Press Release
April 22, 2016

Recto: 4Ps and coco levy may make it as P-Noy's 'midnight laws'

If there is midnight appointment, why not "good" midnight legislation?

According to Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Congress may still enact the 4Ps Institutionalization Bill and the Coco Levy Bill into law since it has three more weeks of session days before a new President is sworn into office.

The key, Recto said, is for presidential and vice presidential candidates to stand united on these issues and marshal their forces in Congress for the timely enactment of the twin measures.

"Call it midnight laws or whatever. The fact remains that we, in Congress, can work overtime if need be, just to ensure the passage of the bills on 4Ps and Coco Levy," Recto said.

To expedite the passage of the twin measures, Recto proposed that legislative members who are gunning for the top two positions in government can be co-sponsors of the two landmark pieces of social legislation.

"Lahat sila, pareho naman ang sinasabi sa sorties, debates and interviews. Na dapat isabatas ang pagsasauli ng coconut levy at gawing permanente ang Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, o yung Programang Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino (4Ps). They're reading from the same page," Recto said.

Recto said "there is still time to pass the two bills before the curtains fall on this Congress."

"And all the actors in the presidential and VP race are either members of the Senate or the House, or have kin in the Senate, or have a senator as running mate," Recto said.

Presidential candidates Grace Poe and Miriam Defensor Santiago are incumbent senators while Vice President Jojo Binay's daughter, Nancy is a sitting senator like Alan Peter Cayetano, running mate of Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

In addition to Cayetano, four other vice presidential aspirants are members of the Senate club: Gregorio Honasan, of Binay's UNA party; Chiz Escudero, who teamed up with Poe; Bongbong Marcos, running mate of Santiago; and independent candidate Antonio Trillanes IV, who is supporting Poe.

The sole member of the House in the VP field is Leni Robredo of the Liberal Party. "Si Leni representative ni Mar. Si Binay dalawa kinatawan, si Gringo at si Nancy, while Digong can be ably represented by Alan Peter, who is our Majority Floor Leader," Recto said.

"Kung sino man manalo sa kanila, pag-upo pa lang, may batas na," the senator added. Recto said the two measures can be approved during the three-week post-election window.

Both houses of Congress will reconvene on May 23 for a three-week session that will end in June 10, or 20 days before the new president is sworn into office. Though dismissed as a lameduck session, Recto would rather call it "a time to create a legacy."

While work in the three weeks include canvassing the returns and proclaiming the presidential and vice presidential winners, there is time to cinch approval for the measures, Recto insists.

"Pagkatapos ng eleksyon sa Mayo, balik trabaho sa Senado at House. Kaya ang pwede pagpuyatan ay ang CCT at coco levy bills. We have three weeks to do it and in lawmaking, that's enough time to finalize a bill," he said.

Two bills by Recto institutionalizing the CCT "are on the final stretch of committee deliberation," the senator explained, "Tapos na, report na lang ang kulang."

The committee to which it was referred--Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development--is chaired by Sen. Nancy Binay.

Recto said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Juliano Soliman has requested Malacañang to officially back the measure, a move that will speed up its approval.

In her Aug. 11, 2015 letter to President Aquino, Soliman said CCT's institutionalization will guarantee "that poor households shall continue to enjoy better education and health outcomes for an improved quality of life."

Recto said the bills would provide a "lasting legal framework" to CCT's operation and protect it from "any shift in political winds."

Recto filed Senate Bills 1152 and 2954 in July 2013 and September 2015 to define the 4Ps' scope, objectives, program grants and conditionalities, monitoring and evaluation.

As to the coco levy measure, Recto explained that the consolidated bill he and Sen. Cynthia Villar authored was about to be approved on second reading when Malacañang suddenly issued twin orders governing its use in March last year.

"Parang ang nangyari, Malacañang pulled the rug underneath it. It jumped the gun on the legislature as a whole," Recto said.

Executive Order 179 provided for the inventory, privatization and transfer of coco levy assets in favor of government while Executive Order 180 mandated the transfer of the funds to government for an "Integrated Coconut Industry Roadmap Program."

However, in May last year, the SC, acting on a farmers' group plea, issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) stopping their implementation.

"Thirty years have passed and the farmers are still waiting for the money, the fund is still frozen, and the implementation of the executive orders mandating its use has been stopped by the courts," Recto said.

Birthed by Republic Act 6260, and expanded by four Marcos decrees, the coco levy was imposed on copra sales purportedly to raise capital investment for the coconut industry.

By 1986, the total amount collected from the various coconut levies from 1971 to 1982 amounted to P9.7 billion. In the aftermath of EDSA I, the amount was sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), which also triggered a long legal struggle for its ownership.

On May 7, 2004, the Sandiganbayan rendered a partial summary judgment declaring that the six Coconut Industry Investment Fund - Oil Mills Group (CIIF-OMG) companies, their 14 holding firms, and the CIIF-OMG block of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) shares as "owned by the Government in trust for all the coconut farmers."

The Supreme Court (SC), in its decision dated Jan. 24 2012, upheld the Sandiganbayan ruling.

On the same year, the SMC shares amounting to P57.6 billion were paid for by San Miguel.

The total amount of coco levy fund released for public dispensation was estimated to be worth P71 billion including interest when the SC issued the ruling.

Following the SC order, bills were filed in the House and the Senate on how to judiciously and transparently dispose the levy for the benefit of coconut farmers.

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