By Juan 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 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. ###
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