. It’s also a given that Danding is bankrolling Poe’s campaign. Now, is Poe comfortable with the idea that she is being financed by money stolen from poor and helpless coconut farmers?
Poe castigates Binay for stealing public money, but in the same breath, defends Danding by twisting the truth on Coco Levy.
I am not saying that we should pity Binay. Hell no. Instead, I am calling out Poe’s selective morality.
Binanatan mo si Binay kasi kurakot pero si Danding, hindi? Hiningan mo pa ng pera.

Third, Poe cannot divert government savings to fund coco levy claims. It’s unconstitutional.
I am not sure if Poe hit her head with some blunt instrument, but I guess she conveniently forgot about PNoy’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Reallocating unspent portions of the national budget without congressional approval is unconstitional.

Mar butts in 


Mar Roxas entered the discussion, another fiery exchange ensued:
Mar: Ang pinag-uusapan dito yung kinabukasan ng ating mga magniniyog. Hindi ipinasa ng Camara de Representantes ang batas, hindi ipinasa sa Senado. Ang ginawa ng pangulong PNoy ay gumawa siya ng executive order para mapasakanila ang perang ito. Gumawa siya ng council kung saan ang magniniyog mismo ay kabahagi ng council na ito. May mga propesor, may mga dalubhasa sa finance, ay may mga taga-sektor ng niyog. Iyan ang nilalaman ng executive order na iyon.

Poe: Sec. Mar, ang sinasabi ninyo ay ang gobyernong ito ay gusto talagang tulungan ang ating mga coconut farmers. Hindi ba?

Mar: Tama naman. Gumawa ng executive order dahil hindi ito napasa ng senado, dahil ang susunod na sesyon, makatapos na ang halalan. Kawawa ang mga magniniyog. Kaya gumawa ng Executive Order ang pangulo para sa lalong madaling panahon ay mapasakanila itong pera.

Poe: Seryoso siguro ang gobyerno, pero bakit ganoon ang kanilang mensahe. Kung ang Philippine Coconut Authority na dati’y may 4 billion na budget, ay kanilang pinutol at ginawang 1 billion na lang. Kung talagang seryoso sila na tulungan ang ating coconut farmers, na ngayon ay pinupuntirya pa ng El Nino at cocolisap, kaya para sa akin, siguro hindi na lang salita, gawa ang importante.

Ok, let’s pause for a second. Let’s summarize the points raised. Gumugulo na e.
  1. Mar said Pnoy’s EO aims to redistribute to coco farmers the funds from the sale of SMC shares.
  2. Poe rebuffed Roxas, pointing out PHILCOA budget cuts. She said actions speak louder than words.
I do not understand how Poe can blame the executive department for PHILCOA budget cuts when it’s congress, where she is a part of, that determines budget allocations. Even if the executive department’s proposed budget indeed called for PHILCOA budget cuts, Poe never raised the issue during the congressional budget deliberations where she, again, is a part of.

The catfight continued:
Mar: May 70 billion nga para sa mga coconut farmers at iyan ang pondong gagamitin para sa pagtulong sa kanila.

Poe: Pero alam naman natin na hindi pinayagan yan ng Korte Suprema sa isang Executive Order kaya iyan ay dumaan sa Senado.

Mar: Ginawa ng lahat ang administrasyon para itong perang ito ay mapunta sa ating mga magniniyog.

Poe: Sino ang senate president at ano ang kanyang partido, Mr. Secretary?

Mar: Ilan ba ang boto namin sa Senado? Kayo ho ba ay present noong mga hearings na ‘yon?

Poe: Palagi ho akong andoon.

Mar: Ano ho ba boto ninyo sa panukalang ito?

Poe: Hindi lang basta-basta boto. Kailangan ay malaman ang inyong panukala.

Mar: Maraming dahilan pala e. Kung gusto, mabilis. Kung ayaw, maraming dahilan. Ang totoo po dito, pwede namang hatakin mula sa committee yan. Kung interesado po talaga kayo bilang senador, alam niyo ang senate rules.

Poe: E bakit hindi po inischedule ng senate president?

Mar: Kayo po ang nakatayo dito. Kayo ang nagsasabing interesado kayo sa ating mga magniniyog.

Poe: Kung talagang importante, Philippine Coconut Authority, 4 billion ang budget, tinanggalan ng 3 billion. Alam naman nating hindi ganoon kabilis magpasa ng batas sa senado. Meron pang [proseso] hanggang kongreso at bicameral [conference] kaya hindi sila pwedeng umasa doon kung sila ay seryoso.

Mar: Matagal na po ito. 2012 pa ay nasa kongreso na ito. House and Senate.

Let’s pause again and summarize the points raised:
  1. Poe blames the Senate President for the failure of SB 2675.
  2. Poe insists she did not vote in favor of SB 2675.
  3. Poe raises the PHILCOA budget cut issue again.
Alright, this part of the conversation makes sense only if Poe didn’t sign SB 2675, but SHE DID SIGN IT. Is it now safe to conclude that she signed the law even if she’s against it? What kind of legislator is that?

For the sake of argument, even if she DID NOT sign SB 2675, why didn’t she raise the issue in the Senate? Why didn’t she hold a press conference to criticize the Senate President? After all, Poe is the vice-chair of the Senate Agricultural Committee, so this bills falls squarely within her responsibilities.

Duterte joins the fray



Duterte joined in:
Duterte: This has been an issue too many years ago, while the coconut farmers are [still] waiting for their money, pati nanay ko. Bakit ganito? There’s a supreme court decision, e bakit paiikutin uli? This is a rigmarole actually. Why don’t you just say, “Isauli mo sa coconut farmers?”, tapos. Kung maging presidente ako, ganyan. Wala nang council-council, sige kunin mo ang pera ko.

Poe: I am a member of the committee on agriculture. Pero ang importante ay ito. Research and Development, scholarships para sa kanilang mga anak, nakamatayan na nila e. Si Efren Villasenor, head ng coconut farmers association, tayo po ang inendorso dahil nga sa ating adbokasiya na tulungan ang ating magsasaka ng coconuts.

Now, I understand why NPC didn’t endorse Duterte. If Duterte’s own mother is a victim of Danding Cojuangco’s Coco Levy Scam, then it’s safe to conclude that Danding has nothing to gain – and probably has lots to lose – in a Duterte presidency.

On the other hand, Poe name-dropped a certain Efren Villasenor. Efren Villasenor happens to be the a COCOFED party-list’ nominee [Supreme Court]. Now, we already know where COCOFED’s interests lie, right?

And by the way, Poe said she's a "member" of the Senate Agricultural Committee. This is an understatement. She's actually its vice-chairman .

The Thinking Pinoy’s Takeaways

First, Poe defended Danding Cojuangco in a March 8 press conference and she has learned about the COIR’s press statement. Despite this, she insisted on her own (i.e. Danding’s) version of the truth, to the detriment of real, regular, poor, and dying coconut farmers.In essence, Danding and Poe are telling us, “Here’s 72 out of 150 billion na ninakaw ni Danding. Magtiis na lang kayo dyan.”

Second, Poe contradicted herself by saying she didn’t sign the coco farmer bill when she, in fact did. She even went on about how bad the bill was, forgetting the reality that she actually agreed to it.

Third, Poe tells us she’s loyal to the Filipino people, but her inner circle, including her own husband, has strong links with San Miguel Corporation. What’s worse, never in this lengthy exhange did Poe criticize Danding. Look, I hate Binay with a passion, but in as far as the “honor roll” for Philippine Plunderers, Danding is the runaway valedictorian.

It isn’t accurate to say that a Poe Presidency will be a “Gobyernong may Puso”. Instead, it should be a “Gobyernong may Puso basta OK kay Danding Cojuangco.”

I've read a couple of articles in Rappler and Inquirer saying that Poe won the debate and debate analysts are confused as to why the public didn't respond favorably, implying that the public is irrational.

The answer is simple: the public listens to reason, but it doesn't listen to bullshit.

_____


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