End To Blood-Letting?

by Juan L. Mercado

“I sinned by betraying innocent blood.’  Judas Iscariot’s scream  re-echoes every Holy Week for two millennia now. For 30  pieces of silver, Judas sold out his Friend who was crucified,

Innocent blood is still spilled here on Holy  Week 2012.  Ferdinand Marcos imposed Presidential Decree 276, in 1973. Thousands of farmers still go to their graves today clutching worthless coconut levy stock certificates.

PD 276 decreed “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 and valid way to steal”, wrote then columnist Antonio Carpio, now a Supreme  Court justice.

Under Marcos, Florendos got bananas and Roberto Benedicto oversaw sugar. Eduardo Cojuangco emerged as coconut czar while Juan Ponce Enrile served as martial law commissar.

Cojuangco’s party tried to impeach Chief Justice Hilario Davide after the Supreme Court declared coco levies as public funds. Until People Power II booted  out Erap, cronies slurped into the levy.

“Judas was a thief”. John wrote. “As keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”  By the 14th century, Canto 34 of Dante’s Inferno depicts Judas  chained to the lowest circle  reserved for Quislsings. In today’s dictionaries, his name is synonymous with traitor.

What was this man from the region of Kerioth  really like?  We first hear of Judas when Christ invites 12 men to “come, follow me.” Judas left family and home in response. Over the next three years, he’d hear the Galilean insist repeatedly: “A man’s life does not consist in abundance of his possessions,”

“From the Gospels, we know only about activities of 100 days from 12,045 days of Jesus life”, observers note. “Yet, we know almost everything he did every hour of his last seven days”.  In the first Holy Week, Judas reappears, at Bethany home of Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead.

He is aghast when Mary pours an alabaster jar of costly nard to anoint Jesus.. “The fragrance filled the whole house”. John  quotes Judas. ”Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred  denarii and given to the poor?”  Feigned anxiety for the poor masked greed. 

“Let her alone”, Jesus shushed Judas. ”She anointed  my body beforehand for burial.  Wherever the Gospel is preached…what  this woman did shall be spoken of.” In contrast, Judas is remembered as someone who knew the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

“Helpless to understand Christ, (Judas) believed in Him, much more than most of us do.” critic John Ruskin argues in The Crown of Wild Olive.  Having seen his miracles, he  figured  Jesus could shift for himself. So, he  might as well cash in too.  “Christ would come out of it well enough. And he Judas would  have his 30 pieces.”

Well, tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco also gets to keep his  16.2 million San Miguel Corporation shares — thanks to a majority of Arroyo justices in  today’s Supreme Court.

Under martial law, those  SMC shares were bought with coco levy funds wrung from United Coconut Planter’s Bank and  advances from  Coconut Industry Investment  Fund  (CIIF ) recalls   Inquirer in a  three part series: “Coconut Calvary”.  Peter merely robbed Paul. Still, the Court ruled  the shares  were “legally acquired” by Cojuangco.

“The joke of the century,” snapped then Justice Conchita Carpio Morales. Cojuangco “used for his personal benefit the very same funds entrusted to him. (These) were released to him through illegal and improper machination of loan transactions.   (His) contravention of corporation laws… indicate a clear violation of fiduciary duty.”

Indeed, Cojuangco’s stake in SMC was “built on the sweat of coconut farmers”, Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno wrote. “Prescription, laches or estoppel will not bar future action to recover unlawfully acquired property by public officials or dummies.”

When Judas, saw Jesus was condemned, he brought the money back to the chief priests. Cojuangco won’t return a centavo.   “What is that to us?”, the elders sneered.  Throwing down the coins in the temple, Judas departed… and hanged himself.”

“In Matthew’s account, the priests nitpick  ““This is the price of blood.  This money can not be put into the treasury.  So, they bought a potter’s field for a cemetery called Akeldama or “Field of Blood” to this day.”

Now 88, Juan Ponce Enrile is in a “legacy mode”, Inquirer reports. “It is no longer possible to give the (levy) back to the farmers.  He proposes Congress pass Senate Bill 2978 for Coconut Farmers Trust Fund.  The House counterpart is HB3443. These would liquify a 24 percent bloc of levy funds. The interest, collected at market rates,  will meet industry needs, including urgent replanting of aging plantations.

All eyes, however, are on President Aquino. Only he has the political and administrative clout to end four decades of  bleeding coconut farmers. Malacanang assures everyone  P-Noy  won’t buckle. This historical window-of-opportunity, however, won’t stay open long.

The Supreme Court issued, on March 16, an  “entry of judgement”: Cojuangco’s P56.3 billion of SMC shares is now “final.” Thus, SMC stock certificates in blank, found in a Malacanang vault when Marcos in Hawaii  “legally” belong to Cojuangco. Billionaries have the luxury of final judgements. Lowly PAL get “final decisions” reopened.

Judas left the  Last Supper to get his claim for 30 pieces.  That’d be the price for his  kiss  to  pinpoint Christ  for  arresting soldiers. “It was night”, the gospels  say.

(Email: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com)

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