Diary of Lester Knox Little

February 20, 1950

In office here all day. To dinner at Delgado’s (Delgado’s Bros. Arrastre Contractors). Mrs. Delgado very pretty, mother of 4. I held the 9 month old baby boy, and he laughed and gurgled. Jacinto, Commissioner of Customs, Handry (Free Press), McKelsey, and several Filipinos there. Very good buffet supper with a chicken pie the size of a motor car wheel, salad, ham and mangoes for dessert […]. Had long talk with Jacinto, who is very worried about the future of his country. He asked how we can expect the people to be honest when they know that the highest officials are crooked. Since the war, the morale of the whole country has sunk to the very lowest depths. The military forces are worse than the Huks in their oppression of the peasants; no wonder the people in the barrios protect the “dissidents”. In the Customs, corruption is brazen; Customs officers go around to importers’ offices and shops and demand bribes (This happened in Shanghai after the war.) Jacinto blamed the Chinese for much of the corruption in high places, because they have, as he said, the “money bags” and don’t hesitant to open them in influential quarters. He cited one Chinese who brought in millions of dollars worth of American cigarettes without import license, put them in bond, and then (by bribery) got release as “advance quota.” He was supposed to have paid out $1,000,000 in squeeze, but he cleared much more than that. Jacinto begged me to have E.C.A. send out a man to help him with investigations and enforcement work. I told him frankly that I didn’t think it would be of much use until the government raises Customs pay to a subsistence level.