How much is 71 billion pesos worth?
For people like Senator-elect Kiko Pangilinan, who see money as nothing more than a representation of material wealth, the worth of 71 billion pesos is exactly that, no more no less, down to the last centavo.
This is why he is arguing against the Duterte administration’s decision to release and distribute the 71 billion-peso coco levy fund to the farmers.
According to Pangilinan’s straightforward mathematical reasoning, “If the P72 Billion fund is distributed directly to coconut farmers that would mean each farmer would receive some P20,000.00. That amount is a little higher than the average annual income of the coconut farmer which is P15,000.00. The amount distributed will have no real impact on addressing poverty.”
While the logic is sound, and on the face of it very reasonable, a deeper look into the root of the issue will show that the coco levy fund is more than just a matter of ones and zeros. It is, at its core, an issue of social justice.
And even as Pangilinan and his accountants crunch the numbers and come out with their disente solutions, the question that comes to mind is how do you compute for the injustice, the decades of pain and misery, that the victims of this multibillion-peso government-supported scam have been forced to endure.
And in the context of all the public funds that are lost to graft and corruption, what’s 71 billion if it brings closure to the victims of this government-supported scam?
Unlike Pangilinan, Duterte understands the bigger picture, which is why he wants the money distributed to the farmers as a symbol of their victory over their oppressors. He knows that more than the promise of future collective benefits — something that the government has talked about for years and has so far not been able to deliver — what’s important is for each farmer to feel what it means for justice to be served. And for many Filipinos, this is worth more than all the billions in the world.