March 18, 1933
Quezon maps out his Washington campaign
By Frederic S. Marquardt
Free Press Staff Member
Reveals what he expects to accomplish in America in special interview—plans to return in July
GOING to the United States in connection with Philippine independence legislation has become an old, old story with Senate President Quezon. But never has the Filipino leader had to meet such a situation as he will find awaiting him in Washington when he arrives there at the head of the new “mixed mission.”
Scheduled to leave Manila today (Saturday) on the Conte Verde, the palatial Italian liner which is making a special trip to Manila at the behest of Premier Benito Mussolini, Senate President Quezon plans to be in Washington late in April.
But there he will find altogether different conditions from those which prevailed on his other visits. Formerly the senate president’s task has been to work for the passage of an independence bill. This time he will find a bill already passed, one which bears the title of an independence bill but the provisions of which he hates like the plague.
Senate President Quezon has declared his unalterable opposition to the Hawes-Cutting-Hare bill. “If every other Filipino should favor this bill, I should continue to oppose it,” he has declared. Since it is up to the Filipino people to accept or reject the measure, and since the senate president is so dead set against it, several questions naturally present themselves: Why is Senate President Quezon going to Washington? What does he expect to do when he is there? How long does he plan to stay?
In better health
To secure an authoritative answer to these questions, I sought an interview with the senate president this week, on the eve of his departure for the United States via Europe. The leader consented to be interviewed and I was told to see him aboard the coastguard cutter Banahao, which was at the end of Pier 3. In order to avoid the heat and dust of Manila, Senate President Quezon has been spending his afternoons on board the cutter as it lies moored to the pier.
At the appointed hour I presented myself and within a few minutes the senate president greeted me on the aft deck of the boat. He was wearing a leather jacket, with the collar turned up high around his neck, and during most of the interview he kept his head covered with a soft cloth hat such as golfers frequently wear.
“How are you feeling, Mr. President?” I asked, noting the color in his cheeks, and the quick, nervous pace with which he walked.
“Fine,” he replied firmly, but I could not help feeling he was exaggerating somewhat. Still, remembering how he had to be carried aboard a Dollar liner the last time he sailed for the United States, I felt that his health had improved immeasurably since then.
Even since the day shortly after his arrival 17 months ago, when I had attended a lengthy press conference at his house in Pasay, I noted a vast change for the better. “Do you feel certain you will be able to stand the rigors of the trip?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “I’m all right now.”
“Can you tell me briefly what your plans are for this trip?” I asked, turning to the subject at hand.
“We shall leave Saturday on the Conte Verde,” he replied, “going directly to Brindisi in Italy. From there we shall go by train to Naples, where we shall board the Roma for New York. From New York we shall go directly to Washington.”
“Once in Washington,” I continued, “how do you plan to go about securing better legislation for the Philippines?”
“I don’t like the word ‘better’,” he answered, breaking into one of the few smiles of the interview. “Because to talk of getting a better bill intimates that the present one is good.”
I promptly rephrased the question, and the senate president launched into the first definite statement he has made of what he plans to do in the United States.
“I am going to talk with the president of the United States and with the members of congress and with the members of the mission. I am going to try to learn if the congressmen think this bill is in keeping with the traditions and ideals of the United States in the Philippines. I am going to try to learn their conception of the autonomy this bill would give us during the commonwealth period, and I am going to try to learn what sort of an independence they think the bill would finally give us. Then I am going to tell them what I think. I also expect to make some speeches, in order to make clear my stand to the American people.”
To reject unfair bill
The senate president was silent. Apparently that was all there was to it. That was the broad outline of his campaign in the United States. The details, of course, would have to be worked out later, and circumstances would have to be taken into consideration as they arose.
“When do you expect to be back in Manila, Mr. President?” I asked.
“In July,” he replied, “in time for the session of the legislature.”
“Will the other missioners return then?”
“I’m not sure. I haven’t been informed of their plans.”
Getting back to his work in Washington, I picked up the thread of a new question. “You have said,” I began, “that you would oppose the Hawes-Cutting-Hare bill even if you knew no other measure would be forthcoming from congress for several years. You have even gone further and said you would oppose this bill even if you knew that limitations would be applied to Philippine exports without any promise of independence being given. There seems to me only one worse possibility. Would you oppose the bill if you learned in Washington that its rejection would mean the passage of another bill even more unfair to the Filipino people?”
“Yes,” replied Senate President Quezon without a second’s hesitation, “I am not going to accept what is fundamentally wrong. If congress enacts another bill over our objection, that would be a different matter. We would not be accepting it meekly, and agreeing to it. The responsibility would be with the American congress.”
Before agreeing to any law, he pointed out, he wants to be sure that it actually provides independence. He also wants the law to state specifically what reservations the United States proposes to maintain, and for what purposes. Briefly, he wants the bill to be a real independence measure, not a subterfuge such as he asserts the present bill is.
It was growing late and several other people were waiting to see the senate president. “There is one more question I should like to ask,” I said. “When you return in July, and the time comes for the Filipino people to accept or reject the bill, will you favor having such acceptance or rejection done by the legislature or by a special convention called for that purpose?”
“I have not publicly expressed myself on that point,” he replied. “In private conversations, I have, however, expressed myself as favoring a convention. I believe that, as the Free Press straw vote shows, the people are overwhelmingly in favor of having the question settled by a convention. But that question can be decided later.”
Senate President Quezon had smoked only one cigarette during the interview, in place of the dozens which he usually smokes during a similar period of time. His air of premeditation and the care with which he answered each question recalled a story which he himself has told on several occasions.
As soon as possible after the passage of the Hawes-Cutting-Hare bill, the senate president secured a copy of the measure and for four days and four nights he did little except concentrate on its provisions. Mrs. Quezon became worried about her husband, and on the third day she sent their son to talk to him. The lad said something to his father, who was so engrossed that he paid little attention to the boy.
“Papa,” asked young Manoling, “did you hear what I said?”
“Yes,” said his father.
“What did I say?” unexpectedly countered the youth. Fortunately the senate president, by the greatest possible effort, was able to recall the words, which were still ringing in his ears, and was thus able to satisfy his son and maintain his record of always telling the lad the truth.
I suspect that Senate President Quezon thinks frequently of that son of his, as well as of his daughters, during these days of struggle against a bill which he feels will mean the absolute economic ruin of his country while, as he puts it, “there is nothing of independence in the bill except the word.”
Over there in Washington in the months to come he will probably think even more of his children, and of the hundreds of thousands of other children from Aparri to Bongao, and of the millions of Filipino children still unborn. For after all it is the destiny of future generations, far more than of the present one, with which the Hawes-Cutting-Hare bill is primarily concerned.