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The paper — titled Technocracy vs. the Peasantry, Martial Law, Agrarian Reform and the Marcos-Virata Regime authored by Prof. Eduardo C. Tadem — for all its ostentations as a technical paper, is actually an insidious character assassination of Mr. Cesar E.A. Virata, a public servant who has spent many years in government out of a sense of duty and love of country.
Right off, the paper’s labeling of Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos’ government under martial law as the Marcos-Virata Regime is a defamation of Mr. Virata, whom I prefer to call Cesar, a friend whom I’ve known for almost 60 years.
I do appreciate the paper’s straightforwardness — albeit perhaps leftist and anti-American in tenor– in the spirit of free speech, although I suspect that the paper’s conviction about Cesar’s nationalistic and moral character is influenced by his association with the reviled dictatorship, more than anything else.
In other words, the paper appears to pronounce him “guilty by association with Marcos”, instead of “guilty of conspiracy” in any of whatever crimes alleged to have been committed by the dictator — which is pretty much like telling someone he is a thief because he is a friend of somebody who is a thief.
Cesar and his wife, Joy “Snuffy” nee Gamboa, and I go all the way back to the 1950s when the U.P. Golf Club and the U.P. 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 insights into the character of a man who had secretly kept an unsigned and undated resignation letter, which was ready for tender anytime he felt he was being made to do anything harmful to the Filipino people.
Cesar has always been a humble and simple man. He was not wont to hobnobbing with elitists, the trappings of his lofty standing in the body politic notwithstanding, and avoided ritzy establishments whenever possible. I regularly used a Samsonite attache case, a solid gold Monteblanc pen and various branded pairs of shoes; Cesar always proudly carried the same lawanit attache case made in Cavite, Ang Tibay shoes, and a BIC ballpen. How’s that for being a Prime Minister?!
As a Land Bank Board Director representing the farming sector, I was privy to the farmers’ appreciation of the bank’s various policies, programs and projects that were designed to assist them, such as the innovative economies-of-scale-based Integrated Estate Development Program. I was likewise privy to their pitiful conditions wrought by exogenous factors like countryside NPA rebels and Muslim secessionists, and the unforeseeable onslaughts of climate change.
Land Bank’s Agrarian Sector consisted of highly-trained men and women who responded to the needs of farmers with a passion, in the vein of “one family” working and eating together. Interpersonal interaction with farmers and their families was a substantial part of their work ethic out there in depressed rural areas. And it was Chairman Virata, along with the bank’s late president, Basilio Estanislao, who provided the inspiring leadership needed to discharge the institution’s agrarian mandate.
It would have been normal for the bank’s officers and personnel to buckle under such daunting conditions as alternating scorching heat and pelting rains, not to mention the lurking perils from armed rebels, but they admirably held fast. Maybe holding fast was crazy; so then, they were crazy to derive a psychic pleasure for serving the lowly without counting the costs. But there was no mystery here. There was only the heart of corporate leadership.
The subject paper chidingly cites the technical verbiage of “experts” using books stashed up in their ivory towers — places where they dine with the finest of silver and china. Would that they could come down to break bread with peasants in a milieu of discomfort, the same way a Wharton graduate had occasionally done to lead a mission. Indeed, the points raised by the paper are shallow, thereby betraying ignorance of certain aspects of agrarian reform.
Likewise, the paper conveniently remains silent about the fact that, among the five governmental institutions, only the Social Security System and the Land Bank of the Philippines remained solvent.
Verily, in describing the character of Cesar E. A. Virata, no words are more apt than those of an anonymous philosopher who said, “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.”
Finally, I was always cognizant of Chairman Virata’s sterling integrity that consistently caused the denial of applications for financial assistance from “connected” groups and even big multinational companies, whenever he felt that the reasons for their requests were neither cogent nor viable. Once, after we turned down one such application, he muttered off the record: “I do not care who they are. Kuwarta ng bayan heto.”

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