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World War II in the Philippines

(from the Free Press Century Book)

World War II in the Philippines:
The lasting effect on the Filipino people

By Alfonso J. Aluit

FOR a people without experience of war, World War II came as the crucible for Filipinos, the ultimate test for the individual and the nation, a test of the effectiveness of the institutions of government and religion, a test of faith in truth, justice, and freedom, in fact a test of all the beliefs Filipinos subscribed to.

The Japanese invasion in December 1941 had no precedent in the memory of most Filipinos of that period. The American invasion in 1898 had been a reality only to disparate groups in the country. The Philippine-American War was not of a national character, having been limited to certain areas in Luzon and the Visayas, and was but endemic in nature in Mindanao.

But World War II, which lasted from December 1941 until the last Japanese commander came down from the hills in August 1945, was a national experience the reality of which was felt by every Filipino of every age in every inhabited region of the archipelago.

How did World War II affect the Filipinos, and how have the effects of war influenced Philippine life and civilization in thereafter?


Last decision, November 30, 1946

Last decision

by Teodoro M. Locsin
Staff Member

“Do not cry. What is the matter with you? Show these people that you are brave…. This is a rare opportunity for me to die for our country: not everybody is given that chance.”

November 30, 1946–THE dead are many, and the heroes are innumerable. Courage, so rarely evident in peace, in wartime becomes commonplace. Men die gladly and with a will for what they call their way of life, their country, their liberty—although men have died to uphold a tyranny. The enemy, too, have their dead.

Men die in war in many ways. They die in the trenches, in cities under bombardment, in the air—a new kind of death made possible by the genius of the two brothers who launched the first plane—and in the sea, by drowning. These are the common casualties of war. They die in the hope that they would not die, that they might not be hit, that they would escape and live. They die just as they are thinking that the bullet or bomb has not yet been made with their number on it.

It is one thing to be in a trench with other men and have the enemy shooting impartially and not too accurately at all of you. It is not the same as having a gun pointed at you, and to be asked to do what that stern and terrible judge, your conscience, will not let you do.

This is the story of José Abad Santos. A Filipino, like many others. A man, like how few! Perhaps he died foolishly. Uselessly, perhaps he should have done what the enemy asked him to do. Perhaps he should have chosen life—to work in a government imposed on his people by the enemy, to collaborate with the invader for the cause now proclaimed by another man as that of “national survival.” He chose to die. Foolishly, perhaps uselessly. But bravely.

On that there is no issue.

It would have been so much easier—to live.

President Quezon took Abad Santos with him to Corregidor. There he administered the oath to office to the President as his second inauguration. He left the island fortress with Quezon and Osmeña for Negros the day after his 56th birthday.

Before Quezon left for the United States, he asked him if he wanted to go with him or remain in the Philippines. Abad Santos said: “I prefer to remain, carry on my work here, and stay with my family.”

On April 11, 1942, he and his son, José, were captured by the enemy in Cebu. When the Japanese learned that he had been appointed by Quezon to represent him as head of the Philippine government in the islands, he was subjected to intensive investigation. The Japanese blamed him for the burning of Cebu City.

Today his family knows—through an American officer who had taken part in the investigation of the Japanese officers responsible for his death—that the enemy demanded of him two things: to make a broadcast, asking General Manuel A. Roxas to surrender, and to take part and hold an important position in the puppet government.

He would do neither.

“I cannot possibly do that, because if I do so, I would be violating my oath of allegiance to the United States,” he was overheard by his son as replying to the Japanese demands.

Much of his life he had passed judgment and sentence on other men. Now he passed judgment and sentence—his last—on himself.

The Japanese took him and his son to Parang, Cotabato. They were forced to go through jungles with their baggage on their backs. He was, according to his son, all this time in high spirits. He was marching on to death for the Philippines.

The next day they were placed in a truck and taken to Malabang, Lanao. Three days later, a Japanese interpreter told Abad Santos that he was wanted at the Japanese headquarters. There he went to return a few minutes later to his anxious son and to tell him calmly: “I have been sentenced to death. They will shoot me in a few minutes.”

Deathless flame

When his son wept, José Abad Santos smilingly admonished him: “Do not cry. What is the matter with you? Show these people that you are brave… This is a rare opportunity,” he went on, “for me to die for our country; not everybody is given the chance.”

The father and the son knelt down and prayed together. The father embraced the son. Then José Abad Santos walked with serene eyes, to his death.

The son heard the volley of shots. That same afternoon the Japanese interpreter took him to the place of his father’s grave. The Japanese, though an enemy, could recognize courage and paid tribute to it.

“Your father,” he addressed the son, “died a glorious death.”

Today José Abad Santos lies in an unmarked grave, but he lives in the hearts of his family, in the memory of his friends, and in the reverence of his countrymen.

Report on collaboration, August 3, 1946

Report on collaboration

by  Teodoro M. Locsin

Staff member

Re-examine of Issue, Prospect and Expediency of Amnesty, Forecast of Outcome of Collaboration Cases

August 3, 1946–THERE is no end to the argument. It is impossible to decide whether these men did right or wrong as to establish which came first, the chicken or the egg. It is all very well to say that errors of the mind should be forgiven but errors of the heart? How nay a man’s sincerity be defined? Who can look into a man’s heart and say this one was true to the cause and that one false.

“I would do it over again,” Laurel declares. He announces his readiness to die: “I would not want to live if my people believed that I betrayed them…”

Surely the last thing one could accuse Laurel of, is insincerity. At the same time, it is difficult to overlook the fact that while the Japanese robbed, murdered and raped, he called them friend, he went further and wrote and published a book commending the Japanese way of life, “bushido,” as against democracy. It may be argued that Laurel made those anti-American utterances, sent the Constabulary after the guerrillas, etc., to appease the Japanese and cushion the shock of the occupation. But must he write a book?

Laurel is a courageous man, and he seems to have the admiration and respect of the President. When Roxas came down from Baguio last year, he called Laurel, in the presence of newspapermen, a hero. Thinking the man thus, it can only be with pain that he would see him sentenced to prison for life, for treasonable collaboration with the enemy. Surely he would feel he must so something about it.

Of course, the People’s Court may clear Laurel. In this connection, it may be noted that the counts against Laurel are more than 100 against Alvero’s 22.

But did Laurel—did the rest of those accused of political collaboration really do wrong? Who will answer that? There is the People’s Court—established precisely for that purpose, to decide these men’s innocence or guilt. That would seem to be the correct procedure. Let the People’s Court decide. Let Laurel and other officials of his regime submit to its jurisdiction as does the humblest, lowliest citizen of this Republic, now before the court on charge of being a Japanese spy. There is either a crime of treason of there is none. Treason is either punished or it is condoned. There is either one law for all, or no law at all.

Policy of administration

The Administration has indicated that its purpose is to let the People’s Court continue its burdensome but necessary work—but, it is added, there will be “reinvestigations.” There are many cases, it is explained, in which reinvestigation would show that the accused is plainly innocent, that he need not be tried at all.

Again, that is correct. That is legal and just. But how will it workout? This year is not last year, and the men in power are not the same. How fair would the reinvestigations be? How much political pressure would be brought to bear on the reinvestigators? Would politics decide the outcome, or would strict justice rule? Would not amnesty, after all—would not amnesty be the open, forthright thing?

But if the big ones go, should not the small ones be let free, too? The Makapili, taking them at their word, collaborated with the enemy. Did not the Republic enter into a pact of alliance with the Japanese? Why should he not fight for them? As you can see, the questions are endless.

Let us go into the probable outcome. Laurel and company will either be tried by the People’s Court or there will be an amnesty. If they are tried by the People’s Court, they will either be declared innocent or found guilty. The decision in the Sison case give us a hint on the probable outcome of these cases.

Study In Detection

If, however, they are declared innocent, Laurel and his association will be set free and will take their place, a high and honored one, in society. Perhaps, in the government itself. If found guilty, they will appeal to the Supreme Court which may rule more favorably. If found still guilty by that court—there will be an amnesty in a year  or two, and they will be free, anyway.

If there is an amnesty, it will not cover the economic collaborators and the lowly Makapili and uninfluential Japanese spy. Only the big ones will go free. If I am proved wrong—write me.

This, as you need not be told, is a study in detection, an attempt at pure deductive reasoning. I am shooting in the dark, I am guessing, but it is my guess that, no matter what happens, some way or another Laurel and his colleagues will be free. If the courts do not set them free, an amnesty will.

After all, in the last election the majority of the Filipino people decided that Roxas, far from being a traitor as some in the opposition claimed, was a patriot and a great man. Roxas occupied a responsible position in Laurel’s government, and was mainly responsible for the drafting of the Constitution. If Roxas, in the conviction of most Filipinos, is not a collaborator, instead deserving of the Presidency—let Laurel and company free. There will be not great outcry. Let the whole bunch free, close the book—what has it got to do with you and me?

Rice shortage

There will be an acute rice shortage in the Philippines beginning August, and the islands will be largely dependent on imported rice until the end of November, it has been announced by the Department of Agriculture,

In Washington the agriculture department estimated that millions would die of starvation in the Far East, particularly in China, due to transportation shortage.

Funeral expenses

The United States spent at least $2,000,000 to bring the body of the late President Manuel L. Quezon to the Philippines, according to the ordinance officer of the aircraft carrier Princeton IV  which brought the remains of Quezon home.