End to Bloodletting?

Juan MercadoBy Juan Mercado

MANILA

“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 best friend  who  was crucified.

Innocent  blood  is still spilled here on Holy  Week 2012.  Since Ferdinand Marcos imposed  Presidential Decree 276, in 1973, thousands of  farmers   go  to their  graves 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. 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  <D>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. “A man’s life does not consist in abundance of his possessions,” he’d hear the Galilean repeat over the next three years.

“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”. Judas  reappears, in the first Holy Week, 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<D>.  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 keeps  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<D> 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.”

Does that  resemble 3O pieces of silver? . When Judas, saw that Jesus was condemned, he brought  the money back  to the chief priests and  elders.  “What is that to us?”, they said. “See to it yourself.  Throwing down the coins  in the temple, Judas  departed… and hanged himself.”

“This is the price of  blood,”.the priests nitpick   in Matthew’s  account.  “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 <D>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 spokespersons  assure everyone  the President 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.

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

  (  Email: <D>juan_mercado77@yahoo.com )

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