PALACE: NO SQUEEZE PLAY ON DANDING; BUNYE ON RP BACKING IRAQ WAR
Manila, July 14, 2003 By Jose Rodel Clapano (Star) Malacañang brushed aside yesterday claims by opposition Sen. Edgardo Angara that businessman Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco is a victim of an Arroyo administration-inspired "squeeze play."
In a radio interview, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye insisted that there is no politics behind the Sandiganbayan’s ruling that Cojuangco’s 95,304 shares in the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB), which allegedly came from the government’s 72.2 percent stake in the bank, were "conclusively owned by the Republic of the Philippines."
Bunye said that the coconut levy case had been pending for the last 16 years in the Sandiganbayan and all the defendants in the case, including Cojuangco, were given ample time to explain their side.
Bunye pointed out that in December 2001, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that declared the coconut levy funds "prima facie public funds."
"Based on this ruling, the Sandiganbayan was tasked to make a decision on the eight coconut levy-related cases, including the ownership of shares in the coconut levy. The accusations that there is politics in the Sandiganbayan’s decision is very much far-fetched because the case has long been pending in court," Bunye said.
He added that the Supreme Court’s December 2001 ruling also required the Sandiganbayan to decide on the coconut levy case within six months.
"Maybe because of the maneuverings, there was this delay, which also indicates that this case underwent long and thorough processes," Bunye said.
He said that President Arroyo will be leaving for the Visayas next week to release benefits due to some "identified beneficiaries of the coconut levy fund."
Earlier, Angara said that "timing and motivation" of the anti-graft court ruling on Cojuangco’s UCPB shares "are suspect."
"It shows that the administration is vindictive and is after him," he said.
Angara, president of Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), noted that the case involving coconut levy funds has been pending for more than 16 years, but that it was decided only now because Cojuangco wants to run for president again.
But he pointed out that the Sandiganbayan decision won’t adversely affect the billionaire businessman and client of the famous law office he founded since Cojuangco was claiming ownership to only 20 percent of the coconut levy funds.
Angara also said the businessman’s ongoing consultations "are clear signs of his pursuits of the highest position in the land."
He said the squeeze play being applied on him would prompt him to reveal his decision soon.
Angara also said most members of his LDP, the dominant opposition party, would want to choose Cojuangco as their standard-bearer in next year’s presidential elections.
Cojuangco is conducting consultations with party members on who they want to be their presidential candidate. He was in Mindanao last Friday.
Angara admitted that Cojuangco, chairman of food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp. is also his personal preference.
Angara said besides Cojuangco, the field of choice of LDP members include their party mate Sen. Panfilo Lacson and actor Fernando Poe Jr., if the latter decides to join the presidential race.
Bunye: History will judge RP in backing US-led war on Iraq
Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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