April 5, 1939

Yesterday I had a very disagreeable incident with General MacArthur which, nevertheless, ended happily. For some time now past, there had come to be recommendations that I propose the creation of a Department of National Defense. My own reorganization board, especially the chairman, Mr. Unson, felt strongly that the Army should not be allowed to become accustomed to hear no other voice than that of an army man, but on the contrary, it should be made to feel its dependence upon the civil authorities. In spite of the fact that on several of my papers connected with the Army I have emphasized the fact that in a democracy the Army is only a instrument in the hands of civilian authorities. To perform certain governmental functions, it seems to me that public opinion would not be satisfied until the Army was actually placed under the immediate control and supervision of a department head who was a civilian. Certain informations which have been revealed to me during the last two months convinced me that my office, with all the amount of work that it has to supervise, could not exercise sufficient supervision over army matters to satisfy me that nothing of real importance was done in the National Defense program without my knowledge. This, together with that pressure from outside, induced me to agree with the leaders of the National Assembly particularly the Speaker to enact a legislation that would authorize me to create and organize the Department of National Defense if and when, in my opinion, the time was ripe for such a step. There was another consideration why I thought this should be done. The time for the expiration of my term as President is approaching and I always felt that I would not leave the presidency without having created the Department of National Defense and having it functioned for some time so that the head of the department would be able to establish under my administration precedents that would be followed by his successors in regard to non-political interference with national defense affairs on the one hand and the Army on the other would be made to feel its dependency upon civilian authorities.

Upon my return from my farm in Arayat yesterday, Jorge came to me and told me that General MacArthur called him on the phone and expressed great concern over the bill which has been reported to the Assembly according to the newspapers, creating the Department of National Defense. Jorge told me that General MacArthur wondered whether this meant that I was dissatisfied with his services and if so all that I had to do was to inform him of the fact and that he would immediately return to the United States without the necessity of creating this department, indirectly to deprive him of the authority to carry out the national defense program, and that if he were to retain him he gelt that he would be unable to perform the duties I have entrusted to him if the department was created. From the report of Vargas of the conversation, I realized that General MacArthur was unduly excited, yet I did not take it seriously and simply told Vargas to call General MacArthur over the phone and tell him that there was no occasion for him to worry and that since I had to leave for Baler, I had no time to see him but would write him a short note explaining the situation. Then I took my siesta. When I woke up, a little note was sent to me by the telephone operator telling me that General MacArthur wanted to talk to me over the phone, but since I was not disposed to talk this matter with the General at this time, I sent words to the operator that I was not in. Fifteen minutes later, my messenger came to my bedroom and informed me that General MacArthur was already in the Palace. I told my messenger to inform the General that I was not in. It seems, however, that the General remained in the Palace dispite this answer and then went to the office of Vargas in an effort to secure an interview with me. I was positively provoked by this insistence of the General. I felt that he was going beyond the bounds of propriety, for although we were very close friends I was, nevertheless, his chief and it was my privilege to dicide when and how I should discuss with him official matters. So I made up my mind to give him a lesson and so I simply refused to see him. By eight o’clock that night after disposing of some urgent pending matters, I asked Vargas to show me the proposed reorganization bill which contains this provision regarding the creation of the Department of National Defense and which I was seeing for the first time. And after going over the bill and informing myself of its contents, I told Vargas to dinner with me because I was willing to see General MacArthur and I wanted him to be present during the conference. Vargas told the General that I was ready to see him and General MacArthur in a few minutes appeared in the Palace before I finished my dinner and gave instructions to take him to the porch. After my dinner I went out to meet with the General and greeted him in the usual way — “hello General”, and he answered, “Good evening, Mr. President, I am afraid I am not very welcomed at this time.” I ignored this remark, invited to a chair and he said, “Mr. President, I am sorry that I have attempted to see you when you were not ready to see me, but I am a very frank man and I want to know what does this bill now pending before the National Assembly regarding the creation of the Department of National Defense mean, whether it means that you are through with me.” I said, “well, General, I am going to answer you with the same frankness. I want to tell you that I resent your reaction to that bill. When this noon Vargas informed me of your conversation with him, I just laughed because I thought it was very foolish of you to have so construed the meaning of that bill. You should know me well enough to know that if I had anything against you I would tell it to you before I said it to anybody else. I am not one of those who hit in the back.” Then I explained to the General the reason for the presentation of the bill, and finally ended by saying, “Of course, I never intended to organize that Department of National Defense without fully discussing the matter with you and whether I organize it or not it was my intention that you should continue your work in accordance with our understanding in Washington, but, General, it is time for you to realize fully, as I have no doubt you do, that after all the final authority and responsibility in this government rests with me; that while I have the highest regard for your ability  as I consider you one of the greatest if not the greatest soldier of your time, and while I have absolute confidence in your loyalty, I must, nevertheless, reserve the right to have the final say on all matters where I may have my own opinion even when that opinion is contrary to yours. I know how ignorant I am on military affairs, but I still can and do form my own judgment on some of these questions, and when I do I must insist that what I say will go.” To this reamrk General MacArthur simply said, “Well, of course, Mr. President, you know that I am a soldier and if a soldier knows something, he knows his duty to obey orders whether the orders that he is obeying, he likes them or not, and he gives his best evidence of his training as a soldier when he obeys orders faithfully and loyally that he dislikes. There has never been any question in my mind that when after you said the last word after giving me the opportunity to express my views that your last word must be obeyed”. “Well,” I said, “that settles the question, General, and let us forget the incident. Now I want to talk to you about other things in the army. I want you to tell me whether as a matter of practice or discipline with all the armies in the world, it is contrary to regulations for a subordinate officer to express his disagreement with his chief when, in his opinion, the chief is making a decision which is wrong.” General MacArthur said that it is not, on the contrary, it is the duty of the officer to express his disagreement provided he expresses it through the proper channels and does not go over the head of his superior. “Well,” I said, I am very glad to know that because I intend to tell you that regardless of what the practice of armies in all the world, I want the Philippine Army to give to the officers of the Army the privilege to express their opinion and once they have been heard the superior authority may still decide the question contrary to their expressed opinion and in that case the superior’s order has to be obeyed. Then we talked about General Valdes and General MacArthur told me that General Valdes would make a better Chief of Staff than General Santos.

Thus a subject which I thought was going to end with a showdown was ended in a mutual satisfaction between General MacArthur and myself.



Aboard the “Casiana”

December 27, 1938


Soon after my inauguration as President of the Philippines, there was a reunion of all the bishops and archbishops of the Philippines in Manila. One day they sent word that they would like to pay their respects and submit a petition to me. I decided to invite them to a luncheon in Malacañan with the exception of the Archbishop of Manila who had been, on several occasions, both before my election as President of the Philippines and after, my guest. After the luncheon, I told the bishops that I had been so pressed for time that I have adopted the practice of inviting people either to breakfast or lunch, who had some business to discuss with me, and that this invitation to the bishops of the Philippines was done for the double purpose of having them as my guests and to hear what they have to say or petition to make. The bishops asked Archbishop Reyes from Cebu to be their spokesman since he was the president of the committee in charge of the matter of which they were going to talk to me. Archbishop Reyes proceeded and said that the bishops have come to ask me that the Constitution be enforced in reference to religious instruction. I answered Archbishop Reyes that my first duty was to enforce the Constitution and that therefore they could take their request for granted. Then I asked the archbishop to tell me in what way the Constitution had not been enforced in reference to religious instruction and Archbishop Reyes said that religious instruction has not been made mandatory in the public schools, to which remark I answered by asking the Archibishop if he or anyone of the bishops present had read the Constitution and to be kind enough to show me the provision of the Constitution to which they have averted and which, in their opinion, I have not enforced. Archbishop Reyes then answered that he had not read the Constitution but that their lawyer had assured that there was such provision of the Constitution. I turned to the bishops and asked them if anyone of them has read the Constitution and could point out to me which provision of the Constitution I have violated or not enforced. It appeared that not one of the bishops has taken trouble to read the Constitution. Then I told them that I would send for a copy of the Constitution so that we might all see what it says for it was not necessarry to have any lawyer to explain the meaning of the Constitution in view of the fact that it was written in a very plain language, both the English as well es the Spanish copy. The Constitution was brought and, of course, no provision such as was claimed by the bishops to exist was found.

Later on or one year later, the presure was being made to induce the government to make religious instruction compulsory and since the Bureau of Education paid no heed to their petitions, at last a memorial was presented to the Secretary of Public Instruction signed by more than one half of the members of the National Assembly, making the same request. The Secretary of Public Instruction, after consulting with me, answered the petition of the members of the National Assembly stating that it cojld not be granted being contrary to the policy thus far adopted by the government. When the National Assembly convened, members of the National Assembly came to me and told me that they intended to present a bill affecting religious instruction in the public schools. I told them that I had not formed any definite opinion of the subject but that my attitude was to approve
the bill if it was constitutional and to disapprove it when it was otherwise. Assemblyman Cuenco submitted to me the proposed bill and I told him that certain provisions of the bill were clearly unconstitutional. Upon his request, I amended those provisions. I told him, however, that I did not want him to show the bill to anybody because I did not want to be understood as approving the bill with those amendments. After innumerable changes, the Assembly finally approved onw bill by two-thirds vote of the members present. During the discussion of the bill my wife had been seriously ill with malaria and did not know how she felt about this bill. However, when she was convalencing I told her something about the bill which had tremendously a bad impression on her and I thus discovered that se was very strongly in favor of the said bill. I said nothing more about it until the bill was finally passed by the House. Then when the bill was sent to me for my action, having  discovered how my wife felt about it and foreseeing the possibility of my taking an action contrary to what she wanted in order to prepare her for the worst, I asked her: “Do you believe in me as a public official?” Here answer was: “I am surprised you asked me that question, if I don’t believe in you who else can or will.” I said: “I have asked you this question not because I doubt what your answer will be but because I wanted to hear from your own lips what you have to tell me.” But I asked her again: “Do you think that I would do my duty even if it was contrary to your wishes or to the interest of the family?” She said “Yes”. “Do you think that it is right for me to follow that conduct?” She said: “Certainly”, and added “When I married you I knew that you were already wedded to our people and in marrying you I always assumed that I only be second in your consideration, that your paramount obligation was to our people.” Then I told my wife: “I am glad to hear that from you, the Religious Bill has already passed the National Assembly and I have to act on it. I am going to study it very carefully and I want you to know that if in my opinion I should veto the bill,I will veto it.

After my conference with my wife, assuming that my daughters who are in a religious school may have formed their own opinion in favor of the bill, when I had come to the conclusion that I was forced to veto the bill, I told them I would and gave them the reasons. Fortunately my daughters agreed with me and so I proceeded to veto the bill without any worries as to fiow my family would feel about it.

This is the first time that I was somewhat interested in preparing my family for the action I was going to take because I know that religious matters divide even families.

Aboard the “Casiana”
December 27, 1938