Controversial business magnate and politician Danding Cojuangco dies at 85

San Miguel Corporation (SMC) Chairman and chief executive officer Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr. one of the most prominent figures in Philippine business and politics, died of pneumonia and heart failure last night. He was 85 years old.

Cojuangco’s death was confirmed by SMC President Ramon Ang in a text message sent to Bloomberg this morning. The tycoon, known for his involvement in the coco levy fund controversy, died at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City.

Despite being a cousin of late former president Corazon Aquino, Cojuangco was a staunch supporter of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Critics have accused Cojuangco of acquiring ill-gotten wealth during Marcos’ martial law era, but he was never jailed or convicted.

Between the 1973 and 1982, Cojuangco along with fellow Marcos crony Juan Ponce Enrile were accused of conspiring to tax farmers to supposedly develop the coconut industry, collecting billions in the controversial coco levy fund scam. Cojuangco was accused of funneling the funds to leverage several of his businesses, including purchasing a majority stake at SMC.

Cojuangco ran for president in 1992, but lost to Fidel Ramos, one of Marcos’ former generals. Cojuangco founded and chaired the Nationalist People’s Coalition, a political party that same year. Prior to his failed presidential bid, he worked as the governor and congressman of Tarlac, his home province.

A sports fanatic, Cojuangco owned three teams in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), the country’s professional league: San Miguel Beermen, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, and Magnolia Hotshots.

The PBA paid its respect to Cojuangco in a tweet, and thanked him for his “countless contribution to the PBA and Philippine sports.”

SMC, one of the country’s largest food and beverage corporation, acknowledged the passing of their chairman and CEO in a statement sent to reporters, tipping its hat to Cojuangco, who has helmed the company since July 7, 1998.

Cojuangco celebrated his 85th birthday last June 10. He is survived by his children Mark, Charlie, Tina, and Lisa, and his former wife Gretchen.

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UPDATE: This article has been updated to clarify details of Cojuangco’s involvement in the coco levy fund.

This article, Controversial business magnate and politician Danding Cojuangco dies at 85, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!