Thousand ‘N One Thieves

by Juan L. Mercado


“Scientists called it “the tree of 999 uses” for  food, roofing, even  toothpicks. President  Benigno  Aquino presented the coconut’s  1,000th use  as export  jackpot in his State of the Nation Address The  Philippines sold 16.7 million liters  of coconut water last year

“Why  are the stars are all going coconut: about this now popular sport’s drink?” asked  Jill Foster of   UK’s  Daily  Mail.    “Gwyneth Paltrow  says drinking it as an ‘on-the-go snack’ helps keep her slim. Madonna bought a company that makes it. Hollywood stars Demi Moore and Matthew McConaughey are devotees.”

Nutrition coach Berardi  repeats  what  scientists stress :  “Each serving  has four to five times less sugar compared with cola or  fruit juice. It’s  a good source of Vitamins C and B, plus  protein, calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium.. There’s also  nutrients called cytokinins. Some say  it slows  ageing, even whittle  risk of cancer.

Thus, “coco water is taking off as the post-exercise drink of choice with ordinary mortals”, Foster adds.  One UK firm reported “a 600 per cent jump in sales in 12 weeks”.

Here, the coconut towers in 68 of 79 provinces  and  sprawls  over 27 percent of agricultural land. Coco water sales topped  $11.2 million in the first six months of this year. That’s  double what  we marketed  last year.

Agriculture Department  proposes  a  47 percent hike for coconuts in it’s  2013 budget, Secretary Proceso Alcala  reveals. That’d  tap growing demand  also for  virgin coconut oil  and coconut sap sugar.

If used well,  that  cash infusion could boost what is emerging as the thousand and one use of coconut.

“Coconut oil attacks bacteria behind tooth decay”, scientists  from Ireland’s Athlone Institute of Technology, told  a  Society for General Microbiology’s conference at University of Warwick. It may anchor a 21st  century spread of new dental products.

“Our data (has) implications  how bacteria colonize cells lining the digestive tract and (affect) overall gout health,”adds” AIT’s  Damien Brady.  Today’s germs increasingly beat back anti-biotics.  ” We (must) turn our attention to new ways to combat microbial infection.

Athlone researchers compared impact of oil from coconut, vegetables and olive, in their natural states and when treated with enzyme. The later resembles human  digestion. “Only enzyme-modified coconut oil inhibited growth of most bacteria, British Broadcasting Corporation reported.  “It attacked streptococcus mutants, an acid-producing bacterium which ravages teeth.

Last National Oral Health Survey we skimmed reported nine out of 10  Grade I students here suffer from tooth decay. Among Grade VI students, the rate was 82 percent.  This problem undergirds  government’s effort to tap into the coconut. “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” the philosopher Seneca wrote.

A thousand and one thieves, however, crippled the coconut industry here. Look at the track record.

Presidential Decree  276 ruled “coco levies” were owned by cronies “in their private capacities.” By stroke of a dictator’s pen, taxes morphed into individual loot. If PD 276 is not scrubbed as unconstitutional, “Marcos found a legal way to steal,” wrote then columnist Antonio Carpio, now  Supreme Court justice.

Under Marcos, Floirendos got bananas, and Roberto Benedicto oversaw sugar. Eduardo Cojuangco emerged as coconut czar. Cojuangco’s party tried – but failed —  to impeach Chief Justice Hilario Davide after the Supreme Court declared coco levies were public funds. Erap’s cronies slurped into the levy.

Thanks to Arroyo justices in today’s Supreme Court, Cojuangco got to keep 16.2 million San Miguel shares, bought with  funds chipped in by small farmers. The Court issued, March 16, an “entry of judgment”:  Cojuangco’s P56.3-billion SMC shares are now “final.” Thus, SMC stock certificates in blank, abandoned in a Malacañang vault when Marcos scrammed for Hawaii exile, “legally” belong to Cojuangco.

“Joke of the century,” snapped then Justice Conchita Carpio Morales. Cojuangco “used for his personal benefit the very same funds entrusted to him..” Cojuangco’s stake in SMC was “built on the sweat of coconut farmers,” now Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno wrote. “Prescription, laches or estoppel will not bar future action to recover unlawfully acquired property by public officials or dummies”.

Seven associate justices didn’t attend the first meeting  presided over by Serreno, Inquirer reported.  “Majority of the justices were  questioning Sereno’s capability and experience to lead the judiciary.”   Fine. This is a free country.

But how many of those no shows voted for the “joke of the century” in the coconut levy?  A  judicial robe does not disguise hypocrisy.  Embroidered phylacteries didn’t spare Pharisees from denunciation by the Master. “An ounce of hypocrisy is worth a pound of ambition”.

Scientist  Jurgenne Primavera, in her book on coastal flora wrote: “Ownership and control of coco levy funds “shifted over 40 years under four presidents. It swung “from presidential associates (coco levy cronies) during martial law to government by sequestration (after People Power).”  “Then, it favored farmers” through Davide Court decisions, “back to presidential associates with negotiated settlements.”  The disgraced Corona Court winked at Cojuangco pocketing small coco farmer levies.

“How did P150 billion from half a million farmers end up in the pockets of so few?” Primavera wondered. It happens when a thousand and one thieves are on the loose.


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