Controversial Statements of F. Sionil Jose Through the Years
Last week, National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose provoked harsh criticism after he dismissed the shutdown of ABS-CBN as no real loss.
“I'll not mourn the passing of ABS-CBN,” said Jose. “The Filipinos do not really need ABS-CBN. It does not produce goods or food. It has certainly entertained millions but it did not diminish poverty.”
It was not the first time Jose expressed a controversial opinion. The following are some of his statements that also drew flak through the years.
1| When he endorsed violence against Chinese-Filipinos (2019)
Jose wrote a piece in The Philippine Star about the geopolitics in the West Philippine Sea. He emphasized China’s arrogance and how the Philippines should respond to its encroachment on the country’s waters. He suggested the country do a Vietnam-style eviction of local ethnic Chinese who have lived among the population for generations.
“The silence of our Filipino Chinese on this crucial issue is deafening. Vietnam is a very good model. Vietnam has not hesitated to fight the Chinese frontally and yet maintains a close relationship with China. Its economy had been dominated by ethnic Chinese. Cholon, then Saigon’s busiest district, was actually a Chinese enclave. After the triumph of the Revolution in 1975, Vietnam applied a simple solution to its China problem. The Chinese were simply expelled and their properties were confiscated. Several Chinese establishments were set up through the following years, but during the riots some three years ago, when China set up an oil rig in Vietnamese waters, to which the Vietnamese objected furiously, the Chinese factories in Vietnam were burned.”
2| When he protested the works of artist Emilio Aguilar Cruz and Andres Cristobal Cruz being in the National Museum (2018)
In 2018, Jose expressed his opinion about the National Museum’s decision to honor contemporary artists Emilio Aguilar Cruz and Andres Cristobal, whose works he described as insignificant.
“I object to the presence of a work by Andres Cristobal Cruz and most of all a room dedicated to Emilio Aguilar Cruz. Both have not produced any significant body of work, either paintings or books, of great artistry. It is important, no, it is necessary, that the National Museum’s permanent collections and exhibits are appraised by a committee or jury of expert curators, scholars and acknowledged leaders in art and culture, and that this process is transparent.”
Read his full opinion here.
3| When he suggested closing all Chinese schools in the Philippines (2015)
In July 2015, Jose drew flak for suggesting the government shut down all Chinese schools in the Philippines. A few days after he published that comment (which was published on print), he double backed and qualified his statement after he met with Chinese-Filipinos.
“I had provoked harsh and contrary comments after writing an article condemning the Chinese grab of Panganiban (Mischief Reef). In that article, to hasten integration, I suggested the closing of Chinese schools unless they are like the schools for the children of foreign nationals.
“In the meeting last week, I listened to their views and understood fully why they do not come out so openly in their opposition to the Chinese incursions in our country. I also accepted their legitimate complaints about the government, the high price of power which is one of the real reasons why modernization in this country is so slow.”
4| When he said the Philippines is a corrupt country because Filipinos have no moral anchor because they are not Hindus or Buddhists (2001)
In an interview with The Philippine Star, Jose was asked what he thought about corruption in the Philippines. He explained that we have no moral anchor because we are not Hindus or Buddhists, while taking a jab at Catholicism and its lack of ideology.
“That’s a very good question and I have tried to answer it in my own way. One is because Catholicism was brought here with a sword. And perhaps, there has always been a kind of opposition to it, maybe, subconsciously. The other, you know, which dates back to our own history of not being Hindus or Buddhists is that we never had the classical background that many of these Asian peoples have. And whatever one might think of this classical background, it was these ideas, basically religious, that imbued the peoples of Asia with some kind of moral anchor. Tayo wala nyan because basically we are a very young nation. So that has to grow. But I don’t think that Catholicism was able to imbue in the Filipinos that kind of moral fiber that I am talking about. The new religions—El Shaddai or the Iglesia ni Kristo, in a sense, kagaya rin ng Catholic Church yan. They are either part of the establishment and their leaders, mayayaman din yan.
“In which case, as I’ve said again and again, they are not ideologically prepared to destroy or change the social order which needs to be changed. In other words, this is where revolution takes on an aspect that is, in a sense, moral and cultural. Because, first that has to happen in the mind.”