“It is bad enough that the BSP misspelled the scientific name of the Philippine eagle, but, it is even worse that it erased very important historical figures from the new banknotes, in effect also denigrating their historical contribution in the defense of our freedoms and the fight against foreign aggression,” he said.
The University of the Philippines’ Department of History strongly denounced the BSP move to replace the country’s World War II heroes with the image of the Philippine eagle on the face of the banknote.
In a statement, the UP department said the BSP should have initiated public consultation first before removing the faces of Jose Abad Santos, Josefa Llanes-Escoda, and Gen. Vicente Lim in the new edition of the bill.
It added that the National Historical Commission of the Philippines should have been the first to be consulted on the matter.
“The removal of the images of these three heroes from the new design of the ₱1,000 bill is a slap on the face of our heroes,” the statement read.
“It appears that by this act the BSP is not only disregarding the Filipino symbol of its quest for nationhood and what it means through our heroes; the BSP is also trivializing this symbol,” it added.
The department also likened the BSP’s move to the issuance of the controversial “Mickey Mouse money” by the Japanese government at the outbreak of World War II, in an attempt to make currency for the country. Filipinos previously coined the term due to its lack of value.
“Ironically, the one parallel moment when a ₱1,000 bill was issued without public consultation and without the faces of Philippine heroes was the ₱1,000 bill issued during the Japanese occupation: the classic Mickey Mouse money bill,” the department said.
“Today, in the twenty-first century, under Filipino auspices, through the BSP, that act is being mindlessly repeated,” the UP group added.
Meanwhile, relatives of the war heroes whose faces are planned to removed from the P1,000 bill were angered by the plan, Rappler reported.
“It’s like killing these three people again, and it’s more painful than what the Japanese did, because the ones that are redesigning the banknote are Filipinos,” Jose Maria Bonifacio Escoda, a nephew of Josefa, told Rappler.
Escoda urged the BSP’s Governor Diokno to retain the current design, saying that redesigning the bill may further push Japan’s supposed political agenda in tidying up its image.
“Was this pressure from the Japanese? They have been trying to remove that and erase their atrocities here,” Escoda said.
Escoda is a retired professor and author of Warsaw of Asia: The Rape of Manila, a book which details the brutality of Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Vicente Lim IV, great-grandson of Brigadier General Lim, recognized that most Filipinos do not remember the three martyrs, even prior to the redesign. But he also emphasized that images still have some impact on remembering heroism.
“The banknotes do offer a look into Philippine history, even if to an audience with just a fleeting interest in it. I have nothing against our national bird and national flower. I am all for promoting awareness for such national treasures. However, placing these on the P1,000 bill comes at the cost of erasing one of the last few (ubiquitous) ways through which we remember and honor our storied past, and the heroes who martyred themselves for our country,” Lim told Rappler.
Lim currently moderates a Facebook page to honor his great-grandfather’s memory, as well as the officers and enlisted men of the 41st Division, Philippine Army, under the United States Army Forces in the Far East who fought with his great-grandfather.
“In one of his last letters out of the battlefields of Bataan, General Lim wrote his wife, ‘With all this talk, I sincerely give the credit to my officers and enlisted men. They are the ones who did it all. Mine was only to inspire and to lead them. When history is written, I will give them all the credit. Their satisfaction is mine to share.’ As you may know, he was never able to fulfill this promise himself, as he didn’t make it through the war alive. Therefore, even as a young boy, I realized that someone would have to fulfill this promise on his behalf. It has therefore become my life’s mission to fulfill his promise, tell the stories of the men that fought with General Lim, and to honor and keep their memory alive.”
In a Facebook post, Desiree Ann Cua-Benipayo, Abad Santos’ great-grandniece, told Diokno and the BSP Monetary Board: “[W]hy not put the Philippine eagle at the back of the bill? This way you teach our citizens patriotism and love for the environment. Aren’t there a million other better things to do than mess up our notes and coins?”
“To my [World War II] history colleagues – it is our dilemma that our nation’s collective war memory is fading, right? And this is now made worse by this government when it decided to delete the only daily reminder to our people of the Filipinos’ courage during the war.”
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, said the new P1,000 banknotes that feature the Philippine eagle would only be released as part of a test for its possible adoption.
“Hindi po ma-demonetize ang ating (We will not demonetize the) P1,000 bills featuring our three national heroes and martyrs. Ito lamang ay iyong featuring iyong Philippine eagle ay for test circulation lamang po to test the polymer material (The banknotes featuring the Philippine eagle is for test circulation only to test the polymer material),” Nograles said in a Palace press briefing.
The BSP earlier said the issuance of the polymer P1,000 bills is part of their efforts to ensure that banknotes are more hygienic, sustainable, durable, and cost-effective.
“Itong bagong P1,000 bill featuring iyong Philippine eagle po, iyan po ay iyong polymer series po natin na ginagawa naman po ng BSP as a test circulation din para malaman natin at ma-validate po natin kung totoo nga iyong polymer is more hygienic, more environmentally friendly, and more secure kaysa sa mga dati nating ginagamit na materials for our peso bills (This new P1,000 bill featuring the Philippine eagle is part of the polymer series as test circulation to find out and validate if it’s true that polymer is more hygienic, more environmentally friendly, and more secure compared to the old materials we use for our peso bills),” he added.
Currently, Philippine banknotes are made of 80 percent cotton and 20 percent abaca.
Nograles said the new P1,000 banknote would have more sophisticated security features.
“According to BSP, they say it’s cyclical ang pagpi-feature ng different banknotes (featuring these banknotes is cyclical), number one. Number two, again apart from validating the advantages, the so-called advantages ng polymer, it also will help them in terms of ensuring na mas secure ang ganitong klaseng banknote (that this type of banknotes is more secure),” he said.
Nograles also said using polymer would help prevent the circulation of counterfeit money.
“Although, maraming security features naman presently ang ating P1,000 bills kaya hindi agad at madaling pekein ang P1,000 (Although our present P1,000 bills already have many security features), the BSP is constantly developing ways and means to ensure that hindi mapipeke ang bill na ito (this bill cannot be faked), especially since it is our highest denomination,” he added.
The first batch of polymer P1,000 banknotes would be delivered in April 2022.
The BSP has tapped the Reserve Bank of Australia and its wholly-owned subsidiary Note Printing Australia for the production of the polymer banknotes.