Philippine Govt Backs Off Plan to Remove WWII Heroes from Bills

Camille Elemia
Philippine Govt Backs Off Plan to Remove WWII Heroes from Bills The portraits of Filipino heroes from the World War II era (clockwise from top), Jose Abad Santo, Vicente Lim and Josefa Llanes-Escoda appear on the front of the P 1,000-peso note.

The Philippine government on Tuesday backed off from a plan to overhaul the 1,000-peso bill by removing portraits of three World War II-era Filipino heroes that front the note – an idea widely panned here as plain revisionism.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the country’s central bank, at the weekend released a sample image of the proposed new bill. It features the Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), a species that remains critically endangered in the wild and is found mostly in the southern Mindanao region.

The bank said it was planning to use an image of this bird (pictured below) on the face of the note to replace images of Vicente Lim, Josefa Llanes Escoda and Jose Abad Santos, three iconic Filipinos who fought and died while resisting the Japanese wartime occupation. The P 1000-peso bill is the most widely circulated Philippine note.

On top of that, the central bank embarrassingly misspelled the scientific name of the majestic eagle, sparking widespread criticism on social media.

The old bill “will remain in circulation,” Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the acting presidential spokesman, assured Filipinos during a news conference on Tuesday.

“This new 1,000-peso bill featuring the Philippine Eagle is a polymer series that the BSP is using as a test circulation to validate and determine that polymers are more hygienic, more environmentally friendly and more secure compared to materials used for our peso bills.”

“So the 1,000 peso bills featuring three of our national heroes and martyrs will not be demonetized,” Nograles said.


Negative reactions were swift when the BSP first announced the plan to change the face of the note. Historians said they were aghast. Even the military questioned the new policy.

Several lawmakers opposed the move, branding it a form of revisionism.

“The BSP did not only erase our heroes in the P1,000 bill, it has also diminished Philippine history by focusing on plants and animals. Literally, our heroes lost their role,” Sen. Nancy Binay said in a statement.

“It’s sad that Josefa Llanes-Escoda, Jose Abad Santos, and Gen. Vicente Lim have become the first casualties of retail revisionism,” she said. “For some strange reason, BSP is slowly silencing memories of heroism and acts of patriotism.”

Carlos Isagani Zarate, the House deputy minority leader, said the BSP was “denigrating their historical contribution in the defense of our freedoms and the fight against foreign aggression.”

He added that the BSP appeared to be helping those “who are now aggressively trying to revise our history.”

Llanes-Escode was the founder of the Philippine Girl Scouts; Santos was the Philippine chief justice of the Supreme Court during the Japanese occupation, which lasted from 1942 till 1945 after the forces of Imperial Japan invaded the archipelago in December 1941; and Gen. Lim, the first Filipino to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point, was executed after being taken prisoner by the Japanese military.

Benjamin Diokno, governor of the central bank, defended the move and said the new bills were part of a test circulation for the roll out of polymer bills, starting in April 2022. These are said to be stronger and more secure against counterfeiters.

“Heroes will remain heroes whether they are in the notes or not … We will not demonetize the existing 1,000-peso paper banknote,” Diokno told reporters on Monday.

“Under my watch, there will be no demonetization of any denomination. The BSP will continue to print the existing 1,000-peso paper banknotes featuring the three heroes even as we circulate the 1,000-peso polymer banknotes.”


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