‘Slap in the face of heroes’: What removing historical figures from the P1,000 bill means

Rose Carmelle Lacuata, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 14 2021 01:11 AM | Updated as of Dec 14 2021 03:11 PM

Handout from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas
Handout from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

MANILA—Following the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' (BSP) unveiling of the new design for the polymer P1,000 banknote to be released next year, some groups disapproved of removing the World War II Filipino martyrs depicted on it.

On Saturday, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno revealed the new design to reporters, showing a Philippine eagle replacing Josefa Llanes-Escoda, Gen. Vicente Lim and Jose Abad Santos, supposedly part of the BSP's focus on flora and fauna.

WWII historian Dr. Ricardo Jose of the University of the Philippines said this was a "slap in the face" of these heroes, who "paid with their lives" for the welfare of their countrymen and the country.

"Currency is one way of honoring prominent people in one country. The fact that you see them every day when you use the bill is one way of remembering who they are. It also serves as a teaching tool. Of course, teachers can show the bill," Jose told ANC.

"If they are removed, to me it's a slap on the face of the heroes themselves. I felt that these heroes are probably turning in their graves and they might be wondering what happened, what has happened to the country."

Jose acknowledged being "so angry" over the redesign.

"I was already composing my thoughts on how to write, what to write about this. These three individuals, they suffered, they paid with their lives for the country, and to replace them with the Philippine eagle? The Philippine eagle did not die for the Philippines. The Philippine eagle had no historical significance," he said.

"These 3 people who are in the P1,000 bill right now, all stand for different aspects of Philippine society. Gen. Lim, the military. Jose Abad Santos, the government. Josefa Llanes-Escoda for the civil sector and women.

"So in one bill you have 3 people representing 3 different sectors of the Philippines and you will just replace them with one eagle."

He believes the decision dishonors the memory of these martyrs.

"They were all career officials and during World War II, rather than succumb to the Japanese, rather than give up, they fought back, and they all paid with their lives," Jose said.

"To replace them with one eagle is not doing them justice. The P1,000 is a teaching tool by itself. Just by looking at that, you can see all these aspects of Philippine history represented there."

Prof. Michael Charleston "Xiao" Chua of the De La Salle University also expressed concern at the attempt to change the personalities in the banknotes, because they are not even politicians.

"I am so concerned with this because, first, how far will they go in removing the personalities? Will they just remove the politicians? Josefa Llanes-Escoda, Vicente Lim and Jose Abad Santos were not politicians. They were martyrs, and the bad thing about it is also is these 3 people who gave so much to the country, these three people still do not have their graves. We do not even have their graves. We do not know where they are," Chua explained.

"How far will they go? Will they also remove Jose Rizal? Will they also remove Andres Bonifacio? Apolinario Mabini? That will not sit well because we've always had Rizal for the longest time. He's represented the Philippine peso. How far will they go if they start this?"

Chua said there was no need to change the historical figures on the bill, since the BSP has already redesigned some of the bills without doing so.

"They've made the changes without changing the person there so I guess they could also do that without changing it. I don't know if it's meant to shock people, to show this and get if the people would swallow it or would accept it. I guess they have the reasons they put out that poster," he said.

Llanes-Escoda founded Girl Scouts of the Philippines, and was active in several charitable activities even before the war. When war broke out, she collected food and other items for prisoners of war, which eventually led to her arrest and execution.

Lim is the first Filipino graduate of the United States Military Academy in West Point, which, according to Jose, was not easy because of racial discrimination.

Abad Santos was the chief justice of the Supreme Court and was among the Philippine officials left behind in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked in 1941. He was eventually captured and executed.

"Again these symbols that we have here are historic, they're heritage, they are people that can serve as examples, that the youth can emulate and follow. And teachers can always stress these are people who you should look up to. They are the epitome of patriots and all of these. So if you take them out, that shows how lax we are, or how we look down on history, how we no longer prize our heroes," he said.

"To me that's a very sad thing that we reject our past."

Diokno earlier said the new design of the P1,000 bill was approved by the NHI or the National Historical Institute, the old name of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

Jose said he contacted the NHCP and he was informed that there were no consultations made with historians.

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NHCP Chairman Rene Escalante also confirmed to ABS-CBN News that they were not consulted on the issue.

Jose said there used to be a historian on the BSP Monetary Board, but he was not sure who the BSP consulted on the issue of who or what to put in the currency.

"Whether they should consult with the National Historical Commission or not, I'm not sure if that's part of their process, but I think it should be part of it because the National Historical Commission is the official government agency that looks into historical matters," he said.

"I think it should be transparent. I think everyone should be allowed to see what goes on."

Diokno, in a tweet on Saturday, did not mention the NHI or the NHCP when he said the new design has already been approved by the Monetary Board and the Office of the President.

He, however, mentioned the NHI in his message to reporters.

The new bills are scheduled for circulation in April 2022.