Diary of Antonio de las Alas

August 31, 1945, Friday

I have been asked many times how the Japanese financed themselves during their regime.

They came here bringing with them Japanese military notes. It can be assumed for certain that those notes are not backed by reserves. There is nothing behind it except the backing of the Japanese government. As a matter of fact, they are not currency or money. They are in reality requisition slips. Instead of forcing the Filipinos to give them food, equipment and materials, they found this indirect and less painful way of attaining their wishes. At the beginning the circulation of the currency of the Commonwealth was allowed. Following the economic law that bad money drives away good money, the latter soon disappeared in the market. Later, the Japanese made the circulation of the currency of the Commonwealth illegal. Those caught exchanging military notes for Commonwealth notes were taken to Ft. Santiago and punished for committing a hostile act.

The Japanese government then established the Southern Development Bank. They did not use the two Japanese banks, the Yokohama Specie Bank and the Taiwan Bank, except that the Taiwan Bank was used to liquidate the American and other foreign banks. As a matter of fact, the Southern Development Bank was not a bank but acted as a branch here of the Japanese Government Treasury. It was given the sole power of note issue. All the military notes were distributed through it. I had numerous discussions with the Japanese as to the nature of these notes. They have always insisted that they were Southern Development Bank notes, whereas I always maintained that they were Japanese Government notes. I did not feel it proper for the Philippine Government to deal with a private bank.

The Japanese, unlike the Americans, practically made the countries occupied by them defray all the expenses of their Army. They did this by means of the issuance of military notes. I also have no doubt about this as I happened to see the Japanese Government budget. In the statement of income, there was included what was called Contribution of the Southern Islands. (I was not sure what they called it, but I am sure that there were billions — 17 billion as I remember — provided as income from the Southern Islands.) As there was no direct request for funds, necessarily they must come from the proceeds of the military notes. They cannot ask for direct contribution because nobody or very few would give. This was shown when subscriptions were opened for the Philippines to buy and donate an airplane to Japan. Very little was collected and the project was stopped. It would not have been possible to collect a sufficient amount to buy even a small airplane unless force was used, as was done in many cases. As a matter of fact, those military notes were no more, no less than requisition slips. The whole financing of the Japanese, including the expenses of the Army and Navy and what they called war development companies, was exclusively handled by the Southern Development Bank.

This bank made every effort to exercise all the powers of a Central Bank and of a clearinghouse. It insisted that all the other banks deposit their funds with it, especially the reserves of the banks. I opposed this very strongly. I was willing to stake even my life to uphold my view. All the bank managers naturally were afraid to have any sort of issue with the Japanese. I told them that they need not assume any responsibility. I gave them orders not to deposit with the Southern Development Bank without my express authority and order. At that time, there were already on deposit in the Southern Development Bank funds of the different banks amounting to about 1000,000,000 pesos. About three-fourth or four-fifth of the funds belonged to the Philippine National Bank.

It must be stated in this connection that at the beginning I had no supervision over the Philippine National Bank. Supervision was being exercised by Malacañan. The reason was that the P.N.B. was a government corporation and Malacañan was in charge of all national companies. Later, I found out that it was Executive Secretary Pedro Sabido who was handling P.N.B matters. Even after his appointment as Minister of the new Department of Economic Affairs, he attempted to continue exercising the powers; as a matter of fact, after his appointment, he became even more insistent. He contented that the supervision of the Philippine National Bank properly belonged to his department since the bank was a government corporation and his department was in charge of all government corporations. He further contended that the Department of Economic Affairs should control the Philippine National Bank to enable it to realize the purpose for which it was established and also to facilitate the financing of the national companies.

Finally, he contended that, under the law, the Secretary of Finance is already the head of the bank, and it is not proper nor advisable for the Secretary of Finance to be also the Supervisor; otherwise; the Secretary of Finance would be supervising himself. I refused to devote much time and words to the discussion which was academic. So far as I was concerned, the argument I emphasized was that I found it impossible to supervise the banking and financing business unless all the banks were under me. Supervision over the P.N.B. was especially necessary since at least 70% of banking transactions in Manila was handled by the Philippine National Bank. I concluded in a memorandum to Pres. Laurel that if he decided to deny my request, I would strongly recommend that the supervision over all banks be transferred to the Ministry of Economic Affairs. After due consideration, the President told me that he fully agreed with me and he would immediately issue an order accordingly.

Days and weeks passed, the order did not come. I found out that the Minister of Economic Affairs was very insistent. So the President decided to submit it to the Council of State composed of Chief Justice Ramon Avanceña as President, and Don Miguel Unson, Don Pedro Aunario, Don Rafael Corpus, Don Ramon Fernandez and Don Jose Paez. The Council considered the matter very thoroughly and even heard the arguments of Minister Sabido. The President, and this was confirmed later by Don Miguel Unson and Don Rafael Corpus, advised that the Council upon preposition of Don Miguel Unson, decided unanimously in my favor. He assured me that he would issue the order forthwith.

Days passed; weeks passed, no order came. I decided to prepare the order myself and give it personally to the President. It was not signed and issued. I prepared another and left it with the President. After a few days, I asked him about it. He was surprised that I had not received it yet. I prepared another and this time I did not leave Malacañan without the President’s signature.

After the President signed the order, I immediately called Mr. Carmona, President of the P.N.B.. I must first state that under the order, I had all the powers of the Board of Directors of the Bank. I asked him about the deposits. He told me that he had submitted the matter to Malacañan and that no objection had been expressed on the part of Malacañan to the existing arrangement. When I asked for a written authority, he advised that he had not received any and that his experience was that he got no action from Malacañan on matters taken up by him, or at least action was delayed for weeks and even months.

I asked him to explain how he happened to have such a large deposit in the Southern Development Bank. He answered that from the very beginning the military people as well as the Manager of the Southern Development Bank requested him and even ordered him to deposit all excess funds of P.N.B., or funds not needed for ordinary daily transactions, with the Southern Development Bank. Pressure was used so that he had to make some deposit, but he assured me that it was far from what he could have deposited.

The Japanese reorganized the clearing house. Under the new system, all clearing balances were kept by the Southern Development Bank. There was no liquidation and the funds could be withdrawn only when the corresponding bank needed funds. So the deposit of P.N.B. in the Southern Development Bank increased everyday. This was also true as regards the other banks, Bank of the Philippine Islands and Bank of Commerce. They were also being required to make deposits. They said that they had to conform unless they wished their banks closed and their officers accused of a hostile act. I ordered them not to deposit. When they expressed fear, I told them that they should tell the Japanese that, per my order, they had to secure my approval. I also told them to withdraw their balances in the clearing house from the Southern Development Bank.

Mr. Hariguti Takahashi and the Manager of the Southern Development Bank came to me to request me to authorize the deposits. I flatly refused. This is one of many similar incidents I had with the Japanese. One instance was when a large Japanese sugar concern wanted to acquire the Philippine Refining Co., which was owned by the government and practically had the monopoly of sugar refining in the Philippines. An official of the company was told that an unfavorable recommendation from him would be interpreted as a hostile act. I told him to tell the Japanese to talk to me. The Japanese never came to see me. Another instance was when the Japanese Army proposed that the Textile Department of the National Development Company be constituted into a separate company and recapitalized with equal participation of the Philippine and Japanese governments. The participation was later changed to 40% for the Japanese and 60% for the Filipinos. I was made to understand that the plan had already been agreed upon by somebody in Malacañan. I prepared a memorandum strongly opposing the plan. The reason I gave was that the National Development Company, as any other national companies, was formed not for profit but rather to carry out national economic policies. Another time was when Colonel Utsonomiya, later promoted to General, approached me to ask me to allow the importation of opium. I told him that the laws prohibited the importation of opium and penalized its sale. Twice the Colonel approached me. I maintained my position. When it came to protecting our people and their rights, I ignored consequences absolutely.

In connection with the banks, a Japanese officer came to see me. He said that it had been reported to them that in the Ministry of Finance, there was somebody who was anti-Japanese and always worked against them. I knew it was merely a ruse. I answered that I assume responsibility for anything done in the Ministry of Finance.

Mr. Carmona wisely did his best to attain our purpose without unnecessary exposition. Carmona was so capable and prudent that he was able to withdraw a very good portion of the deposit and to maintain the deposit at a very low level.

My views and actions were fully reported to the President and he approved.

I had many other incidents. During a bombing raid, a boat loaded with military notes was blown up and all along Malate and Ermita, it rained notes. They were picked up by the people and spent. The Japanese who had the serial numbers of the notes prohibited the circulation. I protested on the grounds that the notes were already in the hands of innocent persons. For instance, there was Mrs. Mariquita de Ocampo who sold her furniture for 7,000 pesos as she needed the money. Afterwards, nobody would accept her money. What fault had she committed? Finally, the notes were accepted.

The Japanese wanted the administration to be self-supporting. They themselves prepared and imposed the approval of tax laws. From the beginning, my plan was not to change our tax laws; not to burden the people with more taxes than what they had to pay before the war. But how do we finance the government? Of course I had to make it look like I was trying to increase the income by means of assistance of our people. So I did not object to the increase in the income tax law, although I insisted that low incomes not be taxed and larger incomes not be taxed as heavily as in other counties. This is also the reason why I sold an amount of bonds instead from where I proposed to get the money.

Even during the time of the Commission, we borrowed money from the Army, It reached the amount of ₱23,000,000. During the Republic, I secured a credit of over ₱100,000,000 from the Bank of Japan, about ₱50,000,000 of which I got through the Southern Development Bank. When I submitted it to the Cabinet, there was some opposition. I did not argue, but after the meeting I explained to Minister Osias who was the one strongly opposed that my purpose was to charge to the Japanese as much of our expenses as possible. The Japanese Army after the establishment of the Philippine Republic tried to collect our previous indebtedness of ₱23,000,000. I declined on the ground that the Executive Commission was a mere instrumentality of the Japanese Administration. The amount was never paid.

Returning to inflation, I could do nothing as the Japanese did not want to give any power which would enable me to do something. I thought and thought about what to do until I came up with the idea of establishing a Central Bank if I could get the Japanese to approve my conditions. Some of them were: (1) That the Central Bank shall have the sole power of issue of notes. With this I meant to curb the unbridled issue of notes by the Japanese and the unlimited grant of credits to Japanese companies. (2) That the Ministry of Finance shall have jurisdiction and power of supervision over the Japanese banks. I demanded this most important power to control large credits given by the Japanese banks to Japanese companies and nationals. (3) That the Central Bank shall be the depository of the reserves of the other banks. And (4) That the Central Bank shall handle the clearing house balances.

The Japanese were opposed to my plan at the beginning, but in view of the fact that we were a Republic and they therefore could not openly deprive us of the right to exercise powers belonging to all independent states, they changed their tactics. They instead did their best to delay the establishment of the bank. They put up all kinds of objections and suggested many modifications. They wished preferential treatment or at least equal treatment for Japanese banks. I could not of course accept this. Mr. Haraguti, while I was speaking before the National Assembly about the establishment of a Central Bank, sent me a memorandum. I got the impression that he was opposed to it or wanted to delay it. I immediately suspended the proceedings and charged that Mr. Haraguti was out of line. He immediately saw me and tried to explain that such was not his intention. I know English well, I believe, and I had no doubt that my interpretation was correct.

The bill was approved by the Assembly but upon the request of Speaker Aquino a provision was inserted to it so that the establishment of a Central Bank would depend upon the promulgation order by the President. Aquino at the beginning was strongly opposed to the bank; later, he withdrew his objection but was evidently not interested in its establishment. However, the Japanese had not given up. We had no facilities here for the printing of notes and this had to be done in Japan. We prepared the necessary designs. We were told that all the printing presses were busy printing notes for other countries and that they could not begin making delivery until May, I believe of 1945. I went to Japan where I made every effort to expedite it but in vain. I was told that the delivery had to be periodic and the amounts for each period could not be very much. The matter remained in that state until hostilities in the Philippines began.

Another reason why I wanted the Central Bank was that I did not want to have a shortage of notes. We had a terrible crisis about the first months of 1944 because the ships used for transporting the notes were probably sunk or blown. The Japanese banks had no more available notes and the Southern Development Bank had only about ₱10,000,000 in notes of 10, 20 and 50 centavos. The Japanese banks suspended payment, and there was a run in all the banks as the public feared that the banks had no more funds. The Japanese banks, including the Southern Development Bank, wanted to get the notes of the Filipino banks. I refused to authorize the Filipino banks to loan their funds to the Japanese banks. I also instructed the Manager of the Philippine National Bank to withdraw a part of its deposit from the Southern Development Bank. We were all very much worried. Stoppage of payment of banks would paralyze business. All demands for withdrawal in Filipino banks were met. The Philippine National Bank, however, had to offer notes in small denominations. Generally, those wishing to withdraw big amounts desisted as the package of the money would be quite bulky. After a few days, shipment of notes came and the crisis passed. Because of this, I inquired about machines and materials in the Philippines that could be used in case of shortage of notes. We could print here but in limited quantities.

* * * * *

We heard on the radio that Truman had said that the Philippines might have her independence in 4 or 5 months. This means that we may have our independence by next January. I welcome it; I want to have it right now. We would have been spared the loss of billions of pesos and thousands of lives if only people ceased to be mentors of other people.

This means the election will have to be held soon. We may not even be able to take part in the elections. Until we are cleared, we cannot be of much service.

According to the radio, Ambassador Vargas was found in Tokyo and he is a very worried man. He was generally criticized for having been very weak with the Japanese. We were aware of it and we thought him a useless man and an incapable executive. But after we reflected, it may well be that under the circumstances, he did what would be of the greatest benefit to the people. Supposing that instead of getting the confidence of the known murderers, the Japanese, he had fought and defied them. He becomes a hero. But he sacrificed his country for w would have meant direct or almost direct rule by the Japanese. Instead of 200,000 dead, we probably would have had to mourn the loss of millions of our countrymen. Vargas has done much for our country.

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