Reyza Ferranco

More than 30 years after the initial ruling, the Supreme Court has dismissed graft charges filed against former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile and other personalities for their alleged misuse of the P840 million coco levy fund during the Marcos Sr. dictatorship, citing that it violates their constitutional right to speedy disposition of cases. 

Photo Courtesy by Harshil Gudka/Unsplash / Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB

According to the Court’s 53-page decision published on February 8, the eight-year delay of preliminary investigation is not warranted, more so the overall decades-long ongoing case. 

“With this case pending for over 30 years and possibly more without the assurance of its resolution, the Court recognizes that the tactical disadvantages carried by the passage of time should be weighed against petitioner Republic and in favor of the respondents,” they stated.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) filed graft charges against Enrile, Jose Concepcion, Rolando dela Cuesta, Narciso Pineda, Danila Ursua, Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., Jose Eleazar Jr., Maria Clara Lobregat, and Augusto Orosa in February 1990. However, the initial investigation did not begin until October 1998.

The levy fund, intended for the development of the Philippine coconut industry, were collected from the taxes of coconut farmers under a program known as the Coconut Industry Development Fund (CIDF) during the term of dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. 

Coconut farmers and advocates have voiced their disapproval of the Court's decision, questioning the lack of farmer representation in the decision-making involving the coconut funds.

For Coconut Industry Reform Movement (CIRM) adviser Joey Faustino, the ruling is a tragedy for farmers as he questioned the existence of justice in the country.

“This is a tragedy sa ngalan ng hustisya dito sa ating bansa… Sino ang aasahan mo na mag-apela nitong mga kasong ito? Dahil kasalukuyang nasa administrasyon ‘yung mga taong involved dito,” Faustino said.