The Supreme Court has stopped the Makati City Regional Court from acting on the case filed by the United Coconut Planters Life Assurance Corporation against the government to cash in on their claim on the more than P1.6-billion worth of shares in San Miguel Corporation.
In a resolution, the SC also gave the Cocolife a period of 10 days from notice within which to answer the petition of the Presidential Commission on Good Government.
The PCGG, through Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, said that the Makati City RTC committed grave abuse of discretion when it denied the government's bid to dismiss the case filed against it by Cocolife.
It explained that in acting on the case filed by Cocolife to stake its claim over portions of the 24-percent block shares in SMC, the RTC "effectively reviewed the consolidated decision of the Honorable Court declaring that Coconut Industry Investment Fund companies, the 14 Holding Companies and the CIIF block of SMC shares are owned by the government to be used only for the benefit of the coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry."
Assuming that there is still no SC ruling, Jardeleza said that the Makati City RTC has no authority to hear ill-gotten wealth cases.
He said that only the Sandiganbayan has that authority.
"PCGG is entitled to the relief demanded which consists in restraining respondent Judge from further hearing the case. Indeed, respondent Judge encroached on the exclusive authority of the Sandiganbayan to hear cases involving ill-gotten assets," Jardeleza said in the petition.
The Cocolife would like the amount to be deducted from the coco levy fund which the SC already declared as belonging to the government.
However, the government insisted that the case has dragged on for 25 years, "Cocolife should have taken the necessary steps and made known its alleged interest" and not wait for the case to reach the SC and become final and executory.
The Cocolife wants to be declared a proportionate owner of the CIIF companies, the 14 CIIF Holding Companies and the CIIF block of SMC shares.
In its decision, the Sandiganbayan said that the 14 CIIF holding companies used borrowed funds from United Coconut Planters Bank to acquire the SMC shares in the aggregate amount of P1.656 billion.*PNA