July 23, 1938
WHEN President Manuel Quezon left recently for a vacation in Japan, he left in the dead of night, aboard a Japanese freighter, without fuss or fanfare.
But when he returned this week, board the Empress of Japan, tugboats whistled and puffed around the graceful white luxury liner, the flags were out at dawn, the city’s bay boulevards are bright with sunshine and posters, jammed with cheering thousands. The President might have been returning from the United States, with a new economic pact or another bankful of coconut millions, instead of from a quiet uneventful Japanese holiday.
It was true, however, that the quiet holiday had aroused a Japanese-teapot-storm of comment. The President had been reported seeking unofficial assurances from Japan that the independent republic of the Philippines would be left alone. In Japan, Visitor Quezon had called the report “ridiculous bunkum.” Two days after his arrival in Manila he was to expand that impulsive phrase into an involved 15-minute explanation.
But on the Luneta, a chain of sampaguitas around his neck, he had nothing new to offer. Instead, talking in Tagalog, he took up where he had left off on his departure, sailed with both fists into the Catholic Church.
“If they want showdown, they can have it,” he shouted, evidently still sore at the pastoral letter which had criticized his veto of the religious instruction bill, shortly before he left. He challenged the Church to a fight in the coming elections for the Assembly. He said the church could present its own candidates against those of the administration, to put the whole question up to the people.
Since most of the Church’s candidates would necessarily be the Assemblymen who voted for the bill in the Assembly, and since all of these Assemblymen are administration men too, the challenge was scarcely fair, and the proposed battle, scarcely possible.
Such a battle, moreover, and such a challenge would bring little good to good a country which needed every ounce of unity it had, in the face of freedom. The President himself had recognized this danger in previous declarations. He repeated it on the Luneta: “We should not sacrifice our national life, our national harmony and unity on matters of religion, which we should not even discuss because it is unnecessary to do so. We have freedom of worship and of conscience.”
The vigorous impromptu challenge was later toned down in the official text of the speech, released in English to the press. The President proposed that the National Assembly reconsider the bill. If it was not repassed despite his veto, he would reveto it. If it was not repassed, “the country may consider the matter settled, unless the people in the coming election should decide to elect a majority of members of the National Assembly who would commit themselves in their electoral campaign to enact a measure on religious instruction.”
Confident Mr. Quezon entertained no fears in that respect. The crowd that had jammed the Luneta to hear him was primarily a labor crowd, grateful for favors past and present. But he adroitly interpreted their presence: “It can have only one meaning and that is, that you have come here to assure me that both my veto… and my stand on the question of the separation of Church and State, have met and continue to meet with your entire approval…. You make me very happy.”
The President also tossed aside hurt Catholic arguments that even Catholic bishops, as citizens of the Philippines, had a right to criticize the President’s actions. “I shall not deny any bishop, priest, or minister, of any church, his right as a citizen to express his opinion on any public question, but I do emphatically deny the right of the constituted authorities of any religious organization, or of any Church or Faith, not in their capacity as citizens but as authorities of that religious organization… and speaking therefor, to try to influence the government or any of its branches.”
It was clear warning that there would be no mutual understanding between Church and State in the Philippines.
Two days later the President was almost as clear on another mutual understanding, this time between the Philippines and Japan. The U.S. press had commented widely on the Quezon trip to Japan, had insinuated that Quezon was courting Japan and Japan courting Quezon. Correspondent Wilfrid Fleisher had telephoned the New York Herald Tribune that the President had been invited to the Empire by Japanese friends, that his trip had been arranged by these friends, that the Japanese government was glad of the chance to show the President that Japan had no designs on the Philippines.
No fear of Japan
Radiocasting from his study in Malacañang, over KZRC to the Philippines, and over an NBC coast-to-coast hookup to the United States, the President burned with sarcasm: “One of the American press correspondents, gifted with a highly fantastic imagination, sent information to his newspaper in New York to the effect that I had made that trip for the purpose of starting negotiations with the Japanese government, looking toward the neutralization of the Philippines. The absurdity of the news should have been enough to discredit it.”
The U.S., the President said, still retained control of the commonwealth’s foreign relations. “In the second place, it is a matter of common knowledge that on several occasions spokesmen from the foreign office of the Imperial government of Japan have left it be known…that Japan was ready and willing if invited, to be one of the signatories to such a treaty of neutralization…. Why then should I go to Japan to learn of something about which I had no right to inquire, and which no longer a secret to any one?”
But the President proceeded to do much to credit, if not the report on neutralization negotiations, at least its background of Philippine-Japanese mutual confidence and understanding. “I may state, said the President, “that I am not one of those who entertain any misgivings as to the attitude of Japan toward the Philippines once we shall have become independent. Our preparation for national defense is not due to our fear that any nation has untoward designs against our independence and territorial integrity…. We are not so extraordinarily rich natural resources as to make it worthwhile for any nation to conquer our territory at an enormous cost, and our trade can always be had through mutual concessions. There is, therefore, nothing to justify the belief that a wanton aggression against us may be contemplated by any foreign power.”
Gone seemed the expressed fear of most Filipino leaders that Japan will conquer the islands, or that, if it does conquer the islands much harm will come of it. Gone also the traditional uncompromising attitude toward Japan. Instead, the President hinted, the Philippines must cultivate a more tolerant, a more realistic, policy.
“We are in the world and must live with the world. We must conceive and devise, adopt and execute our national policies, with a clear vision and full consciousness of the realities of the present state of international relationships. We must above all be fair and just, tolerant and neutral, so as not to give an excuse on the part of any foreign power to interfere in our affairs or to charge us with jeopardizing the rights of other nations.”
The President then said, half with a sigh of relief: “When we are independent, our fate will be entirely in our hands.”
That fate, he hinted, was in the Far East, and in “peace and mutual understanding…permanently established among the nations of the Far East.” The face of the Philippines seems turned to Japan.
July 23, 1938
Is Quezon courting Japan?
by James G. Wingo
Free Press Correspondent in Washington
REPORTS about President Quezon’s dealing directly although unofficially with high Japanese officials on various international matters are harming the Philippines as far as the United States is concerned. Local observers of U.S.-Philippine affairs see eventual manifestations of U.S. resentment to Manuel Quezon’s activities in Japan, which will hurt Philippine interests.
Especially at a time when U.S.-Japanese relations are strained, President Quezon’s hobnobbing with Japanese officials is considered indiscreet, to put it mildly. Secretary of state Cordell Hull refused to comment on Mr. Quezon’s visit to Japan. He said the only thing he knew about it was that the commonwealth president was in Japan. Ordinarily he would have praised the visit of a high official of one country to another country as a splendid “good neighbor” gesture.
Purpose of Quezon’s visit
During Mr. Quezon’s last visit here after receiving flattering honors from the Chinese and Japanese, Franklin D. Roosevelt, who did not like the commonwealth president’s dealing with high foreign officials, let President Quezon know how he felt.
No territorial ambitions
“This correspondent has learned on high authority that Japanese officials are prepared to go to great lengths in assuring President Quezon that he need have no fear as far as Japan’s aim toward the Philippines is concerned. He will be told emphatically that Japan has no territorial ambitions in the Philippines, and Japanese officials may go as far as to propose the conclusion of a pact guaranteeing the independence of the Philippines-Japanese officials realize that Quezon has no jurisdiction over the foreign affairs of the Philippines as yet, but they may suggest that he propose such a pact to the United States.”
Flattering were the honors awaiting Mr. Quezon in Tokyo, according to Correspondent Fleisher, whose story was front-paged by the Herald Tribune together with Mr. Quezon’s photograph. High Japanese officials would meet him at the railroad station. He would have a conference with Foreign Minister General Kazushige Ugaki, who later would give a dinner in his honor to be attended by Premier Prince Fuminaro Konoye himself.
And had members of Mr. Quezon’s entourage not called his visit “incognito” he would have been received by Emperor Hirohito also. That makes President Quezon the first non-member of royalty or nobility to travel incognito. When Republican officials want to forego state honors due them, they travel unofficially or in disguise—never incognito.
Correspondent Fleisher reported further: Quezon’s present visit to Japan seems to have been arranged directly with his Japanese friends, without passing through the intermediary of American officialdom.
Puzzles U.S. observers
The report from Manila that President Quezon has submitted a proposal to buy some ships from the U.S. Shipping Board to haul iron from Mindanao to Japan and coal from Japan to Manila puzzled U.S. observers still more. They could not say for sure whether or not Mr. Quezon was beginning to tie up Philippine economy with Japan.
• • •
Current Washington interest in the proposed purchase of Church estates by the Commonwealth government has been aroused by constant news dribbles about Philippine tenant troubles and by Manuel Quezon’s letter last year to Chairman Francis B. Sayre of the Inter-departmental Committee on Philippine Affairs, in which the President of the Philippines stated that he would use part of the coconut oil excise tax refunds to buy Church lands.
The socialistic labor uprisings in recent months have caused concern among people here interested in Philippine affairs. Early in the U.S. regime Washington officialdom was made familiar with the unrest within the Church estates.
Gov. Gen. William H. Taft believed that the purchase of these estates and their reselling in subdivisions to the tenants would end the serious and oftentimes bloody agrarian controversies. To raise the money to buy some of the church estates the Philippine government in 1904 issued bonds worth P14,000,000.
Eventually the so-called friar lands did not go to worthy tenants but to politicos, many of whom, according to an authority, have not paid yet for their purchases. The tillers of the soil were not helped at all by the change of masters.
However, when Frank Murphy was governor general, the Philippine Legislature passed a resolution calling the Friar Land Purchase of 1904 a complete success and stating that purchase of additional church lands was the only practical means of terminating serious agrarian controversies. Governor Murphy was authorized to negotiate for the purchase of 15 more Church estates. Then the Coalition party which kept Sergio Osmeña from opposing Mr. Quezon for the presidency, included the purchase of these lands in its platform.
Just a few weeks before the Commonwealth inauguration Governor Murphy submitted a tentative report not too favorable to the purchase, in as much as the Church authorities were asking approximately twice the value placed on the estates by his secretary of agriculture and natural resources, Eulogio Rodriguez. Soon after Mr. Quezon became president, he told the National Assembly that further negotiations should be undertaken to determine the price and other conditions of purchase.
Pres. Quezon’s message
But as early as June, 1936, President Quezon stated: “After a careful study of this question, I have reached the conclusion that such a step would not remedy the situation, nor could it be carried out without exposing the country to great financial losses…. It is now my earnest conviction that the purchase of these haciendas by the government will not solve the agrarian and social problems existing therein, but will only transfer to the government the difficulties which the tenants now have with the present land owners….
“The investment, therefore, of several millions of pesos by the government in the purchase of the friar lands has only been, with a few exceptions, for the benefit of people not contemplated by the government…I, for one, despite the commitment in the Coalition platform do not wish to impose upon our people the burden of a national debt which our children will have to bear merely to give a few individuals the opportunity to acquire these particular areas at the expense of the people when there is so much available fertile and untouched public lands in many regions of the country, particularly in Mindanao.”
In connection with this message Mr. Quezon concluded by recommending the purchase of those portions of the estates which are urban in character and occupied by the tenants’ homes. A few months ago he signed a bill appropriating P2,000,000 for the purchase of barrios within Church lands. Another million was appropriated in 1937 for this same purpose.
The developments in recent years raise the question of why President Quezon, who had favored the plan to purchase Church estates, never did anything to carry it out when able to do so. He has already given the Assembly quoted above.
But to keen observes here a pertinent reason is that Mr. Quezon does not want to see the Church receive a large cash payment—not at this time anyway. The President of the Philippines is currently in an excellent position to tell the Roman Catholic Church a few things. And he will need all this advantage when the Church in its relentless fight for compulsory religious instruction in the public schools, attempts to apply punitive measures upon Mr. Quezon for his courageous and democratic veto of a bill which is a throwback to the time when church and state were one in the Philippines.
Mr. Quezon knows that the church is in difficulty with respect to its bonded indebtedness and that a cash payment would enable it to retire the bonds now due and probably leave it with a cash surplus. He also knows that the difficulty the church is having with its tenants is hurting the church’s prestige and the hierarchs’ popularity.
It is apparent Mr. Quezon is playing a long-range game with the Church. The scoreboard indicates that he is ahead.
July 2, 1938
WHEN President Quezon vetoed the bitterly contested religious instruction bill after its passage at the last session of the National Assembly, he did not put an end to the most violently discussed issue of the day.
That the fight would go on to a finish became evident last week when the Metropolitan Archbishop and the Suffragan Bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Cebu published a pastoral letter which replied to President Quezon’s memorable speech in Cebu on the occasion of the inauguration of the city’s capitol, in the course of which the chief executive advanced some of his reasons for vetoing the religious instruction bill.
To all, the pastoral said, “the future of Religion is of vital interest, particularly to those who will have to render an account of the souls committed to their care.” Hence it bemoaned the irreligion of the youth of today.
Mostly blamed for youth’s lack of religion by the ecclesiastical dignitaries is the present system of public education “based as it is on religious neutrality.”
Appeal to leaders
After saying that “the question of the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of the [religious instruction] bill” is “a question upon which only the supreme court can pass a final and decisive verdict,” the letter expressed the hope “that our leaders, ever devoted to the common good and incapable of remaining indifferent to the interests of our future citizens, will bear down all difficulties, and in the near future a measure will result which, without in the least infringing upon either the letter or the spirit of the Constitution, but by adapting the Constitution to the will of the people, and not the will of the people to the Constitution, will provide them with the desired efficacious religious instruction.”
Promptly, Catholic circles in Manila hailed the letter as a clear, firm, and accurate expression of the Catholic attitude toward the religious instruction issue. The Philippine Commonweal, official organ of Catholic Action in the Philippines, issued a special supplement containing the entire letter.
The President’s answer
A source of joy to many good Catholics, the pastoral letter was no less a source of irritation and disappointment to one bill-vetoing Catholic. Stung to the quick, President Quezon fumed in Malacañan, penned a statement which threatened to overshadow the Mayon eruption.
The President said:
“I am amazed at the boldness of the Metropolitan Archbishop and Suffragan bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Cebu in taking up at an episcopal conference a matter concerning the constitutional duties and prerogatives of the officials and branches of the government of the Commonwealth.
“I had so far ignored charges made to the effect that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in the Philippines had instigated and was behind the movement for the enactment of the bill regarding religious instruction in the Philippines. But the pastoral letter is incontrovertible evidence that we did face at the last session of the legislature, and we do face now, one of the most menacing evils that can confront the government and people of the Philippines, namely, the interference of the Church in the affairs of the State.”
“Blind to lessons of history”
“It seems that the Archbishop and bishops who have written this pastoral letter are blind to the lessons of history including our own during the Spanish regime. Being myself a Catholic, I am no less interested in preserving the independence of the church from the state than I am in preserving the independence of the government from the church.
“It should be unnecessary to remind the ecclesiastical authorities in the Philippines that the separation of church and state in this country is a reality and not a mere theory, and that as far as our people are concerned, it is forever settled that this separation shall be maintained as one of the cardinal tenets of our government. They should realize, therefore, that any attempts on their part to interfere with matters that are within the province of the government will not be tolerated.
“On matters purely ecclesiastical, the Catholic bishops may speak for the Filipino Catholics; but when it comes to expressing the will of the Filipino people as a political entity on any matter concerning legislation or governmental measures, the Catholic bishops, some of whom are not Filipinos, are assuming too much when they pretend to speak for our people as they do in the pastoral letter when they say that the majority of the Filipino people are demanding the enactment of the bill which I have vetoed. The fact that the majority of the National Assembly voted for the said bill does not necessarily prove that the majority of the people are for it. It only proves that the majority of the members of the National Assembly were for the bill.
“If I were inclined to interfere in the affairs of the church, as the Catholic bishops are attempting to do with the affairs of the state, I would tell the Archbishop and the bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Cebu that it is their lack of Sunday schools and catechists to teach the Catholic religion that is mainly responsible for the deplorable ignorance of their own religion that is found amongst the Catholic youth.”
“A very unfair campaign has been launched against the government, making it appear that we are not complying with the provisions of the constitution regarding optional teaching of religious instruction. The truth is the opposite, as evidenced by the fact that while the enrolment in classes in religious instruction during the academic year…1932-1933 was only 29,996, this had increased to 187,089 in the academic year 1937-1938. During this last school year, in the 817 schools where religious instruction was given, more than one-half of the children enrolled in said schools received religious instruction.
“Moreover, if the desire is to have hours exclusively devoted to religious instruction in the public schools, so that the regular school activities may not interfere with said instruction, I am placing Saturdays and Sundays at the disposal of all the ministers of all religions existing in the Philippines. On Saturdays and Sundays, the public schools are not being used for school purposes and, therefore, they may be used for religious instruction if it is so requested. What is prohibited in the existing legislation and by the constitution, and which, therefore, I may not allow is that any hour needed for public school proper be devoted to religious instruction.”
The Quezon blast produced a small counterblast. Speaking from the pulpit of the Manila Sampaloc church, Saturday, young Rev. Dr. Gregorio Villaceran defended the Catholic church and the signers of the pastoral. Clergymen, he retorted, have as much right as other citizens to deliberate on government matters, especially if those matters happen to affect the church most directly and vitally. The separation of church and state, he stressed, does not prohibit ecclesiastical authorities from exercising their constitutional rights.
Interviewed in Cebu, Archbishop Reyes disclaimed any intention to challenge or provoke the President. “In my name and in those of the bishops of the Cebu archdiocese,” he was quoted as saying, “I reiterate my respect for the government and those entrusted with its administration.” However, “with regard to the presidential veto, the bishops respect it, but within that respect they honestly believe there is nothing which would prevent them from entertaining any opinion and publicly expressing that opinion which under a democratic regime such as ours they have the right to do. It is hardly just to deny the bishops a right which is accorded to any other citizen of the land.”
Defense of chief executive
President Quezon boarded a Japanese freighter bound post-haste for Kobe shortly after issuing his philippic; but pending his return, Assemblymen Gregorio Perfecto and Eugenio Perez, both uncompromising opponents of the religious instruction bill, are preparing a resolution which they plan to introduce in the special session in the latter part of next month, endorsing the chief executive’s stand.
Meanwhile, “fighting” Rev. Samuel W. Stagg, Protestant pastor, defended the chief executive in a radio speech over KZIB, and at the same time accused the Catholic hierarchy of being “the sworn enemy of all democracy.” He lauded the President for his “great courage in taking issues with the hierarchy in defense of the hard-won liberties of the Filipino people.”