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A problem in Philippine history, April 12, 1947

A problem in Philippine history

by Sattahari T. Misah

Jolo, Sulu

Manuel Roxas or Jose Abad Santos?—Which of the Two Was Entrusted by the Late President Manuel Quezon with the Responsibility of Governing the Country During His Absence….

April 12, 1947–IN AN article entitled, “The Story of Roxas,” written by Federico Mañgahas in a certain campaign paper, I read something like this: “When President Quezon left Corregidor around the 21st of February, General MacArthur decided that Roxas remain with him. President Quezon, on the other hand, gave Roxas full authority to act for and in his behalf in all matters of government and, particularly, to take charge of the National Treasury.” The writer’s note states that the authority for the story is General Roxas himself.

Felixberto Bustos wrote in his book, “And Now Comes Roxas,” that President Quezon dictated two Executive Orders before leaving Corregidor. One such order delegated to Roxas all extraordinary presidential powers conferred on the Philippine Chief Executive by emergency legislation. The other fixed the presidential succession. In case of death or incapacitation of Quezon, and subsequently, of Osmeña, the presidency would go to Roxas. In the same paragraph, Bustos farther stated that copies of the documents were furnished the President of the United States through the US High Commissioner and the originals were buried with other valuable papers of Roxas in Mindanao.

United in their claims

Mañgahas and Bustos were united in their claims that President Manuel Roxas, then an army man, empowered to exercise the emergency powers granted Quezon by the Philippine Congress, was the direct representative of the latter and consequently, supreme head of the Commonwealth Government of the unoccupied Philippines. They were also united in their purpose in releasing this historical account of Roxas’ life—to boost the latter’s popularity among the masses. Both were motivated by a common desire—to help Roxas become President.

Let us now turn our attention to a Filipino who died in the support of his convictions, of the Philippines, of America and the world, of those high ideals for which they all stand. Let us have a glimpse of how he died during the dark days of the enemy occupation. Let us read T.M. Locsin’s “Last Decision” (FREE PRESS, Nov. 30, 1946). In his note accompanying the picture of Jose Abad Santos and his family, the author states that Santos was the direct representative in the Philippines of the Commonwealth government in exile. Reading the article, we learn that at the time of his death, Santos was acting for and representing the President of the Philippines (the most logical man under the American system of government because he was then a member of the cabinet). In conclusion, we are told by Locsin that the Japanese subjected Santos to intensive investigation because they learned that he had been appointed by Quezon to represent him as head of the Philippine government in the islands; that he was liquidated by the Japs because he refused to obey their demands one of which was to make a broadcast asking General Roxas to surrender. Was Santos then the supreme head of the Philippine government who had been asked by the enemy to make a broadcast to General Roxas to surrender, or a mere secretary of justice asked to make a broadcast to his superior urging him to surrender?

Conflicting theories

This account of the life and activities of Jose Abad Santos would seem to disprove the contention of the two gentlemen, Messrs. Bustos and Mañgahas, who were ahead in claiming the honor for His Excellency, the President, Manuel Roxas. On the other hand, the writing of the biographical sketch of Santos by Locsin must have been inspired by the occasion—National Heroes Day. The occasion demanded that Jose Abad Santos be eulogized and Locsin had to do his best to magnify the dead hero.

As a teacher, the writer can tell his geography class that Tayabas is now “Quezon;” and that the Turtle Islands will soon be a part of the Philippine map. He can tell his history class that Tila Pass in their history books must now be read as “Tirad Pass.” He can cite authorities for all of these. But how can he tell with certainty the same class who was the direct and true representative of the Commonwealth government in exile?

For the benefit of thousands or should I say “millions” of history teachers and students who want to know the true history of their country during the Japanese occupation, Messrs. Bustos, Mañgahas, and Locsin would settle these conflicting theories. They should restore our waning confidence in their ability to deal with facts. Their writings have more influence on the minds of the youth than all the teachers in the Philippines combined.

To the above question, as to who was the official designated by the late President Manuel L. Quezon to represent the Commonwealth government during the Japanese occupation, President Roxas had this to say:

“When I met President Quezon at Del Monte in Mindanao a few days before his departure for Australia, I inquired about Jose Abad Santos. The President told me that he had chosen to remain in the Philippines. He had stayed in Negros with the approval of the president and was by him entrusted with the power of supervision and control over the courts of justice in all unoccupied areas.”

This is an excerpt from a speech delivered before the Supreme Court by then Senate President Roxas during the memorial services for the late Chief Justice on December 2, 1945. On the same occasion, however, then Justice Roman Ozaeta went further and said:

“When President Quezon left for the United States via Australia, he gave Chief Justice Abad Santos the choice to go with him or to remain in the Philippines . . . He said: ‘I prefer to remain, carry on my work here, and stay with my family.’ The President, probably against his will, respected that decision and entrusted him with the heavy responsibility of governing the country during his absence.” Until further evidence is available, this is the best we can do. —Teodoro M.. Locsin

Report on the Plebiscite, April 5, 1947

April 5, 1947

The struggle to preserve the purity of the franchise is a never-ending one. At the times and places described below, the forces of genuine democracy seem to have lost the battle to forces of arrogance and corruption. There can be only one answer. Let those who truly believe in honest elections resolve with increased firmness and determination to fight for them, in spite of temporary defeat and discouragement.—The Editor.

Report from Iloilo

March 12, 1947

To An American Friend:

The plebiscite is over. For the next 28 years you will have equal rights with us in the development of our country. As the saying is, “The people have spoken.” In this case, however, it seems to me that this means, “The people who compose the Board of Election Inspectors have spoken for the people who did not vote.” Let me explain.

False rumors and false hopes, April 5, 1947

False rumors and false hopes

by Gregorio Borlaza

Sustained a nation in its darkest hour


April 5, 1947–FRANCE fell in about three weeks after the start of the German offensive. Thailand fell in a matter of hours, and Singapore, reputed to be the impregnable Gibraltar of the Far East, fell much sooner than generally expected. But Bataan and Corregidor stood for almost half a year, giving the Allies precious time to prepare Australia as the base for the reconquest of lost Pacific territories and the ultimate defeat of Japan.

What made it possible for this little country, with its small Fil-American army lacking in food and ammunition, totally cut off from the outside world, and completely divested of air and naval protection and support, to stand so long against a huge, fanatical army riding on the crest of sensational, if temporary, victory? Loyalty to American, of course, and devotion to democracy and age-old consecration to the cause of liberty. But, in no small measure, also due to the false rumors and false hopes cleverly conceived and ingeniously spread among the people under the very nose of the enemy.

Shortly before the actual fall of Bataan, for instance, rumor said that the Fil-American soldiers were preparing for a grand victory parade in Manila. Several miles of convoy had been sighted; the ocean was dark with ships of all descriptions as far as the eye could see, and our troops were poised for a grand counter-offensive.

About the end of February, 1942, the people were thrilled by the “news” that General Homma, commander in Chief of the J.I.A. in the Philippines, had committed hara-kiri to atone for the undue concern he had caused His Majesty, the Emperor, by failing to bring the Bataan campaign to a quick decision. A little later, General Yamashita, hero of Singapore, came to take charge of the Philippine campaign, General Yamashita, so the rumor said, was a former classmate of General MacArthur at West Point, and as a welcome gift for his former friend and classmate, the latter (according to the rumor) sent the former a long dagger with the following message: “Should you fail in your mission, the conquest of Bataan—and I know you are going to fail—you may find it necessary to follow the time-honored Japanese tradition of committing hara-kiri. I am therefore sending this dagger with the hope that you will be so kind as to autograph it, use it in the sacred act, and have it sent to me as a souvenir of our friendship.” The Filipino masses actually fell for this and how it bolstered their morale!

During the first week of March 1942, it was bruited about that thousands of Japanese were being electrocuted daily as they attempted to cross into the American lines. It was said that MacArthur was the world’s greatest authority on the construction of electrified fortifications. He had constructed such clever devices that the Japanese instantly died if they leaned against trees, crossed streams, or walked over muddy roads. Fil-American soldiers were so equipped that they were immune to the shocks that were killing Japs like rats. Disgusted Japanese soldiers were quoted as saying, “Kohoy, kurinte; Tubig, kurinte; Putik, kurinte; Nippon sordier, patay kurinte; Bakit Hiripin Amerikan sordier, hindi patay korinte?” (Everything—the trees, the water, and the mud is alive with electricity. Nippon soldiers die because of it. Why not the Filipino and American soldiers, too?)

On March 13, 1942, we heard that Gen. Yamashita was wounded. Two days later, the people of San Pablo City were saying in hushed tones at the marketplace that he was dead! He was riding in an airplane taking a good look at the opposing lines in Bataan, and the plane was hit by anti-aircraft bullets. He was wounded in one arm which later had to be amputated in one of the hospitals in Manila. Hemorrhage followed the amputation, and a series of blood transfusions failed to save his life. This raised fresh hopes for the early reconquest of Manila, but these hopes were toned down one or two days later by a supposed statement of General MacArthur which read, “We can retake Manila in 48 hours just by changing the position of our big guns on Corregidor, but it will be an empty and temporary victory if gained before the arrival of full aid from America which is now on the way to the Philippines.”

By March 16, 1942, the Japanese High Command was rumored to have ordered the shooting of several companies of Japanese soldiers who refused to go to Bataan, afraid to die of electrocution as thousands of their comrades had died. One day, three columns of Japanese were advancing against the Fil-Americans. The middle column, upon reaching a certain point, mysteriously died before the very eyes of the other two columns. They threw their arms in the air, writhing in agony, and after a moment, fell dead. Upon seeing this, the other two columns refused to advance; whereupon, the officers at the rear ordered the soldiers who were behind to shoot those in front; at which the latter turned about and returned the fire. In this way, all the three columns were annihilated that day without our troops having to fire a single shot!

On March 19, Hitler was reported to have fled to Norway because of internal trouble in Germany. Other rumors said he had died, and the Japanese were glum at the prospect of being left alone to face the United nations.

These and many other rumors kept the morale of the Filipinos so high that they were completely unprepared for the blow that was to fall upon them early in April. When the fall of Bataan became inevitable, the masses were so surprised that they openly blamed America for having left their youth—in the flower of manhood—to their fate in the hell of Bataan. “Where are the thousands of planes promised us!” they asked. “Where are the miles of convoys? What will happen to our boys?” There was general consternation and confusion. There was almost a general collapse when Bataan finally fell.

But more rumors eventually rallied the people. Resistance in Bataan was given up to relieve our boys. There was still Corregidor which could stand indefinitely against the enemy. There were, on Corregidor, enough munitions and food supplies to last for ten years. Secret new weapons had been landed by submarines, and our garrison could engage the enemy from the impregnable bastion for an indefinite period of time. Americans had landed somewhere in Japan, according to a “dispatch” received on April 13. On May 3, we heard of big betting in Wall Street, the odds being heavily that Germany would collapse in 60 days. Meanwhile, Corregidor was shooting down a great number of planes daily with anti-aircraft guns so accurate they could draw a circle of fire around an enemy plane before hitting the bulls eye.

But Corregidor, too, was one day to fall, and when it did on May 6, 1942, rumors were no longer capable of raising false hopes in Filipino hearts. But they were no longer necessary. The foundation of the underground resistance movement had been laid. Underground newspapers were beginning to circulate. Nuclei of guerrilla organizations were rising everywhere, and the people looked upon them as the symbol of their new hope.