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Cesar E.A. Virata

Cesar E. A. Virata
Ronald Roy — 2013 July 2

I have been asked by a reader who seeks anonymity if I can explain “why the Philippine Daily Inquirer holds Cesar E. A. Virata in visceral disdain”, and my answer to that is: No, I cannot, although I clarify that the newspaper does appear to have a prodigious bias against the man. “Prodigious”, because it has run two editorials uncomplimentary to him, and seems to encourage similarly lambasting commentaries from contributors against the technocrat who was once the Finance Secretary, and later Prime Minister, of Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Over a month ago, the University of the Philippines Board of Regents named its College of Business Administration after the man who was once its dean. Immediately, the Inquirer, through its Editorial of June 15, 2013, assailed the board’s resolution as an act of “historical revisionism”.
In what we call “democratic space”, it will be easy to defend the editorial as an exercise of free speech, although I suspect that the paper’s conviction about Virata’s moral character is one that is influenced by his association with the reviled dictatorship, rather than formed independently of it.
In other words, the Inquirer’s judgment on Virata would appear to be finding him “guilty by association with Marcos”, instead of “guilty by conspiracy” in any of the crimes alleged to have been committed by the dictator. It’s pretty much like telling somebody he is a thief because he is an acquaintance of a thief.
The Inquirer had run an earlier editorial saying that Marcos lost to Corazon Aquino in the snap election . Absolutely wrong. Marcos lost only in Metro Manila and nearby areas, but won overwhelmingly throughout the rest of the country.
Namfrel’s Operation Quick Count had Aquino dramatically pulling away in the early stages, but when her lead started to dwindle and a deluge of pro-Marcos votes commenced pouring in from all over, the Commission on Election’s operations were aborted by a US State Department-sanctioned walkout of Comelec personnel, triggering protests of alleged massive cheating by Marcos that eventually led to the EDSA people power revolution.
The walkout had long been planned, as evidenced by the fact that over a dozen chartered buses had been parked outside hours before the personnel, at a given signal, rose from their seats, strode out of the building and boarded the waiting vehicles. Obviously, the walkout had been strategized to prevent the official termination of the snap-election process because the Americans feared Marcos would win.
In America’s view, Marcos had to be toppled for two reasons. One: He had vowed to reduce the US Bases Agreement to 25 years. Two: The heads of the other ASEAN countries looked up to him for leadership in fortifying the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), then composed of Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, as a “bloc” — a situation anathema to America’s policy of keeping the ASEAN weak for better handling.
The foregoing historical account is given as a reminder that, contrary to the said editorial’s romanticized version, it was Ferdinand E. Marcos, not Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, who won the snap election. But of course the point is academic, and no practical purpose will be served by belaboring it, except that it is necessary to stress that Cory’s heralded snap-election victory is a myth, and that the myth is being perpetuated to debase the memory of Marcos at the expense of others like Virata.
The glorification of the Aquinos (Ninoy, Cory and P-Noy) is the great yellow design here. The more Marcos is demonized, the more the Aquinos are glorified, and the more the Aquinos are extolled at whatever occasion throughout each year, the more Marcos is remembered in infamy.
Marcos even in death will be bashed at every opportunity, and the naming of UP’s College of Business Administration after Cesar E. A. Virata is one such opportunity. One wonders, really, at how the bashing can be done with such venom, or hatred — that kind of hatred that not only distorts history but also corrodes the basher’s soul.
The Inquirer minces no words in lambasting Marcos through its editorialists, columnists, contributors and readers, and one often senses that their ridicule of Virata is actually that of Marcos. Occasionally, they are compelled by truth to praise Virata for his integrity and competence, and innate goodness as a family man, and yet proceed to liken him to Nazi butchers who were likewise model family men.
They commend him as a brilliant technocrat and yet lambast him as a traitor for having been allegedly servile to a plunderer, or insult him as an indecent man for not having resigned his positions, or degrade him for having lent his sterling reputation to deodorize the dictatorship. Ouch!!
Cesar and his wife, Joy “Snuffy” nee Gamboa, and I go all the way back to the 1950’s when the UP Golf Course and the UP Dramatic Club were the occasional venues of a friendship that would endure to this day.
From 1980 to 1986, Cesar and I were officially associated on the boards of Land Bank and some of its subsidiaries. My frequent interaction with him accorded me glimpses into the character of a man who had secretly kept an unsigned resignation letter, ready for tender anytime he felt he was being made to do anything harmful to the Filipino people.
Verily, in describing the character of Cesar Emilio Aguinaldo Virata, no words are more apt than those of an anonymous poet who said, “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.”

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