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Escape from Corregidor, December 8, 2001

Escape from Corregidor

by Manuel L. Quezon Jr.

(Fom the late author’s unpublished memoirs.

December 8, 2001–THE last public occasion I attended with my father (I was then 15) was when my father told the UP audience on Taft Avenue that if bombs started to drop and people was killed because there were no shelters, it would be because of the Civil Liberties Union. My father had planned to build air raid shelters all over for the safety of the people but Roosevelt had asked him not to use the special powers given him by the National Assembly because of the Civil Liberties Union.  I have never liked the CLU since.  If widespread bombing had occured in Manila, people would have died because of the CLU. In their self-righteous so-called defense of rights, they sometimes block higher rights —and those people should have been hanged from the lamp posts.

During the speech, my father was shouting.  I never remembered any of the subject matter of my father’s speeches — what 15 years old wants to sit through hour-long public speeches — at least they seemed hours long — but that speech I do recall.  The smart-alec UP students laughed.

In 1941 — December 8— the war came. The day World War II started in the Philippines, my mother, my sister Baby, Jovita Fuentes and I were at our (then) hacienda in Arayat, Pampanga, just about half an hour from the Buencamino hacienda in Cabiao, Nueva Ecija.  As it was the Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion, Patroness of the Philippines and also of Cabiao, we went to Cabiao; we had the usual enormous breakfast of adobo, tinapa, eggs and God knows what else.  I suppose Jovita Fuentes had to sing at Mass.  Then we went back to Arayat,  where we soon saw the smoke rising above Fort Stotsenberg, as the Japanese that had bombed it flew right over us.  Jovita Fuentes fell into a ditch from fright.  My mother signalled me to join her under a shrub or trees lower than her (she was only five feet tall).  My sister Baby did not join us in hiding.  She was one of those enviable individuals who was inmune of from fear, and bent over double with laughter at my mother and myself, hiding under the little shrub. My father was in Baguio resting at the outbreak of war — apparently he was having  a resurgence of his TB, although I did not know.

That evening my father picked us all up and we we moved back to our country house in Marikina for safety.  Marikina had a very well designed air raid shelter.

Government people kept coming and going. There were lots of meetings, and finally what turned out to be my father’s last cabinet meeting before evacuating to Corregidor. It was held under the shade of a large mango tree in our Marikina house, where PSBA is now.

What I was doing in the open-air Cabinet meeting I do not know but I do recall that my father got telephone reconfirmation of MacArthur’s approval of my father’s instructions — the cabinet members were to do everything to protect the Filipino people, short of swearing allegiance to Japan and the rule was followed by the Filipinos.  It did them little good, as they were all tried for collaboration.  Only Pres. Roxas’s amnesty saved them.

Except for our departure for Corregidor — perhaps not that — I was never told what my father intended — I was just told to move whenever we were to move.

On December 24, 1941, when we were brought to  the Presidential landing to board the Mayon, the largest interisland steamer at the time, painted all white — it was obvious we were going to Corregidor. We were given life jackets.  An air raid started and the ship could not move — I think the ship’s engineer was missing.  But the Japanese did not know who were on board — the Philippine government.  Perhaps they did not care.  It was especially frightening for a terrible scary-cat like me — a terrible experience, being marooned in the bay not far from the Manila Hotel.  Fortunately, no bombs were dropped on the ships.  Perhaps the Japanese intended to use the ships later.

Finally,  the all clear was sounded and finally we got underway.  As I recall it, we reached Corregidor towards evening.  The previous time my father had brought me to Corregidor, months or a year before, we were received with a 19 gun salute, in broad daylight.  Now it was a humble arrival.  We were brought to the hospital side-tunnel of the Malinta tunnel.  At midnight Father Pacifico Ortiz, S.J., our Chaplain, said mass for us and the soldiers, in Latin of course.  It was either at that mass or the New Year’s Mass that he preached to comfort us,  speaking in our Lord’s words “Put your hand in mine,” referring to the darkness of the war.

Corregidor became our home from Dec. 24, 1941 to Feb. 20, 1942.  If the  war had not come, we should have been hearing Midnight Mass in the richly carved wooden chapel in our home in Pasay.  Noche Buena was meant to be the re-inauguration of our own house in Pasay, where we were to live instead of in Malacañan.  We never saw our home again, except in ruins, as was the case with our Marikina house — the Japanese or the Makapilis, or in the case of Pasay, perhaps the Americans had destroyed them.

Manuel L. Quezon Jr., Aurora A. Quezon, Manuel L. Quezon, Maria Aurora Quezon, on Corregidor.

As our Corregidor stay was prolonged, things became worse.  At first we had some minutes’ air raid warning, then Cavite fell and there was no warning — shells from Maragondon would just come over, my eldest sister, Baby with her mission in life (as Nini said) of perpetually making puns, punned — May Aragon doon.  The lovely presidential yacht, the Casiana had been sunk of Corregidor and US soldiers used to dive underwater to bring up bottles of liquor, champagne, etc.

I recall one air-raid that was terrifying.  We were sitting outside the hospital tunnel on the small platform under a tent, where my father used to spend the day.  Suddenly, siren! How we got my father inside, I don’t remember, but obviously he could still walk.  But I recall my mother starting to run but with just a half-step she stopped dead and looked around for her children.  Baby who was one of those irritating people who literally never experienced fear, was bent over in laughter.  She had spotted Carlos P. Romulo running down the hills towards the tunnel as fast as he could, which anyone in his right mind would do.  But when he saw Baby laughing, bent over, he suddenly stopped and walked.  His rather foolish male pride came  into operation, even though he and Baby could both have been killed.  My mother shouted “Baby!” I still remember her voice and we all made it safely to the tunnel.  Then the bombs started to drop closer and closer until an absolutely deafening explosion came.  I thought a bomb had entered the tunnel and the lights went out.  We were already in the sub-lateral we occupied, with the only light being the sanctuary lamp of the curtained-off little chapel.  How long we continued sitting in the dark I do not recall.

During the raids, my father made no sound at all that I recall. He used to say that the brave man was not the one who had no fear — but the one who felt fear and still did his duty.

In the tunnel my mother prayed of course and we were comforted by the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.  I imagine my father prayed too, but he must have prayed in silence.

As the days went on, the shelling became more and more frequent, though I think never at night.

When my father and Don Sergio Osmeña were reinaugurated, on December 30, 1941, the ceremony was held outside one main entrance of the Malinta Tunnel.  All I remember is that High Commissioner Sayre addressed Vice-President Osmeña as “Don Serjoe Osmanyo.”

On the 19th of February, 1942, Fr. Francisco Avendaño came to Corregidor to say mass on my mother’s birthday and complained to my father about the lack of food on Bataan.  He also complained of the American treatment of the Filipino soldiers.  One Filipino who I think was too sick to stand, was kicked by an American.

At midnight that night we boarded the submarine Swordfish. During the night we traveled on the surface, where the sub could make better speed, above 20 knots per hour.  Underwater it could make only about 8 knots per hour. After a good night’s sleep, there was an alarming sound of a siren, the signal that we were submerging.  On the surface the sub had moved with the waves like any other ship. The moment we submerged the sub became almost completely motionless, as there were no waves underwater. We spent the whole day submerged until we landed at San Jose de Antique.  I must be one of the very people who ever received Communion under water.  We were given tongue sandwiches and I threw up. The reason was the heat.  Commander  Smith had decided to attack Japanese troopships in Subic before picking us up (most irresponsible really) and naturally the Japanese dropped depth charges.  As a result, half the air-conditioning system did not work and it was hot as hell.  There were a lot of red lights meaning no smoking but the sailors were merrily smoking away.

As we were passing Mindoro, we were allowed to peep through the periscope.  The sky looked a non descript color.  At one time also there seemed to be sound of propellers which was alarming —possibly an enemy war ship — but it turned out to be the movement of fish tails.  We remained submerged all day and surfaced after dark when the sea was quite rough.  Then we approached the shore,  I seem to recall there was some problem with identifying the people signaling from a boat to pick us up.  If only the people on the boat had realized how close they came to being sunk, but finally we were put ashore to drive to Iloilo.  I recall distinctly leaning my head and shoulders against my father’s dark brown leather jacket in relaxation, feeling safe.  Fortunately during reminder of our stay in the Philippines I did not realize we were in danger all the time.

When we arrived in Iloilo later that night, we went to sleep in comfortable beds and awoke to the sound of the thin horns of Iloilo streetcars the following day.  I am under the impression that we stayed at the Cacho mansion, but it may have been one of the Lopez Mansions.  We spent the day there — I do not know whether my father saw any government officials.  Of course, Iloilo at that time had not yet been occupied by the Japanese. Our nighttime ride from Antique to Iloilo was the first of a series of night time drives in the Philippines until we escaped.

That night we boarded the Princess of Negros, which must have been a slow ship.  We went to Guimaras on the way to Negros, but spent the day there, taking a lunch, up to the river to a house where Father Ortiz baptized an infant with me as sponsor.  I never saw the baby again and do not even recall his name.  We disembarked from the Princess because we might be spotted by Japanese planes.  We reembarked at night and went on to Bacolod where we arrived the following morning.

Humor is always involved with our family.  My chronology is shaky so I am not sure whether the following funny episode happened when we landed in Bacolod or later at some other part.  My father covered his face with his usual large white handkerchief and told the rest of us to do the same, which we did or did not, depending on whether or not we had suitable handkerchiefs.  Some local officials approached and greeted my father, “Good morning, Mr. President”.  He got quite angry at us for not covering our faces, which he blamed for his being recognized. He did not realize that his get-up, with his jodhpurs and large handkerchief and, I think, a soft white hat, and riding whip were instantly recognizable all over the Philippines, whereas our faces were not. We (the rest of the family) had a good secret laugh over it, not openly because he would have been even angrier.

I do not know who provided the cars, but we drove to the Lizares hacienda where Sonia and Lety Lizares were staying.  I do not recall whether  their respective husbands Peping Coroninias and Manuel del Rosario were there, but definitely Letty’s daughters and Minnie were, and became my playmates while we luxuriated there.  Luxuriated is the word, after our stay in Corrigidor and our brief stop-over in Iloilo.  Sonia and Lety had known me since I was a little boy.  I do not remember how long we stayed, but my father took advantage of our stay to confer with government officials, among them Gov. Alfredo Montelibano, who was the uncle and later apparently guerrilla commander of Teddy Locsin.  I suppose our stay there was supposed to be a secret, though how any kind of secret can be kept among Filipinos with their wagging tongues is beyond me.

One evening we drove up a zigzag to a lovely but not  large  house in an hacienda owned by the Aranetas. It was called Buenos Aires  a very appropriate name because it was so nice and  cool. I do not recall whether we went back to the Lizares hacienda or went on to our next stop on the trip which ended up in a rest house in Canlaon Volcano.  We stayed there for some time, how long I don’t recall.  It seems I felt quite safe there.  The rest of our party must have been there too. I remember that at some time Don Andres Soriano went on a reconnaissance flight.  I suppose the plane belonged to our Army Air Corps but I can’t be sure.  I think they spotted a Japanese destroyer, probably the one which finally towed away the Princess of Negros, and which ended up with the Japanese announcing on the air that my father was dead. How we learned of the broadcast I don’t know; it was very brave of Don Andres and his pilot to be scouting because they could have been shot down by the destroyer.  I do not think there were many, or any, Japanese Air Force planes in the area as yet.

Ma. Zeneida Quezon, First Lady Aurora A. Quezon, President Manuel L. Quezon, Ma. Aurora Quezon, Manuel L. Quezon Jr., on Corregidor.

After sometime, for purposes of security I suppose, or perhaps my father received a message from MacArthur that we should join him in Australia, we set off again. The move  was supposed  to be  a secret  but somehow my sister Baby knew where we were going and with her predilection  for punning , she said   “A donde Bais.”  According to my sister Nini, Baby felt her  mission  in life  was  punning.  I believe Bais was in Negros Oriental and belonged  then to Tabacalera or some other Spanish company.

Later —how much later escapes me–  we went on our usual long  caravan at night.  I was in the back seat of the car with Dr. Trepp my father’s  Swiss TB expert and Director of Quezon Institute. It seems my mother’s  driver  Pedro  Payumo (“Pedro Taba”) was driving  — how he managed to come along I don’t know — but I distinctly remember his asking us to keep talking as he was sleepy and it was dark but  we — at  least I — paid  no attention and went back to sleep even though we could easily have fallen into a ditch.

It turned  out that  our destination was Dumaguete , which was pitch dark.  There were  a lot of people on the side of the road with bundles or cardboard boxes on their heads and also the  church bells were ringing.  It turned out that the people were alarmed by the sound of the PT  boat’s engines which sounded like airplane  engines. The PT boat had been sent to pick us up. We drove to the  wharf and boarded the PT – boat.  How we all fitted in the PT-boat, I don’t know. My mother and I entered the cabin where I put my head on her lap.  I suppose the rest of the family were in the cabin but I remember only my mother and the cabin was pitch dark.

After sometime there was a loud conversation on the deck and sparks could be seen. I was scared to death as usual but after a short time the sparks and the commotion stopped and everything went back to normal and we continued the high  speed trip.  Later on I learned that, with the rough pitching of the PT-boat a torpedo had slipped about half way out of the deck torpedo tube, the sparks being the result of the torpedo’s motor having been started. Someone had the presence of mind to fire off the torpedo.  If the torpedo’s fuse had struck the deck, the torpedo would have exploded and that would have been the end of us.

In the early morning light, we were put ashore in Misamis Oriental in Oroquieta.  That silly episode of my father’s being recognized the moment  we went ashore may have been then.

We went to two places, one of them being Oroquieta, where we met the Ozamis sisters and, I think , Senator Jose Ozamis also, then Governor of Misamis Oriental. Perhaps it was then that my father talked to Commissioner  Teofisto Guingona, whom somehow I understood was in charge of Mindanao.  I turned over to him for safekeeping the case that contained my two .22 cal rifles and my .25 cal automatic pistol.  For some reason I remember the encounter as being at night and I usually  have a pictorial memory.

After spending the day with the Ozamis family —very mestizo looking— we set off by car for Bukidnon and the Del Monte plantation where we arrived at night.  We were put in very comfortable company houses.  I was put in a room with Dr. Trepp and fell sound asleep.

The following morning I was shaken awake by Dr. Trepp saying in a loud voice, “ Nonong wake up, wake up, it is air raid.”  There were twin engine Japanese planes which flew over the area and went on, but no air raid.

I had been to the Del Monte plantation once before with my father and it was so beautiful.  This time it was still beautiful but there  was an overpowering smell of rotting pineapples, because no one was picking the fruit. Many years later, someone wrote that, during the days we spent waiting for the Flying Fortresses to take us to Australia, we spent every day in the hills surrounding Del Monte.  I have no such recollection and when I checked with my sister Nini, she had no such recollection either.  She recalled something else, Americans in Del Monte, which I do not recall.

We knew we were waiting for Flying Fortresses to take us to Australia and after a few days we were roused in the dead of night and drive to the airfield where there  were two Fortresses waiting for us. As we drove to the Fortresses, I started to talk and my mother told me to keep quiet —I suppose my father was very pensive and my talk was out of place.

The fortresses were new models (I knew all about practically every airplane and its various models).  This model had tail turrets, the latest version. Some of us — my family and others, but I do not remember who, climbed into one Fortress and the others climbed into the other.  It  turned out that we were in one plane and Vice-President Osmeña in the other, I suppose to increase the chance of either my father or Osmeña surviving if anything went wrong — the planes being shot down or crashing, I suppose.

My father and mother sat on a mattress on the floor.  I think my father was given oxygen during the night —the cabin was not pressurized. I do not know where my sisters sat. I sat at the radio-operator’s seat, at a table. I suppose the radio transmitter could not be used or the Japanese would have spotted us.

I had always wanted to be a pilot, but as the plane picked up speed I was not excited, I was scared.  I started asking God not to allow the plane to take off, but of course it did.  As the plane climbed I fell asleep with my head on the table.  All through the night we were bouncing up and down –it was a very rough flight.  We could not really fly very high, among other reasons because of my father’s condition I suppose. Also, perhaps there were not enough oxygen masks to go around. Through the night I slept on and off.  At one point of I noticed it was raining, then I saw clouds over the ocean.   My nervousness at take off was gone.  As  day dawned the sky cleared and finally we landed at Bachelor’s Field in Northern Australia.  I did not realize from my aviation reading that touch down was a little rough, not perfectly smooth.

I remember getting  off the plane and being taken to a mess-hall for breakfast, together with the rest of the party, then were set to prepare to take off for Alice Springs.

Anyway, we were transferred at Bachelor’s Field to another plane,  a Douglas DC-5, a bit smaller than a DC-3 and intended to replace the DC-3,  but war broke out in Europe and Douglas changed to producing twin engine bombers. KLM was always up to date and the DC-5 had been delivered to KLM.  The Dutch Airline had a very reliable service from Holland to the Dutch East Indies and the DC-5 had escaped to Australia, having an auxiliary gas tank in the cabin.  Aside from the Dutch pilot and co-pilot, there was a young American US Air Forces man on board, whose presence I do not understand because I think he was a machine-gunner and there was not machine gun on the DC-5.

As we walked out to the DC-5, a smartly dressed Dutchman in a KLM uniform saluted.  My father asked him “how do we fly?” and the Dutchman answered — “About 3,000 meters” (about 10,000 feet ) which apparently disturbed my father.  He asked the next smartly dressed Dutchman the same question and the man, apparently the Captain, answered “We fly as Your Excellency wishes.”  which  pleased my father.  Apparently some agreement was arrived at and we took off.  This was in the morning and as the air started to warm up unevenly, I had one of the bumpiest flight have ever had.

My mother sat beside me and I tied a white hanky over my eyes.  Every time the plane bounced my mother called out — “Sagrado Corazon de Jesus,” or “Corazon Sagrado de mi Jesus!”—  I would lift the blindfold from my eyes to see if we were about to crash.  We were flying over the Australian desert, with rocks all over the place. I finally started to sing hymns to my mother to calm her down. All through the flight, there would be a slight increase and then decrease in the vibration of the engines and I could see that the propellers would be rotating smoothly and then slightly roughly and smoothly again.  I turned out that there was a slight nick in the propeller, how acquired I can’t guess. This went on until we landed at Alice Springs five hours later. We made a slightly rough landing in Alice Springs. When we got out of the plane, it turned out that the men were wearing sun helmets with long veils over their faces because there were large horse flies all over the place, a phenomenon I had never seen before and have never seen again.  They were what we call bangaos and would not be driven away.  If you tried to drive them away, you might squash them with your hand.

Vice-President  Osmeña’s Fortress did not land after us. As it took longer to arrive, someone —I forget who— urged my father to continue our flight but he flatly announced that we would not continue until the Vice-President arrived.  Our original Fortress had continued the flight with us and looked for the Vice-President’s Fortresses, but to no avail.  Night fell and we stayed at a small inn.  My mother and I saw a cat catch a small mouse, which disgusted us.  All through the night we could hear drunks throwing up.

The following morning we had breakfast and our Dutch plane took  off to search for the Vice-President’s plane.  In a very short time the DC-5 returned followed by the missing Fortress.   It seems the Dutchmen were better pilots than the Americans.  While our original Fortress had no trouble finding Alice Springs — possibly by following our little twin-engine DC-5, the Vice-President’s place was lost.  At least the pilot had enough sense to land in the desert before running out of fuel.  Then the Americans spent the night firing off flares and rockets.  When the Dutchman found the Fortress, it took off for Alice Springs. Finally Don Sergio was able to continue with us, to Adelaide this time.  It  was another five hours’ flight.  This time, I sat beside my sister Nini, to get away from mother’s exclamations.  I did not overcome the fear of flying then instilled by my mother for years.

When we landed in Adelaide towards evening we spent the night.  The following morning we went to a church to give thanks for our safe flight.  As we came out, my father had his first encounter with Australian English.  Perhaps we were the first non-Caucasians those Australians had ever met and they were very friendly and also curious.  They asked “Did you come today?” which they pronounced “to-die.” I am sure he was able to figure the question out right there but later on he embellished the exchange by saying that he had answered, “I came to live, not to die!”

The Commonwealth War Cabinet-in-exile: (l-r) Auditor-General Jaime Hernandez, Finance Secretary Andres Soriano, Vice-President Sergio Osmeña, President Manuel L. Quezon, Resident Commissioner Joaquin Elizalde, Defense Secretary Gen. Basilio J. Valdes

We took an overnight train to Melbourne.  During the day, I saw a plane overhead, and for the first time since Dec. 8, I was not afraid.  The following morning we arrived in Melbourne where we were met by Gen. MacArthur.

We heard of the fall of Bataan on April 9, my sister Nini’s birthday, in Australia

However, discussions started in our government over going to the States.  I do not know whose idea it was originally, but my father wanted to stay in Australia, I suppose to return more quickly to the Philippines after liberation.  Don Sergio Osmeña wanted to go to Washington and when my father disagreed he said: “Send me.” I don’t know why it was decided that our whole group should go to the States — perhaps MacArthur urged it, to pressure Roosevelt to send more aid quickly to the Philippines.   We sailed for the States on the President Coolidge.  The Coolidge had been converted into a troopship but some twin cabin had been left in their original condition and the dining room and lounge had been left untouched.  It seems there was some kind of band because there was dancing in the evenings.

At the beginning of the voyage — I had no map and thus did not realize what a long voyage it was to be — we were escorted by a New Zealand warship. Sometime later, the escort duty was taken by a US navy ship which accompanied us until we reached San Francisco.  As usual my roommate was Dr. Trepp.  We were a large number. From the Philippines we had lost one member of the party, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos who had insisted on remaining in Mindanao — he was finally executed by the Japanese for refusing to swear allegiance to the Japanese and for maintaining his loyalty to the United States.

However, while we were sailing to the United States, I still thought we would be going home anytime. During our voyage, we had one little exciting episode. We started to zig-zag violently; probably they had detected a submarine. But after a while, the zig-zagging stopped. It was probably a false alarm or, the submarine being under water and therefore very slow, we outran it. The rest of the voyage to the States was uneventful. Finally, we passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, which was still undergoing its finishing touches of paint when we went to the States in 1937. We were safely in port.

We were taken to the Mark Hopkins Hotel, considered one of the best at the time, where we stayed for about a week.  This time my roommate was Col. Jaime Velasquez.  There were newsmen swarming outside my father’s suite and when they knew who  I was, they started  to interview me but one of our group stopped me.

After some days in San Francisco, to give us a rest from the voyage I suppose, President Roosevelt’s special railroad carriage (called the Ferdinand Magellan) was sent for us and attached to a transcontinental train. It was a four or four and a half day train ride to Washington.

The start of a journey has always excited me. We had to drive to Oakland, CA, to catch the eastward train there.  When we arrived at Union Station in Washington, DC, at the exit to the Station there was FDR standing beside his car and we were photographed in memorable poses.  I was so moved my lips were trembling.  We were driven to the White House where we had lunch and dinner.  We were entertained by President Roosevelt who was a great raconteur.  Mrs. Roosevelt kept walking in and out  and when I met her in a corridor, she smiled “The mail, always the mail.”  She seemed terribly tall, as did every one else, which is no wonder since I was only 5’2”.  We spent that night at the White House, where I was put in an enormous (to me) bedroom alone.  I had the impression it was the Lincoln Bedroom but I may very well be wrong.

The following morning we were taken to the eighth floor suite of the Shell Oil Company at the Shoreham Hotel, where we stayed for a time.  Then we moved to the Pat Hurley estate in Leesburg, Virginia, about forty minutes from Washington, where we stayed for the summer, until our permanent quarters at the Shoreham, were ready.

Before deciding to stay at the Shoreham, we took a look at a Waldorf Towers suite way up — the Waldorf is about 34 stories high.  Since my father was terribly acrophobic, the project was dropped and thereafter whenever we went to New York we stayed at an 8th floor suite at the Waldorf.

On Corregidor my father was always outdoors in a tent, away from the dust in the tunnels, but of course he had to be active when we went to the Visayas then Australia via Mindanao; and then in the United States, having settling down in Washington, he resumed a normal life, which was a mistake. His condition worsened. Dr. Edward Hayes, the doctor who had treated him in the Monrovia Sanitarium in the thirties, came to Washington and the plan was for us to go out to California.  Unfortunately, my father changed the plans.

When I graduated from high school in June of 1944, my father was already bedridden in Saranac Lake, New York.

By  the first of August, 1944, a month and a half after my eighteenth birthday, my father was dead.

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The Week the Free Press Said Goodbye, December 12, 1964

The Week the Free Press Said Goodbye

By Gregorio C. Brillantes

 

 

The January 3, 1942, issue marked the end of a world, the close of an era: never again would the country recapture the peace and the relative innocence of the 1930s, and the war would spawn changes more enduring than physical ruins.  

December 12, 1964—ACROSS the bay, in the late afternoon sun, a black cloud hung over Manila: smoke from burning oil dumps in Pandacan. The crowd gathered about the wooden platform erected near the mouth of Malinta Tunnel could hear the explosions rolling across the graying water from Cavite and Nielson Field, as demolition squads, the tail end of a retreating army, set fire to ammunition stores that could not be transported to Bataan. There were about a hundred and fifty of them gathered about the platform, soldiers and marines and a few civilian officials, a quiet, subdued group, without the easy bravado that they wore so well in the earlier days of that disastrous month, their eyes straying from the ceremony before them to watch for the approach of bombers. For now the skies belonged to the enemy, and so did a large portion of the land.

But the words they heard as the day dimmed across the country spoke of hope, pride, courage, and, incongruous as it might have seemed then, of victory. It was the second inaugural of President Quezon and Vice-President Osmeña, who had swept the elections that previous November. There were no cheering throngs, as in 1935; no parades except for ragged processions of USAFFE troops withdrawing into Bataan; and in the place of brass bands, an American nurse played a faltering “Hail to the Chief” on an accordion. Quezon and Osmeña were inducted into office by Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, there was a ripple of applause, and then the President began to speak, haggard in his wheelchair but his voice strong and youthful with the old eloquence.

It was Tuesday, December 30, 1941—and it is a measure of how far the nation has traveled since then that the words should reach us now with a hollow, ancient, stilted echo, the faith they expressed remote and almost unrecognizable.

“At the present time we have but one task—fight with America for America and the Philippines,” Quezon said. “Ours is a great cause. We are fighting for human liberty and justice, for those principles of individual freedom which we all cherish and without which life would not be worth living….The war may be long-drawn and hard-fought, but with the determination of freedom-loving people everywhere to stamp out the rule of violence and terrorism from the face of the earth, I am absolutely convinced that final and complete victory will be ours.” He had been feeling dejected for days; the rumored convoy from San Francisco had failed to arrive, and he was considering, it was later said, some sort of accommodation with Japan that might take the Philippines out of the war. But he had reason that afternoon for optimism: he had just received from President Roosevelt a radiogram assuring the Filipino people that “their freedom will be redeemed, and their independence established and protected” and that the “entire resources of the United States stand behind that pledge.”

Quezon read Roosevelt’s message to his Corregidor audience, adding: “My heart, and I know, the hearts of all Americans and Filipinos in this country are filled with gratitude for the reassuring words of the President of the United States. My answer, our answer to him, is that every man, woman and child in the Philippines will do his duty. No matter what sufferings this war may impose upon us, we shall stand by America with undaunted spirit, for we know that upon the outcome of this war depend the happiness, liberty and security not only of this generation, but of the generations yet unborn….” Replying, US High Commissioner Frances B. Sayre expressed “America’s gratitude and pride for the loyalty, devotion, the gallantry, with which the Filipino people have entered this great struggle by America’s side.” General MacArthur’s brief remarks brought the ceremony to a close: “For 400 years the Philippines has struggled toward self-government. On the threshold of independence came the great hour of decision. There was no hesitation, no moment of doubt. The whole country followed its great leader in choosing the side of freedom against the side of slavery….This basic and fundamental issue will be fought through to victory….”

At the command post of Brig. Gen. Albert Jones in Plaridel, Bulacan, the men had neither the time nor the inclination for such lofty rhetoric. Officers chain-smoked over maps; dispatch riders came and went on motorcycles; truck convoys rumbled by in a storm of dust, headed south for Calumpit. Formerly commander of the Southern Luzon Force, Jones had been ordered north of Manila to delay Homma’s advance across the central plains and cover the last stages of the USAFFE withdrawal over the Calumpit Bridge.

Earlier in the day, a Japanese tank-infantry force had reached Baliuag, some five miles north of Jones’s command post. As a result of some mix-up in command, Wainwright’s 71st division, which was supposed to hold the town, had retreated to Bataan. Jones knew he had to push the Japanese back from Baliuag, to keep Calumpit Bridge open at least until New Year’s Eve and save the general withdrawal from total disaster. For the crucial job he had only ten tanks and half-a-dozen 75 mm. self-propelled guns.

After a covering barrage the tanks, commanded by Lt. Col. William Gentry, smashed into Baliuag and knocked out eight of their armored adversaries. As Gentry pulled out of the burning town, the 75’s again opened up, routing what remained of the Japanese force. The successful counterthrust gave Jones the respite he needed; a deadline, on which depended thousands of lives, would be met; and the bridge at Calumpit would not be blown up until after 5:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day, when, with the last of his rear guard, he crossed the Pampanga River and headed west for Bataan.

In Manila, in a building facing Mori’s Bicycle Store on Rizal Avenue, on the day of the inaugural rites on Corregidor and the tank battle in Bulacan, another group of men were also engaged in a concerted effort to beat a deadline, to finish a job before the enemy arrived.

On the third floor of the Free Press building—the editorial offices of the magazine since 1922 and its third home since 1908—Mr. Dick’s staffers were working with a sort of controlled frenzy on the last sections of the FP’s “Farewell Issue.” Outside the sun shone palely through the smoke rising from the piers, and on the Avenida, only an occasional streetcar passed, or a gang of looters, or a truck loaded with evacuees; and in the office there was the sense of an entire world ending, the knowledge that the Japanese were not far from the city, but also there was the conviction somehow that help from America was on the way: America had lost the first round but it was the next one that counted, and the war would soon be over, in three months at the most. Meanwhile, Mr. Dick spoke uneasily of what had happened in Nanking, T.M. Locsin was worried about the safety of his treasured books, and Filemon Tutay announced that he had hidden a revolver—“just in case”—in a sack of rice. Was it true that fifth-columnists had poisoned the water supply? Was it safer to stay in Manila than in the provinces? No one, it seemed, knew the right answers; the present was a dreadful question mark, but by next summer, almost everyone felt sure, they would be back at their desks.

The Japanese took over the Free Press building as enemy property, confiscated magazine files and carted away most of the office equipment; liberation, ironically, destroyed what the Japanese spared, reducing the building to a gutted hulk. Mr. Dick spent the war years as an internee, first in Fort Santiago and later in a hospital. During the first months of the occupation, Mr. Dick’s men used to meet at office manager Floro A. Santos’s home in San Juan; but the group broke up finally as the war dragged on and each man went his own way: one worked as a bartender, another drew portraits for a living, a number joined the resistance. The Free Press was not to resume publication until February 23, 1946; but scarcely anyone on the staff during those last days of 1941 doubted that the Free Press would be back in the streets before the end of the coming year.

The Free Press printed only about 15,000 copies of its 24-page “Farewell Issue” for distribution in Manila. Dated Saturday, January 3, 1942, the magazine was being sold in the streets on the afternoon of Thursday, New Year’s Day, even as the Japanese entered the city from the north and south. One of those who bought copies was F.L. Pimentel, who lived then in Pasay City. For the last 22 years Pimentel kept his copy, but recently decided to “donate it to the Free Press.” In a letter to the FP editor, Pimentel recalls that he “bought it from a newsboy at the intersection of Taft Avenue and San Andres Street early on the morning of January 2nd. I rushed back to my house on Taft Ave. Extension, afraid that the Japs, who were said to be in Baclaran already, might catch me with it….I have since moved my residence a number of times—from Pasay to Sta. Cruz, Manila, then to San Miguel and later to Sta. Ana and finally to San Miguel Village, in Makati; but I brought my copy of the “Farewell Issue” with me wherever I moved. During the war and in the years since then, I have lost valuable things, but not this issue of the Free Press. I just can’t throw it away, after keeping it for so long….”

Pimentel’s copy looks its age: faded, torn in places, stained by decay, and half of the back cover missing, but otherwise intact, legible, a repository, as it were, of the heartbreaking gallantry, the pride and glory and also the fear and the chilling uncertainty of that distant time. The issue marked the end of a world, the close of an era: never again would the country recapture the peace and the relative innocence of the 1930s, and the war would spawn changes more enduring than physical ruins. To read it now is to marvel at those changes of spirit and attitude, sentiment and feeling the nation has undergone since 1941—more than half a century ago, more than enough time for two generations to be born and grow into adulthood and learn of that period of history only from books and old newsreels, as strange and unreal now in the age of the supersonic jet and the space-shuttle countdown as Verdun and the Treaty of Versailles must have been to the youth who went to war the year the Free Press said goodbye. How easy it seems today under the new nationalism to scoff at the brave slogans of those days; to pretend, even, that they never were, and that we had always been masters of our destiny—a comforting illusion but a denial of history. A nation builds on its memories, grows up and away from them; and whatever we have lost or gained as a people must be measured against what we once were.

The “Farewell Issue” of the Free Press carried on the inside front cover, under the legend “help is surely coming,” this message from the High Commissioner’s Office:

“This is the time when the courage of all the people of these islands, whatever their nationality, is being put to test. We are being afforded a rare opportunity to show stuff of which we are made.

“Anyone who has been in Manila since the outbreak of the war must be convinced that we can take it as well as the people of London, of Moscow, or of Chungking. We have all been thrilled as we read of the valor of the troops that are defending us. Let us continue to show the same courage as the boys at the front….

“Help is surely coming—help of such adequacy and power that the invader will be driven from our midst, and he will be rendered powerless ever to threaten us again. Obviously we are all hungry for news but details cannot be disclosed. It is part of our duty not to demand details, but to have an abiding faith that help is on its way….”

The editorial cartoon on the first page, entitled “Heroes All,” showed Uncle Sam telling an American soldier and his Filipino comrade-in-arms, “Boys, America is proud of you!” The text was unabashedly inspirational. “To the thousands and tens of thousands of Filipinos and Americans out there on the front lines America takes off its hat. America is thrilled by their gallant defense, by their heroic stand against tremendous odds, by their stirring feats of valor.

“Here in Manila we may think we are suffering or have been suffering, but we know nothing of the thirst, the hunger, the utter exhaustion, the weariness unto death of the men out there at the front….Stories innumerable of their fearlessness, their fortitude are pouring into Manila. No sacrifice seems too great for them, there is no hazard that they will not dare.

“Among all of them—the Filipinos—there is the consciousness that they are fighting for their homes, their loved ones, their native land. For them they are ready to lay down their lives, and gladly.

“Lacking such inspiration, the Americans, as the world everywhere has come to expect of them, fight not one whit less courageously. Over them flies their beloved flag, proud symbol of ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave,’ and they think of what the folks back home are saying of them.

“No wonder America, yes, and free men everywhere, are thrilled. For these our men, Filipinos and Americans, Americans and Filipinos, out there in the bloody field are writing a dateless page not only in the Philippines but in world history. Heroes All.”

The Free Press reprinted the cartoon editorial in its first issue after the war.

The next seven pages traced the daily progress of the war, from Monday, December 23, when “a huge enemy fleet estimated at 80 transports” was sighted off Lingayen Gulf, to Sunday, December 29, when “Manila was again bombed by Japanese planes and once more, the ships lying in the Pasig River, still there despite the fact that they drew Japanese fire yesterday, were largely responsible for attacks on the open city.

“Beginning at about 11:45 a.m., Japanese bombers carried out an unceasing attack along the Pasig River, with most of the bombs falling on civilian property. The raid lasted until approximately 1:10 p.m. casualties were light since most of Intramuros had been evacuated. However, the bombers inflicted heavy damage. Letran College and the dmhm plant burned down. The Intendencia building was again on fire. Most of the buildings near Letran College and Santo Domingo Church were wiped out by fire. The Naric [warehouse] on the south side of the Pasig went up in flames….”

According to Usaffe headquarters, “the fighting was desultory in the north but very heavy in the south.” The Japanese had reinforced their troops in the north as well as in the Atimonan area, and “continued to advance slowly.” There was “heavy enemy air activity” throughout the country. The British were retreating in Hong Kong and Malaya, but were on the offensive in Libya; the Nazis were suffering “serious reverses” in Russia. In Washington “as well as throughout the [United States], people were horrified by the continued bombing of Manila—an open city.”

The last Usaffe communiqué received and printed by the Free Press was issued at 8:03 a.m. of New Year’s Day: “In order to prevent the enemy’s infiltration from the east from separating our northern and southern forces, the Southern Luzon Force for several days has been moving north and has now successfully completed junction with the North Luzon Force.

“This movement will uncover the free city of Manila which, because of the previous evacuation of our forces, has no longer any practical military value. The entrance to Manila Bay is completely covered by our forces, and its use is hereby denied the enemy.”

The regular editorial page urged President Quezon “to take a day or two off and visit the firing line and sit down with the boys, those young heroes who are fighting like lions…..What an electrifying effect such a visit would have! For days the boys would be talking about it. How they would be nerved to greater feats, to still greater heroism!” Another editorial stressed that the government “keep the people informed of the war situation” to offset the “insidious work of fifth-columnists who are spreading rumors of the wildest nature to terrify and demoralize the populace.” A third editorial noted that “the most encouraging sign in the heroic struggle being waged today is the eagerness of the boys who have been relieved from the front for a day or two, many of them with wounds, to go back to the fighting.” The same page carried a reprint of an editorial from the December 31 issue of the Philippine Herald:

“Japan is racing with time. That is why she has tried to employ Germany’s blitzkrieg tactics in the campaign against Hawaii, Midway, Wake, Guam, the Philippines, Hong Kong, Malaya, hoping thereby to get a firm hold in these regions before American help arrives….

“Our job in the Philippines therefore is to hold the enemy until help from America reaches us. We have held our lines for 23 days, and gained that much time for America to recognize her power for a telling blow against the enemy….”

Staff writer Locsin wrote his impressions of that final week, with a kind of philosophical detachment: “The war has blacked out everything in our lives but a few essentials—books as in my case, the instruments of my craft. A man has few needs, really. Peace multiplies them and gives the superfluous the urgency of the necessary. We confuse indulgence with need. The war leaves man with only the bare wish to survive with honor, the obligation to do one’s work as well as ever, without deterioration, and a new humility….

“The war reveals the parasite, the nonessential man self-confessed. He who does not produce is regarded, with suddenly clear eyes, as an enemy. In peacetime he occupies an honorable position, being then only a thief who is allowed to live on what his neighbors make.

“The war leaves only human values and human worth. It either shows a man or shows him up. Out of this new revelation may yet come a new society—a true society—a society of men.”

The Japanese bombed the city on December 24: “I was in the Wilson building and I had a ringside seat. We saw the bombers—there were nine of them, in perfect formation—gleaming in the sun….There were three strong explosions and the building shook. I crouched against a wall, changed my mind and ran to the window. I saw the bombs flower—as young Mussolini so prettily put it—in Port Area….

On December 28, “the city authorities lifted the blackout order. The city is now open night and day. The people may keep their lights shining. Few did.

“I have just gone out of the house for a breath of fresh air. I saw two or three lighted windows. The rest along the street were dark. Intramuros, however, burning on my left, made up for them.

“The city is lighted up, all right.

“Seven days a week. Three weeks now. Twenty-one days. More coming up!”

An unsigned article, illustrated with a pen-and-ink portrait of fighter pilot Jesus Villamor, paid tribute to “those who fight in the air.” They introduced a new element into the “mechanical, collective murder that is modern war…the personal element of individual skill and initiative….And when they died, they died—not as their comrades on the ground did, in the mud, but amid the stars….

“What do these men of the air, men such as Capt. Jesus Villamor, take with them when they go up, usually outnumbered, to meet the enemy? One likes to think that they take with them the loftiest sentiments of which they, with their unclipped wings, are such stirring symbols. And certainly, in the lull between battles, they must think often and long of the rights and obligations of free men…those ideals that fall so smugly from the lips of our orators.”

The advertisements—the few that found space in the issue—also offered their own commentary on the times. “Uncle Sam has never let you down,” declared an ad of the San Juan Heights Co., J.L. Myers, general manager. “you can be absolutely sure of that! The San Juan Heights Co. wishes to reassure its purchasers that their interests will be protected….Records of purchases are in Uncle Sam’s hands in New York City vaults and he is pledged to protect them. we wish you a new year as happy and prosperous as possible.” The monthly first-prize winners of La Estrella del Norte’s silhouette contest, held from July 1 to December 20, 1941, revealed in their entries the favorite idols of the time: Uncle Sam, Joe Dimaggio, Simon La O, the Ateneo basketball star. Yco offered camouflage paints “to make your factory or building blend with its surroundings,” and presumably save them from enemy bombs.

The last four pages contained “Sidelights on the War.” The lead item reported the death of Buenaventura Bello, president of the Northern Colleges of Vigan, Ilocos Sur, who was shot by the Japanese when he refused to remove the American flag draped on the wall of his home. Two of his sons, noted the Free Press, were serving the Usaffe. There was an account of the Japanese landing at Mauban, Quezon, by Sgt. Regulo Lippago of Abra: “We waited until they were 70 yards and then we let go. We mowed down the first wave, but as the succeeding ones came on and stretched the battle line around the bay we had to retreat. During a two-day period, we halted the enemy four times, twice in the daytime, and twice at night.” As the Japanese approached a town in Tayabas, the mayor ordered his people to evacuate orderly; while the evacuation went on, the mayor continued working “as usual”; he was the last to leave the town. “We were not robbed,” the evacuees told each other, “when we elected this man.” Another town mayor, Nicomedes Suller of San Manuel, Pangasinan, led civilians against a Japanese tank. He was killed, but not before he had clambered up the tank and emptied his revolver into its occupants. “He, too, justified his election.” According to a report from Baguio, “the Igorots know the [United States] is at war with Japan and that all Filipinos are under the solemn obligation to fight the invader side by side with the Americans. Because they are Filipinos, too, the Igorots have armed themselves and are out looking for the enemy to put him out of business.” American bombers attacked Japanese transports in Davao Gulf, sinking one. A number of Japanese planes were shot down over Corregidor. While the fighting raged in Pangasinan, farmers went about their harvesting—“a banner crop this year.” There were more accounts of the “indomitable spirit and courage of our men” in the Lingayen area—a trooper was wounded when he tried to open the hatch of an enemy tank, a company commander routed single-handedly a 30-man Japanese patrol. Thousands of civilians had returned to Manila from evacuation sites in Laguna and Rizal after learning the capital had been declared an open city. Manila Mayor Juan Nolasco appealed to all citizens to “remain calm during the present emergency….”

The last page bore, in boldface, a quotation from US High Commissioner Sayre: “Death is preferable to slavery.”

The back cover appealed to all and sundry to “stop stampeding! don’t get panicky! keep your chin up! show the world we can take it!”

And then, from the direction of Grace Park, Maj. Gen. Koichi Abe marched down Rizal Avenue at the head of three battalions of his 48th Division.

It was four months before the fall of Bataan and the men dying on the road to Capas, five months before the surrender of Corregidor; three years before Leyte, and four before the liberation of Manila and the death of the old city; and two confused crowded decades before Filipino First, the Twelfth of June and Maphilindo. The war ended long ago—“a war not of our own making,” some would remind us now—and we have traveled an almost immeasurable distance since the first bombs fell on Cavite and Nichols Field.

How vast the difference between the country then and now—more than time separates us from the “Keep ’em Flying” posters and “God Bless America,” the soldiers in denim and pith helmets riding off to the front in commandeered buses, and Manila waiting for the drone of planes in the blackout. We have since grown in nationalistic age and wisdom, and the suave slogans and the simple loyalties of that era are perhaps best forgotten, together with the ugliness, the terror. But certainly some memories from 1941 are worth cherishing: the country was still young and unmaimed in spirit, patriotism was not an uncommon virtue, and men believed enough in a way of life to fight for it with courage and honor.

 

 

 

Quezon and Osmeña, December 15, 1962

Quezon and Osmeña

From a former Free Press associate editor come these recollections of two Philippine presidents.

By Frederic S. Marquardt

December 15, 1962—SERGIO Osmeña’s long life was filled with many great services to his country, but none of them surpassed his voluntary relinquency of the presidency of the Philippines in the fall of the war year of 1943. That office was the goal of his political life. He undoubtedly wanted it more than anything else. But he gave up the presidency to which he was legally entitled. If history records a similar example of self-abnegation in any nation in the world, it has escaped my attention.

Perhaps the closest parallel in American history is to be found in the case of William Tecumseh, a Civil War general who was asked to run for the presidency. Because of his tremendous personal popularity, a move was started to draft him for the post. In terms of utter finality, General Sherman said, “If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve.”

But Osmeña went even farther. He gave up the presidency after having been, in effect, elected to it. He signed away his right to the chief magistracy, when all he had to do was remain silent and the mantle of power would have fallen to him. He gave up what was rightfully his, in the interest of Philippine unity during time of war.

The story really began when the Philippine Constitution was drawn up. Although neither Manuel Quezon nor Sergio Osmeña was a delegate to the constitutional convention, they agreed with a charter provision limiting the presidential tenure to one term of six years. Quezon was elected president, Osmeña vice-president. They assumed office on November 15, 1935, the day on which the Commonwealth of the Philippines was officially proclaimed.

I covered the constitutional convention for the Free Press, and attended many of its sessions. It was always my opinion, although I could never prove it, that Governor-General Frank Murphy, who later became a justice on the US Supreme Court, planted the seed of the single six-year term. He also was responsible for the unicameral legislature that was written into the Philippine Constitution—and abandoned shortly after he left the Philippines.

It didn’t take much longer for opposition to mount against the single six-year term for president. There was a general feeling that it would be a mistake to rob the Philippines of the service of President Quezon, its most distinguished son and most gifted political leader. If the constitutional provision were carried out, politicians argued, it would be impossible for Quezon to be president when the Philippines achieved independence on July 4, 1946. So powerful was Quezon’s hold on his people that Independence Day without Quezon as president would have been like a wedding ceremony without a bridegroom.

So the Constitution was changed, to fix the term of president at four years and to prevent anyone from holding the office for more than eight consecutive years. It was generally understood that Quezon and Osmeña would be reelected for four-year terms in 1941. Quezon’s eight consecutive years would be up on November 15, 1943. he would step aside on that date and Osmeña would be president for two years. Then Quezon could be reelected in the 1945 elections, and he would be president when Independence Day arrived on July 4, 1946.

Things didn’t work out that way. The Quezon-Osmeña team was reelected in November, 1941, but the votes had hardly been counted before the Philippines was at war with Japan. President Quezon and Vice-President Osmeña went to Corregidor with General Douglas MacArthur, and early in 1942 made their way to Washington to establish a Philippine government in exile.

By the summer of 1943 it became evident that the Philippine presidential issue would have to be resolved. Japanese propaganda broadcasts were proclaiming that Quezon had been forced to go to the United States, and was in fact being held in Washington against his will. If Osmeña should become president, as would happen unless the constitutional limitation on the presidential term were changed, the Japanese would claim Quezon had been stripped of authority by his alleged friends, the Americans. Of course, the Japanese propaganda mills would also work the other way. If Osmeña did not become president, Radio Tokyo would say the Philippine Constitution had been altered at the behest of the US government.

A few days before the November 15, 1943, deadline, the US Congress passed a bill providing Quezon would remain president and Osmeña vice-president until their terms ended in 1945. Congressional authority to act in the matter was based on American sovereignty in the Philippines, which would run until 1946. However, such a distinguished authority as George A. Malcolm, long-time member of the Philippine Supreme Court, described the congressional action as “constitutionally indefensible” in his book, First Malayan Republic.

The bill to keep Quezon in the presidency passed the Senate unanimously, but 150 members of the House of Representatives voted against it, largely because they were opposed to allowing any president to serve more than eight years and they hoped, somehow, to stave off the bid for a fourth term that President Roosevelt was obviously going to make in 1944.

Just how was this critical decision in Philippine history made? I heard the entire story from the lips of the two major participants, Quezon and Osmeña, in Washington late in November, 1943. I had just been appointed Chief of the US Office of War Information in the Southwest Pacific, and was on my way to join General MacArthur’s headquarters in Australia. I made courtesy calls on both the President and the Vice-President. A verbatim copy of the notes I made after those conferences appears with this article. I believe it is fitting to retell this important chapter of Philippine history in the exact words that I used after talking with the two principal participants nearly 20 years ago.

Notes on a talk with Vice-President Osmeña at the Twenty-Four Hundred Hotel in Washington, Saturday, November 27, 1943

I called on Vice-President Osmeña in his hotel suite and opened the conversation by telling him what I thought the Filipinos in Washington deserved to be congratulated for having so amicably disposed of their differences. I said that unity seemed to me to be essential, and I realized that he had made unity possible by his action in the matter of presidential succession.

“I asked him to let me know exactly what he wanted to do in this case,” said Osmeña. “I said I would study the matter and that if I could conscientiously agree with him, it would be the best for all of us if we presented a unified front.

“Well, Mr. Quezon said that he didn’t believe the Constitution was applicable to our government, since it was no longer operative in the Philippines. I told him that id dint agree with the interpretation, since everything we had done was under the Constitution. We were, in fact, spending the people’s money because of the authority of the Constitution, and I could not agree that ours was merely an interim government. I thought it was the legitimate government of the Philippines. But I said that we could easily refer the matter to the department of the interior, the state department or the attorney general’s office.

“After I was out of the hospital we talked about the matter again and President Quezon said that he felt that President Roosevelt should intervene and use his emergency powers to settle the question of succession. He had apparently consulted some lawyers because he quoted Civil War precedents under President Lincoln.”

As I remember it, Osmeña did not agree with the interpretation of law either. At all events, many times during the conversation he made it clear that he always felt that Congress should act in the matter, since Congress alone had authority to alter the Tydings-McDuffie law. He also said that the attorney-general had given an opinion to the effect that President Roosevelt could not extend President Roosevelt’s term of office.

Mr. Osmeña then told me of a long conversation he had with Secretary of War Stimson. “Since the restoration of our government depended upon the United States military power,” Osmeña said, “I wanted to find out what the responsible American officials thought about it. Stimson kept me in his office for about an hour and a half. There were a lot of generals and chiefs of staff waiting to see him, but when I tried to break away he told me to stay. I told him I didn’t want to be responsible for losing a battle, and he laughed.

“Stimson painted a very compelling picture of the entire war, starting with Pearl Harbor. He told me that one great aim of the United States was to recapture the Philippines and give the Filipinos their real independence. I told him I was glad to hear that pledge repeated, although of course it had been made many times and I had never doubted it. He said that in defeating Japan the United States needed the help of the Filipinos, all of them, and that he hoped President Quezon and I would be able to help, and not only one of us, as would happen if Quezon should be replaced as president by me. I told him that I was anxious for unity too, but I asked him now, assuming that I agreed that Mr. Quezon was to remain as president, it could be done. I told him there were certain legal obstacles to be considered. He said that wasn’t in his province, and that the method of settling the issue would have to be left to the legalists, but he made it very clear that he wanted both Mr. Quezon and myself to continue in our offices as a war measure.”

At a later point in the conversation, Osmeña, referring back to this conversation, said Stimson had said that two men were essential in the reconquest of the Philippines—MacArthur and Quezon.

Osmeña then referred to the letter that Quezon had written President Roosevelt asking that he be kept in office. He asked me if I were acquainted with it, and I said yes. “One day,” said Osmeña, “Quezon called me over to the Shoreham and said, ‘Well, they’re going to throw me out in the street.’ I could see he was depressed so I asked him what made him say that. He had sent me a copy of the letter, as a matter of courtesy, but had not asked me to comment on it, so I had said nothing. If he had asked for my advice, however, I should have told him not to send the letter, as its arguments were very weak. ‘I sent a letter to the White House two weeks ago,’ he said, ‘and they haven’t even acknowledged it. They want to get rid of me.’ Well, I knew that Mr. Quezon had come out of the Philippines against his best judgment, because he was sick, but I assured him no one was trying to get rid of him. To make him feel better, I said I had tried to get an appointment with President Roosevelt but hadn’t received an answer. I said the President was very busy. I also said that I had no intention of throwing Mr. Quezon out. I told him that I had long since told mutual friends that if I should become president I would make Mr. Quezon head of a council of state and would ask him to stay in the Shoreham and retain all the perquisites of his present office. I didn’t want to move in that big hotel suite. This place is fine for me.”

The vital question, it seemed, was one of procedure. Although Osmeña apparently at no time gave his outright consent to a blanket plan of letting Quezon stay in office, he was willing to discuss any method by which it could be done. Finally, he said, he talked to Judge Sam Rosenman, presidential aide, who was handling the case for the White House. “Judge Rosenman wanted us to petition Congress to act,” Osmeña said. “I told him that if that was a request of President Roosevelt’s, of course, I would comply. A little later he called me up and said his office had drafted a letter that he was sure I would be satisfied with, and that he wanted Mr. Quezon and me to sign it. He said President Quezon had the copy. I went to Shoreham and Mr. Quezon read me the letter. But it wasn’t the one I had expected, that is one from the President asking us to take the question to Congress. Rather it was just a letter from the two of us asking Congress to act. I told Mr. Quezon I couldn’t sign it. He said he had already committed himself. I said I was sorry, but I couldn’t sign it. So he called a meeting of the Cabinet.

“He spoke to us at some length, lying there in his bed, about the whole question, and then asked for our opinions. He asked me if I wanted to be heard and I presented my side of the question. Then he said he wanted the opinion of his Cabinet members. First he called on [Jaime] Hernandez, who as auditor-general would remain in the Cabinet by law, whether I took office or not. Hernandez spoke in a very low voice for a minute or two then said, ‘This is a very vital matter, and I would like a little time to think it over.’ Then Mr. Quezon said, ‘Well, I see the Cabinet is divided. In that case, my decision is made. I have rented a home in California and I shall leave here on November 14. Mr. Osmeña will become president on the 15th. This is the final Cabinet meeting. It’s good-bye to all of you.’ They all walked out and I went to the elevator with them. Then I returned to the President’s bedroom and told him I wanted to think things over and I would see him in the morning. I thought he might change his mind. But when I saw him the next morning, he was as determined as ever.

“‘I’m disgusted with it all, and I’ll have no more to do with it,’ Mr. Quezon said.

“‘Does that stop me from settling the case?’ I asked him.

“‘No, you can go ahead and do what you like,’ he said.

“‘All right, I said, ‘but I want one promise from you. I want you to let me handle it entirely alone. Please don’t call up anyone or do anything about it.’

“‘I’ll promise that,’ Mr. Quezon said. ‘You can do anything you like. I’ll have no more to do with it.’

“Then I said that since the White House had refused to intervene, I intended to take the matter up with Senator [Millard W.] Tydings. I outlined three possible courses of action.”

I’m not sure now what one of these three courses was. One was for Congress to suspend the running of all terms of office of all Philippine officials, the terms to recommence running one month after the retaking of the Philippines. The last was to extend the present terms of office, or rather to keep Quezon and Osmeña in their present positions.

Osmeña also said that when he could not get a letter from President Roosevelt requesting him to submit the matter to Congress, he would have been satisfied with a similar letter from the secretary of war. Apparently, however, he failed to get such a letter, or perhaps he didn’t try for one.

At all events, he talked at great length of Tydings, who said that of his three plans, only the final one could be pushed through Congress, and then only if he and President Quezon would sign the request for it. So he asked Tydings to help on the draft, they revised it, and then Osmeña took it to the Cabinet. After a few changes, the Cabinet approved it, all of them initialed it, and he took it to President Quezon, who promptly agreed to sign it.

Then it went to Congress, and the Senate passed it unanimously, but there were more than 150 votes against it in the Lower House after a particularly hot debate. Osmeña could undoubtedly have killed the bill in the Lower House had he expressed any disapproval of it.

It should be added that Roosevelt’s refusal to take any part in the business was undoubtedly due to the 1944 presidential campaign. He would have been charged with perpetuating one presidency fiat as a prelude to perpetuating his own.

Notes on a talk with President Quezon at the Shoreham Hotel on Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1943

President Quezon had asked me to see him regarding the possibility of taking a job with the Commonwealth government. I explained that I was going to Australia for OWI, and we discussed the situation in Australia briefly.

I was talking about the radio propaganda now being directed at the Philippines, and mentioned that the presidential succession, whereby Quezon and Osmeña were kept in their present positions for the duration, had been treated in a simple, factual manner in the broadcasts to the Philippines. I went on to say that I thought the manner in which the Filipino government in exile had worked out its problem in unison contrasted sharply with the de Gaulle-Girard rift in the French Committee of Liberation, and with the various Cabinet crises in the Polish and Yugoslav governments in exile. Then Quezon broke in and said, “I’m going to tell you some history.”

He recalled that last May President Roosevelt had told him he wanted him to remain as president of the government after November 15, the day on which, according to the Philippine Constitution, he should retire in favor of Osmeña. “I told the President not to take any action without first consulting Osmeña,” said Quezon to me. “For I earlier had spoken to Osmeña and told him we should settle this question among ourselves. I told him that if he thought he had a right to the office, he should let me know and we should work it out without asking anyone in the United States government to intervene. He agreed.

“Well, last summer when I was in Saranac, some people apparently convinced Osmeña that he should have the office according to legal right.”

Earlier Quezon had explained to me at length that he did not believe the Constitution was operative in the present emergency, since the Tydings-McDuffie Law provided the President should authority in the Philippines, and obviously he had no such authority. “I am the President of half a dozen men, not of the Philippines,” he had said laughingly.

In the fall, when he returned from Saranac, he wanted President Roosevelt to intervene and use his emergency powers to keep him in office. (In this connection, when I saw Quezon late in October, he had me read a six-page letter he had sent President Roosevelt asking him to settle the issue and giving the reasons for which he thought he should be kept in office.) Osmeña wanted Congress to act on the matter. Finally, a few days before November 15, Congress did act, on the basis of a letter signed by Quezon, Osmeña and the Philippine Cabinet.

“Rosenman [Sam Rosenman, White House adviser] called me up one night about that letter,” Quezon told me. “He said Osmeña had agreed to sign it if I would, and he read a draft of it. I told him I wouldn’t sign it. He asked me to think it over and consult Tydings, Stimson and others and let him know in the morning. I told him I wouldn’t have to think it over. I wouldn’t sign it.

“Well, the next morning Stimson came in and showed me the letter and asked me to sign it. I said I couldn’t. He said, ‘That’s your Spanish pride, Don Manuel.’ I said, ‘I resent that, Governor!’ He laughed and recalled I was talking the same way I did when he was governor-general and I stood by him on liberalizing the corporation laws, when every other Filipino opposed him. I said it wasn’t pride, but simply a matter of dignity. I wasn’t a jobseeker, and never had been one. I wasn’t going to sign a letter to Congress now begging for a job.

“Then Stimson said, ‘I’m asking you to sign the letter because we need you in the war effort, and we need you at the head of the government. It’s your duty.’

“So I said, ‘Then I’ll sign it. I have never yet failed to do my patriotic duty. If Osmeña will sign it, I will.’

“So I thought it was all settled, but that afternoon Osmeña came and said he couldn’t sign the letter and he didn’t think he should.”

Quezon didn’t make clear why Osmeña was opposed to signing the letter. But during another telephone conversation with Quezon, Rosenman said, “What’s the matter with you fellows? When Osmeña wants to sign, you don’t. and when you want to sign, he doesn’t.”

Then Quezon told me, “So I called a meeting of the Cabinet. When they were all here, I told them that I hadn’t wanted to sign the letter, but when the secretary of war told me it was my duty to do so I had agreed. However, Sergio wouldn’t sign it.”

He rested for a few seconds in his bed, where he had been during the entire interview, then said with his customary dramatic flourish, “So I said, ‘Gentlemen, I’m through.’ I turned to Hernandez [Jaime Hernandez, secretary of finance] and said, ‘Fix up a complete financial report for my term of office.’ Then I said, ‘Rotor [Arturo B. Rotor, private secretary], get all my papers for me.’ And then to all of them, I said, ‘I’m leaving here on the 14th.’”

He smiled and said, “Osmeña came over quickly and said he’d sign the paper. So did everyone else. And that’s how it happened.”

Then he paid tribute to the statement issued by Osmeña regarding the unity of the Filipinos, and saying it was a pity it had not received more publicity in this country. He didn’t feel, however, that it was of any particular propaganda value in the Philippines.

There was one other statement of particular interest in the conversation. Toward the close, Quezon said, “Marquardt, there’s one thing I want you to remember, and to spread publicly and privately when the time comes. I’m a sick man, and I may die, but I want everyone to know what a wonderful thing Roxas [Manuel Roxas] has done in the Philippines. He refused to come out with me. Three times he has refused to be the head of the new government there, although I wanted him to. He said his duty was with Wainwright. I know of no one better qualified for future leadership in the Philippines than Roxas. If I live, he will be my successor.”

Constitution Day, February 7, 1953

Constitution Day
By Teodoro M. Locsin
Staff Member

Claro M. Recto and Manuel Roxas, returning from the United States after the approval of the Constitution, were met the Legaspi landing by the Sen. Elpidio Quirino, Secretary of the Interior Teofilo Sison, Speaker Quintin Paredes.

 

February 7, 1953–ON Feb. 8, 1935, the Constitutional Convention approved, with one dissenting vote, a new constitution. The one dissenting voter was Delegate Tomas Cabili from Lanao; he was of the unshakable opinion that Lanao was sufficiently enlightened and knew enough of democracy’s ways to be given the vote. The delegate from Ilocos Sur, Elpidio Quirino, agreed was Cabili: Lanao should be given to vote. Absolutely. The Cabili motion was defeated, but Lanao was to reward handsomely the man who stood up in support of it 14 years later, in 1949.

The convention vote was 201-to-one for the Constitution.

The near-unanimity was surprising when one considers the composition of the assembly. Among the delegates there were, as one writer pointed out, “blue-blooded nobles from the Moroland, trained intellectuals from world-famous colleges and universities, religious leaders and moral crusaders, political moguls and parliamentary luminaries, eminent educators and outstanding jurists, revolutionary generals and World War veterans, business entrepreneurs and banking magnates, opulent hacenderos and small planters, noted writers and famous orators, wealthy landowners and indigent professionals, and former school teachers and actual university professors.”

The old, familiar figures come back as one goes over the record of the convention. Manuel L. Quezon, then senate president, who welcomed the delegates assembled for the first time in the session hall of the House of Representatives and declared the existence of a quorum: One hundred ninety-nine of the 202 elected delegates showed up the first day, some as early as eight o’clock in the morning, although the session was to begin at 10:30. The American governor general, Frank Murphy, who was expected to make a brief speech but stayed away, as a matter of delicadeza: the Filipinos were about to prepare the fundamental law of their future independent state; he did to want anything he might say to influence in the least the deliberations of the body. Manuel A. Roxas, the delegate from Capiz, seconding the nomination of Jose P. Laurel of Batangas by Manuel Cuenco of Cebu as the temporary chairman of the convention, then discharging “the very pleasant duty of presenting…the distinguished jurist, able lawyer and successful statesman who will preside over your convention, the gentleman from Batangas, the Honorable Senator Recto.” Tomas Confesor of Iloilo, raising a tempest in a teapot and being ignored. Gen. Teodoro Sandiko administering the oath of office to Recto as president of the convention. Gregorio Perfecto being ruled out of order by Recto. Ruperto Montinola of Iloilo and Teodoro Sandiko of Bulacan being elected as first and second vice-president, respectively.

Quezon addressed the convention:

“In the name of the Filipino people and the Philippine Legislature, as well as in my own, I bid you welcome and extend to you the warmest congratulations for your election to this august body.”

He was dressed in a white silk suit with a gray necktie and grayish-striped shirt: trim and erect and engaging—a dandy. He enumerated the steps that led to the holding of the convention:

“On March 24,1934, the Congress of the United States approved Public Act No, 127, 73rd Congress, entitled ‘An Act to provide for the independence of the Philippine Islands, to provide for the adoption of a constitution and form of government for the Philippine Islands, and for other purposes.’ As a condition ‘sine qua non’ for the enforcement of this Act, it was provided that it be accepted either by the Philippine Legislature or by a convention called for the purpose of passing upon that question. On May 1, 1934, the Philippine Legislature, at a special session called by His Excellency the Governor-General, accepted the aforesaid Act and ordered the election of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, and fixed this date, the 30th of July, 1934, as the date for the delegates to convene in this Hall of the House of Representatives.”

The man who seemed mainly composed of fire, charm and political cunning, whose nature and American justice tried to explain by saying that in him there were two elements, the white and the brown, with the white despising the brown and the brown hating the white, who had made himself the leader of a similarly confused people, whom it was impossible—many said of him—not to love, paused. An eyebrow twitched. The half-shrill, compelling voice went on:

“You have met here in pursuance to the call of the Philippine Legislature to organize yourself as a constitutional convention and to frame and adopt the constitution for the Government of the Commonwealth, as well as for the Government of the Philippine Republic, until such constitution is amended or abrogated by the sovereign will of the people of the Philippine Islands. It is my fervent wish and prayer that your task upon prosperity of the Filipino people will greatly depend be crowned with complete success.”

Genesis

After a quorum had been declared, Bishop Alfredo Versoza of Lipa, Batangas, rose and prayed God to guide the convention. Dr. Laurel was voted temporary chairman by acclamation. He appointed House Secretary Eulogio Benitez as temporary secretary of the convention. Delegate Manuel Briones of Cebu then nominated Claro M. Recto as permanent president of the convention, was seconded by Delegate Cuenco. Recto was elected by acclamation. Then came the election of the two vice-presidents.

It was a time of hope, of blithe optimism. The United States had elected a man president that it was to reelect three times; the American people were recovering from a terrible depression, although millions remained unemployed until war-orders provided them with work. Dictatorship had raised its head in Europe, with millions coming—many of them enthusiastically—under the rule of hysterical or pompous or falsely benign men. The Japanese had taken Manchuria. But the Filipinos, as parochial then in their world view as most Americans, thought that what happened to the rest of the world could not happen to them and happily framed a constitution republican in form and outlawing war as an instrument of national policy. There would be no war, no Bataan and Corregidor, no occupation.

Just in case, however, that there should be—but the possibility was remote—a provision in the charter authorized the government to require the services of every citizen in both war and peace.

Every delegate contributed something to the Constitution—some a little, others more. Jose Lansang, writing in the Philippines Herald, tried to assess the contributions of the various members:

“The provisions on the Executive Power were prepared by Delegate Roxas, using the American constitution and the Jones Law and several contemporary constitutions as guide. President Recto, Delegate Briones, Delegate Roxas and others worked together in the drafting of the article on the Legislative Power.

“The article on the Judicial Power was prepared by Delegate Romualdez after a conference with Chief Justice Ramon Avaceña of the Supreme Court, and…was based on the report of the committee on judiciary, headed by Delegate Vicente J. Francisco….

“The bill of rights…was the one prepared by the committee headed by Mr. Laurel and is based on the English bill of rights, the Declaration of the Rights of Man of France, the American constitution and the Jones Law, with two or three provisions later on inserted by some delegates, the provision against retroactive taxation by Delegate Salvador Araneta and the prohibition of imprisonment for poll-tax delinquents by Delegate Jesus Y. Perez.

“The general provisions…referring to the nationalization of lands were from the report of the committee headed by Delegate Jose C. Locsin, and were based largely on a report of an technical committee headed by Professor Vicente Sinco of the University of the Philippines.”

Delegates Singson-Encarnacion and Cuaderno drafted the provisions on the budget, aided by an experienced auditor, Delegate Domingo Dikit. Delegates Conrado Benitez and Ricardo Nepomuceno had much to do with the provisions on education and citizenship training. The provisions on public contracts and the electoral commission were prepared by Recto, Briones, Cuenco, Roxas, Laurel and Francisco. Delegate Locsin was “identified throughout the history of the convention with movements to secure social justice through the constitution.” State universities were guaranteed academic freedom by amendment of Delegates Conrado Benitez, Manuel Lim, Ricardo Nepomuceno, Rafael Palma, Camilo Osias and others. Delegate Vicente Francisco introduced the amendment on double jeopardy.

The committee responsible for the final phraseology of the Constitution was headed by President Recto, composed of the two vice-presidents, Montinola and Sandiko, and the seven subcommitteemen of the sponsorship committee as ex-officio members (Delegates Filemon Sotto, Manuel Roxas, Vicente Singson-Encarnacion, Manuel Briones, Miguel Cuaderno, Norberto Romualdez and Conrado Benitez). The following also had something to say on the final wording of the supreme law: Delegates Francisco, Hontiveros, Romero, Laurel, Nepomuceno, Palma, Arellano, Lim, Osias, Orense, Reyes, Aruego, Delgado, Perfecto, Conejero, Caram….

Accomplishment

The preamble to the Constitution was drafted by Recto who contributed most, it was generally held, to the Constitution. At the close of the convention, the senate president and future president of the Commonwealth, Manuel L. Quezon, said of the president of the convention:

“It has indeed been a great honor, that which you have conferred upon the Honorable Claro M. Recto, when you elected him as your President. You have given him the opportunity either to make or unmake himself. He was of course preceded by a great reputation as a scholar, as a man of letters, as a jurist, and as a statesman. But we all know that sometimes precisely those with the same qualifications, however well deserved, when faced by the realities of actually dealing with men, are the ones who do not always rise to the demands of the occasion. It is not necessary for me to say whether President Recto has been equal to his task or not. Soon every member of this convention will affix his signature to the Constitution, a document which is historical not only because to frame the fundamental law of the land is in itself historical, but because I confidently hope that this charter will guide our ship of state not only for many generations but for all generations to come. It has been your privilege to make history; and President Recto should be credited with the able leadership of this convention and the golden opportunity to place his talent and his patriotism at the service of his country.”

The president of the convention made his closing speech in Spanish. In substance, in English paraphrase, he said:

The years will pass into nothing; new generations will succeed ours; Time in its course will change our world if not destroy it; humanity, weary of itself and prey to new follies, will again and again throw the treasures of civilization into the flames of new and terrifying wars; but when those who come after us turn their faces to the past and consider what we have done in this convention, I am confident that they will say that we have done nobly, that we have done greatly. And they will not fail to note that the solicitude and the zeal which attended our efforts were not due to any desire for the praise of the present or the plaudits of the future, any wish to see our names in the bronze or marble of perishable glory, but to the desire to realize for our people, through this Constitution, to make that for which an illustrious prelate, pride of the native clergy, prayed God on the day of our inauguration: “A nation of happy people within Thy Kingdom.”

That was 18 years ago.

Confirmation

A mission headed by Quezon and including Recto and Roxas was sent to the United States to secure then President Roosevelt’s approval of the Constitution. The presentation of the draft was made to the American president on March 18. A Quezon joke made the presentation at the time and on the date set possible. Recto thought Roxas had the copy of the Constitution with him when they left for the White House and Roxas thought Quezon had it. “Don’t forget to bring the official copy of the Constitution with you,” President Quezon told Recto jokingly in Quezon’s room in the Shoreham Hotel where the members of the mission had gathered. The official copy was found in the briefcase of Private Secretary Guillermo Cabrera; it would have been left behind but for Quezon’s little joke.

Recto presented the copy to Roosevelt. On March 23, in the presence of Filipino and American officials, President Roosevelt approved the Constitution, congratulated those responsible for it. He called it a “great constitution.” Quezon told the Filipino people about the approval of the law by radiophone, at 1:02 a.m.

“The Constitution is signed!”

That was the signal to start the sirens going. Bells rang, firecrackers exploded, fireworks were lighted. All Manila was awake and cheering.

It was a great and happy day.

It was a great and noble work. The members of the convention had not worked alone, of course. Inspiration, as has been pointed out—from the minds of England, the United States, France. Among the presiding spirits at the convention were those of St. Thomas More, who had envisioned a “Utopia” in which all men would be free and reasonable—this, under the despotism of Henry VIII; the blind Milton, who wrote of earth, heaven and hell, and the reasons for a free press; Thomas Paine, who called it “Common Sense” to be independent and fought for “The Rights of Man” against the “divine right” of kings; Thomas Jefferson.

The Greeks and the Romans were there, and the Jews, the wedding of whose culture with the cultures of Greece and Rome produced the Western World and its concern for the rights of the individual, the soul of man.

The Mind of Recto: The Wound and the Bow, June 21, 1952

The Mind of Recto: The Wound and the Bow

by Teodoro M. Locsin

 

June 21, 1952—LYTTON STRACHEY, father of modern biography, complained against the two-volume “life” that usually followed and seemed almost to form part of the burial rites of the distinguished dead:

“Those two fat volumes, with which it is our custom to commemorate the dead—who does not know them, with their ill-digested masses of material, their slipshod style, their tone of tedious panegyric, their lamentable lack of selection, of detachment, of design? They are as familiar as the cortege of the undertaker, and wear the same air of slow, funereal barbarism.”

This piece on Recto, who is very much alive, will be brief.

Its purpose is to draw the trajectory of his mind, not to go into the minutiae of his life or every step of his career; his life may be quickly sketched, his career rapidly followed. He was not born rich; he walked to school with scuffed shoes. To pay for food and lodging, what he learned at the Ateneo in the morning he taught in another school in the evening. He received at the Ateneo, it is significant to note, a European education, not the American one being dispensed at the public schools. He graduated with what a biographer calls “the unbelievable grade of ‘excellent’ in all subjects.” His scholastic record was better than Rizal’s.

In doubt—being so good in so many subjects and variously urged by relatives and friends to take up holy orders, medicine, engineering—in doubt, he took, in the honored tradition—in doubt he took up law. He proved himself supreme in it.

He has been a representative, a justice of the Supreme Court and is now a senator; he hopes, it is known, to be president. In the Supreme Court and in the Senate he has shone in dissent. It was due to him that an attempt to deny the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and the press to foreigners was frustrated in Congress. The magazine Newsweek, or its ill-informed correspondent, thought this a remarkable, a surprising thing for Recto to do. It was the thing one would expect Recto to do; he presided over the constitutional convention that drafted the Bill of Rights.

He has also been a poet.

Today, no man in the Senate commands more respect by sheer force of mind than Recto. No one has a cultural background so broad, a logic so implacable, a rhetoric so firmly based on the masters. Not that Recto is a good speaker, as the word is commonly defined. He does not raise his voice; he makes few, if any, gestures; he is dry and unemotional. He makes no promises, utters no angry denunciations; when he denounces anyone, it is in a tone so judicious and reasonable as to pass almost for praise. Well, not exactly praise. The man denounced may never be able to look at himself in the mirror again. At the same time, he will not feel he has been outraged; he has merely been exposed.

Recto is not a good speaker, no.  He will arouse no mob.  But heaven help the one whose pretensions he chooses to demolish.  His sentences march, like ordered battalions, against the inmost citadel of the man’s arguments and reduce them to rubble; meanwhile, his reservations stand like armed sentries against the most silent approach and every attempt at encirclement by the adversary.  The reduction to absurdity of Nacionalista Senator Zulueta’s conception of a sound foreign policy was a shattering experience; the skill that goes into the cutting of a diamond went into the work of demolition. There was no slip of the hand, no flaw in the tool. All was delicately, perfectly done. The most result from the lightest blow—the greatest damage with the least force.  Recto cannot—no one can, except against the stupid and ignorant—he cannot defend the indefensible, but what can be defended, he will see to it that it will not be taken.

The usual politicians offer no challenge to the mind. They are all so obvious in their purpose, so pitiful in their intellectual equipment, so mediocre in their performance, so common, so unremarkable that one could cut a pattern and it would fit them all. Some have money and want more; some have none and would get some; most are capable of a mouldy sort of rhetoric, cliché-infested, paltry of thought. The tired shibboleths of the professional rabble-rouser characterize their speeches. The frantic gestures, the screaming voice, the frenzied expressions, the hysterical charges, the crocodile tears—these are the usual politician’s stock-in-trade.  Recto does not resort to them.

It is a surprising thing, then, that he should have polled more votes than Roxas in a prewar senatorial election and should continue to inspire enthusiasm among an impressive number of the electorate. His fellow Nacionalistas say of Recto that he is aloof—alien to the masses, caviar to the general, but the proof of the pudding, after all, is in the eating, and he got more votes than any other Nacionalista senatorial candidate in the 1949 poll. Than any Liberal candidate, probably, if the poll had been clean. Is it possible, then, that the common people have and could be fired by a passion like Recto’s for an abstraction—for law?

It is there, in his dedication to law, that Recto’s significance chiefly lies. But law, to Recto, means civil law; it is possible only under civilian rule. Hence, his warnings against the increasing predominance of the military in Philippine affairs. The army, if unchecked, is certain to establish a despotism, no matter how well-intentioned at the start. The army, by its very structure, is hierarchical; the orders of officers are absolute. There is no separation of powers, judicial, executive, and legislative, on which a democratic society rests. As the army grows and grows, civil control must decay; a military coup d’ état becomes a probability. To Recto it is no argument for despotism that the despot may be benevolent.

In the Philippines the democratic processes had so far deteriorated that the relatively free elections of 1951 were possible only through the intervention of the military, inspired, at that, by another country. Recto observed:

“Already, I daresay, the thought is not uncommon in our military circles that only the army can enforce order, that the reality of power is in its combat battalions, and that, in a not too distant day, it can, and shall, and should, decide the victor in any electoral contest. It will be said that such a temptation will now assail a republican army, a citizen army, but the history of nations is full of such temptations that were not resisted, and were even joyfully embraced, for few men, particularly in the face of vice and corruption, can resist the temptation of using their power to reform, by force, if necessary, the society of which they will fancy themselves the saviors and liberators….

“We have already reached the first stage in the familiar tragedy.”

Not only electoral fraud and terrorism menaced the rule of law, threatened to substitute the rule of men in its place. Corruption had undermined the morale of the people and the government service. From top to bottom it was increasingly felt that all was permitted, everything licensed—if one had the power and influence. If one had the connections. To a man brought up in the ideal conception of law, the spectacle was an appalling one. No curse seemed strong enough for such a regime.

Most are familiar with the biblical account of Moses and his anger at the fall of the Chosen People into idolatry. He broke the tables of the law. Only after the people repented of their sins was Moses prevailed upon to make new tables. He must have known that, it being human to err, the laws would be broken—but those who broke them would do so conscious of the offense, knowing they had broken the Law. To violate is to affirm, for one cannot violate what is not there. Thus, man, although he has sinned, may be forgiven. But cursed be he who says that there is no law and man might do all things. In the version of the story of Moses by Thomas Mann, the lawgiver declares:

“And I will lift My foot, saith the Lord, and tread him into the mire—to the bottom of the earth will I tread the blashphemer, an hundred and twelve fathoms deep, and man and beast shall make a bend around the spot where I trod him in, and the birds of the air high in their flight shall swerve that they fly not over it. And whosoever names his name shall spit toward the four quarters of the earth, and wipe his mouth and say ‘God save us all!’ that the earth may be again the earth—a vale of troubles, but not a sink of iniquity.”

The sink of iniquity that the Philippines became after a few years of Liberal rule could not but enrage a man like Recto. With visible effort at self-restraint, he noted:

“During the past two or three years, particularly since the mock elections of 1949, I have often been oppressed, as no doubt you too have been, by a vague fear that we are living in the wrong country, or if you prefer it this way, that our country is inhabited by the wrong people. Surely, I said to myself, this cannot be the country and people that we envisioned in the Constitutional Convention of 1934. When my colleagues and I set to work on that constitution, we had before us the inspiring vision of a united people practicing self-government, moulding civic spirit and learning patriotism in the daily observance of just and wise laws, ever vigilant against any threat to their liberties, faithful in the performance of their duties, and firm in the enforcement of those rights which are inalienable because they are God-given…

“… What do we have now? At the very head of the government, clutching tightly around him the robes of false authority, a man, over the legality of whose position the gravest doubts have been cast, sits enthroned, a very monarch of his ambition and behavior, far removed from public opinion and the guidance of disinterested and competent advisers, surrounded instead by sycophants, opportunists, courtiers, and jesters, and plotting the foundation of a dynasty that will perpetuate the ignominy of his regime.”

To Recto, the law is the law, to be observed by all and mended, if at all, only by law. He lives by it. He has, in fact, grown rich in its practice—but by mastering, not perverting it. He would abide by all its implications. To the President, it may seem strange, even subversive, that Recto should offer himself as legal counsel to the communists when they came up for trial. But the law is the law; a man should have legal counsel if he is to be properly tried, no matter for what offense. Anything else would make of the trial a mock one. (Neither mock elections nor mock trials for Recto.) Let it never be said by the communists that they were railroaded to imprisonment or death, that they might have been saved but for the incompetence of their counsel. They had the best in the land. But even he could not save them. It was democracy in action, wonderfully in action, and the communists could not afterward make propaganda out of the result. Had they been represented by a lawyer who had been at the tail of his class instead of at the head, they might have cried: “Unfair!” But they had Recto.

Communism could only be repulsive to a man of Recto’s non-conforming spirit, aside from the fact that he is a man of wealth. But the law is the law, to repeat, and Recto would assure every man of a true day in court. It was not that he would defend the communist creed, but that he would stand by the democratic one. All have a right to counsel when their lives or liberties are at stake. Recto, the corporation lawyer, offered his services to the Reds.

The law, of course, is merely the law, and not always to be equated with justice. “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids both rich and poor alike to beg, to steal their bread, and to sleep under bridges.” The law is the superstructure; but what of the foundation? What if the society the law holds up rests on social injustice? Against violations of the Bill of Rights, Recto has been sleeplessly vigilant, but what of the poor—must we have them always with us? May they hope, at best, to live only in a vacuum of political liberties, of which Recto stands today the foremost champion? Must one think merely of the law? Their spirits are hungry, says a character in a play by Shaw, referring to well-paid workers, because their stomachs are full. What of the poor?

Nonetheless, before one talks of changing the law, its rule must first be firmly established; only then would it be possible, without injury to the Republic, at the least cost to the fewest people, to correct and amend. First of all, there must be law. Cursed be he who says there is none.

What of Recto’s alleged anti-Americanism? We accused him of that in an article on Philippine security. It cannot be the same as anti-democratic, for that is the last thing one could call the president of the Constitutional Convention and the proven defender of the democratic faith. What does it mean, then, being “anti-American”?

If to be the least bit critical of America, of any of its ways or institutions, is to be anti-American, then Recto is anti-American. Yet to be thus critical is to be in the direct line of a great American tradition. Lincoln was critical of Negro slavery. Wilson would involve the United States in the League of Nations, going against the old isolationist injunction against foreign entanglements. Franklin Delano Roosevelt attacked such established American practices as the sweatshop, child labor, the boom-and-bust economy, poverty in the midst of plenty. Today, millions of Americans reject and are determined to change a foreign policy, for being critical of which Recto gained the reputation of being anti-American.

If, on the other hand, to be pro-American is to agree to everything Americans say—that hardly speaks well of one. In fact, it is a rather obvious form of opportunism; surely Americans cannot be beguiled by it. Such pro-Americanism is so patently a mask for mendicancy, Americans should beware of it. Every time an American hears a Filipino say that America is perfect and Americans beyond reproach, he should be prepared to be asked for money. To pay for the praise of the venal with so sound a currency, as the American dollar seems to us not fair exchange; it is to give good money for shoddy goods. To win over to one’s side, on the other hand, the critical and incorruptible is to gain a friend indeed, because not a friend habitually in need, a chronic dependent, but one who, being independent, can be depended on.

Recto’s concern—excessive concern, it seems to some—over national sovereignty comes naturally. To the legal mind, sovereignty is indivisible; a part cannot be surrendered without denying the whole. Since the beggar cannot be sovereign, Recto, while conceding the aid received by the Philippines from the United States, is always quick to point out the benefits received by the United States from us:

“I speak not only in terms of bases, parity, tariff preferences, immigration rights, and other unprecedented concessions, but also in terms of loyalty measured in the blood spilled in Bataan, Corregidor, and Korea….Our relations with the United States have not been a one-way street but a two-way street, in which the traffic was just about equal.”

It is this passion for independence that drives a man like Recto sometimes to extremes of utterance. The mutual defense pact between the United States and the Philippines may be queerly worded—no such contract would be allowed to go through a law firm like Recto’s, it is, in its letter if not in its spirit, so patently full of holes—at the same time, it is surely going too far to call it a swindle, as Recto does, and then go on and speak of duress, threats, and intimidations.  It should be noted, however, that the brunt of Recto’s attack falls, not on the United States, for looking out for its interests, but on the Philippine administration, for being too mendicant to insist on its rights.

Besides, the Philippine position is so weak, so untenable, the independence of the country faces such threats from so many quarters that short of lasting international peace, which is a dream, one who thinks long and hard on what the Philippines must do to save itself can hardly avoid being filled with a sense of angry frustration. In such a mood, one may well grow violent over the wording of a pact. Those who maintain a more confident attitude are only able to do so because they do not think about the fix we are in. “Leave everything to America”—that’s the standard view. It’s a weak-minded one. If they are right, it is for the wrong reason; if Recto is wrong, it is for the right one.

There is always the possibility, of course, that Recto’s not always restrainable doubts about America’s perhaps too glib assurances of safety have deeper roots than the national predicament. Recto was a poet before he was a politician; in his youth he was steeped in European culture, not American. He belonged to a literary tradition that the American pursuit of Manifest Destiny brought to an untimely close. English put Spanish, which Recto had learned so painfully and so well, to the sword.

“Poetry withered away for the writers of my time,” bitterly remarks Don Perico, a character in a play who deserts the arts for politics, “because we knew that we had come to a dead end, we had come to a blind alley.  We could go on writing if we liked—but we would be writing only for ourselves—and our poems would die with us, our poems would die barren. They were written in a dying tongue; our sons spoke another language….”

Anchises was carried by his son, Aeneas, from burning Troy. The men of Perico’s generation must carry themselves to their graves.

“We have begotten no sons.”

Here is injury, indeed, though unconsciously inflicted. Here is a wound. Recto, the poet, maimed at the very start….The American liberation of the Philippines brought another wound. With other members of Laurel’s Cabinet, Recto was imprisoned in Iwahig where he awaited trial for collaboration with the Japanese whom he had the courage to caution against abuse of the Filipinos….The wound could not have entirely healed.

The American critic Edmund Wilson named one of his books after the Greek legend of Philoctetes to whom Heracles passed on a bow given him by Apollo— “a bow that never missed its mark.” Philoctetes, on the way to Troy, was bitten by a snake; the wound, becoming infected, gave so horrible a smell that his companions abandoned him. Afterward, however, the Greeks were told that they would never win the war without the aid of Philoctetes and his bow. The problem was how to persuade the embittered man, whose wound did not heal, to join the Greeks, to forget his grievance and his pain in the common cause. Philoctetes finally relenting, his wound was healed and the Trojan War was won.

The point of the legend would seem to be that a man’s wounds, the psychic ones, are not to be distinguished from the man, that they make him what he is, that if he is strong, they are the source of his strength; the wound is the bow. The strength, however, will lie useless until the man is reconciled to the society that had inflicted the wound or rejected him because of it. The pain will cease when the wounded man finally identifies his fate with the common one.

Will Recto’s wound ever heal? It is the source of his strength, his independence.  He may negotiate, he will not beg. But must it always pain? Will it never heal? Yes, one hazards—when the opposition of which he is such a pillar becomes the administration. As the wound of Philoctetes healed when he forgot his old grievances and joined the Grecian camp, bringing victory over Troy, may one not say that the wound of Recto will heal when—when he enters Malacañang? Then he must think not of one but of all.

But he will say, of course, that this, precisely, is what he has been doing all this time.

 

The strangest dictator, 1942

The strangest dictator
by Fritz Marquardt

Taken from his book, Before Bataan and After (1942)

FOR Manuel Luis Quezon y Molina, small, explosive, tubercular President of the Philippines, life came full cycle during the Battle of Bataan. From the rocky eminences of Corregidor, when there were no air raids or artillery bombardments going on, he could look out onto the blood-drenched peninsula where he himself had been a sick, battle-weary soldier fighting against impossible odds. That had been forty years earlier, and he had finally surrendered to an American soldier named Roy Squires and Bingham. But the fight never went out of Quezon, in 1901 or in 1942. After the first defeat he rose to be the undisputed leader of his people in their struggle for independence, and after the second defeat to see his country given all the honors and prerogatives of an independent nation.

When his doctors finally told him that his health could not bear up much longer under the strain of living in the foul air of Corregidor’s tunnels, he went down to Cebu and finally slipped through the Japs’ hands and reached Mindanao, after a fearsome night ride in one of Lieutenant John Bulkeley’s P-T boats. From Mindanao he flew to Australia, and then went on to the United States to establish something utterly new under the sun, an American-sponsored government in exile.

The war robbed Quezon of his home and made him a president without a country, but it gave him the one thing he had fought for all his life—recognition of the Philippines as an independent nation. All possible military honors were bestowed upon him when he landed in San Francisco, and a special train carried him across the country.

In Washington he was the object of reception that must have thrilled him to the core, for down at the station to meet him were President Roosevelt and every former Governor General and High Commissioner available, including Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Major General Dwight F. Davis, Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy, Manpower Administrator Paul V. McNutt, and High Commissioner Francis B. Sayre. It was a splendid tribute to Don Manuel, and an even finer one to the Filipinos who had fought so well on Bataan.

Perhaps an even greater day for Quezon and the Filipinos occurred a few weeks later, for the independence of the Philippines as a political entity was virtually recognized when Quezon signed the United Nations agreement and became a member of the Pacific War Council.

Terrible as the war had been, it had given him one pledge which he could never have secured without it. As Manila was about to die, President Roosevelt broadcast a speech to the Philippines in which he said, “I give to the freedom will be redeemed and their independence established and protected. The entire resources in men and materials of the United States stand behind that pledge.” Other presidents had promised that the Philippines would eventually be given their independence, but never before had a responsible American official gone so far as to promise that independence would be “protected.” This pledge was the capstone of a life which Quezon had dedicated to fighting for Philippine independence—and to having a swell time.

Before the war Quezon never had a good press in the United States. Most American reporters looked at his loud neckties and colored shirts, counted up the size of the retinue with which he invariably traveled, heard him issue some peremptory orders to his attendant, and concluded he was a petty dictator on the Latin American plan. John Gunther helped build up the dictatorship tradition by a magazine article for which Quezon was determined to sue for libel, until Roy Howard pointed out how futile that would be.

I watched Quezon at work for thirteen years, and if he was a dictator, then certainly he was the world’s strangest.

In the Philippine elections held a month before Pearl Harbor, Quezon was re-elected President of the Philippines without having delivered a single campaign speech in his own behalf. Four out of every five votes were cast for him, and the elections were honestly run. Ballot-box stuffing was something beneath his dignity—and something which he never had any need to resort to, which can’t be said for most dictators.

The press of the Philippines was at least ninety-five percent pro-Quezon in the years before the Japanese invasion. And it was all a voluntary support of the President. There was no censorship, direct or indirect, and I can testify that far less pressure on the press was brought by “the interests” than is the case in the United States. The editor of a Philippine newspaper could say what he liked, subject only to the customary laws of libel.

Even when the biggest Manila broadcasting company was supported by the government Quezon’s political foes were given free time to air their views. For Quezon was one dictator who wanted an enlightened public opinion. He had no false modesty about his ability. He was so sure of himself that he used to think he would get all the votes, instead of a mere eighty percent, if the electorate had all the facts.

There was complete freedom of speech in the Philippines. Quezon’s critics attacked his personal honesty, his private morals and his government record with absolute impunity. There was no Gestapo in his government, and “protective custody” was unheard of. Arrests were made by the police or Constabulary, and trials were held in the regular courts. The Philippine Supreme Court always had the power to declare any of Quezon’s pet laws unconstitutional.

Why, then, did most Americans consider him a dictator? If there were honest elections, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and an independent judiciary, how could it reasonably be charged that the Commonwealth government was dictatorship?

The answer is to be found in the complex character of Manuel Quezon, a political genius who knew what sort of government would work best in his own country, a practical politician who never allowed visionary theories to interfere with the immediate task of ruling sixteen million people in one of the world’s most critical danger spots. No matter how much he believed in democratic principles, he would never allow them to tie hands in dealing with a specific problem.

Like almost everything else about the man, Quezon’s belief in the necessity of a strongly centralized government was not consistent. When Leonard Wood was governor general of the Philippines, and attempted to concentrate power in the hands of the executive, Quezon fought him bitterly all the way down the line on the theory that the legislative leaders—including Quezon—should be supreme over the executive. However, when Quezon became the chief executive, it didn’t take him long to reduce the legislative branch to a completely subordinate position. “I shall not be so remiss in my duties to the nation,” he said at a press conference, “as to admit that a Filipino President is as unworthy of great power as an American Governor General was.”

In 1922 Quezon fought his great and good friend Sergio Osmeña on the sole issue of whether the Nationalist Party would have “unipersonalista,” or single leadership. Quezon insisted that it shouldn’t, and won the fight. But he later assumed the single leadership of the party himself, apparently without the slightest idea that he was being inconsistent. Or possibly he had read Emerson, and agreed that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

Quezon bossed the Filipinos with an iron hand. After his election as President he brought all the important politicians into his own party, offering them good jobs if they joined up with him, threatening them with a political Siberia if they refused. So powerful was his party in the last elections that it elected all of the Senators and ninety percent of the Representatives to the new Congress, the one which never had a chance to meet because its inaugural was scheduled for the day before Manila fell.

Yet it is doubtful if this unusual dictator followed the one-party line of Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin merely for self-aggrandizement. Even in the days when there were two political parties of relatively equal strength in the Philippines, Quezon was always the Head Man. He gloried in a political fight, and liked nothing better than to tackle a tough opponent. And the creation of one dominating party made all of the prominent politicians, instead of just a majority of them, eligible for the limited patronage available.

No, I think Quezon built a monolithic party structure in the Philippines because he felt that the ten-year transition period leading to independence was no time for party rivalry. He figured—and quite rightly—that the Philippines needed all its able men in office, not half in and half out as there would have been with two parties of nearly equal strength. Quezon himself held no brief for the one-party system, he had set up, apparently considering it a temporary expedient. Once, in fact, he expressed an offhand opinion that there should be a “no party” system, in which candidates would be elected to office on their merits, not on the strength of their political affiliations or the size of their party’s campaign fund.

One of the things for which Quezon was the most bitterly criticized was the national defense plan, including the hiring of General MacArthur as his military adviser, and the inauguration in the peaceful days of 1936 of compulsory military training. Almost immediately charges of “dictator” were hurled at his head. I recall a press conference at his Pasay home, shortly before the Commonwealth was established, to which a group of visiting American newspapermen were invited. Over and over the “visiting firemen” wanted to know why Quezon needed an army, and what purpose he had in mind in instituting compulsory training. Was he interested in defending the Philippines from external aggression, or did he plan to use this great military force to put down domestic uprisings? A little later, in New York, Quezon was subjected to the same line of questioning when he was the guest of honor at a Civil Liberties banquet presided over by Oswald Garrison Villard. For years pacifists called him a warmonger, and liberals insisted he was building an army to keep himself in power after the United States forces left the Philippines. But the fact remains that there was a reservoir of one hundred fifty thousand trained men in the Philippines when war came. And no one was happier to have them there than the very elements which had criticized Quezon so vigorously a few years earlier.

Charges of dictatorship were heard again after the fall of France, when Quezon secured sweeping emergency powers from the National Assembly, including the right to take over industries and to move entire populations from one province to another. He never used the powers, as it turned out, but the fact that he had them strengthened his hand in dealing with problems of defense as they arose.

In fact, a good case can be made out against Quezon because he didn’t act more like a dictator in the months before the war started. For a long time he couldn’t bring himself to believe that Japan would dare attack the United States—a lot of other people made the same mistake—and when he finally came to the conclusion that war was certain he delivered a speech which sounded almost hysterical. Bombs might soon be falling in Manila, he shouted, and no one was prepared because the High Commissioner hadn’t allowed preparations to be made.

This was a great change in tune from the press conference which I attended in the late summer of 1940, during which Quezon had laughed off the possibility of any bombs falling on Manila. We had asked him what preparations were being made against the possibility of air attacks, pointing out that Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Batavia and every important city in the Far East, with the exception of Manila, had been practicing blackouts and getting ready for the worst.

Laughing heartily, Quezon said he had no fear of war in the Pacific, and that anyway the Filipinos liked picnics. If Manila should be bombed the people could all go out in the country for a fiesta, or they could spend their time at the favorite picnic ground of Montalban, where there were some famous caves.

There was, undoubtedly, some friction between President Quezon and High Commissioner Sayre regarding the organization of civilian defense. Quezon apparently pointed out that, under the Tydings-McDuffie Law, the United States was responsible for the defense of the Philippines. That, obviously, included civilian defense. Sayre probably answered that the Tydings-McDuffie Act contemplated only military defense. He also had the eminently sound argument on his side that his overburdened office, with a staff of twenty men, was not physically able to organize civilian defense. If anyone was going to do it, the Commonwealth government would have to.

One thing is fairly certain. If Quezon had plunged in with a large-scale civilian defense plan fourteen or fifteen months before the war began, on the strength of his emergency powers, there would have been a cry of “Dictator!” which would have resounded through every newspaper in the United States.

When Quezon had the Constitution amended so he could be re-elected President—the original provision was for a single, six-year term—critics in the Philippines and the United States called him a “tyrant” and cynics at the University of the Philippines formed a “Quezon-for-King” club. But when January 1, 1942, rolled around and Quezon grimly took his oath of office in a Corregidor tunnel, everyone was glad that a new President was not being inducted into office.

Temperamental, mercurial, unpredictable, Quezon never bore a grudge long. I have seen him give a subordinate a tongue-lashing which would make a Chinese coolie cringe, and then throw his arm over the poor devil’s shoulders and call him “Amigo.” Some of the men who attacked him most viciously in the past were holding down responsible government positions before the Japanese came in, including a particularly irresponsible newspaper editor who had repeatedly cast reflections upon Quezon’s private life.

One reason for Quezon’s unparalleled hold on the people was his constant support of the underdog. He established minimum wages for government laborers, put an eight-hour working day into effect, soaked the rich with higher taxes. Once his advisers recommended that he veto, on the grounds of economy, a law giving public-school teachers full pay while on maternity leave. I’ll sign that bill if it bankrupts the treasury,” said Quezon, reaching for a pen.

One of his most celebrated battles for an “underprivileged” was set off by an innocent question which I asked him at a press conference. It involved a laborer whose name was Cuevas and big contractor named Barredo. The contractor was working on a bridge across the Pasig River, and one of his crews was unloading logs. The river was swollen as a result of the heavy rains, and one of the logs got away from the men and started down the river. A foreman on the job saw the log going and yelled at the laborer Cuevas, “Get that log or you’ll have to pay for it.” Cuevas, whose pay probably was seventy-five cents (American money) a day, plunged in after the log but was drowned in his unsuccessful attempt. When Cuevas’ family claimed workingman’s compensation the contractor Barredo refused to pay, on the ground that the laborer had taken a foolish risk and the employer was not to blame.

Through some stupid miscarriage of justice, a judge in the court of first instance upheld the contractor and ruled that Cuevas’ dependents were not entitled to collect. We ran a blistering editorial on the case in the Philippines Free Press, and demanded that the decision be appealed—which was permissible under Philippine law. As a matter of fact, the Attorney General’s office was as incensed over the case as the Free Press, and had already determined to push it through to the Supreme Court if need be.

In the course of a regular press interview at Malacañan I asked Quezon if he had read the judge’s decision in the Cuevas-Barredo case? Thereupon the peppery President literally exploded. “That’s seventeenth-century justice,” he yelled. “I was dumfounded to think that any judge in this day and age could hand down such a decision.” And he went on at that pace for fifteen minutes.

A little later, after the conference was over and one of his staff members pointed out that the case was pending final decision, Quezon issued a statement saying he hadn’t realized the matter was sub judice but expressing his confidence that the members of the Supreme Court would not allow his remarks to influence their decision. Needless to say, they decided in favor of Cuevas’ heirs. The judge who had made the original decision retired from the bench for good, and Barredo went out of the contracting business.

“The Quezon dictatorship,” explained the razor-minded Manila publisher Carlos P. Romulo, “is like the Roosevelt dictatorship. You call it the New Deal. We call it Social Justice.”

But Quezon knew how to crack down on labor, as well as how to help it secure its rights. Any strike called before the workers had resorted to government machinery for mediation got scant consideration. When employees of the government-owned Manila Hotel went on strike on Quezon ordered them locked out. “There will be no strike against this government,” he said.

Quezon’s relations with the Catholic Church have been as inconstant as most of the rest of his life. When his father brought him over the mountains from Baler to obtain an education in Manila he worked as a houseboy for a priest at San Juan de Letran College, in order to get food and lodging. Later, when his father’s small amount of money had given out, the Dominican fathers made it possible for him to study law at Santo Tomas University.

But as young man Quezon fell away from the church and became a Mason, thus joining an organization which archenemy in the Philippines.

In 1918, when he married his first cousin, Aurora Aragon, in Hong Kong, the ceremony was a civil one, performed at the American Legation. But three days later the vows were repeated before the Archbishop of Hong Kong.

Quezon continued his active interest in Masonry until 1928, when tuberculosis forced him to spend several months in bed at the Monrovia Sanitorium in California. “I felt that I was going to die—just like an animal, without any spiritual consolation or hope,” he recalled later. For several years after leaving Monrovia he studied Catholicism, largely at his wife’s behest, and finally on one of the Empress liners sailing from Vancouver to Manila he attended a special mass said by Archbishop Michael J. O’Doherty of Manila, thus signalizing his return to his childhood faith.

He told us the story once, when he was in an expansive mood, how he had come to return to the Catholic fold. “When my wife and children kept asking me why I was not a churchgoer, I decided I had better do something about it,” he said. “So I asked Father Vilallonga, an old Spanish Jesuit friend of mine, if he would care to give me some religious instruction in the hopes that I would be reconverted.

“The father was glad to help, and after a long talk he left some books with me to read. One of these books, describing the church in the Philippines during Spanish times, told of image which disappeared from its church in Manila and was found some time later in a chapel in Cavite. Since the skirts of the saint were covered with dust, the church authorities concluded that the image had walked from Manila to Cavite.

“Well, that was too much for me. ‘For goodness’ sake,’ I said to myself, ‘how can they expect anyone to believe that the wooden image of saint could walk from Manila to Cavite?’ So I just gave up the whole idea.

“But a little while later I was talking to Archbishop O’Doherty and he asked me why I didn’t return to the church in which I had worshiped as a small boy. I told him I would be glad to get religious instruction, but I didn’t want any more of that stuff about wooden images walking thirty miles over a dusty road. The Archbishop laughed and said he didn’t believe that story himself. So I began to study with him, finally I decided to re-enter the church.”

Quezon’s return to Catholicism apparently was entirely a matter of conscience. Not even the most anti-Catholic person in the Philippines ever accused him of favoring the church. Quite to the contrary, when the Commonwealth Legislature passed a bill which would allow Catholic priests and lay teachers to give religious instruction in the public schools during regular schools hours, President Quezon promptly vetoed the bill on the ground that he believed firmly in the separation of church and state. Once, during the civil War in Spain from 1936 to 1938, Quezon was the guest of honor at a banquet given by his old friends, the Dominican fathers at the University of Santo Tomas. When he entered the hall a band struck up Franco’s National Anthem. When it came his turn to speak Quezon rebuked the Dominicans scathingly, telling them that they could take sides in the Spanish war if they wanted to, but that they could not use him even covertly to secure public sympathy for Franco.

One reason why so many people have called Quezon a dictator is because he invariably surrounds himself with a big retinue. Even on Corregidor, where he was instructed to take as few people along as possible, he had his usual complement of doctors, servants and aides. He always had a large number of advisers, but he frequently ignored their advice. He felt himself competent to decide any question personally. In legal problems, national policies, educational matters, public works—all the ramifications of government—he was the final arbiter. Even in the fields of art and architecture, which he had never seriously studied, he did not hesitate to set aside the recommendation of experts. Once he noticed that it was a long walk from one entrance of Manila’s city hall to the other entrance, and ordered that a new door be opened in the building, regardless of what it did to the architecture. He must have forgotten his order the next day, because the door was never cut. Against the recommendation of every city planner whom Quezon imported from the United States—and he had some of the best—the new government center was moved from Manila to nearby Quezon city.

Before the war tension rose to fever heat, plans were being laid to hold a great international exposition in the Philippines in November 1941, to coincide with the completion of Quezon’s first term in office. The committee appointed to make the arrangements wanted the exposition held in Manila, where it would be close to the great population centers. Quezon wanted it held in barren Quezon city, then rising out of the rice paddies ten miles northeast of Manila. Finally the committee chairman wrote a long report, listing all the reasons why the exposition should be held in Manila, and took it himself to Malacañang Palace. President Quezon received the report and read it through very carefully.

“That’s a fine report,” the President said to the chairman. “I’ll be honest with you. I can’t answer a single one of the arguments you have advanced for holding the exposition in Manila.” He thought for a moment, and his nose began to quiver as it does when he gets angry.

“No,” Quezon repeated, “I can’t answer your arguments. But there is one thing I can do. I can appoint a new committee to take charge of the exposition.” This is exactly what he did. As things turned out, the fair was never held. But if it had been, you may be sure it would have been held at Quezon City.

To all great men, sooner or later, comes the desire to see their names projected down the corridors of time. Just as Russia named towns, cities, dams, buildings and highways after Josef Stalin, so did the Philippines acquire a Quezon City, a Quezon Bridge, a Quezon Boulevard, a Quezon Avenue, a Quezon Sanitarium and a Quezon Preventorium. The object of this last-named institution was to prevent tuberculosis from developing among the children of tubercular parents. There was even a Quezon Society, dedicated to the collecting of biographical material, data and information about its namesake. Mrs. Quezon came in for her share of unsought but welcome glory, by allowing a dozen towns in different provinces to be named Aurora.

President Quezon was the sort of official who didn’t know one minute what he would be doing the next. His plans were always subject to change, and whoever was in charge of a Quezon itinerary needed infinite patience. I once collected a day-by-day series of headlines for two weeks before his departure from Manila on one of his numerous trips to the United States. It ran something like this:

Quezon Will Take President Taft Monday
President Cancels Passage
Quezon Definitely Going Wednesday on Empress Boat
Malacañang Announces Trip Off
President Sailing Saturday on Hoover
Quezon Sailing Postponed
Big Crowd To See Quezon Party Off Tuesday

And so it went, until finally, much to everyone’s amazement and relief, he got away.

On his provincial trips he used to keep thousands of his admirers waiting hours to see him visit an isolated town, and then change his itinerary at the last minute. On occasion, when he reversed his route, towns had to switch the “Welcome, Quezon” and “Good-by, Mr. President” signs, to be sure the right one would greet him when he entered the town.

Once the National Assembly passed a daylight-saving law and Quezon signed it. Not long after the law went into effect, he arose at 5:30 in the morning while it was still dark. After stumbling downstairs, because he couldn’t find the light switch, he ordered the restoration of standard time!

Judged by Wall Street standards, or compared with Oriental princes, Quezon was never rich. For a long time there were rumors that he had salted away a fortune in pounds sterling in the Bank of England. If he did, he probably regretted it when the pound skidded in value, and the government placed restrictions on the withdrawal of money. The bulk of his fortune was in land, with an assessed valuation in the neighborhood of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars. But Quezon never needed millions. He lived in a palace more elaborate than the White House, and had a summer mansion in Baguio. He had a yacht and a fleet of high-powered limousines at his command. Across the Pasig River from Malacañan he had a “pleasure dome decreed,” a fairyland of beautiful gardens and sumptuous guest houses and elaborate pavilions.

But for all his imperious and regal habits Quezon was always essentially human, with a charm of manner that instantly won friends. Years ago, when he lived in Washington as Resident Commissioner, his fellow Congressmen insisted that he was an Irishman, because of his wit and his love of a fight, and they called him Casey, which they said was the proper translation of the Tagalog word “Quezon.”

I believe that it was at his first press conference after assuming the presidency that Quezon told us, “I’m going to have a human government here. We may make mistakes, but our hearts will be in the right place.”

One of his ways of being human was to go to Bilibid prison and walk down a line of prisoners asking them what they were in for.

“How long do you still have to serve?” he once asked a cochero, or rig driver, he found in the line-up.

“A month,” answered the cochero.

“What for?” asked Quezon.

Somewhat sheepishly the rig driver answered, “Well, sir, I had to answer the call of nature and I didn’t dare go back in the bushes because my horse would run away. So I relieved myself in public.”

“Get that man out of here,” Quezon roared. “Turn him free. What kind of government are we running here anyway? That man should never have been arrested, let alone sentenced to jail.”

The apologetic prison warden mumbled something about releasing the prisoner just as soon as the pardon papers were signed and delivered to him.

“Never mind about the pardon papers. I’ll sign them tomorrow. But you get that fellow out of here right now. I never heard of such a thing.”

The cochero was immediately turned loose, and the legal niceties were attended to later.

Mrs. Quezon also had a way of deciding moot questions of law without any nonsense.

When the eight-hour law went into effect a delegation of private nurses visited her and said they would prefer to work the same twelve-hour shifts they had been working, since a sick person would obviously not want to pay any more for three nurses working eight hours a day than he was already paying for two nurses working twelve hours a day. And the nurses didn’t want to take a cut in pay.

“All right,” said Mr. Quezon. “You go ahead working as you have been, and don’t say anything about it. It will be all right.”

Quezon’s people loved him for his impulsive humanity. It used to be seriously argued that half of the people in Manila would walk out to the end of Pier 7 and jump into the bay, if Quezon told them to.

That is why Quezon was, and continues to be, of such vital importance to the United States and to the United Nations. Not only does he keep the spirit of opposition to Japan alive in the Philippines, but his voice carries weight among all the enslaved peoples of Asia.

Before the war started he said, “We owe loyalty to America and we are bound to her, placing at her disposal all our man power and material resources to help her in achieving victory, for the cause for which America fights is our cause.”

Why should a dictator call America’s cause his cause, and throw his country’s weight into the struggle on the side of democracy? Simply because Manuel Quezon was not a dictator by choice. That was proved by his refusal to tamper with freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary and other basic rights guaranteed by a democratic constitution. No one doubts that he ruled the Philippines with an iron hand. But that was necessity. The Filipinos had had less than fifty years of firsthand experience with democratic institutions, as against centuries of acquaintance with despotism.

Yet even then it was only by Anglo-Saxon standards that Philippine democracy could be weighed and found wanting. To hundreds of millions of politically disenfranchised Asiatics, the Philippines was an oasis of freedom in a desert of oppression. Nowhere in the Far East did the beacon light of political liberty glow so brightly as in the Philippines. Quezon was a symbol of democracy at work.

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?”

“Several years”

“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.

Political history

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?”

“No.”

“Then, why….”

“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!”

A dreamer

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.”

Sumulong enumerates:

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.

End

Only Garner can tell hearings’ outcome, August 20, 1938

Independence Merry-Go-Round

Only Garner can tell hearings’ outcome

By James G. Wingo

Free Press Correspondent in Washington

August 20, 1938–“WHAT do you think they are going to do now?”  asked Vice-President Sergio Osmeña as soon as Sen. William H. King, acting chairman, announced that the Philippine bill hearings of the Senate committee on territories and insular affairs had ended.

He was not the only one asking that question. The patient Pinoy who sat in a corner for four weeks watching the proceedings open-mouthed also asked the same question. In fact everybody wanted to know that question’s answer.

The only man who can answer that question or any question arising on Capitol Hill is that prairie politician and sagebrush statesman, John Nance Garner, who today is the most potent political figure on the American scene. Filipinos may well remember this stubby, pinkish-whitish, bushy-browed, billikenish man who headed the large congressional delegation to Manila in 1935. Yes, this man knows the answer to the current Philippine question, but he won’t talk. Since he became vice-president of the United States in 1933 he has said practically nothing for publication.

So there’s no use running to Mr. Garner now although he granted me an interview once on the Manila-bound S.S. President Grant, which was promptly radioed to Manila. But the question must be answered somehow, as your correspondent is going to do forthwith, basing his answer upon the remarks of the committee members, their intonation when asking questions or making comments, their day-by-day attitude, their personal and political interests in the problem and many other things.

The interest in the Philippines shown by the committee members reflects that of the whole United States. It is a negative interest. The sentiment against being involved again in another war is so strong that even bold Franklin D. Roosevelt would not dare to buck it.

Many senators are afraid that the Philippines is a liability which may involve the U.S. in a Far Eastern war. As economic protector of the Philippines, what would the U.S. do if Japan grabbed an independent Philippines the way Germany grabbed Czecho-Slovakia? The U.S. would certainly be placed in a position to fight for a foreign country out of the orbit of the Monroe Doctrine, something which the American people are currently violently opposed to doing. If the Philippines were still U.S. territory, the American people would feel differently.

Today Congress would not grant immediate independence unless the Philippines asks for it, but outside the Emilio Aguinaldo crowd no Filipino seems to desire immediate separation from the U.S. For Congress to cut off the Philippines now would be universally regarded as a retreat in the face of the Japanese march of empire.

The American people want to retire from the Philippines as early as possible, but the U.S. government will see to it that the sovereign power retires gracefully. The Philippine Independence Act, whatever one may think of it, gives the U.S. a graceful “out.”

Naturally the average congressman would take the attitude, “Why disturb the whole thing? The Filipinos seem to be getting along all right under the act. Why not let the law run as it is?”

For both the U.S. and the Philippines, there are excellent points in non-action on the Sayre bill. This is not the proper time for the Philippines to ask for more economic concessions or economic changes in the independence act. True enough, the export taxes start next year, but the Sayre bill does not propose to eradicate the export taxes except on a few products, in which case the diminishing quota system will apply.

Shortly before 1946 conditions may change, and the U.S. may be in a mood to treat the Philippines more liberally. There is still this chance, this last thread of hope. But once the Sayre bill or part of it is adopted, that chance is lost forever. Forever is a long time, but it is reasonable to use the word in this case.

Some seasoned observers of the situation believe that rather than let all these long hearings go for naught, congress may adopt the part of the Sayre bill pertaining to the remainder of the commonwealth period. This portion affects only coconut oil, cigars, scrap tobacco and pearl and shell buttons. Resident Commissioner Joaquin M. Elizalde described the proposed changes embodied in the Sayre bill as “of the greatest importance to our economic stability during the second portion of the commonwealth period, 1941 to 1946.”

But almost everybody here is of the opinion that extending U.S. economic protection to an independent Philippines until 1960 is something congress will not do—at this time. Congress reflects the attitude of the American people much more than the U.S. President does. And today the American people are strong for isolationism.

Of course, don’t take all this as pure gospel. Only “Cactus Jack” Garner knows what Congress will do. And he won’t talk!

So your correspondent will continue where he left off two weeks’ ago—continue to give a faithful account of the hearings. As an intelligent reader, draw your own conclusions and make your own predictions. On this question you have as much chance of hitting the mark as any of us here.

After reading his splendid brief, Commissioner Elizalde told the committee not to get the false impression from Severino Concepcion’s testimony that the “Philippine Federation of Labor,” which he represented, was a mighty organization like the C.I.O., despite its imposing name. The commissioner also informed the committee that the President of the Philippines has established

a minimum daily wage of one peso in all industries, including sugar.

“Taken in the light of American wages, this is very low, but it is the highest ever paid in the Islands,” he said. “Furthermore in a great number of our products, we have to complete with other tropical countries which pay very low wages. We cannot raise wages as we would like to.” He also pointed out that Filipino wage-earners usually get free housing and medical treatment.

Following Commissioner Elizalde, Missioner Osmeña personally took the stand for the first time. Dressed nattily in a grey suit, he read a prepared statement, intended to clarify the commonwealth government’s position.

He categorically averred that “the conformity of the Philippine government to this bill represented the permanent views of that government.” He explained the use of figures showing “that during a 50-year period Philippine purchases of American goods registered a higher percentage of increase than American purchases of Philippine goods” as primarily “to indicate the value of this trade, to portray its possibilities, and to serve as documentation…that the economic problem involved in the political separation…is one of tremendous proportions.”

Expressions of gratefulness appeared many times in Commissioner Elizalde’s statement. Mr. Osmeña reinforced them with this:

“The Filipino people have always been pleased to recognize that they have derived great benefits from the free admission of Philippine products into the United States. Previous Philippine missions have frankly and openly admitted this fact. An expression of this sentiment has been reiterated and placed in the record of the proceedings of this committee in the cablegram sent by the President of the Philippines. The sense of gratitude of the Filipino people is strengthened by the knowledge that those responsible for the initiation of the free trade policy between the two countries were animated by altruistic motives….

“And the Filipinos further believe that the gratitude they owe to the American people cannot be measures solely by the economic benefits….America brought to the Philippines the spirit of free institutions, and, in accordance with the spirit, she prepared the Filipino people for self-government. She gave to the Filipinos ungrudging assistance in transplanting to Philippine soil the blessing derived from modern science, technology, and culture,” etc., etc.

McDaniel’s statement

There was no doubt now that President Quezon’s “gratitude” cablegram was compelled by cabled reports of Missioner Razon’s answer to questions made by inquisitorial senators. In his remarks Mr. Osmeña pointed out that he was clarifying statements made during “the discussion concerning my statement of the views of the Philippine government.” It may be remembered Mr. Razon read the Osmeña statement and answered questions for the chief during the illness of the Missioner No. 1.

The chairman of the Cordage Institute, astute J.S. McDaniel, followed Mr. Osmeña on the stand. Said he, “In view of Mr. Elizalde’s remarks this morning, there is nothing left for me to say. I merely want to place my statement in the record.”

Really, with Mr. Elizalde’s acceptance of the Cordage Institute’s amendment to the omnibus bill (an extension of the present Cordage Act to 1946) in an answer to perspicacious Chairman Millard E. Tydings’ inquiry, there was no need to say anything further. In his prepared statement Mr. McDaniel pointed out the existence of the mutuality of interests between the Philippine people and the U.S. hard fiber, cordage and twine industry. He recalled how the Cordage Act came into being—through a compromise between Manuel Quezon (then Philippine senate president) and the Cordage Institute with the approval of certain members of congress. He termed Francis B. Sayre’s calling the Cordage Act “an unfair discrimination against those islands” an “erroneous conclusion.”

“Americans are particularly disturbed over the possibility of Filipinos’ shipping rope yarns into the United States in the form of binder twine, which, under our customs’ policy expressed in our laws, as we understand it, cannot be prevented,” he declared. “Two-thirds of the manufacturing processes of the finished produce—preparing the fiber and spinning the yarn—would be completed by cheap Oriental labor. The practical effects would be the same as if there were no quotas, limitations or tariffs on Philippine hard fiber products coming into this country….

“Certainly there is no ‘imperfection or inequality’ in preventing the Philippines from creating a new industry based on an American market already harassed by prison and foreign competition. If the Philippines were to usurp any part of the binder twine market of the United States, that would force United States manufacturers to find some use for their manufacturing capacities. In turn, this would bring about excessive competition in rope sales, depressing values, which would depress the prices of the Manila fiber (abaca)—so important to Philippine economy.”

Senatorial interest in the hearings reached a new low on the ninth day. Today only Mr. Tydings was present to listen to the most hysterical witness of the entire hearings—and perhaps in any hearings on Capitol Hill in recent years.

Chairman Tydings warned today’s witnesses: “Don’t go over ground already covered, for if you do so, we will not have any bill acted on before the Fourth of July.”

The hysterical witness was notorious Porfirio U. Sevilla, the publisher of the scurrilous Philippine-American Advocate, which has discomforted many famed Filipino politicos, especially President Quezon, Quintin Paredes and Commissioner Elizalde. The resident commissioner was absent today, but Missioner Osmeña and Camilo Osias saw this pompous Pinoy strut his stuff.

Dressed handsomely in a well-tailored grey suit, red-and-grey necktie and black-and-grey shoes, little Porfirio Sevilla strutted to one end of the committee table and promptly started banging it. “I am appearing against this bill for three cardinal reasons,” he shouted. “First, it is legally questionable whether congress can repeal or amend the Philippine Independence Act.”

The second and third “cardinal reasons” were lost in the subsequent hysteria which made it almost impossible to understand the speaker. The remarks he made before Senator Tydings are lost to posterity because the official stenographer could not follow him. He merely made this notation, “Unreportable.”

“Don’t be funny!”

While little Porfirio huffed and puffed, Mr. Tydings went on sucking at his cigaret holder, saying nothing. Even when the witness shrieked, causing consternation in the halls of the huge senate office building, the senator did not change his Mona Lisa countenance. People in other offices kept calling the Indian Affairs committee room, in which the hearings were now being held, to find out what was going on. Some thought a wild Indian had gone on the warpath.

“Quezon is coming down here again to ask for some changes in the Independence Act,” the runty Pinoy screamed. “The congress should not allow him to do so.

“All our industries are under the control of foreign interests,” he thundered next. “Let’s have the independence you have promised us—because we want it.”

Changing his voice to a sarcastic intonation, he stated, “We are coming here to ask changes, Mr. Chairman, because we are afraid of the Japanese. The Japanese are going to get us! Ha! ha! Oh, Mr. Chairman, don’t be funny.”

Mr. Tydings was now reading the Congressional Record, and did not even look up at the speaker.

“I want to emphasize the principal point,” Sevilla vociferated. “Filipinos are expecting independence in 1946. Only 25,000 Filipinos will be affected by this pending bill. How about the others? They don’t know anything about it. They only know that they will be free in 1946.

“You will be blamed, Mr. Chairman, if you will pass this bill. This is no practical joke. You will be blamed if you pass this bill.

“The Filipinos do not know the meaning of this bill. They do not know that they will be tied up until at least 1960. I warn you, Mr. Chairman, there will be a civil war if you pass this bill.

“The Filipinos believe in you, Mr. Chairman. The ratification of the Tydings McDuffie Act by my people was a blessing. And let me remind you that if you extend the Act to 1960 my people will revolt against the sponsors of this bill.”

Report unread

Then busy Porfirio mentioned that only a very few people in the Philippines could read the report of the Joint Preparatory Committee on Philippine Affairs, upon which the Sayre bill was based. He brought up the problem of the Pampanga sugar workers. “They are mistreated,” he shrilled. “They are oppressed. They are getting only 20 centavos a day.”

He told the committee or rather Mr. Tydings that he had just received a cablegram, which read, “Do not testify.” “Mr. Chairman,” roared the witness, “do you think I am the man to be bribed! Don’t be ridiculous.”

If Mr. Tydings had heard that remark, he presumably passed it up as coming from a hysterical person unable to speak coherently, to speak grammatically or to weight the meaning of his words, for the senator continued to read the Congressional Record. When witness Sevilla failed to get the attention of the senator with his screaming and table-pounding, he resorted to imagining voices. “Mr. Chairman, I beg your pardon. I didn’t get that.” Mr. Tydings had said nothing, so the audience guffawed, but the senator remained immovable.

Sevilla mentioned several U.S. national heroes, and then he bellowed, “I am willing to defend my people to my last drop of blood. Don’t be misled by so-called Filipino patriots. By any means, go to it, Mr. Chairman.

“President Roosevelt was misled by the JPCPA. This bill was planned in the Manila Hotel, where the members of the JPCPA had a good time. You can’t get a true picture of the Philippines that way.

“I appeal to you now. Please give our independence in 1946. There will be a revolution if you don’t do it.”

Such a witness as Porfirio Sevilla would undoubtedly not last one minute before a Philippine National Assembly committee if he would be allowed to appear at all. But in the U.S. conception of democracy, this fellow had as much right to say what he wanted as Sergio Osmeña or President Quezon. Mr. Tydings permitted the witness to bellow until he was exhausted. When the witness stopped fulminating, the senator said, “Thank you, Mr. Sevilla. Who’s next?”

Next was J.M. Crawford, manager of the Philippine Packing Corp., a 100 percent American-owned pineapple company in Mindanao, which started investigating the field in 1921, planting pineapples in 1928 and canning in 1930. The company is now canning more than half a million cases annually and practically 100 percent of this is shipped to the U.S., according to Manager Crawford.

On behalf of U.S. interests

“We followed the American flag to the Philippines not as philanthropists to spread American industry or to improve conditions for the Filipinos but to make money for ourselves,” testified Mr. Crawford frankly. “To date we have not recovered our investment. We have however assisted in developing an American industry. We have also definitely assisted the Filipinos, particularly those living in northern Mindanao…. We have found the Filipinos to be good, conscientious, loyal employees, who like the Americans and are grateful to the United States.

“We would like to have Senate Bill 1028 become a law for this would give us more time to recover and make a return on our investment. I have no authority to speak for other citizens of the United States living in the Philippines but I believe the position of my company is typical of other American investors in the Philippines.”

Two other senators, John E. Miller and Bennett Champ Clark, showed up, while Mr. Crawford was speaking, to reinforce the lone Mr. Tydings.

After Mr. Crawford there was nobody else on the docket for the day. The chairman wanted to know whether there were some more who wanted to be heard. Vicente Villamin stood up and said that he would like to speak the next day.

“Why not now?” asked Mr. Tydings, and the best known of all U.S. Filipino economists pulled out his prepared statement, walked to the large table and began giving the defects of the pending measure. Said he:

“The first defect is this: The bill sets forth a plan of a limited, declining preferential trade between the United States and the Philippines from 1946 to 1960. This plan is to be incorporated in an executive agreement. This agreement is made immune from denunciation for seven years. But…it is subject to revocation on six months’ notice…. The effect of this provision is to deprive the Philippine government of the treaty-making power which it should acquire automatically with the assumption of independent sovereignty….

Villamin’s contentions

“The second defect is this: The plan of trade dissolution, euphemistically called a readjustment program, will take the form…of an executive agreement between the President of the United States and the President of the Philippines. The pertinent provision of the bill gives the former only permissive, not mandatory, authority to enter into such agreement…. There is no reasonable or rational certainty that there is going to be any agreement at all when the fateful year of 1946 rolls around….

“Two questions arise: Firstly, would not progressive disintegration of the Philippine-American commerce…be more painless to the Philippines than its abrupt cessation…in 1946? My answer is this: It is preferable…to have five years more of the existing free trade arrangement of no tariff duties and no declining quotas and trust not only to the magnanimity of the United States but also to the eventual recognition of the relative value of Philippine economic potentialities for a new deal for the period after 1946….

“Secondly, what is a reasonable alternative to the bill? My answer is this: Let congress proceed to repeal the export-tax provision of the Tydings-McDuffie Act…. The provision is unnecessary now. According to the report of the Joint Preparatory Committee, the Philippine net bonded debt in 1946 will be but approximately $21,000,000. Today the Philippine government has a cash surplus six times that amount.”

The committee disposed of Mr. Villamin without asking him a single question. The senators seemed to be thinking of anything but the Philippines.

John J. Underwood, representing the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, was the first speaker on the tenth day. When he began reading his statement he had three senators to listen to him—Tydings, Arthur H. Vandenberg and Key Pittman. Also present were Missioner Osmeña and Commissioner Elizalde.

“A committee of the chamber has studied the bill under consideration,” Mr. Underwood droned, “and has reached the very definite conclusion that any premature change in the economic relationship between the United States and the Philippines, without opportunity for adjustment, will result in chaotic and unstabilized conditions to the great detriment of the United States as a whole, and in particular to the Pacific Northwest.

“One-third of the exports of the Northwestern area to Asia are marketed in the Philippines. The citizens of Seattle are now negotiating with the Maritime Commission a proposal to establish a new American line of steamships on this essential trade route. Many thousands of dollars have been spent by Northwest business enterprises in building up trade at Manila and other points in the Far East and this money was expended in anticipation of permanent trade relations with the Islands and on a basis of favor of competing with other countries for this business….

“It is the belief of many Pacific Coast businessmen who have been close to the situation that the American interests who are proponents or who lobbied on behalf of the plan to abrogate the present preferential trade agreement between this country and the Philippines had but one object in mind. It was not philanthropy which influenced their sentiment on behalf of the Philippine people to give them their right to self-government; their purpose was to convert the status of the Philippines into a foreign country…. These interests reason that any barriers against Philippine imports will place similar products from Cuba on a preferential basis in entering the United States.

Pacific Northwest interests

“The proximity of the Atlantic Coast to Cuba naturally gives that section a greater interest in Cuban trade than in the Philippines. These Atlantic Coast interests fail to realize that the Pacific Coast as a part of the United States of America is entitled to share the benefits of this country’s trade with all sections of the world and should not be discriminated against in favor of other parts of this country….

“The State of Washington has considerable interest in any national or international policy agreed upon which will affect the trans-Pacific trade of this section of the United States. The exported products are the very life of the United States Pacific Northwest industries and include lumber, flour, fruits, vegetables, dairy and poultry products, canned salmon, condensed milk, paper, pulp, mill and mining machinery…. The proposed new American steamship service which contemplates operating out of Seattle to the Philippines and trans-Pacific countries is dependent upon the inbound and outbound cargo from and to that country for its regular service. Continuation of preferential trade relations…is essential to those industries, for if a policy between the two countries is established upon a non-preferential basis it will mean absolute elimination of a large percentage of our exports and this trade will revert to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and other countries…. Foreign shipping lines…would be stimulated by this direction of trade at the expense of…American lines….

“For the reasons stated we respectfully urge this committee favorably to report S. 1028 now under consideration.”

Mr. Underwood’s handsome grasp of the Pacific Northwest situation as it would be affected by the Sayre bill evoked a mere “Thank you” from the committee. It was unfortunate for the Sayre bill that Washington’s Homer T. Bone was not present to listen to the arguments propounded by Seattle businessmen. Mr. Bone had not acted friendly at all to the Sayre proposal.

Herman Fakler, vice-president of the National Millers Association, the national trade organization of the U.S. wheat flour milling industry, reinforced the Pacific Northwest’s opposition to “the abrupt elimination of trade relations” between the U.S. and the Philippines, as voiced by Mr. Underwood. “We do not feel that it is economic to liquidate our present trade relations,” he said, “but rather that we should endeavor by some means to preserve our existing trade.

“Our principal competitors in wheat flour in the Philippines are Australia, Canada and Japan. The elimination of preferential treatment for American wheat flour, therefore, would merely mean handing over our very valuable trade…to our competitors….

“The Philippine market…is of great economic value to the wheat growers of the Pacific Coast. It offers an outlet for their surplus wheat…. Therefore, we favor the objective of the bill now before your committee.”

Astute Senator Vandenberg elicited the information from Mr. Fakler that the flour sent to the Philippines is subsidized by the U.S. government at about $1 a barrel. “You would be more interested in the subsidy than in long-range planning for Philippine trade,” the senator crackled. “You wouldn’t need this bill if you had the subsidy.”

“But we don’t know if the subsidy will continue,” replied the witness.

“That’s right, you don’t,” shot back Mr. Vandenberg, who may become the next U.S. President and who, if elected, will surely scrap many of the New Deal projects which are now costing U.S. taxpayers plenty of money.

U.S. citizenship for Pinoys

V.N.P. Zerda, Filipino lawyer in Washington, proposed an amendment to the Sayre bill providing for U.S. citizenship for Pinoys married to U.S. women and who have lived in this country since May 1, 1934. However, he made excursions to many other subjects.

He mentioned a book which purported to say that beet sugar “smells bad.” Promptly the senator from a U.S. beet district, Mr. Vandenberg, growled, “What did you say about beet sugar?” The witness replied that he was quoting a book.

“The book smells worse,” the senator said.

Witness Zerda continued to read his statement: “The most sorrowful of Filipino life in this country comes when he knows that he is not a citizen of the United States and cannot become one….

“I also heard…here last Thursday that England takes good care of the English anywhere in the four corners of the globe. I happen to know that England takes good care of her colonies, as well…. If there is democracy at all it is in England….

“There has been a saying that if you can save a soul, nothing else matters. Gentlemen of this honorable and distinguished committee, your just and equitable appraisal of Filipino rights, privileges and preferences would save you a great race of people who have already proved to you to be worthy of erecting a monument in the name of American Western civilization, in the name of Ferdinand Magellan.”

In the name of Ferdinand the Bull, I wish I could end the account of these hearings this week and get to doing something else. But we still have to take up “Gold King” John Haussermann, who made a stirring plea for kindness to the Filipinos; that “garrulous general,” William C. Rivers, who kept committee members splitting their sides with laughter; grand, old Harry B. Hawes, who took up two hours to say what he admitted could have been boiled down to a few minutes, and two or three others. So then until next week!

 

Is Quezon courting Japan? July 23, 1938

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.”

 “Incognito” visit

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.

Long-range game

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.

 

Cold feet, designer, super-toaster, editorials, etc., June 1, 1935

Independence Merry-Go-Round

Cold feet, designer, super-toaster, editorials, etc.

By James G. Wingo

Free Press correspondent in Washington

June 1, 1935–THE day before the White House signing of the Philippine constitution Resident Commissioner Francisco Delgado sent his secretary Quintin Paredes, Jr., to shop for “a very good fountain pen” with which President Roosevelt would sign the important document. Paredes showed his boss samples of $50 and $75 pens.

Delgado thought the pens too expensive. Paredes thought they were the kind for posterity. They compromised on a $7 pen.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt sat down at the big table in the cabinet room he saw no pen around. “Where’s the pen?” he asked. “Say, Mac, I want my pen.”

Delgado got cold feet. He didn’t dare offer the pen in his pocket. So Roosevelt signed several copies of the constitution with just one pen, the President’s.

• • •

The fingerprints of these young Filipinos may be discovered on the Philippine government copy of the constitution bearing the signature of President Roosevelt; Guevara’s Secretary Manuel Zamora, who took the accompanying semi-candid snapshots in front of the Executive Office after the signing of the constitution; Delgado’s Secretary Paredes, Diosdado M. Yap, who comprises the entire personnel of the Yap-founded Philippine Information Bureau; Candido Elbo Tobias, another secretary of Resident Commissioner Pedro Guevara.

When Gov. Gen. Frank Murphy went to the photographers’ room he entrusted the important document to Yap. He and the other boys took advantage of the opportunity to have something to do with it. They pressed their finger all over the constitution. Then they took it outside and had their picture taken with the document.

• • •

If Lloyd Taylor had preferred to accept his father’s offer to manage the Manila Daily Bulletin with a salary of P1,000 a month, he would not have drunk lemonade with the First Lady of the United States the other day in the Red Room of the White House. And he would not be the young hat and dress designer who is advertised by big department stores as promising and a discovery. This artist was born of Carson Taylor and his pretty blonde wife in Manila 30 years ago.

Accompanied by the wives of Sen. Key Pittman, Rep. William H. Larrabee, Rep. Richard J. Welch and Commissioner Delgado and by Vicente Villamin, Designer Taylor presented Mrs. Roosevelt with two Easter dresses. Taylor designed the dresses made of Philippine material bought with the contributions of Filipino and American friends of the Filipinos in the United States who appreciated an utterance of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Roosevelt in a magazine urging the women of America to dedicate some attention to the Philippines, its people and its problems, and the work which the United States has undertaken in the islands. Mr. Villamin was the one who suggested the idea of presenting the dresses to Mrs. Roosevelt. Taylor gave his services free.

• • •

No commercial stunt

Mrs. Roosevelt was very much pleased with the two beautiful dresses, which, according to the designer, could not be duplicated for less than $600. She promised:

“I will wear one of them on the first big occasion.”

Taylor assured Mrs. Roosevelt that the presentation was no commercial stunt.

Not until Mrs. Roosevelt wears one of the dresses will Publisher Taylor be reconciled to the idea that his son, who left the University of Southern California for his own New York Studio, has become a great artist.

• • •

In creating the beige piña dress Taylor took his inspiration for the neckline from the Philippine pañuelo. This neckline gives the draped shawl effect with the point center back nearly to the waistline. The sleeves puff above the elbow, suggesting the Philippine sleeve. The gored skirt is wide, with back fullness, which recalls early Spanish influence. The dress is trimmed with real princess lace, made by the Belgian sisters of the Tondo Convent.

The other dresses, an aquamarine blue jusi, brings out the effect of modern fashion in European gowns popular with young Philippine ladies.

I understand the table Emilio Aguinaldo sent the White House has helped to revive the fashion for Philippine hardwoods here.***

• • •

The Taylor-designed dresses of Mrs. Roosevelt may create a new field for Philippine industry.

• • •

About 49 Washington college students from the Orient—Filipinos, Chinese and Japanese—met one Sunday in a dingy Chinese restaurant for luncheon. The honored guests were Dean Warren Reed West of George Washington University, Gen. Teodoro Sandiko of the last Philippine independence mission to Washington, Tswen-Ling Tsui of the Chinese legation and Kiyoshi K. Kawakami, able Washington correspondent for a Japanese newspaper.

Berates Chinese

Kawakami, in a long speech, burned the ears of the Chinese as he berated them for their non-cooperation with Japan. He found an affinity of interest, however, among the peoples of the Far East superseding alliances with nations in the West.

“Japan would be the first to sign an agreement neutralizing the Philippines,” he added. Nobody doubted that statement. Every so-called “neutral” territory in the Far East today either belongs to Japan or is under Japanese authority.

• • •

Delgado spoke of Japanese-Filipino and Chinese-Filipino friendships. He recalled his “days of adolescence’ in the United States. He also told the boys how he wooed and won his wife despite great odds.”*

And then he climaxed his speech thus:

“Gentlemen, I want you to stand up and drink with me a toast to President Roosevelt.”**

The boys stood up and picked up their glasses of water. Hardly had they resumed their seats when Delgado declared:

“Please stand up again and drink with me to the health of the Emperor of Japan.”

The boys did the same trick. And then quick-witted Delgado again declared:

“I want you once more to rise and drink with me to the well-being of the President of China.

• • •

Toasting record

After the hurrahs, the banzais and the lin sheis the precedent-breaking Delgado thought there should be mabuhays also. He had already hogged three toasts, but that fact did not deter him from proposing the only one left.

“Gentlemen, I am a politician,” he said. “My guesses are sometimes wrong. I don’t know who will be the first president of the commonwealth, so I will propose a toast to just the Commonwealth of the Philippines.”

Super-toaster Delgado undoubtedly holds the toasting record at a single meal in this country.

• • •

The signing of the constitution of the islands by President Roosevelt was the occasion for the blossoming of the first nationwide crop of editorials on the Philippines since Congress passed the McDuffie-Tydings act. Most of the newspapers believe that the Filipinos are not so eager now for independence as they used to be. They find that realization of the consequences of the loss of the American market and fear of Japanese have sobered the Filipinos and dampened their enthusiasm for separation from the United States. Brief excerpts:

New York Herald Tribune: It is worth noting, at the outset, that President Roosevelt’s counter-signature of the document does not mean or imply, as the Filipinos may think his approval of it. Nor does it commit him to the belief that the document itself is workable or that the experiment which it charters will be a success. In signing it the President simply certified that he found it compatible with the provisions of the Tydings-McDuffie independence act—a measure which provides for the release of Cuban sugar from Philippine competition within the decade and for the release of America at the end of it from the bootless responsibility and risk of guarding a defenseless economic wreck against Asiatic piracy.

Unfavorable result

Washington Post: Weighing, then, the advantages of complete autonomy against the concomitant loss of American markets together with an increased public budget, the result is not as overwhelming on the side of independence as first impulses might suggest. President McKinley is said to have gone down on his knees to beg for Divine guidance in his decision as to the disposition of the Philippines. He got up to promise them eventual independence. He could not then have conceived of the vast economic implications of his plighted altruism. But today in Manila they have no illusions on this score. And that is why, behind the torchlights and oratory of last week, there stood a far-seeing group that even now is talking earnestly of the future of the Philippines in terms of “dominion government,” perpetual commonwealth status” or “economic partnership with the United States.”

Experimental period

Newark (New Jersey) Evening News: With all the economic and political confusion there is in the world at present, it is safest to regard the next 10 years as a period of experiment, in which the United States, as well as the Filipinos, will need to exercise the greatest wisdom and restraint.

Pasadena (California) Star-News: Experienced observers, among them W. Cameron Forbes, a former governor general of the Philippines, believe it to be quite possible that the Filipinos may request a modification of the independence act, in view of the special dangers that are arising. Mr. Forbes said recently: “I feel, and a great many Americans and Filipinos feel, that the problems that will confront the islands, to go on without their own navy, their own guns and their own trade avenues, are extremely serious.” The responsibility of the United States in this matter is grave, as Mr. Forbes sees it.

Worcester (Massachusetts) Evening Gazette: The purpose of the [Philippine independence] law is to rid us of the islands. But we shall not be rid of them. We are not rid of Cuba. We may talk pious platitudes about non-intervention, but we shall continue to interfere at Havana as long as we have any American money invested in Cuba. The Philippines—when the native politicians fall afoul of each other, or get into a row with Japan—we shall be called upon to help them. It is doubtful that they can maintain a stable government. It is certain that they cannot, if they experience an economic collapse. And, by barring them from or market, we are doing our utmost to ruin them economically.

Chicago Daily News: These are parlous times in the Far East. The American dairy interests and American and Cuban sugar interests, which joined forces with Filipino politicos to sever ties of 35 years, have gone a long way toward accomplishing their none too noble ends. If present plans materialize the Philippines will blossom forth as a sovereign republic at the end of a decade and the United States will cease to have a territorial interest in the troublesome Far East. In some respects the United States may be better off if such a separation takes place. Under certain circumstances it might be better to have the separation completed more quickly and more definitely.

Canton (Ohio) Repository: Apparently, the prospect is pleasing to the majority of Filipinos.

Syracuse (New York) Herald: Public opinion in this country is fully reconciled to the legislation.

Salem (Massachusetts) Evening News: They have agitated for freedom so long that it will be difficult for them to turn back now.

Rochester (New York) Times-Union: The element of danger to the Philippines in a completely independent status lies in the possibility that some power might seize the islands and impose a rule less satisfactory than that of the United States.

• • •

Whatever these newspapers say

End

***The table also helped to revive the old question about the genuineness of the mahogany from the islands. African mahogany importers and other dealers of mahogany have been insisting that Philippine mahogany, not being real mahogany, must always go under the name “Philippine mahogany.”

**There is no law against toasting the President of the United States any time, anywhere, but tradition and official etiquette have it that he must be toasted only at official or diplomatic dinners or at those of the armed forces of the United States.

*Jose P. Melencio and his wife, the daughter of General Aguinaldo, also love to recall their courtship in their public addresses.

End