MANILA, Philippines — Business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. is pressing his fight for the ownership of the United Coconut Planters Bank, which the Sandiganbayan has awarded to the government saying it was illegally acquired using coconut levy funds.
In a petition filed with the Sandiganbayan First Division, Cojuangco moved for a hearing on the ownership dispute, claiming that the anti-graft court did not grant him an opportunity to present evidence on his counter-claim.
In 2003, the Sandiganbayan handed down a partial summary judgment of the case, ruling that Cojuangco through the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) had illegally acquired the UCPB, then known as the First United Bank, using coco levy funds.
It forfeited Cojuangco’s shares in the bank and awarded them to the government. At the time, the value of the UCPB shares was estimated at about P100 billion.
The decision also affirmed earlier rulings that Presidential Decree 755, issued by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos authorizing the PCA to buy a bank with the coco levy funds for the benefit of coconut farmers, was illegal.
The Sandiganbayan affirmed its 2003 ruling last May, dismissing a petition from Cojuangco and the Philippine Coconut Producers Federation Inc. (Cocofed) asking for a “full-blown trial” of the case.
It said all pertinent issues had already been addressed by the court so that there was no point in proceeding with a full-blown trial or with the presentation of evidence by the parties in the case.
It noted that a trial would be futile as the defense of Cojuangco and the Cocofed relied heavily on PD 755 which had already been declared as “constitutionally infirm.”
In asking the Sandiganbayan to reconsider its ruling, Cojuangco counsel Estelito Mendoza said his client must be allowed to present evidence in his defense.
He said the decision was in violation of Cojuangco’s right to due process and the right to be heard by assuming “an established fact, a controverted fact.”