Discussions have been raging as to whether the policies and acts of America in the Philippines at the present time are correct. The almost unanimous opinion is that America is committing a blunder in the Philippines and, consequently, alienating a good portion of the Filipinos. They say the acts of the Americans in the Philippines after the reconquest, especially concerning the alleged “collaborationists” are uncalled for and unjustified.
The reason it out this way. America came to the Philippines under the most suspicious circumstances. She fought Spain to save the Cubans from the atrocities of Spain. As an incident of that war, Dewey entered Manila Bay, destroyed the Spanish fleet, and later with the American Army, set foot on Philippine soil. It is said that Dewey promised Aguinaldo that America would respect the independence of the Philippines which the Filipinos had won from Spain. Because of that promise the Filipinos helped the Americans. Later, when the Spaniards left, the Americans refused to leave the Philippine soil. Fighting between the Americans and the Filipinos began. As was to be expected we Filipinos were vanquished, America decided to occupy the Philippines.
The Filipinos were heartened when President McKinley announced America’s policy in the Philippines. He said that the Philippines would be prepared for self-government. America had been true to that policy. Little by little we were granted government powers. Filipinos were called to run the provincial and municipal governments. An elective assembly was created which, with the Philippine Commission, exercised the legislative powers. Later, the Senate was created. The Legislature, composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives, was created and to it was granted all legislative powers. This was in accordance with the Jones Law approved in 1916. Almost all the government positions were given to Filipinos. Naturally, we were all very grateful to America. In the same law there was a definite promise that independence would be granted upon the establishment of a stable government.
Some discontent arose when later independence did not come notwithstanding the promise contained in the Jones Law. However, the law had not been definite and clear as to when independence would be granted. All doubts were cleared up when in 1935, the Independence Law—Tydings-McDuffie Act—was approved. It provided for independence after ten years. This ten year period was thought to be necessary for economic readjustment since Philippine export trade was almost wholly with America. Notwithstanding our opposition, it established free trade and other economic policies that intertwined the Philippine economic system to that of the United States. In accordance with the Tydings-McDuffie Act, the Commonwealth of the Philippines was organized, to cover the 10 year period of readjustment. As the economic provisions of the Tydings-McDuffie Act intended to facilitate the readjustment were not satisfactory, we sent Missions to the United States to work for the necessary modification. I was a member of one of those Missions. We met very little success in this connection. When the war broke out in 1941, we had covered over one-half of the readjustment period.
Needless to say, the Filipinos were filled with gratitude towards the United States. The Americans could have enslaved us, but they preferred to treat us as free people. They could have exploited our country, reserving for themselves the abundant resources of the country, but they preferred to leave them for us to enjoy. They could have imposed terms which would reserve for them certain rights or which would grant them preferential advantages. Instead, however, they would allow us to have absolute freedom in our future relationship with America. America meant to give us the kind of independence we had worked for. The readjustment period will expire in 1946, so that in that year we shall have our independence.
How can we now work against the interest of America under these circumstances? It is unthinkable. The Japanese did not do anything in the Philippines, something they should have done, to get the sympathy and support of the Filipino people.
Before her occupation by the Japanese, there was a good portion of Filipinos in sympathy with Japan. This was because of race and geographical considerations. They sincerely believed that the destiny of our country was with Japan and that we will have to be a member of a League of Nations composed of the Far Eastern countries. In view of the announced policy of Japan of not considering us as enemies and of recognizing our independence very soon, naturally the Filipinos expected to be treated as equals.
But from the very beginning, the Japanese conducted themselves in such a fashion that they alienated the Filipinos. One of the acts was to require the Filipinos to bow to the Japanese sentries. Bowing is a practice in Japan which is good and can very well be obeyed. But the Filipinos were not accustomed to such a practice; they thought they were being made to salute the Japanese, to acknowledge them as superior and master of the Filipinos. This the Filipinos could not accept, as a consequence, many failed to salute and were immediately punished. The worst part of it was that, on occasions when the Filipinos obeyed, the Japanese sentries insisted in having the bow executed properly, although the correct form had never been communicated to the Filipinos. The usual punishment for not saluting is slapping. High government officials and prominent people did not escape punishment. Slapping, perhaps caused more people to hold themselves aloof from or even to hate the Japanese than any other act of the Japanese.
Those incidents showed that the Japanese did not respect our customs, did not know the psychology of the Filipino people. Even soldiers not on sentry duty and Japanese civilians indulged in this pastime. The ranking Japanese officers saw the effects of slapping and other abuses being committed by the Japanese soldiers and civilians and they endeavored to stop them, but they met with very little success. General Tanaka himself toured the whole country for the purpose, and it was in that trip that he contracted the sickness which kept him in bed for many months.
The Japanese civilians had a pretty good share in the commission of abuses. Their hands were into almost everything. They commandeered automobiles. They compelled house owners to rent their buildings or houses to them or to their Filipino friends at very low rents. They took over almost all Filipino businesses. In Batangas, one Japanese tried to acquire all the “batels” (sail boats) to have a monopoly of the water transportation business. At that time, Batangas ports were being extensively used for shipping to the Southern Islands on the “batels”. The Batangueños were so angry that, to show their oppositions to this form of robbery, it is said that a Japanese was tied to the mast of one of the “batels” and burned alive. Filipinos who refused to sell their business would be threatened; if this fails to scare them, the Japanese would get the business by force. They compelled the sale of the T.V.T. newspapers to them. If the intention was just to control the press they could have done so without compelling the sale to them. The Japanese civilians alleged that they had been appointed agents of the Japanese Army or Navy to take over businesses to bolster the war efforts. Some businesses are really necessary for war purposes, but it would take a wide stretch of the imagination to consider other businesses in connection with the war efforts.
This monopolization of Filipino business caused the Filipinos to doubt the much vaunted purposes of creating the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” They say it is not “co-prosperity” but “prosperity ko.” “Ko” is the Tagalog word for my or mine. It was obvious that even if political independence were granted, the Japanese meant to make slaves of us, economically speaking.
I did my best to curtail this activity of the Japanese. I did it under the guise of inflation prevention. I knew the Japanese businessmen were being lavishly financed by the Japanese banks (for they did not bring any capital from the outside) and I alleged that it was increasing circulation and consequently causing inflation. I was not very successful. Gen. Utsonomiya with whom I had various conferences seemed to be unwilling or unable to help. Only in very few cases was I able to succeed. Some of the businesses I remember having intervened in is the Puyat Furniture Co., and the Philippine Refining Co. which had the monopoly of sugar refinery in the Philippines. The only Filipino businesses that thrived during the Japanese regime were the “buy and sell” business and the real estate business. In the “buy and sell” business, only those who sold war materials to the Japanese Army and Navy got rich. As to the real estate business its boom was caused by the apparently high values of real estate (I say “apparently” because the fact was that the low value of the Japanese military notes, made the prices seem high).
Returning to the matter of the maltreatment of Filipinos at Japanese hands, the cruelty displayed was to say the least horrifying. Many Filipinos were subjected to severe beatings and other forms of corporal punishment. Many were killed. One of those subjected to torture was Dr. Antonio Sison, Director of the Philippine General Hospital, Dean of the College of Medicine and Surgery, and President of the University of the Philippines. Dr. Sison was very strict in the performance of his duties as Director of Philippine General Hospital. He treated everybody equally; gave no special privileges in the hospital no matter how rich and influential the patient may be. Unfortunately, some Filipinos resented this. One of those harboring a grudge against Dr. Sison denounced him to the Japanese military authorities as being the Chief Surgeon of the U.S. Army in the Philippines. The accusation of course turned out to be false. He was arrested, tied to a post blindfolded for more than ten days with practically no food. He was almost dead when released because of the intervention of Pres. Laurel and his brother, Minister Teofilo Sison of the Interior. In this connection, I should state that at the start of the war, Dr. Sison was a great admirer of the Germans and Japanese. He was one of the assiduous students learning Nippongo. His admiration for the Japanese did not last long, soon replaced by a feeling bordering on hate. He dropped the study of Nippongo.
In Batangas, at the beginning the majority of the inhabitants were very friendly towards the Japanese. But the appointment of a Captain Sakai as Chief of the Military Police (Kempetai) soon changed this. Many were arrested, interrogated, slapped and tortured. At one time, Capt. Sakai made a list of prominent people in Batangas and required them all to surrender their revolvers. Many complied; those who did not were punished. I remember my cousin, Luis Atienza of the barrio of Sambat, Taal, in this connection. He received one of those letters. He consulted me as to what he should do. He said that his friends advised him to buy a revolver and surrender it. I answered: “You should not consult me. You ought to know me well enough by this time. Since you say that you have no revolver, do not acquire one. Don’t allow your dignity to be trampled on, accept any punishment that may be meted out to you. It is not dishonorable to receive punishment when you stand up to what is right.” I later regretted that I gave such an advice as I was thereby assuming too much responsibility. Sakai had done much to propagate anti-Japanese feeling in Batangas. This is the reason why guerrillas multiplied in Batangas.
We naturally protested vehemently against such brutal treatment of the Filipinos. I went to see Gen. Utsonomiya many times to request the removal of Capt. Sakai from office. After a long delay, he was finally transferred to Laguna. I heard that in his new post he changed, became very friendly to all the Filipinos especially the “guerrilleros.” He was able to make many “guerrilleros” surrender. He used to go to the mountains alone. In one of those trips he was murdered. The story was that he agreed to meet an important leader of the “guerrilleros” who wanted to negotiate. The followers of the guerrilla leader discovered the plan and, in order to foil the surrender, murdered Sakai.
Another practice so much resented by the Filipinos was “zoning”. A barrio or town is surrounded; all the inhabitants are ordered to proceed to a small place, usually a school house or a church. There they are kept without food and any sanitation facilities. The men are ordered to line up. A Filipino who is hooded walks down the line, pointing out those he believed to be guerrillas or enemies of the Japanese. The accused are forthwith arrested and punished. In many cases, they are never seen again. I have witnessed “zoning” in my youth; the Americans under General Bell, practiced it in Batangas in 1901.
We in government did all we could to save the lives of Filipinos and to free them from imprisonment or detention by the Japanese. Hon. Jose Abad Santos was the Secretary of Justice and former Justice of the Supreme Court who, according to reliable information, was the one to whom President Quezon left all affairs of government when he departed for the United States. When we heard that he was being held by the Japanese in Cebu, we talked to General Wachi, Director General of the Japanese Military Administration, and other generals and asked them most insistently to free Mr. Abad Santos. We explained that he was an Orientalist. We also talked to Col. Kawakami who was the Commander of the Army and in whose hands was placed the fate of Mr. Abad Santos. We were told that our intervention came too late as Mr. Abad Santos had already been executed. Kawakami was extremely cruel to the Filipinos. He was reported to be mentally deranged.
When we heard that Gen. Manuel Roxas was being held by the Japanese in Mindanao, we also took the necessary steps to free him. We were also told that he had already been executed. It appeared that Roxas had really been sentenced to death, but the Colonel in charge refused to carry out the sentence. We later discovered that Gen. Roxas had been brought to Manila. We do not know whether our intervention had any influence at all in Gen. Roxas’ case.
We also intervened in behalf of many other Filipinos. I was always one of those who intervened.
One day my friend, Representative Feliciano Gomez, came to see me to ask me for help for the Mayor of his town as he was being sought by the Japanese. The Mayor, Mr. Alinsod, was accused of being the head of the guerrillas in the town. He assured me that he was not a guerrilla. I talked to General Kawazoe, Chief of Staff of the Army in Central Luzon, who promised to investigate. After a few days, the General came to me, bringing with him papers which proved that the Mayor was really the head of the guerrillas in Sta. Rosa and that he provided guns and food to the guerrillas. I called Mr. Alinsod and asked him to tell me the whole truth. The Mayor confessed. I saw Gen. Kawazoe again, told him the truth, but I strongly urged that the Mayor be given another chance and I would be willing to guarantee his future good conduct. The Mayor was not arrested. He later joined his companions in the mountains and continued his guerrilla activities until the landing of the Americans in Leyte.
Another case was that of Mr. Calingasan, Mayor of Tuy, Batangas. Calingasan had been one of my best leaders when I ran several times for Representative. I remember that in one of our political meetings in Tuy, a fight ensued. Calingasan drew his dagger and challenged the rioters. The disturbance stopped. Calingasan was arrested by the Japanese, charged with being a guerrillero and with having furnished food to American guerrillas. His family came to me to solicit my good offices. I talked to Gen. Kawazoe. The General showed me the papers of the Mayor, among which was an affidavit admitting his guilt. I insisted that the Mayor be released, promising good conduct on his part in the future. The general acceded and Mr. Calingasan was delivered to me in my house. He had various scars on his body as he was tortured during his imprisonment in Nasugbu.
I intervened in various cases of guerrilleros caught by the Japanese. I succeeded in very few cases. One of the patriots I tried to save was Mrs. Antonio Escoda, wife of the newspaperman whose underground activities were well-known and who was captured and put to death by the Japanese. Because of the capture of her husband, she sensed that she would be arrested too. I employed her in my department to show the Japanese that she was cooperating with the administration. All my efforts were in vain because she was arrested and executed.
Another person I tried to help was Gen. Vicente Lim. I was making arrangements to employ Gen. Lim in my department to camouflage his underground activities when he disappeared. I heard later that he tried to escape to Australia and was captured. He was executed.
Many persons representing themselves to be guerrillas came to my house to request for monetary aid. I was very careful in dealing with them because the Japanese Military Police had employed spies to catch Filipino officials who were in contact or cooperating with the guerrillas. However, whenever I was sure they were genuine guerrillas and could be trusted, I gave them valuable information and some monetary aid. I could not give as much money as I would have wanted because I did not have much to spare. Three Filipino guerrillas with whom I had constant contact were Colonels Baya and Jurado, and Lieutenant Jimenez. I personally knew they belonged to the USAFFE. Lt. Jimenez was in constant contact with Bataan and Corregidor and I was able to give him valuable information. I remember I gave some monetary aid to Lt. Lazaro Malabanan who came in behalf of a large guerrilla organization in Batangas, and Ramon Cabrera of the Ateneo de Manila.
One case I would specially like to mention is that of Roberto Vallejo, nicknamed Berto. He was our cook in Manila and we took him with us to Baguio when the government evacuated to that city. From the very beginning, I noticed that he was always out specially at night. During air raids, he would not enter our shelter but instead would stay in an open space. I asked my wife to dismiss him. It was then that he revealed to us that he was a Sergeant in the guerrilla forces. He showed me all his papers. He said he had to observe and report on the effects of the bombings. I immediately relieved him of his duties as our cook so he can concentrate on the performance of his patriotic duties.
Much of the difficulty in our effort to save lives was due to the rather unusual organization of the Japanese Army in the Philippines. Local commanders do not seem to be under any central authority as they paid no attention to orders or requests from Manila. The local commanders would arrest provincial and municipal officials and peaceful law abiding citizens notwithstanding orders, rules and regulations emanating from higher officers in Manila. We were repeatedly frustrated. Many times we were able to obtain the release orders of arrested persons from higher officials in Manila, but local commanders would disregard them.
The punishment inflicted by the Japanese were of the most cruel nature. They also enforced collective responsibility. For the death of a Japanese soldier, masses are massacred and towns burned. This happened in a town in Tayabas.
Another cause of discontent is the forcible eviction of Filipinos from their homes or the forcible taking of private buildings and houses. There were all kinds of abuses in this connection. They would notify the house owner to leave with a certain period and he has to comply. If the buildings and houses were to be used for military purposes, we Filipinos would have understood the necessity of giving up our homes, although we would have objected to the method employed. But in many cases, we just could not see how military necessity enters. The houses are not strategically located and sometimes only one or two officers live in them. In some cases, the houses were left unoccupied and as a result they were looted. Don Vicente Singson Encarnacion was forced to leave his house. The house, which was left vacant for a long period of time, was vandalized. To settle all conflicts, a House Committee was created in accordance with an understanding with the military authorities. However, from the very start, the Japanese officers paid no attention to the committee, and soon thereafter the membership of the committee had to be changed several times as nobody cared to serve in it.
An incident happened with reference to the house on Taft Avenue belonging to the in-laws of my daughter, Natividad. The Cojuangcos were notified by the Japanese officers that the house was to be occupied by the military. Naturally, the owners expressed their desire to have the matter submitted to the House Committee. They had good reasons not to give up their house. I took the matter up with Malacañan and with the House Committee. The Japanese officers returned and told the owner that they must leave within two days and upon failure to do so, they would be thrown out into the streets with all their furniture and belongings. When the Japanese were told that the matter was being investigated by the House Committee, they answered: “Never mind Committee. They are all crooks.” The owners had to leave, transferring to a very small house and moving almost all the furniture. A few days later, they found out that the occupants of the house were Filipino women who were mistresses of the officers. Barely a month passed when the owners found the house abandoned. They returned to the house.
When Gen. Homma announced that the Japanese came as friends of the Filipinos, and when General Tojo announced that the Philippines would be granted her independence immediately and later in October, 1943, actually granted our independence, there was general rejoicing and genuine expression of gratitude to Japan on the part of the Filipinos. There were many, however, who doubted the sincerity of Japan. They turned out to be right. After independence, the changes affected were only in names and expressions. The Japanese continued to intervene in public affairs especially in the provinces. They continued to arrest and abuse the Filipino; they even arrested public officials without notifying the President or the corresponding high authority. They still controlled businesses. Confiscation still continued.
Before the organization of the Republic, each ministry had Japanese advisers. After the Republic, all were withdrawn, with the exception of the Ministries of Finance and Agriculture. They refused to allow the Minister of Finance to supervise Japanese banks and to control Japanese investments and credit. The offices in the Japanese Administration corresponding to the different ministries remained, however, and continued to give suggestions to the Filipino officials which under the circumstances had to be followed. I must recognize, however, that my adviser, Dr. Haraguti, had been very good to me. He expressed approval or at least sympathy for my plans. But unfortunately, he seemed to be powerless and the military people continued to be the deciding factor. I should add that Japanese officials continued to intervene in private affairs.
To top it all, after the Americans landed, the retreating Japanese massacred everybody in sight, by guns, bayonets and hand grenades. Some of the victims were my own daughter, Natividad, married to Ramon Cojuangco, and my brother-in-law, Jose Lualhati, husband of Conchita.
Many Filipinos joined the American Army to avenge the deaths of their dear ones. It would be unthinkable that Filipinos would not turn pro-American, or that they would do anything to jeopardize America’s war efforts, even those who cooperated with the Japanese. But instead the Americans arrested many of them, including almost all the Filipino high officials during the Japanese regime who served only to help their own people. They arrested numerous persons for flimsy motives and for complaints which generally come from persons who harbor grudges against the accused or who try to make the Americans believe that they are the real “guerrilleros.” The Americans are sowing seeds for anti-American feelings. The Filipinos actively work for Philippine independence because, as they say, if we drive all the Japanese and Americans away, we could manage our affairs without any kind of interference. There will be opposition to any movement that might tie us up with America politically.