In the 1986 Guinness Book of Records, Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos is the biggest thief in history. Perhaps Filipinos should also be on record as being the biggest fools in history – or maybe the most forgiving – or both. Not only did they allow the Marcoses to return to the Philippines, they also voted his son Bongbong to be Senator, his daughter Imee as Governor of Ilocos Norte Province and his wife Imelda as Congresswoman.
In 2001, the German gov’t, wanting to help Filipinos recover the enormous amounts of money Marcos stole, reported to the Philippine government – that Greggy Araneta and Irene Marcos Araneta were transferring billions of dollars from the UBS Swiss Bank in Switzerland to Germany. Former Solicitor General Frank Chavez reported the amount to be around $13.2 billion dollars. Joseph Estrada was then president. The news was stifled in the Philippines and there are no reports from the Estrada administration or the administrations after of any attempts by the Philippine government to recover this enormous amount for the people. But you can still Google this news item in the Internet.
About 2 1/2 months ago, in the British Virgin Islands, an account containing an obscene amount of money under the name of Sintra Trust established by a Mark Chua, said to be the boyfriend of Imee Marcos – was discovered by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The beneficiaries are Imee and her children.
Knowing that one third of Filipinos go to bed hungry at night and live in subhuman conditions, many well-meaning countries and entities try to help the Philippines recover the Marcos loot by providing vital information to the Philippine government. With its new laws, Switzerland has also made it easier now for countries to recover stolen money deposited there from dictators and other thieves.
But what is wrong with us? Are we really such a sick country that we are not taking advantage of all these opportunities to recover Marcos’ stolen wealth to help our people? Or is it because our national leaders and Presidents who were born well off – never felt the hunger pangs and the crushing desperation of our poor whose children must dig for scraps of food in smelly garbage cans to survive.
There appears to be no fire in the souls of our presidents to recover moneys that can significantly help our poor. Two previous ones even tried to funnel these funds to their own accounts. Early this year, PCGG Chairman even announced that they were ready to throw in the towel as far as the Marcos wealth goes. Does this not mean that the Marcoses won in getting away with their loot and the people lost? Well yes. On this earth maybe.
And now, this distortion: The country’s premiere university, the University of the Philippines – has renamed the UP College of Business Administration (CBA) as the Cesar E.A. Virata School of Business. Now who is Virata? He is many things including being a former scholar and Dean. But his most prominent identity is that he played a major role as Prime Minister in the corrupt oppressive Marcos government.
I acquired my Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from UP before I left for the United States for some graduate studies but instead wound up taking law in an American university when martial law was declared in the beloved homeland. As an alumnus, I am connected to the UP community one way or another. I want it to continue to improve in being a credible and effective respected institution of higher and even profound learning – benefiting our young people and the country.
Universities play an important role in the life of a nation and the lives of its citizens. They prepare our young people for the future by teaching them all the skills they need for the professions they have chosen. But before we can be good doctors, lawyers, engineers, nurses, accountants, entrepreneurs or whatever else – we must first learn to be good human beings. Otherwise, what we learn might be used to service the evil forces within us: greed, ego, lust, violence and the other deadly inclinations that bring out the worst in us.
As such, universities expose us to the best in human beings – requiring us to take subjects in the humanities: literature, art, philosophy, Western Thought, Eastern Thought, the different religions, etc. – with the hope that with these subjects and the guidance and examples of our professors and instructors – we can develop to our highest potentials: good thinkers, filled with integrity, competent in our professions, compassionate to our fellow human beings and courageously committed to intellectual and moral honesty.
Consider this: Like Hitler, Marcos could not have ruled for so long without the cooperation of so many Filipinos. He recruited people with good minds, some of whom were my classmates or friends at UP.
When an evil ruler takes over government and imposes all kinds of hardships upon the people, the moral obligation of good men and women – is to work for the downfall of that ruler – or the people continue to suffer. Logically, a person who not only knowingly closes his eyes, ears and mind to the darkness that has befallen the nation – and even joins the oppressive evil government enjoying its perks and privileges – cannot later plead innocence to the charge that he did not collaborate with that evil government.
To this day, many who were in Marcos’ government for a long time and even up to the end when he was kicked out of the country by the people – continue to justify themselves:
“I really thought that Marcos had good intentions and programs for the country so I joined.”
Pure bullshit! Bovine dung reasoning that stinks to the high heavens because it is an obvious blatant lie. Not only is it a non-credible plea of innocence citing a lack of awareness of Marcos’ abuses but also insults the intelligence of listeners.
Ivy League and other preppie guys with high IQs and impressive academics pretending to be idiots when it comes to being conscious of the imprisonment, tortures, salvaging, the massive Marcos stealing and other abuses going on during those evil times when they served the dictator – are a pathetic lot. They learned the skills on how to be good at their professions. But they did not learn how to be good human beings.
Joining the dictator’s government for idealistic reasons may have been a valid excuse for those who left when they became aware of the evils he was inflicting on the people in his desire to cling to power. But for those who stayed with Marcos to the very end, such an excuse is an obscene plain as day lie.
Some of the latter also claim that they stayed with Marcos to control his excesses. Another fabrication. They were an integral part of the excesses. If their hearts and minds were in the right places, they should instead have been involved in toppling the dictatorship – instead of helping to prop it up resulting in long continuous suffering for the people.
The engine that was running the greedy and brutal Marcos regime was composed of key military officials, high ranking bureaucrats and sycophantic politicians – fueled and blinded by rewards of money, privilege and position. The military imprisoned, tortured and killed for Marcos – causing the people to be afraid and intimidated. The bureaucrats provided the organization to maintain the regime’s existence. The politicians were there to give a semblance of democratic rule but in reality were professional Marcos ass kissers.
As Prime Minister, Cesar Virata played the role of both politician and top technocrat in the Marcos government bureaucracy. He was installed as Prime Minister by Marcos in 1981 and stayed on until Marcos was toppled in 1986. He held this position concurrent with his position of Finance Secretary which he held since 1970.
His time in these offices was marked by some economic advances but more failures as a matter of record. But his success or failure as an economic Tsar, his academic achievements and his mild mannered countenance – are not the issues discussed here. The issue is his long term participation and collaboration with an evil regime.
Why did Marcos appoint him as Prime Minister? At the time of his appointment, the Marcos government had lost all credibility – locally and internationally. Marcos’ and Imelda’s reputation as a corrupt conjugal ruling couple had become common global knowledge. The jails were full of political prisoners. The economy was hemorrhaging.
Virata then tried to explain the economic problems in usual macro-economic terms: The price of oil had increased; The peso to dollar exchange rate became unfavorable; Collecting taxes was a problem; etc.
The real reasons: The Marcos government had lost all credibility. Marcos had become President for life by declaring martial law using a bogus supposed assassination attempt by the communists on his Defense Minister as an excuse. Issues on the government’s legitimacy and the regime’s reputation for corruption and oppression of political oppositionists – drove foreign investors away.
No new industries were coming in to stir the economy to create new jobs. The country also borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars which Virata helped to secure much of which went into Marcos’ personal coffers. Lucrative government contracts went to Marcos cronies who also controlled and monopolized the coconut and sugar industries.
The tourism industry went dead as it usually does when a country is ruled by a non-benevolent dictator. So many other reasons related to the loss of credibility of Marcos and his government resulted in profuse bleeding for the economy.
Essentially, Marcos brought in the mild mannered non-flashy soft spoken Virata as Prime Minister in an attempt to give credibility to his rule – to give the impression that it was not a one man rule and that a gentle faced Wharton man known internationally in finance circles shared power with him. At that time in 1981, Virata had been with Marcos as his Finance Secretary since 1970.
As such, being an intelligent man, it is not the case that he could not have been aware of all the lies, the abuses, the corruption, the imprisonment, tortures, murders and other heinous crimes that Marcos were committing against the Filipino people. He knew that Marcos became President for life based on deceit. He knew that the innocent Benigno Aquino was languishing in jail because he was the main contender to be president. Even when Aquino was assassinated in 1983 – Virata continued to loyally serve Marcos. He closed his eyes to all these evils.
The undeniable fact is that this low keyed even likable scholarly quiet man served to deodorize, to legitimatize and to prop up the illegitimate Marcos regime for a good 16 years until the people brought Marcos down together with him. Undeniably, he cooperated and collaborated as a major player with an evil government enabling it to survive for so long – imposing all kinds of hardships on the people.
To this day, the Filipino people continue to suffer from the after effects of the Marcos era. The method and technology of massive corruption utilized by Marcos has been culturally institutionalized and used as a model by corrupt national and local leaders. The President previous to this one is detained in a hospital charged with all kinds of Marcos type corrupt practices.
If Marcos men like Virata had listened to their deepest selves and had not numbed their moral senses to the evil surrounding them – the Marcos regime might not have lasted as long as it did. In a very real de facto and de jure way, by being a major player in the Marcos regime, notwithstanding his image as a Wharton trained technocrat, Virata was as much a part of the oppression of the people as Marcos was.
While unlike Marcos’ worst torturers-executioners Colonels Rolando Abadilla and Rodolfo Aguinaldo, he may not have twiddled the knobs that sent volts of electricity to their victims’ genitals or choked them to death with barbed wire – perhaps he bears a bigger fault responsibility because he had a more superior intelligence and education than these brutes.
His deafening silence on these ongoing brutalities was a tacit approval of the demonic means utilized by the dictator to stay in power. Some of Hitler’s brightest technocrats similarly came from the best European universities. The Nazi regime’s brilliant main architect Albert Speer could not escape conviction at the Nuremberg trials by claiming that he was just being an architect.
Just like Virata to Marcos, he was very close to the Fuehrer whom he served coincidentally also for 16 years. Speer was an intelligent reality savvy man and the Nuremberg judges sensed that he knew of the dictatorship’s horrible crimes against humanity. Not only did he keep his silence – he continuously played a major role in supporting the regime – instead of seeking its collapse or at the least not cooperate with it – as any decent human being should have done.
Many from UP including Ninoy Aquino and other schools were detained, imprisoned, tortured and killed by the Marcos regime because of their resistance to his evil government. These courageous patriots suffered and some died for the freedom of the Filipino people – expressing the best sentiments in the human spirit. They deserve to be honored and not insulted. Virata shares a responsibility for the great harm that was done to them and their families.
It is a terrible insult to them and to the UP faculty and alumnus and the studentry and the Filipino people – that a few influential Virata supporters and apologists were able to manage and manuever the naming of a major College in the country’s premiere University after him. This certainly does not reflect the best sentiments of the UP community and the citizenry. It reeks of intellectual and moral dishonesty that has no place in a university like UP or any university for that matter.
The very fact that a rush was made to name a major UP College after him – and that it is the only one among 60 or so UP Colleges, Schools and Institutes named after a person – living or dead – is by itself a tacit triggered subliminal admission from the man and his supporters that he needs to be redeemed.
Ironically, seeking to redeem and sanitize his role in the Marcos dictatorship by naming the UP College of Business Administration after him – will not bring him redemption but only subject his memory to continuous ridicule. One redeems himself by doing something good in making up for the wrong he has done. That may not be possible if like the Marcoses, Virata feels that he has done nothing wrong during the Marcos years. He does not get redemption by being cloaked with a dubious honor.
The flimsiest reasons were given by CBA Dean Ben Paul Gutierrez, a Virata supporter, in justifying renaming the College after Virata, essentially that: He was a former Dean; During his term, certain faculty members got scholarships to the U.S.; He served in government; The students of CBA approved of the name change.
The same could be said of many former Deans from the UP College of Engineering, Medicine, Law, Education, etc. Are any of these Colleges being renamed after them? As to the students of the CBA approving the renaming – they certainly would be under duress if they went against their Dean’s campaign for Virata. Moreover the students were not yet born or at least not old enough to have a first hand experience of the horrors of the Marcos era. These reasons were given simply because reasons needed to be given to rename the CBA after him. There are more valid compelling reasons not to rename the College after him.
The UP Board of Regents decision to rename a major UP College after a Marcos collaborator should not be based on a localized push by a probably well-meaning grateful to Virata Dean of the CBA utilizing a limited number of students to support his cause. This is an important issue affecting the entire University and the nation. The input of the entire University alumni, the faculty, studentry and Filipino citizens from everywhere – should be considered in deciding this issue.
We ought to be all together in the effort of trying to do the right thing: trying to create a better country; trying to create a better University of the Philippines; trying to have sensitivity on moral propriety and respect for the martyrs who died for the cause of freedom.
This is not even a case of Virata and company and the Board of Regents against whoever. We are all in this sacred work together including Virata. I believe that if he were to listen and be true to his deepest self, he would realize that this issue is more important to the nation and UP than ego based inclinations. Hopefully then, he will humbly request – for the College not to be renamed after him. There is more true honor in quietly doing the right thing than building statues or memorials to one’s self.
I have nothing personal against Mr. Virata or even against the Marcoses even if I do blame them for causing so many Filipinos to suffer and be victimized by their egos and selfish blindness. I don’t hate them. I hate their sins. In absolute terms, only God who knows everything can be their ultimate judge. Our lives are short. We only have so much time to do the right thing. I can only wish them well and hope they find their true redemption.
God was good to them in having them become a part of a very forgiving and forgetful people. If they had been in Libya, Romania, Italy and other countries, they would have been hanged, torn to pieces or riddled with bullets. For this great grace and mercy alone, they should thank God and the Filipino people and truly redeem themselves with both. They should do all the good they can for the Filipino people using all the resources and talents at their disposal while they still have the time and opportunity. I pray for their true redemption.
However, if Mr. Virata continues to want the UPCBA to be named after him, in my standing as a UP alumnus and as a Filipino citizen, on my own and on behalf of those who wish to express similar sentiments – I strongly protest the renaming of the CBA after Mr. Virata – and urge the UP Board of Regents to reconsider its decision in the general interest of the University and the Filipino people.
I also respectfully request President Benigno Aquino II in his capacity as chief executive – to rescind the renaming of the UPCBA after Mr. Virata in respect for those who suffered and the martyrs including his father who died during the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship.
Note: Atty. Ted Laguatan is a human rights lawyer based in San Francisco, California. He is officially certified and honored by the California State Bar as one of the best Immigration Law lawyers in the United States. He asks that if you agree with the views expressed, to eblast this article far and wide and ask the recipients to do the same.