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Sayre arrives, October 28, 1939
October 28, 1939
THE third, and possibly the last, United States High Commissioner to the Philippines, red-haired, polite, precise Francis Bowes Sayre, arrived in the Philippines end of last week. He emerged out of the slight fog that covered Manila bay and also his attitude toward many Philippine questions, affable and smiling, while a 19-gun salute was fired, sirens shrieked, a crowd of 20,000 cheered and the highest government officials of the Commonwealth clapped heartily.
“I am very happy to meet you again,” said High Commissioner Sayre and President Manuel Quezon to each other, with a warm embrace.
“How was the trip, Mr. Commissioner?” asked Mr. Quezon.
“Fine,” grinned Mr. Sayre.
Acting High Commissioner J. Weldon Jones and Secretary Jorge Vargas, representing the President, had gone out on the U.S. Navy launch Yacal to meet the President Cleveland outside the breakwater.
Escorted to the elegant new President’s Landing in front of the Manila Hotel, as swank an introduction to Manila as any tourist-trade-booster could wish for, Mr. Sayre went up the gangplank accompanied by Mr. Vargas; Mrs. Sayre, by Mr. Jones. There they were greeted by the President.
The High Commissioner wore a light-brown woolen suit and white shoes; the President, a white shark-skin double-breasted coat, striped brown trousers, tango shoes. Pretty Mrs. Sayre was in rose, stately Mrs. Quezon in mestiza dress.
“Hello and goodbye”
The distinguished newcomer was speedily presented to the government bigwigs gathered to receive him. He put an affectionate arm around Speaker Jose Yulo. When he came to Secretary Manuel Roxas, the President said with unexpected formality: “You know this gentleman, I presume?” Mr. Sayre knew him.
Stepping out of the neat little pagoda, the High Commissioner had his first real glimpse of the Filipino people. About half of the crowd belonged to Benigno Ramos’ Ganap party and they quickly stole the show. Defying police orders, they waved little blue flags demanding independence, displayed trenchant placards reading:
“The Filipino people demand true independence right away!”
“We object against Quezon-McNutt combination. It is slavery!”
“Greetings to Sayre: We hope you will be the last High Commissioner and not be like McNutt and Murphy who just watched while the leaders spent money!”
A suave diplomat, Mr. Sayre ignored the display. But he must have had his misgivings when President Quezon, consciously or unconsciously, echoed the “hello and goodbye” sentiments of the Ganap.
Introducing the High Commissioner to the crowd, he expressed a fervent hope: “May he be the man to turn over to the first President of the Philippine Republic, the authority and sovereignty of the United States over these islands.”
Previously he had outlined Mr. Sayre’s work on behalf of the Philippines, especially with regard to its economic welfare. “He finds a people who know him as well as he knows hem,” concluded the President. “We know of his record as adviser to the government of Siam, of his ability to treat people of a different race. We know of his deep interest in our welfare. We know that he is our friend.
Making his first speech in the Philippines, the High Commissioner startled his hearers by practically denying the Filipinos were “a different race” at all. “Until their independence is consummated,” he declared, “the Filipino people are an integral part of the American nation. We are fellow-Americans. As High Commissioner to the Philippine Islands, I shall not lose sight of this central fact.”
Eloquently, but none the less firmly, he made it clear that he would not stand in the way of the consummation of independence.
“I want to say to the Filipino people how happy and how proud I am that I have been given the chance to throw in my lot with you in helping to work out the problems which lie before us. In many ways the fundamental problem which we face is unique. Seldom if ever has a great nation in the height of its power because of its profound faith in liberty and democracy helped to create out of its own territory a new nation seeking to work out its independent destiny based upon the same principles.
Having thus painted the glories of democratic liberty, Mr. Sayre drove to the Luneta to lay a wreath at the base of the monument to a martyr to liberty, Jose Rizal. Having put this pointed period to his inaugural address, he was driven past the palace abuilding for him along Dewey Boulevard, to his temporary residence in Pasay.
He left behind a puzzled army of Benigno Ramos’ followers. Numbering 10,000 they had come from Laguna, Bulacan, Rizal, from provinces as distant as Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Pampanga, and Tayabas, each one paying his own fare and bringing his own food, an impressive tribute to the rabble-rousing powers of the former Sakdal chieftain who is now campaigning for the presidency of the Commonwealth. Not even Manuel Quezon perhaps, Ramos’ old boss and probable model, could have called such a legion of faithful believers in Manila.
They had one doctrine, immediate independence, and they had one prophet, Benigno Ramos. He had told them that the Americano was going to give them freedom.
Cheers for Ramos
When Ramos walked along Katigbak drive to the landing early that morning, the Ganap ranks gave him cheer after lusty cheer. But when President Quezon drove by in his limousine, preceded by three motorcycle policemen and three Philippine army artillery units, the Ganap men fell into a sullen silence. It was an amazing, and significant, contrast.
After the High Commissioner’s speech, an old man carrying a Ganap flag asked a Manila Daily Bulletin reporter: “Are we free now?”
“Aren’t you?” countered the reporter.
“Oh, I don’t know. I didn’t understand what the Americano said. I can’t understand English. The leaders of our party said we will get our freedom now. The Americano is bringing it.”
In his Pasay garden, the Americano was perhaps discussing the same subject with Mr. Quezon, under a beautiful banyan tree. Later the High Commissioner received other official calls.
He returned the President’s call that afternoon, Mr. Quezon showed his guest the palace library; Mrs. Quezon chatted amiably with Mrs. Sayre, pointed across the Pasig to her favorite Malacañang building, the luxurious Nipa Hut where a state reception for the Sayres may be held soon.
Next day, the High Commissioner held his first press conference. He had a statement ready on reexamination of independence. “It is the duty of American and Philippine officials faithfully to carry out” the provisions of the independence act, he said.
“To my mind the passage by the American Congress of the Tydings-McDuffie act and the acceptance by the Philippine people of a Constitution based upon its provisions constitute a moral obligation not to withdraw the independence program or to alter its fundamental provisions except by the wish of both peoples.
“If ever the day should come when the Filipino people should decide to change their minds and alter the policy to which they have unyieldingly adhered for over 40 years and should bring such a request before Congress, it would be for Congress, and for Congress alone, to decide what course of action the United States should pursue. Such a decision, I need hardly add, would have to be made in the light of such conditions as may then exist in the world and in the Philippines: and what these will be no one can foretell.”
“Off the record”
Suave, smiling Mr. Sayre made the assembled reporters and corespondents forget that he had made them wait for a full day for his first interview. The one American who had been able to outsmart Manuel Quezon—he had wangled the President’s signature to a statement expressing willingness to abandon preferential trade relations with the United States—the High Commissioner did not let his questioners outsmart him.
He took a lot of chaffing on his “fellow Americans” speech. Then, knowing him to be an expert on trade relations, a correspondent asked; “Do you consider the present trade relations between the United States and the Philippines mutually beneficial?”
“I do,” answered Mr. Sayre.
“Then why should they be terminated?”
The High Commissioner said that for the present he must explain “off the record.”
“Do you use such expressions here?” he asked innocently.
The reporters guffawed. His predecessors had been singularly addicted to keeping things “off the record.” Paul V. McNutt had killed many a good story by telling it before it could be told to him or anybody else, and then asking the boys to keep it “off the record.” Frank Murphy had talked even less for publication.
“Why,” cried Dick Wilson of the United Press, “the phrase originated here!”
A deeply religious man, Mr. Sayre went to church after his press conference, Mrs. Sayre motored up to Baguio the next day to enrol her children by her first marriage in Brent School.
Juan Sumulong: Dreamer, not demagogue, September 17, 1938
Dreamer, not demagogue
By Leon Ma. Guerrero
Free Press staff member
September 17, 1938–THE day before, Nationalist Campaign Manager Benigno Aquino had said: “Juan Sumulong would be an ideal critic. He is a profound thinker, an effective writer. But as a leader of the opposition he will not be successful. A person who considers thoroughly what he is going to do and say, because he is afraid of what may be said against him, cannot lead a successful opposition. Juan Sumulong is a dreamer, an idealist.”
Sitting at a quiet window in native shirt and slippers, looking out occasionally at the great tree an arm’s length away or down at the quiet street, the old man I was talking with looked indeed like a dreamer, an idealist.
He laughed when he heard what Aquino had said. It was a kindly laugh, springing from real amusement. I could not make up my mind whether he was laughing at Aquino or laughing at himself. Ever afterward, after explaining a plank in the opposition platform, he would stop and add an ironic footnote. “But of course, I am an idealist,” he would chuckle tolerantly, “just a dreamer.”
“Every man a king”
Once I interrupted his careful exposition of the opposition’s plans. “That is all very well. But the masses can’t understand that.” It was a complicated explanation of tariffs.
“No, they can’t,” he admitted.
“Why don’t you get something popular, something dramatic and easily understood, like President Quezon’s social justice, for example?”
He frowned. “Unfortunately,” he said, “there are no demagogues in the opposition.”
It sounded like a death sentence—for the opposition.
What does the opposition need? Above all things it needs a demagogue. It also needs an issue, money, a machine, etc., etc. But a rip-roaring, hell-raising, heaven-promising, unscrupulous demagogue could make everything an issue. He wouldn’t need money or machine.
An opposition party is the party of the outs, the party of the dispossessed. That is its weakness, and its strength. If it can appeal successfully to the grumbling and the groaning, the out of money and the out of sorts, no political machine can stop it, no lack of funds can handicap it; its issue will be the sure and simple Huey Long formula of “Every man a king.”
The Russian Revolution was not won with the abstruse economics of Karl Max. It was won with three alluring words, easy to remember, hard to refute: “Peace and Bread.”
Philosopher in an easy chair
The new deal did not sweep America in two presidential campaigns on the party platform of a balanced budget and states’ rights. It won 46 out of 48 states with a budget deliberately unbalanced to feed the hungry, raise wages, give government work to the jobless. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with the Democratic machine wrecked by the overwhelming defeat of Al Smith, led a discouraged opposition to unprecedented victory by deliberately fostering an electoral class war: the poor against the rich, the bottom against the top.
In spite of fusions and coalitions, the Philippines is fertile soil for such an opposition. The coconut planters are dissatisfied—promise them the repeal of the excise tax, which feeds the party in power! The price of rice is high—promise to force it down to P5, P4, P3 a cavan! Tenants on the big estates are grumbling—promise them free land, good prices, no taxes! Every man a king! If and immediately when elected!
The laws of economics? The constitution? The demagogue doesn’t know and doesn’t care. Neither do the people.
But such a demagogue, the opposition party in the Philippines, whatever there is of it, emphatically does not have.
“There are no demagogues in the opposition.”
Instead there is a philosopher in an easy chair, a man who thinks like a judge and talks like a teacher.
“What do you think of President Quezon’s social justice program?” I asked Juan Sumulong.
“The opposition is not in favor of class war.”
“Well, do you admit that there are injustices and sufferings to be remedied?”
“Yes, but we disagree with the remedies offered by the party in power. The minimum wage, the distribution of land, the tenancy contract law, do not go to the root of the trouble.”
“What do you propose instead?”
“Our plan is to establish agricultural banks. The main defect in our system is that we have the very poor and the very rich, with very little middle class. The very poor never have any money, they must always go into debt. Whether you give them land or not, they eventually lose it, because they must borrow money to buy materials; they must mortgage their lands and eventually they lose those land.”
Sumulong went on to discuss tariffs, free trade, provincial autonomy, permanent U.S. naval bases, commercial zones.
“But how long would all these plans take?”
“Several years,” he said frankly. Or perhaps frankly is not the word; perhaps it is carelessly. What is a year or two to a philosopher?
Sumulong is definitely not a demagogue. He does not have the demagogue’s frenzy, his irresponsibility, his glorious generosity; he does not promise everything, now!
Conversely Juan Sumulong does not have the demagogue’s fierce hatreds, his artificial vote-getting enemies. He does not ask for the President’s head.
“What do you think of Quezon?”
“He’s a good man, but his advisers are ruining him. We were classmates, you know, at Santo Tomas. I remember that when we were students, I and several others at the university were affiliated with the Katipunan. We used to get revolutionary pamphlets from Spain, and between classes we would gather in corners to discuss them. But whenever we saw Quezon coming, we changed the subject. We never showed him the pamphlets either. You see, Quezon was a Spanish mestizo and he had been brought up by the friars, so he leaned to their side.”
“I am a sick man”
It was the only slight on the President’s career made that afternoon by Sumulong and it was made with a chuckle, as if he had been reminded of the President’s recent autobiographical speeches, in which the latter spoke of his witnessing the fall of Manila, and of his fighting in Tayabas, as an officer of the revolution.
“We were classmates.”
After a time one begins to get the all flavor of that sentence. Manuel Quezon and Juan Sumulong do not look now as if they had been classmates, contemporaries.
Manuel Quezon looks years younger; the skin on his face is taut and pink with good living, his step is springy, his voice and mind are vibrant with the impulsiveness of youth.
Juan Sumulong’s face is ridged with wrinkles, the skin is loose and pale. He likes to sit by the window and look down on the street, like an old man.
He admits it. I asked him: “Do you intend to run for the Assembly?” “I am too old,” he answered. “My health won’t let me. I am a sick man.” He said it cheerfully, with resignation. One Manuel Quezon was sick too, but he took it rebelliously, with an angry haste to get back on his feet.
At a banquet last week for Vice President Sergio Osmeña, President Quezon analyzed himself and his old partner: “We are temperamentally opposite. He was by nature an evolutionist, and I have been all my life a revolutionist. He always built upon the past and I always ignored the past. He never took but one step at a time and I always wanted to jump….I moved and was inspired by a rebellious spirit, always in a hurry, never satisfied; I wanted to go on without looking back. And he, always measuring the distance, always looked ahead but without forgetting what was behind.”
The President might have been speaking of another classmate, Juan Sumulong. Sumulong, like Osmeña, is an evolutionist, a cautious philosopher going one step at a time. That is why neither Sumulong nor Osmeña ever was any good as leader of an opposition. They are temperamentally suited for power, for deliberate direction without opposition.
Manuel Quezon, the rebel—almost, one might say, the demagogue—would be infinitely more fit to lead the opposition today than Sumulong; and would feel infinitely happier about it.
Now in power, surrounded by yes-men, Quezon misses the fights he used to have. He flails about, looking for trouble. He puts up straw men, just for the pleasure of knocking them down. Deprived of the pleasure of an opposition in politics, he has picked a fight with corrupt government and corrupt capital.
Juan Sumulong, on the other hand, does not even want to run for election. He prefers to have others do the fighting for the opposition. We are depending on the younger men. The students in the towns and barrios. They are intelligent enough to understand our platform, to explain it to the voters of their towns. You know how it is in the provinces. Whenever a man cannot understand something, he sends for the town student to explain it to him. These are the men on whom the opposition builds its hopes.”
Sumulong was once such a young man, in the hilly pilgrimage town of Antipolo, just as Quezon and Osmeña were in their towns in Tayabas and Cebu, respectively. But the careers of the three diverged sharply from the outset.
Quezon and Osmeña became two of the founders and leaders of the Nationalist party, whose platform was immediate, complete, and absolute independence. Sumulong, characteristically, aligned himself with the Federal party, whose platform was the entrance of the Philippines into the American Union as a state.
Quezon and Osmeña plunged into politics together. Last week the President reminisced: “The Vice President and I have been friends ever since we were in college. We entered politics in the same year. We were elected provincial governors on the same day. We took our oath of office on the same day. We were elected to the National Assembly on the same day, and we took that oath of office on the same day.”
While his two classmates were in the thick of elections, scrambling for votes and power, Sumulong became a judge of the court of first instance. As early as that his judicial mind, his natural detachment from the hurly burly of politics, was becoming evident. Evident also was his idoneity for calm counsel instead of rabble-rousing opposition. As a Federalist, Sumulong was a friend of the Americans. On March 1, 1909, he was appointed to the Philippine Commission, the upper appointive legislative house at the time, as commissioner without portfolio.
When pro-Filipino Gov. Gen. Francis Burton Harrison came to power, he demanded the resignation of all four Filipino commissioners to make place for the Nationalists. Sumulong resigned October 10, 1913.
It was a humiliation and a rebuke hard to take. Sumulong had remained with the Federal party through its change into the Progressive party, advocating gradual transition to independence. Disillussioned perhaps, he helped organize the Democrata party in 1917, asking for absolute and immediate independence.
At long last, step by step, Evolutionist Sumulong had arrived at the position Quezon and Osmeña had taken from the beginning.
But he did not immediately enter politics. He waited until 1925 to launch his candidacy for senator from the fourth district. He was elected, became the floor leader of the Democrata minority in the senate until his retirement in 1931.
The only time Sumulong tasted party victory was when he allied himself Manuel Quezon against the Hare-Hawes Cutting bill. Perhaps there was much of personal jealousy in Quezon’s stand; in Sumulong’s there could have been only intellectual conviction. But it was Quezon’s fire, his contradictory but magnetic speeches, his boasting and promising, that gave the anti opposition an overwhelming victory. It showed once more Manuel Quezon’s genius as a rebel.
But it also showed Sumulong’s fatal consistency, the careful consideration and intellectual honesty which have proved his political undoing. In the heat of that campaign, Sumulong, like Quezon and the other antis, assailed many provisions in the HHC law that are now embodied in the Tydings-McDuffie law, as accepted by Quezon and the party in power.
But Sumulong still believes that the establishment of permanent U.S. naval bases will prove disastrous to an independent Philippines.
He still believes that the longer free trade is continued, the harder it will be for the Philippines to shake off economic bondage.
The first and last anti
He is, in a way, the Last Anti.
He was also, in a way, the First Anti. As one of the founders of the Progressive party, he advocated just such a transition to independence as we have now, under the Tydings-McDuffie law.
Immediate, absolute and complete independence has now lost much of its glamour, but in the provinces it is still as potent a political platform as it was when Manuel Quezon used it to rise to power. An unscrupulous opposition, a demagogue, could still use it now with great effect.
The Sakdals under Benigno Ramos won the only opposition victories in the Philippines in recent years with that old slogan. The new opposition under Juan Sumulong could win even greater victories. Manuel Quezon knows this: periodically he hints that it’s just the thing.
But when the opposition party met to formulate its platform recently, Sumulong put his foot down and kicked out the magic plank. Why? He didn’t think it was beneficial, or even possible!
“We may have won a few votes with it,” he said. And then he shrugged. Votes were not everything.
Instead of political independence, Sumulong wants to wave economic independence at the voters. He accuses the Nationalist Party of working to keep us in indefinite economic bondage to the U.S., with transition tariffs extended until 1960, the ceaseless grabbing after quota concessions, even the JPCPA.
Economic independence! A fresh slogan, a vital problem, but….
“Will the masses understand it?”
“There are no demagogues in the opposition.”
One wonders why Sumulong is in the opposition at all. His fellow Democrats who sided with Quezon in 1934 went high. Claro Recto became president of the constitutional convention, associate justice of the supreme court. Gregorio Perfecto is a powerful Assemblyman, chairman of the Little Senate.
Why did Sumulong break with Quezon? It is a question which Sumulong wants to keep until he writes his memoirs. He contents himself now with telling an anecdote. In the midst of the campaign, Quezon was discussing a measure at a council of the antis. Immediately, says Sumulong, most of the antis moved to give him a vote of confidence.
“I objected, of course,” says Sumulong. “Quezon hadn’t asked for confidence; no difficult question had been proposed. It was a routine discussion, and these fellows wanted to give him a vote of confidence!”
Sumulong thinks that Quezon is still plagued with yes-men.
“The poor man is being led astray by sycophants. Sí, señor; sí señor. That’s all he hears. No wonder he commits all his mistakes.”
The plans for industrialization are “ill digested.”
Provincial and municipal governments should be given more autonomy. This is possible by making them financially independent of the central government through greater powers of taxation.
The senate should be revived under the old plan. Older heads could restrain and counsel the younger Assembly. The army and insular police should be divorced from politics. The President should not be Commander-in-Chief of the army….
Juan Sumulong is not an opposition leader. He is not a demagogue. He is too careful, too kind, too intellectual. He likes to dream, to plan quietly for an ideal state, sitting by the window above a quiet street. He is not the man to shout on a soapbox and light the fire of opposition. He would be happier and more useful as a judge, a senator, or an adviser at Malacañan, this wise and tired old man.