Diary of Antonio de las Alas

July 4, 1945 Wednesday

Great day for the United States. It is Independence Day, marking the birth, of the American nation. She is justly called the cradle of liberty — the repository not only of the democratic rule, or government by the people, but she also adopted principles and ideals to guarantee the rights of men.

But what a paradox, what an irony — the Philippines is still under the Stars and Stripes. She should not have stayed here so long. We have been deported and imprisoned. We have been forcibly taken from our homes and separated from our dear ones. We have been humiliated and made to suffer. We have been treated like hardened criminals, muted with persons accused of treason and other serious crimes. In other words, we have been deprived of our liberty. And all these without any trial, without proper investigation, without even informing us of the charges against us. Oh, liberty, justice, where art thou?

It is said that the most serious charge against us is for having signed the two “manifestos” — both beseeching the people to keep peace and order and to help in the reconstruction of the Philippines. I shall discuss the first document in connection with my statement as to why I accepted a government position under the Japanese regime. As to the second “manifesto”, I signed it together with many others, not voluntarily and willingly for, as a matter of fact, it was imposed upon us, but without any regret. Under the circumstances, it was a good and justified step. We wanted our people to keep peace and order while they were defenseless and at the mercy of the Japanese. We wanted to save as many Filipino lives as possible. The peaceful citizens who lived outside cities and towns were suffering terribly because of the criminal and unscrupulous elements who took advantage of the disorder to prey upon them. Food production and transportation of foodstuffs were being interrupted or at least made difficult. Many in the cities died of malnutrition. The poor and those belonging to the middle class suffered terribly for lack of food or because food prices were beyond their means. Under the circumstances, what could we do but urge that peace and order be maintained.

Although it is July 4th, a holiday in the United States and in the Philippines, many of the enlisted class are being made to work at the new camp. They are hurrying up the work to be able to finish it as soon as possible. We are now too crowded in these quarters and we understand many more are coming. We may be happier here because it is in the center of the populated portion of the colony, but if we shall be crowded, we would prefer to be transferred to the new site. The work at the new camp now is done by rotation unlike before when it was done by volunteers. This seems to be a better arrangement because attendance was never assured — sometimes there were many and at times very few; some persons work there everyday, others do not work at all. There were complaints about the food, about being guarded too strictly, that they cannot take any rest, that they are being made to work in the rain. Proper complaints were filed and the authorities seemed to be inclined to hear them out. Food now is more abundant and the treatment better. But we must admit that at times the treatment accorded is well justified. Some men abuse the liberty given them and, instead of working during working hours, they would go fishing, or gather fruits, or talk to colonists. The motto should be “Work hard during working hours; any deviation from this rule is cheating.”

Aurelio Alvero was ordered today to go to the new camp to work. He refused on the ground that he is suffering from rheumatism. He was told that unless he complied he will be put in the “bartolina” which has just been finished. The “bartolina” is only about one and half meters by two meters in size and there is no ventilation except a small opening. It must be hell to be in there, especially when it is hot and with bread and water only for subsistence. Alvero says he does not mind being placed in the “bartolina”. I think what should be done is to have Alvero examined, and if his claim is true, he must not be compelled to work. Alvero said that he was afraid to get wet in the rain which will worsen his condition. He will be willing to do any other kind of work.

* * * * *

In connection with Romulo again, after the nomination for candidates for Senator in 1941, Romulo, who was an intimate friend of mine, showed coolness towards me. I attributed it to the fact that I was nominated and he was not. His resentment was absolutely unjustified. We all worked for him and we were able to get a big majority in the convention promise support for Romulo. Although Pres. Quezon always said that he wished the convention to act freely, the fact was that he controlled the nominations. He was the one who prepared the list of candidates and the names in his list were the ones nominated in the convention. When we submitted the name of Romulo, the President flatly refused for two reasons: he belonged to the same organization (Philippines Herald) as Don Vicente Madrigal. As Madrigal had already been chosen, Romulo could not be a candidate. The other reason was that he was not supported by a majority of the delegation from his own province, Tarlac. How could he expect other provinces to support him when his own province would not even vote for him? But there was a clear majority in favor of Romulo in the convention. It was probably influenced by the Free Press poll in which he got first place among an array of big men. Because of this, I had been calling him “Senator”. When later I was nominated and he was not, I noticed that he changed, probably believing that if I had not been included he would have been nominated. But it was all in accordance with the desire of President Quezon.

I was not a candidate at the beginning. Having been in politics for many years, having held high positions and dispensed many favors, there were many who wanted me to be a candidate. During the Free Press Contest, many approached me to ask my permission to include my name among the candidates. I objected strongly. I was through with politics. I had good reasons not to return to politics. I was in the government service from 1910 to 1922, in politics from 1922 to 1933, and a member of the Cabinet (Secretary of Public Works and Communications and as Secretary of Finance) from 1933 to 1939. In 1938-39, I was Financial Adviser to the President and member of the Economic Mission to America (Mr. Osmeña was Chairman). Having been repeatedly entrusted with power by our people and having held many of the highest positions in government, I felt satisfied. The only positions higher than the highest I have held are that of President and Vice President. Although many persons have talked to me about these positions, and modesty aside, I feel I can do the work to the satisfaction of the people especially in view of my record as an executive, I nevertheless have never had the ambition to occupy a position higher than those I have held. On the other hand, I felt that I had served my people sufficiently and I should devote the rest of my years building myself economically to insure the welfare of my family, consisting of a wife and ten children.

It is true that I made a lot of money from 1939 to 1941 when I was connected with Marsman enterprises as Vice President and Director of their many companies. But I had not yet saved enough to insure the future of my family. My whole plan that November of 1941 when nominations for senator were being considered, was to continue in business with Marsman & Co. I felt that my plans would be impossible to realize if I ever entered politics again. When I left the government I was deeply indebted — about ₱115,000. This was the result of politics, of having stayed too long in the government where one cannot possibly have made money unless he was dishonest; unless he violated the public trust and took advantage of his position to enrich himself. Under these circumstances, why would I want to reenter politics by allowing myself to be nominated as Senator, which at the time meant sure election, not only because I was well known all over the Philippines, but also because of the so-called block voting? (Block voting is that system by which a vote for the ticket of a party is vote for all the candidates of the party.)

How and why was I nominated? I was busy working in my office on the 4th floor of the Marsman building at Port Area. I tried to forget politics and I believe I had succeeded — never in my wildest dreams did it occur to me that I would enter politics again. My determination was strengthened by the fact that my wife and children who had suffered troubles and deprivation because of politics were strongly against it.

It was in the latter part of October, or the beginning of November, when I was called by Pres. Quezon to Malacañan. I thought he was going to talk about the elevator for his new house that Mr. Marsman had given him. I went to see him immediately. I was surprised when he came right out and told me that he wanted me to be one of the candidates for Senator. It was totally unexpected. The papers mentioned many names in connection with the nomination, and I was not included. It was because they understood very well that I was tired of politics — that I hated it. I was satisfied with my work at Marsman & Co.; I was paid well — enough to insure the welfare of my family.

I was speechless for many seconds. Finally, I was able to answer the President that I would like to be excused as I had decided to quit politics for good. He asked me to think about it and to come back after two days.

I did not have to think about it; I was decided not to be a candidate. I nevertheless consulted with my wife and children. Tears streamed down my wife’s face. She knew what it meant. She suffered much because politics had ruined us financially. Furthermore, when I was in politics, she had no rest. Any time of the day or night, she was molested by my constituents. She could not refuse to see them because they were men who had worked and sacrificed much, even spending their own money, to further my candidacy. It would have been the height of ingratitude not to attend to them and be gracious. Remembering all these, her answer was a definite no, for which I was glad as it was in accordance with my conviction.

I returned to Malacañan and told the President of my decision. The President was surprised; he could not understand why I was going to forego and opportunity to be a Senator without having to work or spend for it. He argued with me, stating that I should seize the opportunity, that I could still continue in business, and that I should not turn down any opportunity by which I could serve my country.

I answered him that I had already served my country perhaps as much as any other Filipino (almost 30 years of continuous public service). He then explained the reasons why he wanted me to be a candidate. He said that the Senate was recreated to imprint more seriousness in the legislative business; that the single chamber system was a failure — many bad laws and poorly prepared laws have been passed by the present Assembly; that with every election the radical elements increase and, after a few more elections, they may get control of the Assembly; and that the Assembly is being infiltrated more and more by irresponsible persons. He proposes to insure with the recreation of the Senate that only good laws will be approved. For this reason, he wanted the members of the New Senate all to be serious and responsible, men who are well known for their accomplishments, men in whom the people will have full trust and confidence. This is the reason why he had included me. I naturally felt very flattered. Nevertheless, I repeated my negative answer. I told him that I had already considered the matter from all angles. He left me in disgust.

I went back to my office happy and contented. I thought the matter was closed. Before that day, I had not consulted anybody in the Marsman Company. After the second conference with Pres. Quezon, I decided to consult with Mr. Benjamin Ohnick, Vice President of Marsman & Co. and the ranking man in the organization since Mr. Marsman was in the United States. Mr. Ohnick was inclined to advise me to accept, but did not want to assume full responsibility. He decided to consult Mr. Marsman since the latter was the one who got me into the organization. He sent a telegram to Mr. Marsman. Mr. Marsman answered advising me to accept. He said that under the circumstances, I could not decline. I was rather embarrassed. I regretted having consulted Mr. Marsman and Mr. Ohnick since I had already declined and the President seemed to have dropped the whole matter. I decided to forget the whole thing.

But a week after my second conference, Pres. Quezon called me again. He curtly told me thus. “I want you to be a candidate.” I answered, “Mr. President, you should have commenced that way. You know that I cannot refuse or disappoint you. When I left the government, I pledged to you that you could call on me at any time. You wished to convince me by argument, and I had given this matter serious thought. Now that you want me to be a candidate, it is decided. I accept,” I noticed that he was very pleased. I left rather depressed.

Two days afterwards, I received a letter from him. He said that he had given further thought to the matter and he was of the opinion that I could not be a candidate without resigning my positions with Marsman & Co. I also studied this angle and I also came to the conclusion that there is an incompatibility between the office of Senator and my positions of Director of Marsman & Co., Vice President of the affiliated companies like the Marsman Building Corporation, Marsman Trading Corporation, Cardinal Insurance Co., Insular Drug, and President of the Coco Grove (a mining company). I was also director of many other affiliated companies like the lumber company, etc. Some of these companies get government contracts and there is a prohibition in the Constitution against members of Congress being interested directly or indirectly in government contracts. But I could not disappoint President Quezon and, on the other hand, the matter had already gone too far for me to withdraw since everybody already knew that I was a candidate.

I told Mr. Ohnick about the new incident. He told me to resign, as indicated by Mr. Quezon, after my election. He said that later, he would make other arrangements that would not violate any laws since he understood very well that I could not afford to give up my income from Marsman entirely as the compensation of a senator could not support my family. I so advised President Quezon.

I was nominated formally by the Convention and elected as Senator. Although I hardly campaigned, I occupied sixth place in a roster of 24. Later, Mr. Ohnik told me that the plan was to appoint me later as adviser or attorney for the corporation which does not fall under the prohibition. In fact, many Senators and Representatives occupy those positions in various companies. But I shall divorce myself from all executive positions.

Those are the facts about my nomination. As may be seen, my candidacy had nothing to do with the non-nomination of Romulo.

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