UP history dept. to BSP: ₱1,000 bill revision 'a slap on the face of our heroes'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 17) — The University of the Philippines' Department of History has strongly denounced the move of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas 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 on Thursday, the 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," it also said.

On Dec. 11, the BSP issued its new design for the ₱1,000 bill which was already approved by the Monetary Board, Office of the President. This is the first in a new series of Philippines currency that will focus on the country's flora and fauna, to be issued in April 2022. 

Abad Santos, Llanes-Escoda, and Lim are known for their heroism during the Japanese occupation.

Abad Santos was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who briefly served as acting President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. He also became the acting Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on behalf of then President Manuel L. Quezon. He was executed by the Japanese forces for his refusal to cooperate with them during their occupation.

Llanes-Escoda, founder of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines, was active in the underground resistance movement by bringing food and medicine to prisoners of war who were maltreated by the Japanese forces. This led to her arrest and execution.

Lim, on the other hand, was the first Filipino graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He was the Commanding General of the 41st Infantry Division, Philippine Army (USAFFE) and held the line against Japanese onslaught. He also organized resistance groups until his arrest and execution.

"Abad Santos, Llanes Escoda, and Lim, to this day, are graveless," the UP department said. "Perhaps, this signifies that they belong not to their graves but to the entire country."

"We earnestly call on the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to retain the images of our three heroes in the ₱1,000 bill, most especially in the new polymer bill," it also said.

"As our national anthem continues to grace even our most ordinary official celebrations...our heroes by whose genuine sacrifices have enabled us to take our place in the community of nations and in world history should be equally honored and given their rightful place in the symbols of our nation," it added.