Notes on the Eve of July 4
By Teodoro M. Locsin
Random Thoughts and a Trial Balance of the First Year of the Philippines Republic
June 28, 1947–HOW free is the Philippines? How real is Philippine independence?
To answer those questions best, one should first take a look around, compare and take notes. How free and independent is any nation in the world? Today two giants bestride the world: the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. A third giant, the British Empire, is on the decline. The rest are political satellites or economic dependencies of either of the first two powers, or their uneasy neighbors. The world is slowly coming into unity—it is in the throes of the last great revolution preceding the creation of a single world state—and national independence, in the insular sense of the term, is a conception that is increasingly obsolete. The world must federate or perish.
Toward the United States the hand of almost every nation is stretched for aid, at the same time there is the haunting fear of “dollar domination.” An unreasonable attitude, perhaps, for if you are seeking a loan, if not an outright gift, you must consider, in fact you will only get the loan or gift if you accept, the lender’s or donor’s terms. Yet, even as one receives, one resents. The creditor, though one goes to him gladly and willingly enough, is the object of hard thoughts. And such is human nature that one finds it easier to forgive one’s enemies than those to whom one owes favors.
In this regard, the United States should not be surprised if, in giving but at the same time bargaining, the recipients should accept and at the same time prove resentful. America, perhaps, should give freely, without conditions, without reservation, regardless of the kind of government of the country she gives to. Perhaps she should help and strengthen those of rival ideology. Then she would no longer be accused of exerting pressure, of resorting to political dictation. Then se would be universally praised if in private considered a damned fool.
Toward the Soviet Union, those communist persuasion look as to a New Rome. Salvation lies there. The triumph of the Soviet Union is the triumph of the workers of the world. Russia comes first—thus the native communist line goes, for if Russia succeeds, can communism in every country be far behind? In brief, the communist denies that he places Russia’s interests over and above his country’s. In his mind there is no opposition between the two. His country’s and Russia’s interests are one. That is the Marxist outlook, the Leninist view.
The question, therefore, does not arise in the communist mind as to the possibility of Russian domination. All communists are of one faith. As the Pope of Rome is to all Catholics their spiritual father, so Stalin is to communists everywhere, their political mentor and guide. Russia is where they fly to, when trouble comes. Russia, which had provided safe harbor for such distinguished refugees from counter-revolution as Madame Sun Yat-sen and Bulgaria’s present communist boss, Georgi Dimitrov. Russia can do no wrong.
In the Philippines, the searching and liberal mind harbors no similar illusion, that the United States can do no wrong. At the same time it is confronted with benefits undoubtedly received from the United States, with aid actually extended, with favors conferred. The United States has been a friend, but is it nothing else? Is it not also, by the conditions of dependency it has helped to create, a threat to Philippine independence and sovereignty?
A year of republican existence shows the Philippines politically free—but economically bound to the United States. The United States has supported and maintained the present government of the Philippines; had it withdrawn its support, that government might have collapsed in less than the 12 months of its existence. Inflation, unemployment and social disorder would have gripped the country.
The Begging Attitude
American money has kept Roxas in Malacañan. The alternative to American relief is trouble. Let the Americans withdraw and who will provide the arms to equip the Philippine Army and the money to pay the man now in the field containing the forces of agrarian revolt?
The Philippines is politically free—have no doubt about that. Its government has granted base sites to the United States after negotiation and without duress. What has been given has been freely given. Both parties agreed to the terms.
The Philippines has exercised other acts of sovereignty—at the same time the independence of a nation is no different from that of a man. An empty sack, it has been well put, cannot stand alone.
The Philippines asks for American loans and relief, it has opened, in exchange for the payment of war-damages, its natural wealth to American exploitation. The exchange has been ratified by popular vote in a national plebiscite. Nobody stuck a gun in the back of the people: they wanted American money and were prepared to pay the price for it. If the Philippines is not as free as it might be, that is the will of its people and government. Nobody forced it to give anything away.
Which is not to say that it is independent and free. A man who has mortgaged his property, who is increasingly in debt and sees little prospect, as he conducts his affairs, of achieving solvency, cannot be said to be free. He is tied to his creditor. Need compelled him to it, but he signed that mortgage deed willingly enough.
How long will American money be poured into the islands and keep its government going and the people out of the breadlines—and out of the radical camp? And has such aid been as effective as it might have been?
Today, as fast as the United States is pouring money into the Philippines, money is leaving it. There is a fearful disparity between Philippine imports and exports. Meanwhile, Philippine industrialization—which free trade, in the opinion of many, has rendered complex and difficult if not impossible—is largely on paper. When American dollars run out, what then? Will the Philippines then be able to stand on its own? Or will it collapse like an empty sack?
Must the Philippines be in a state of perpetual economic dependency on the United States—like an idiot child or a lunatic ward, a hopeless cripple? Ahead are only more and more American loans, assuming that one gets them all. Not discernible are a balanced budget, full employment and agrarian peace. Before us is only the perpetually extended hand. The begging attitude.
Meanwhile, much of American relief is going into the hands of a few who, as in China, are slowly and quietly consolidating their economic monopoly over the islands’ resources. One hears, more and more often, of this million-peso deal and that multi-million-peso transaction in which some great industry or business passed into the ownership of a Malacañan-connected few. One hears of trips abroad by some Liberal where money is being secretly cached. Rumors only, perhaps—but the air is thick with them. Everywhere one seems to smell corruption. Thus it was, before the Czarist throne fell—it had no American hand-out to prop it up. Where are the classic capitalist virtues of hard work, honesty and thrift?
Meanwhile, a new prophet, accusing the present administration of puppetry, comparing it—the last insult—to his Jap-dictated own, has risen. Jose Laurel, president of the Japanese puppet republic of the Philippines, promise or hints at salvation from American relief ad loans. Under him as President, his people would be sovereign and finally free of the Americans. Philippine independence would be, after so many centuries of alien rule, a reality.
His attacks are well received, for he is appealing to a legitimate and inemdicable sentiment: the nationalist one. One is shame-faced at biting the hand that fees one, but the desire for economic independence in addition to political freedom is in every true citizen. In the end, a man becomes calloused and think’s that if the Americans are giving us money, it is for a purpose of their own, and to thank them would be superfluous and even impractical. It is a bargain, involving in no way the sentiment of gratitude, and both parties benefit by it, and pay the price agreed.
Besides, how little of it is going to the people! Let those who owe the Americans pay them. Those who become rich overnight, who ride in limousines, who own tall and imposing buildings: the surplus millionaires, the import magnates, the flourishing professionals. The people—most of them—still live in nipa huts, go without medical attention, are little more than peons to their landlords, scratching a bare living off the earth. They own nobody a thing,
What America has given has not reached the right people. In the midst of recrimination, it should be of some consolation to her that the firmest faith in her still abides in those she has least benefited, that among the common people to whom only the littlest bit of her great beneficence has filtered remains a warm and unshakable confidence in her ideals.
Meanwhile, I remember Luis Taruc—the last time I saw him, before that famous exchange of letters with Roxas, before he took to the field. Today he is an outlaw, he faces extermination. There is no hope for him. He will die.
Even then he knew that he would die. He was prepared for what he called his martyrdom. In the eyes of the law he is worse than a brigand, he is a rebel against the government, an enemy of the state. But for his convictions he was prepared to die, to give up his life for something outside himself.
That is reassurance, to know today that there are such Filipinos. His side may be the wrong side, or his methods wrong, or his ideas not right—but he was ready to sacrifice all so that, as he thought, those who live after him may live better, more decently, as freemen. In a time and in a country where the men in authority seem to have only one thought: money, loot—it is comfort to know that there is still iron in our spirit.
Ideologies change, philosophies are overthrown. The social order of today is only a historical footnote to tomorrow. But one thing stands, without which nothing much can be achieved under whatever social order: integrity. Character.
If a man is a man, in such times of change as these, it is enough. He may be wrong, but how many are wrong and are not even men! He may be an enemy, but one respects him.
I, for one, find it good to know that there are, when everything seems for sale, Filipinos who cannot be bought, who stand for something outside their own comfort. For it is not enough to have the right principles, one must have the necessary integrity and strength of character.