SC: Danding Cojuangco rightful owner of 20% of SMC

James Ryan Jonas

Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco is the rightful owner of the contested 20% shares of San Miguel Corporation (SMC), the Philippine Supreme Court ruled with finality today.

The Supreme Court (SC) struck down the appeal of the government, represented by the Philippine Commission on Good Governance (PCGG), saying the petitioner failed to substantiate its claim that the SMC shares were part of Cojuangco’s ill-gotten wealth allegedly acquired during the reign of ex-President Ferdinand Marcos.

Danding Cojuangco, the 10th richest Filipino in 2010, was an officer and board member of the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) when he acquired 20% stocks of the SMC conglomerate.

In the 1980s, UCPB was the administrator for a group of companies that owned a block of shares in SMC totaling 27%. The companies were formed using coco levy funds, or taxes collected from coconut farmers during the time of Marcos.

The PCGG had alleged that when Cojuangco bought his 20% stake, he allegedly used coco levy funds.

In November 2007, the Sandiganbayan ruled in favor of Cojuangco, citing the government’s failure to show credible proof that the SMC shares were acquired illegally.

The PCGG went to the Supreme Court to seek a reversal but on April 12, 2011, the SC upheld the Sandiganbayan ruling and awarded Cojuangco the contested shares.

The government appealed the decision but the SC affirmed today its original ruling and deemed Cojuangco the rightful owner of 20% of SMC.

This decision will surely jack up Danding’s networth as his SMC shares will now be in his name. He will most probably be included again in the Top 10 Richest Filipinos list by Forbes magazine to be released next month.

The SMC stock was actively traded today, closing at P114.00, up from P113.80 yesterday. More than P151 million worth of SMC shares changed hands in today’s trading.

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James Ryan Jonas teaches business management, investments, and entrepreneurship at the University of the Philippines (UP). He is also the Executive Director of UP Provident Fund Inc., managing and investing P3.2 Billion ($56.4 Million) worth of retirement funds on behalf of thousands of UP employees.