COJUANGCO ASKS SUPREME COURT TO REVERSE RULING ON UPCB

Manila, July 30, 2003 By Delon Porcalla (Star) Businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. asked the Supreme Court yesterday to reverse a recent Sandiganbayan ruling nullifying his stake in United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), saying the anti-graft court "breached its limited authority."

"The partial summary judgment was rendered in violation of Cojuangco’s right to procedural due process. The rules on summary judgment curtailed the right to be heard," Cojuangco said in a petition.

"There is no trial. Witnesses are not presented. No cross-examination is made. The credibility of witnesses may not be effectively assessed. For these reasons, if the right to procedural due process is not to be violated, the rules governing summary judgment must be strictly followed."

On July 11, the Sandiganbayan ruled that Cojuangco’s stake in UCPB — now First United Bank — was acquired illegally using levies imposed on coconut farmers during the regime of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The ruling is seen to give the government an advantage in its dispute with Cojuangco over shares in brewer San Miguel Corp. which the government maintains were bought using levy funds. Cojuangco is chairman of San Miguel.

Cojuangco argued his side was not heard and said the case "could only have been resolved in a full-blown trial" instead of a summary judgment proceeding.

"The Sandiganbayan decision is not yet final. It goes through a process. It’s a very weak decision, even the Supreme Court reverses itself. I’m not giving up hope because even the Supreme Court reconsiders its decisions," Cojuangco lawyer Estelito Mendoza told reporters in an interview.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), which filed the case 15 years ago, is confident the Supreme Court would uphold the Sandiganbayan, whose ruling was based on a Supreme Court 2001 decision that declared the levy funds as "prima facie public funds."

The PCGG is an independent agency formed in 1986 by then President Corazon Aquino to go after illegally acquired wealth during the 20-year Marcos dictatorship.

UCPB has a 27-percent voting bloc in San Miguel, while chief executive Cojuangco controls 20 percent. The government contends that Cojuangco’s share should also be controlled by the state.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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