I am naturally very interested in the former employees of the government. It seems that the administration has considered all former employees as collaborators and as such they were all dropped from the service. Osmeña has somewhat qualified this policy and a few, like the teachers, have been reinstated. But the great majority are still out of public service. Many of them are now suffering, the victims of the injustices of politics. I say injustice because they have been replaced by henchmen of the government moguls. I hope they will be reinstated immediately. My reasons may be seen below.
When the Commission organized the government on Jan. 21, 1942, there was practically no government employee that wanted to reenter the service. But the government had to run and we did our best to persuage them to accept employment. They told us that they preferred to wait because the Americans would be back in less than a year. Anyhow, they said they had already received their three months’ salary. At the beginning, I was rather doubtful myself as rumors were very strong that an American Army and Navy Convoy were already on the way. But days passed, weeks and months passed, and no help was in sight, and in the meanwhile resistance in Corregidor and Bataan was weakening.
The fall of Corregidor and Bataan was imminent — there was no indication that the Americans were coming soon. The employees held out as long as they could. But after they had spent their three months’ salary, most of them could not longer continue without employment. They were now drawing from the little savings they had. As everybody knows, unless a government employee is dishonest, he cannot possibly provide for the morrow. This the reason why I am now convinced that the insurance system of protection for the employees must be converted into a regular pension system. The insurance is just a temporary help; the pension is permanent and provides for the employee when he loses his job, or for his family after his death. With the pension plan we can retire old employees, and the employees will do their best to maintain an efficient record during the period necessary to entitle them to receive the pension. They will be honest as they know that if they become incapacitated or die, they can rest assured that their families will not live in misery.
Going back to the government employees, a few of them engaged in business; but a great majority of them had to work and they were not fit to do anything else. They had to choose between employment or starvation. It is easy to say that for patriotic reasons, he should have preferred to starve and to suffer. But when his innocent little children began to clamor for food, they had to be fed — no explanation could sooth them. What was the poor father supposed to do? He could go around borrowing money or asking help from his friends. His friends may be very accommodating, but this could not continue for a long time because they also are not enjoying abundance. He looks for a job outside the government or any work which had nothing to do with the Japanese. The only pair of shoes that he still has wears out and he has spent his last money. What could he do? He could not go to the mountains leaving his family to starve under the mercy of the Japanese. He did not want to steal for he is a religious and perfectly honest man. What did he do? He went to the office where he had spent the best years of his life. He went there out of necessity; to live, to save his beloved wife and children. He served without the least intention of helping the Japanese since, having been reared in an atmosphere of justice and freedom, he could not possibly ally himself with men for whom such justice and freedom were a mockery. His whole thought, his sole aim was to save his family. Even then, there were many who resisted.
I remember vividly one case and fortunately he is here with us because if I am wrong, he could correct me. I am referring to Mr. Pimentel, our Secretary. I met him one day (during the war) and asked him what he was doing. He said he was not doing anything and, although he was already in dire straits, he would prefer not to work with or under the Japanese. His information was that in six months, the Americans would be back. He said that he had sons in the USAFFE and he did not care to be in any way connected with the Japanese. I knew Mr. Pimentel as a man who was as poor as myself and that he had to work all the time to support his big family. When we parted, I saw the determination in his eyes to continue fighting the Japanese in his own way.
But Bataan and Corregidor were crumbling; they fell shortly. He became convinced that the Americans could not come back in one year. He could not hold out that long so he decided to accept employment. Pimentel’s experience is the same as that of thousands and thousands of government employees — by necessity they accepted employment. In their hearts they did not for a moment waiver in their ardent desire to see the Americans back in the Philippines. They could not give any outward manifestation of their sentiments, as the offices were full of spies and the movements of officials and employees were watched closely. But inside their homes, among their immediate family, they prayed fervently for the victory of America. But many did not stop there. When the guerrillas became numerous and active, most of them joined the guerrillas in one form or another. I say in one form or another because, although there were many who were given official ranks, there were also many who did not want any appointment or sign anything for fear that they would be discovered. After all, they said, the important thing was to render service to the cause of America and the Philippines. No official papers or signatures could be more valuable than that. Like true heroes, real patriots, the material gain never entered their minds.
How did they serve the cause of America and the Philippines? They served by furnishing valuable information, helping in every way those active in the guerrilla warfare, bolstering up the morale of our people, creating difficulties for the Japanese Army and Navy and the Japanese in general. These employees were the anonymous forces that helped. Their services were equally meritorious.
To cite an instance of how they served. Ironically, this involved Mr. Confesor who seems to have had something to do with the formation of the present government’s policy involving former employees. Sometime in 1943, evidently as an answer to the appeal of Gov. Caram of Iloilo, Mr. Confesor wrote him a letter giving his reasons why he did not care to come down from the mountains and surrender to the Japanese. I was able to get a copy of the letter. It was a well written letter and his arguments were very weighty. It impressed me very deeply so much so that as I had always considered him a close friend of mine, I wanted to discuss the matter with him. Unfortunately I was not able to see him. I said that it was a good letter, but it contained an insinuation against which I must protest. I lost my two copies during the fire in my house and in my office. But I distinctly remember that there was a paragraph or some sentences referring to some speeches we delivered in Iloilo (in March or April of 1943), which in substance say the following: “You better prepare new speeches which you can deliver next July when the Americans will be here.” The insinuations were that (a) we were mere job-seekers; and (b) we were so insincere that we only say what would be pleasing to the ears of our hearers. This is not the proper place to answer such scurrilous accusations. For the present, I must make it of record that I have never been a job-seeker, and that I have always considered insincerity as one of the worst traits a man can possess.
Well, I brought Mr. Confesor’s letter to Manila and placed it in my desk drawer at the office, together with many other important documents. Many employees had heard about the famous letter announcing the coming of the Americans and they were all anxious to get a copy. One day, a clerk of mine entered my office gasping. “What’s the matter,” I asked him. “Sir, they are distributing copies of Mr. Confesor’s letter,” he stammered. I was alarmed; everybody knew what was coming if the Japanese ever found out that a prescripted document like that letter was being copied and distributed in our office. It would have meant Fort Santiago for all of us and at that time the mere mention of that historic fort made everybody shudder. I investigated the matter and I discovered that, as I had just come from Iloilo and suspecting that I had a copy of the letter, my employees went through my drawers and found the copy. They made numerous copies using the typewriter in our office. Each and every one of them became a distributor of the letter and a propagandist of the coming of the Americans. I had to take unusual precautions to cover up that happening in my office. I understand similar incidents occurred in the other offices.
Another evidence of the employees’ pro-American feelings. About 20 employees of an important bureau of the government were arrested by the “Kempetai” (Japanese Military Police). They were charged with being guerrillas and according to the Kempetai, the evidence consisted of a list of “guerrilleros” which they found. The matter was brought up to Malacañan. Naturally a promise was made to the Japanese that the matter would be investigated and proper criminal and administrative action would be taken against the guilty parties. All except the three supposed leaders, were released. I do not know what happened to those leaders, but they were probably released after the usual torture meted out to almost all those arrested.
During the investigation it was discovered that if the guerrilla elements in all the bureaus were to be eliminated, there would have been almost complete paralization of the government. The whole matter was hushed and covered up. I do not recall anyone prosecuted or dismissed from the service for guerrilla activities or connections.
More evidence of the attitude of the employees. Everytime there was a meeting or a parade, attendance had to be obligatory under heavy administrative penalty, otherwise very few attended. The employees offered all kinds of excuses to avoid going to the parade or meeting.
In this connection, I would like to say something about the ex-officers and servicemen of the USAFFE. At the beginning, we were not sure what the attitude of the Japanese to their employment would be. Already we could observe that a good many of them were suffering for lack of means. We were able to convince the Japanese to allow us to employ these men. The argument we used, which we knew could never be true, was that these men sincerely wanted to be with the Japanese because they were beginning to understand that Orientals ought to be together. We devoted much attention to them. We issued orders reinstating them to their old positions and, as to the others who were not former government employees, we ordered that preference in hiring be given to them. I can certify that inspite of all the hardships these men were going through, very few took advantage of our orders. Only those who would otherwise starve unless they earned something accepted positions in the government.
Another fact that should be considered. In the last months of the Japanese regime, in view of the dangers in Manila, the food shortage, the financial condition of the government and the paralization of government activities, orders were issued for the release of the employees with payment of a certain amount of bonus. Everybody wanted to take advantage of it. If we had not rescinded our orders there would have been practically nobody left.
There are the men that are now being punished. They are patriots in their own way. Perhaps their services were even more effective than those who now wish to monopolize patriotism. The only thing they were guilty of was that they wished to live, and managed to live. And because they survived the war, they are now branded as traitors; because they were unable and could not possibly go to the mountains, they are being placed on a worst ration than bread and water.
It is said that something is being done — but the process is entirely wrong. A board of inquiry has been appointed to determine whether those seeking reinstatement could be allowed to return. My opinion is that they should all be reinstated and then the Board can determine whether they could or should continue or not. The difference is that in the first case, the employees are being presumed guilty and the burden of proving the contrary is thrown upon them. In the latter case, they are presumed innocent and they could remain in the service as long as nothing has been proven against them.
Justice is all that I demand for them.