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San Miguel: Cojuangco to back out on SMC plan

San Miguel Corp. (SMC) chairman Eduardo “Danding” M. Cojuangco, Jr. told the Sandiganbayan he is withdrawing an earlier conformity with the government“s bid to drop the civil suit against SMC.
In a …

San Miguel Corp. (SMC) chairman Eduardo “Danding” M. Cojuangco, Jr. told the Sandiganbayan he is withdrawing an earlier conformity with the government“s bid to drop the civil suit against SMC. In a manifestation of withdrawal filed last Friday with the Sandiganbayan, Mr. Cojuangco, through counsel Estelito P. Mendoza, said they are withdrawing their support since not all parties agree to this planned move by the government. While Mr. Cojuangco and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile had earlier manifested they had no objection to the withdrawal of the civil suit against SMC, the Philippine Coconut Producers Federation (Cocofed) opposed the move. “Considering the aforesaid “class action opposition to motion to withdraw complaint (by Cocofed),“herein defendants respectfully withdraw their aforesaid“ manifestation of conformity,” Mr. Cojuangco“s motion stated. Messrs. Cojuangco and Enrile, known associates of the late president Ferdinand E. Marcos, are accused of using coconut levy funds during the Marcos years to purchase SMC shares. Aside from them, Cocofed is also a party to the civil case, claiming it has a right over the 27% stake in SMC as the shares were allegedly bought using coconut levy funds that were collected from the coconut farmers during the Marcos administration. Last 10 January, the government, through the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), filed a motion with the Sandiganbayan seeking to withdraw one of the eight coconut levy cases involving the sequestered SMC shares. The PCGG filed a motion to withdraw complaint to give way to the sale of the sequestered shares as ordered by then president Joseph E. Estrada under Executive Order (EO) No. 313, signed last 8 Novembre. EO 313 seeks to privatize the government“s sequestered 27% stake in SMC by liquidating the assets. The proceeds of the sale would finance a revolving trust fund that would be created for coconut farmers. Last 18 January, Mr. Cojuangco filed his conformity with the PCGG“s move as he thought the planned dropping of the case had the support of other parties. But last 25 January, Cocofed filed its opposition with the Sandiganbayan, saying the government withdrawal of the case will unduly delay its resolution. Also, during the last hearing on the SMC case last 26 January, the PCGG told the anti-graft court the government, under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has other plans for the SMC shares. The PCGG had asked the Sandiganbayan to give it one month to decide whether to pursue the case. It is awaiting orders from the President, who has announced she has plans to amend or even revoke EO 313. The PCGG promised it would submit a manifestation with the court today on whether to pursue the SMC.

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