Our guests were leaving the College, going French style. They took with them all that was theirs and all that was ours. Among the latter were chairs, beds, tables, cabinets, the refrigerator, bulbs, lamp shades, all amounting to thousands of pesos, specially now that they were irreplaceable. We were disillusioned by the belief that independence would extend to us the pleasure of having our whole building back. But other soldiers were coming in with beds on their shoulders and installing themselves in the divested building. They were sure to be groping in the dark tonight, as their predecessors took all the bulbs with them. It seemed that it was common practice among these soldiers to leave nothing behind whenever they transferred quarters. One of them, whom we approached in complaint and protest, justified such conduct saying that when General Kuroda had to leave the palace of the American High Commissioner which was converted into the Japanese Embassy, all the furniture was taken out, and Mr. Murata had to stay at the Manila Hotel until the Embassy had been refurbished.
The text of the Alliance Treaty between Japan and the new Government was published today. The pact was signed by Ambassador Murata and Mr. Recto who was today named Minister of State. One farcical fact hiding behind the formalities of protocol was that the treaty was dated October 14, that is, the very day when the Republic was proclaimed. This meant that the approval by Tokyo and the ratification of the treaty by the contracting parties took place before one of them—the Philippines—became a free and sovereign nation.
Article 2 of the Treaty provided that “the contracting parties shall cooperate strictly in political, economic and military affairs for the successful pursuit of the Great East Asia war.”
The nature of this strict military cooperation was explained by an appendix to the said treaty: “The Philippines shall apportion all kinds of facilities to the military operations which Japan shall undertake. The Philippines and Japan shall cooperate strictly between themselves to safeguard the territorial integrity and the Independence of the Philippines.”
The negative consequences of this pact, according to official interpretation were:
- That the Philippines had to declare war against the Allies.
- That no Filipino soldier had to leave his country to fight.
According to the same interpretation, the positive consequences were:
- The economic cooperation would continue as it was.
- The military cooperation would take place only in case the Philippines would be attacked or invaded.
Through these provisions, it could be seen that the Japanese would continue dominating and utilizing the economy of the country for her ends and that the spectrum of war would move away but not disappear. The people were convinced that when the Americans would come sufficiently near, they would undoubtedly attack, first by air and then by sea, the Japanese ports and airfields in the Philippines. Would this constitute a sufficient cause for a casus belli against the aggressors and to force the government to declare war? The text of the Pact seemed to guarantee an affirmative response, since the Philippines was committed to defend her national integrity and her independence with the help of Japan in case of attack or invasion. Naturally, Japan would do what she believed would serve her interests. If she would feel that the Philippine Army was a hindrance or an enemy, she would rather fight alone in one front.
Officially the Philippines is independent. But is she? Yesterday, during and after the ceremonies, many young people were asking us: “Do you believe that we will have a true independence?” To all of them, we gave the same reply, “Let us wait for the facts to speak for themselves.”
Even the most optimistic does not have to wait long to realize that this form of independence is nothing more than another form of dependence. Neither the army nor the navy have shown any indication of returning the buildings they occupied, nor had the number of Japanese military forces invading our streets and plazas diminished, nor were we aware of any government or private enterprises confiscated during the war which were returned to their owners.
A very significant coincidence: yesterday, hardly had the birth of the Independence been poclaimed when a number of house owners in Ermita received orders from the Imperial Army to vacate their properties within forty eight hours.
Officially, the military administration, or the invisible national government, had been dissolved. But we could not ascertain whether another one, more invisible and more mysterious, had taken its place. It was clear that in matter pertaining to international relations, the sovereignty of the new government was almost nil not only because it was recognized solely within the Sphere, but also because all the other members of the Sphere were dancing to the tune that Tokyo was playing. An emasculated internal sovereignty which did not reach the level of a complete autonomy; a nonexistant or impotent external sovereignty: such seemed to be the independence doled out by Japanese magnanimity.
From now on, the Philippines is free, sovereign and independent. Japan so proclaimed, and President Laurel so announced. The inauguration was a family affair. Only the Japanese representatives were invited: aside from Mr. Murata who up to now is chief adviser of the military administration and henceforth to be the ambassador plenipotentiary; the Vice President of the House of Peers, a bearded short man who looked like Bernard Shaw; and the Speaker of the House of Representatives who just flew from Tokyo. The inaugural ceremony was as usual, copied from the traditional program of independence inaugurations within the Sphere.
The truly moving act was the raising of the Philippine flag which for the first time waved in the air after almost two years of prohibition. The ceremony impressed even the skeptical and the non-conformists, attended by gigantic crowd placed by the press first at 800,000 and later at 500,000. There was still a cipher in excess.
It cannot be denied, however, that aside from the captive audience, many came on their own. Many of those who doubted and the recalcitrants saw in the ceremony a national glorification, not Japanese. And there was therefore a greater degree of spontaneity and enthusiasm than there had been in other celebrations in the past.
The inaugural speech of the new President was magistral, delivered pathetically in Tagalog. His program of government is extensive, comprehensive, innovative and conservative at the same time—although not convincing. He accentuated certain totalitarian tendencies of the Constitution, but he prescinded from personal glory and called for national discipline.
Some of the salient points of his program are: general amnesty for political prisoners and the guerillas who surrender within a prescribed period; persecution of public enemies who persist in obstructing the program of reconstruction (for them the Constabulary will be reinforced in order to avoid the humiliation of being forced to seek foreign intervention for the suppression of purely internal troubles); suppression of political parties at least during the formative period of the Republic.
To elevate the status of the masses; fixing a higher minimum wage and helping them materially so that each citizen might be a small proprietor. A new type of citizenry must be developed, to create in each individual a willingness to sacrifice and subordinate his personal interests to those of the State. His obligations are more important than his privileges. He should know his duties as he knows his rights, ready to comply even at the sacrifice of the latter.
To emphasize the dual objective of education: the moral formation and the development of character. It is the duty of every citizen to render military and civil service in accordance with the prescriptions of law. Every student, from the primary school to the university, should submit himself to a rigid discipline and wear the school uniform as
prescribed by specific rules. It is imperative that the family circle be forged. The installation of the paternalistic family, the cultivation of the oriental vitues of piety and filial obedience and the restoration of the woman in her place in the home, are the three cardinal points on which the family should rest.
Today, the eve of proclamation day, activity was undertaken—as simple as it was new. For the first time since the withdrawal of Spanish sovereignty in this country, the government in full attendance was present in a religious act: a Mass at the Cathedral celebrated by Msgr. Guerrero, auxilliary bishop of Manila, followed by the solemn processional of the Veni Creator attended by the President-elect, the members of the Commission and all the government officals and employees together with their families. The ceremony was impressive in its simplicity. Dr. Laurel, with his prayer book in his hand, gave the example of religious fervor.
It is to be noted that the Constitution would not interfere with the Church nor with religious congregations. The preparatory commission had rejected certain quarters which pressured it into a draconic legislation of the Mexican style. Under the new statute, the Church will enjoy the guarantees which it could expect in these times and under these circumstances
To create the impression that independence is genuine, the Philippine flag will be raised and the national anthem played. Up to this time, both have been banned. The Japanese authorities were against restoring the old insignia because the subversives in the mountains and the exiled government are waving the same insignia. But Dr. Laurel and his Commission were insistent that any other insignia would not be respected by the people. The Japanese authorities had to give in. A Tagalog version was made of the national anthem which is now considered official, but the translation has changed both the letter and the spirit of the original.
Events are developing at a very fast pace. The President-elect announced to all and sundry that within one week—that would be on the 14th of this month—the Republic would be proclaimed, and the new era of the Free Philippines, sovereign and independent, would be inaugurated.
When Premier Tojo, a year ago, promised Philippine independence, he gave as a condition the sincere cooperation of all Filipinos with the military administration. Tokyo complied with its promise, but has forgone the condition. Filipino cooperation of today is less, and is no more sincere than it was a year ago. In the Visayas, except Cebu, where the pacified area is gradually increasing, the same state of open rebellion or the refusal to recognize the new regime persists. In Luzon, a certain passive acquiescence prevails, due to fear in the majority of cases, but sporadic upheavals occured at the slightest provocations. Subversive elements entrenched in the mountains continue to pillage the plains. More than five thousand Japanese troops have been engaged in mopping up operations in the Zambales mountains. But the rebels know their movements very well, and before the Japanese could attack one mountain, the rebels had already moved to another. I was told that the Japanese hounded the armed Negritos with a special fury, and hundreds had been killed.
So, in this atmosphere of affected reverence, passive indifference and open hostility, independence is to be born. No wonder no one looks at it with fondness nor acclaims it with enthusiasm. In Manila where the opposition is less pronounced or less violent, independence is awaited with a mixed feeling of enthusiasm and apathy. A small minority considers it a prelude to the gradual disentanglement from the yoke imposed by the conquerors.
The three political leaders—Laurel, Vargas and Aquino—were flown to Tokyo to receive the papal blessing, according to someone. It is not for us to scrutinize the motive of the trip to the Imperial capital, nor can we discern the mystery hidden behind the cloak of entertainment, commendations, receptions and sightseeing tours which were said to be the objective of the trip. However, some phrases delivered by Premier Tojo during a banquet given by him upset the digestive processes of the guests.
The course of internal and external events indicates that the war has entered into a decisive phase and that the counter offensive of the Anti-Axis continues with obstinate persistence. The imperial government, for its part, is launching a program of combining forces of one billion inhabitants of Great East Asia to destroy the enemy offensive… The countries of Manchuria, New China, Thailand, Burma and others in East Asia have already combined their forces. With the independence of the Philippines, the unity of Asians has increased even more.
Could these enigmatic pronouncements contain a prognostication and an exigency? Could it be interpreted as an answer to the query that the entry of the Philippines into the war is a necessary consequence of independence? The possibility is turning into a probability.
Japan is in a greater hurry to grant independence than the Filipinos are ready to receive and enjoy it. The truth is that the Filipinos are no more enthusiastic about it as they are about the independence of Turkey or the Congo. Either they believe that this emancipation was not genuine or they cherish the hope that the true liberty would be given by the old regime in the near future.
Five days ago, the representatives were elected, or better still, chosen and the Assembly convened today to elect the Speaker and the President of the Republic previously designated. The head of the Executive Commission two days ago had proclaimed Dr. Jose P. Laurel as the lone candidate for the Presidency. The session opened at 10:00 o’clock this morning. Mr. Aquino was nominated for the Speakership and immediately the nomination was closed, resulting in his unanimous election. The elected Speaker nominated Dr. Laurel for President, and without going into other nominations, Dr. Laurel was elected viva voce, without any dissenting vote.
Meanwhile, in front of the Legislative building, a crowd had gathered since early morning, composed of people who were required by his retinue of high officials and assemblymen, many of the people had already dispersed and returned to their homes. To the remaining crowd, the President addressed a short but energetic speech. The crowd shouted several “Mabuhays” which were taken as a popular ratification of the election.
It is only fair to admit that the election as the most expedient and that the person elected was the most appropriate and capable of discharging the function. Had the election been submitted to a popular votation, Dr. Laurel would undoubtedly have been the favorite. Everybody sees him as the best choice because of his energy, his intelligence, his prudence and his prestige in the eyes of the Filipinos and in the eyes of the Japanese. By the courage he has demonstrated and the respect that the Japanese have for him, it is believed that he alone is capable of not compromising the freedom of the new government with the demands and pressures of Tokyo, or at least of seeing to it that such demands and pressures are not unreasonably made. His position is delicate and ticklish, considering that the majority of Filipinos view the Republic with supine indifference; others refuse to be reconciled, even outwardly, with the situation imposed by force of arms.