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Civilian-Military, and American-Filipino Military, relations in the late prewar Commonwealth, 1939

General Staff, Philippine Army. From LEFT to RIGHT: Colonel Rafael Garcia, 3rd Assistant Chief of Staff and Chief, Division of Supply and Personnel; Col. Charles E. Livingston, Chief of Staff, Provost Marshall Division; Brigadier-General Vicente Lim, First Assistant Chief of Staff and Chief, War Plans Division; Major-General Basilio J. Valdes, Deputy Chief of Staff; Major-General Paulino Santos, Chief of Staff, P.A.; Major-General Jose de los Reyes, Provost Marshal General, Constabulary Division; Colonel W.E. Dosser, Assistant Chief of Staff and Inspector-General; Colonel V. Segundo, 2nd Assistant Chief of Staff and Chief, Intelligence, Operations and Training Division; and Lieutenant-Colonel Victoriano Luna, Chief Surgeon, Medical Service. (Photo from Cornejo’s Commonwealth Directory of the Philippines.)

Gen. Vicente Lim was the first Filipino graduate of West Point, commanded troops on Bataan, and was executed by the Japanese in the closing weeks of the Japanese Occupation. His children published his letters to them, and from them, we can glean his attitude towards military service requirements.

Lim was a person of strong opinions. In this column from 2007 I quoted his views on Philippine democracy, of which he was, to put it mildly, highly skeptical.

Pioneer Filipino officers and the civic aspect of National Defense

President Quezon with a ferocious glare as the fire of his speech darted forth to electrify his hearers. On the stand behind the President are Mrs. Quezon , Major Gen. Lim, President Bocobo, Secretary Vargas, Marshal MacArthur, President Reyes of of FEU. Capts. Davies and Fellers.” (The Philippines Herald, January 23, 1937)

With a 10-year transition period to independence in mind, the Commonwealth of the Philippines signaled to Filipinos and foreigners alike its seriousness about the task at hand. It’s first piece of legislation, Commonwealth Act No. 1, was a National Defense Act; it’s second piece of legislation was to establish a National Economic Council (similarly, in all of Philippine history, there have been only two state of the nation addesses devoted to single topics: the very first one, in 1935, was on national defense; another, in 1938, was on taxation).

Military training was to comprise an annual batch of 6,000 selected by lottery, in two batches of 3,000 each, from 1937 to 1942, when the training would expand to accommodate 40,000 trainees per year.

Douglas MacArthur successfully proposed the full complement of 40,000 be trained immediately starting in 1937, which quickly proved to be too big a logistical and fiscal burden on one hand, and which exposed something Filipino officers became increasingly preoccupied with: a shortage in qualified officers to properly do training. By 1939, Filipino officers were successful in their advocacy of a change in policy: a reduction in the number of annual trainees (it was lowered, that year, by 25%; which would be reduced further to 25,000 in 1940: but this was not as extensive as an earlier 1938 proposal by Filipino officers, to reduce military training periods to every other year. To offset this, military training was introduced in high schools in that year, with the goal of requiring fourth-year high school students to undergo military training from April to May every year, with preliminary training in school from January to March in their senior year (in 1940 this was increased to two years and to four years in 1941).

This freed up resources so that increased emphasis on officer training could be accomplished: a push was made for ROTC in college, not least to prevent the sons of the wealthy from escaping military service by avoiding the draft (in which they could muster inducements never to be selected in the lottery to pick trainees). The two-year ROTC course was made attractive to students because it excused them from the regular training cadres that trained either from January to June, or July to December, which involved going to, and remaining, in a military camp for the duration.

MacArthur opposed the reduction of cadres and the creation of the Department of National Defense. because it also reduced the influence and prestige of MacArthur, and increased that of the Filipino officers who’d chafed at seeing American military advisory staff doing staff and other tasks they believed they were just as qualified to do as the Americans. The Department of National Defense was also established to underscore the principle of civilian control over the military, with the idea of the institution, under civilian leadership, being able to establish firm precedents by the time independence was achieved in 1946.

Lim had written to his children, on March 28, that “in 1934, I set forth three fundamentals under which our army should be built… first, the citizenship training; second the physical development; and third, the education along military lines.” Lim felt the army had no business meddling in the first and second stages.

On May 6, 1939: Lim wrote, “I told the president that I am sorry that I do not concur with General MacArthur’s plan of [the army] taking care of the citizenship training of the youth of the land and that we are going again in the wrong direction as I still believe that the training of the youth really belongs to the homes, the churches, the schools and other institutions, like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.”

President Quezon, General MacArthur and Col. Salvador F. Reyes, head of the ROTC units
(Photo from La Vanguardia, February 5, 1938)

At this point it’s interesting to revisit a brief speech made by President Quezon two days after Lim wrote his letter. Speaking before ROTC Cadets in Camp Murphy, Rizal (now Camp Aguinaldo. Quezon City) on “Military Training Camps as Fields of Instruction for Democracy.” it’s interesting to see the focus then was on discipline but also, a different aspect of democracy altogether In light of present-day discussions as to value of military training for instilling discipline and building civic spirit:

I am happy to note the attitude of the R. O. T. C. cadets undergoing training in army camps and the splendid way they have taken this dose of real camp life. They are proving themselves to be of the stuff good soldiers are made of.

Military training camps of a citizen army should serve as a field of instruction for democracy, and this should mean only one thing: equal privileges to all. I do not want the sons of influential persons undergoing training in camps to believe that they have lighter duties and responsibilities than their companions who come from poor families. I want all to eat side by side, to work side by side, and to sleep in beds of the same kind.

I am glad to find that my concept of the army training camp is being lived up to by the officers and trainees of Camp Murphy, where the trainees and cadets are treated equally.

I shall explain briefly why I decided to issue an order requiring all R. O. T. C. cadets to undergo eight weeks of instruction with the trainees in army training camps. I have two good reasons for my action. First, because in camp the cadet acquires the necessary discipline, sense of duty, and the training required of a military officer; and secondly, because as future officers of the nation’s army, R. O. T. C. cadets should learn how to deal with the men they are to lead in the event of emergency.

In the training camps, your sense of duty is aroused to the highest pitch, and you are taught discipline which means obeying not only orders given to you but also those which you yourselves give. You are taught to use your muscles in useful work, thereby developing your physical endurance, which is another essential quality for manhood.

By undergoing camp instruction with the trainees, the R. O. T. C. cadets will be better acquainted with their soldiers and will know how to treat them humanely and understandingly. The officer who comes from a rich family and who treats his servant like a beast, has no place in the army of a democracy.

This speech on May 8, 1939 brings us to an event a little over a month later. The second Filipino graduate of West Point was Fidel Segundo, who often did not see eye-to-eye with Lim. Nonetheless he and Lim had congruent views on the military and the question of using military training. Here is a portion of Segundo’s diary entry for June 1, 1939, in which MacArthur put forward fostering patriotism as an objective of military training —and the response he got from his Filipino commander-in-chief:

The pres.[ident, Quezon] addresses the council by saying that from time to time he will call this body together and discuss important matter in the manner of a war council. He talked on three subjects, namely concentration, cadres for training purposes (my general study) compulsory R.O.T.C. units for all universities and quartering R.O.T.C. cadets in government owned barracks. On the subject of concentration, he says that as a result of his inspection he is virtually convinced that concentration is the proper thing. MacArthur tried to present his side by saying that the scattered cadres were decided upon in order to develop nationalism in the various localities. The pres.[ident] stopped him short by saying that the development of nationalism among the people is a political phase of the national defense and not a military phase, and as the political head of the nation, he is charged with this mission and the MacArthur confine himself strictly to the military phase. He told MacArthur that in his national defense planning he should disregard political influences. The president himself will face the legislature and the people in such subject… (MacArthur argument in developing nationalism by the scattered cadres is falacious. A man develops nationalism irrespective of where he trains and the influence of such a soldier is the same whether he trains at home or in some other locality)

Fidel Segundo

Diary entry, June 1, 1939

The sharp words between MacArtthur and Quezon point to long-simmering concerns over the future of the National Defense program, in particular over concerns raised by Filipinos who were forming the nucleus of the officer corps for the Philippine Army. They disagreed with MacArthur, to put it mildly.

Quezon and MacArthur: A crisis of confidence

Happier Times: MacArthur at Quezon’s Executive Office, Executive Building, Malacañan Palace, 1938.

Looking back at events, Dwight Eisenhower gave a summary of the confrontation as he understood it. This is from his diary entry of November 15, 1939:

Recently a Department of National Defense was established. There were certain ridiculous aspects, or at least amusing,  to this incident. I’m not sure I’ve ever entered in these sketchy notes anything at all on this subject so I’ll outline the development.
A couple of years ago the President first expressed an intention of establishing such a department. Upon hearing of this the Gen. was greatly disturbed, because he feared that a Sec. of Nat. Defense would tend to supplant him as the Chief Military Official in the govt. and so lessen his prestige and endanger his job. In fact, when the rumor first made its appearance the General flatly stated to the office gang, “If a Sec. of Nat. Def. is appointed, I will immediately resign.” He sought an interview with the President and, at that time, succeeded in having the matter dropped.
However, in the summer sessions of the Assembly in 1938 (I was in the States) (or possibly the actual passing of the law was in the fall of 1938) the President authorized the enactment of a law establishing two Departments–Public Health and Defense. It was provided that both should be set up before the end of the President’s term, in 1941. The General felt temporarily safe, since he said he had the promise of Malacañan that no action would be taken on the Defense Dept. until the summer of 1941.
When I returned from the States I heard immediately that the President’s mind was made up and that he was soon going to select a Secretary and appoint him. I reported this to the General and advised him that if he still felt so strongly about the matter he should exert himself without delay before further publicity was given to the matter, and especially before any individual was notified as to his impending selection. He pooh-poohed the accuracy of my information saying he had the situation under full control.
When I resumed my former duties at Malacañan, about May 1, 1939, I constantly ran into evidence that something was going to be done along this line. I brought it again and again to the Gen.’s attention, but for the first time he refused to show fright in the face of unpleasant news. He just didn’t believe it.
Suddenly the Pres. made a public announcement of what he had in mind, and the Gen. raged to us in the office. He said he’d dissolve the mission and didn’t like it at all when I reminded him there was no mission; that he was a retired officer working for Manuel Quezon, and the rest of us were officers to the Dept. Commander’s staff, and loaned by the U.S. Govt. to the Pres. of the Commonwealth. He then pointedly requested me (and later Sutherland) to go with him to the Pres. to protest against the announced intention. I told him that, of course, I’d go with him, but that my comments (if called upon) would be confined to expressing a conviction as to the usefulness of the office,  but that personally, I had nothing otherwise against it. Certainly, I told him, it doesn’t affect the work that I do for the Commonwealth,  one way or another. I further advised him that since his objections were personal, based upon his prestige, face and desires,  that he should seek a personal, confidential conference with the Pres., to have the matter out. This he decided to do.
He immediately called up for a date with the Pres. but received a very evasive reply from the aide. That afternoon he couldn’t stand it longer so he took poor old Hutter and went to Malacañan. He went at an hour when he could find no one on the job, but he sent Hutter, who is an habitué of the Palace, on a detailed search. Hutter found the Pres. asleep and when this invasion of his privacy was later reported to Q. by underlings he got furious.
However, the Gen. hung around until finally he got an appointment and, according to him, had a most satisfactory talk.
We heard no more about the matter for some little time, but suddenly, another definite, and public, announcement was made by Q. in which he even named the man he was going to make Sec. of Nat. Defense (Sison).
Seeing he was licked the General now executed another of his amazing “about faces.” He simply sat down and wrote a memo to the Pres., a long memo, urging the setting up of the Dept. of Nat. Defense. Soon the appointment was made, and on the surface, all was lovely. The moral is–they can’t make him give up that job, no matter what they do!!

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Diary entry for November 15, 1939

The interesting thing is that we have the contemporary account of one of the parties involved. This diary note of President Quezon from April 5, 1939, bears reproducing in full, because it can be compared to Eisenhower’s version of events:

Yesterday I had a very disagreeable incident with General MacArthur which, nevertheless, ended happily. For some time now past, there had come to me 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, ir 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 mew that the 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 without my knowledge. This, together with that pressure from outside, induced me to agree with the leaders of the National Assembly particularly its 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 had 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 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 to deprive him of the authority to carry out the national defense program, and that if he were to retain him he felt 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 tell 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 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 finbal 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 of 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 remark 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…
Thus a subject which I thought was going to end with a showdown was ended in a mutual satisfaction between General MacArthur and myself.

Manuel L. Quezon

Diary Note, April 5, 1939

The conclusion of Segundo’s May 18, 1939 entry also brings a topic full circle —the creation of the Department of National Defense:

He [Quezon] spoke about the 6 hr. conference with MacArthur, the one published in the papers. He did not want the subject of this conference published or communicated to anyone. It was about the creation of the Department of National Defense.

Fidel Segundo

Diary entry for May 18, 1939

The last portion of the entry is also interesting as it relates to a question on the officer corps that had been brewing from some time.

Quezon and MacArthur on the chain of command

Left to Right: Colonel Dwight Eisenhower, unknown Filipino army officer, Fr. Edwin Ronan, President Quezon, Col. Fidel Segundo, Field Marshal MacArthur, Gen. Basilio Valdes. In the background is the president’s valet, Ah Dong in the uniform of an ADC. Eisenhower looks worried about his boss, MacArthur. This was time of great tension in the relationship between Quezon and MacArthur, and the Filipino General Staff and MacArthur.

What the Philippines was working out, between civilian leaders and military ones, and between Filipinos and Americans, was the relationship between civilian and military authority.

From the same April 5, 1939 entry recounting the MacArthur-Quezon confrontation of April 4, 1939, comes this concluding portion. This is Quezon recalling his conversation with MacArthur:

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 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.

Manuel L. Quezon

Diary Note, April 5, 1939

Now here is Dwight Eisenhower writing in his own diary, on the same day Quezon wrote his diary note. While Quezon wrote down a record of his previous day’s conversation with MacArthur, Eisenhower for his part, was recording a conversation between Quezon and himself some days previously, on the evening of March 28, 1939 to be exact. Here is his entry from April 5, 1939 in full:

Several days ago the President called me personally to the phone, about 6:30 P.M., asking me to come immediately to Malacañan. This was on the evening of March 28. We had a 3 hour talk; Secretary Vargas was present. Many things were troubling him, and after making it clear to him that I recognized his right to question me, since he is the only chief I have on this job, except as he delegates his functions to another, I told him I would give him my personal convictions and any information I might have –on any military subject. He warned me that the conversation was to be considered secret.
He opened the talk by asking me whether or not it was improper for the G[eberal].S[taff]. (through its chief) making to him any recommendation it might choose to make on a military subject. I, of course, said “No–that one of the functions of the G.S. was to develop policy, and where these required such action, to submit them to him for approval.” He then showed me a letter, written in the G.S. and apparently intended for his consideration. On this letter appeared an endorsement, signed by Sutherland, stating that the subject was one outside the purview of G.S. responsibility and would therefore be withdrawn from consideration by that body. I stalled a bit–and then told him, “Certain broad policies, it is assumed, have been permanently established by the highest general staff, namely the President himself in consultation with his Military Adviser. In such cases it was probably wise to prevent constant agitation of the question in the G.S. or elsewhere, as tending only to confuse, and, in any event, wasting time and effort.”
He acknowledged some force to this argument but said, “But why am I denied an opportunity even to see the arguments on another side of that question?” I replied that that was a matter between him and his Mil[itary]. Adv[iser].
He then asked me whether the production of a good officer corps was one of our real problems. The answer to that was obvious. Then he asked, “If that is so, why did we plunge into the mass training of enlisted reservists before we had the officers, at a time when we knew we did not have them, to do the job with reasonable efficiency?” To this I shot back, “Because you directed it, in the spring of 1936. The original plan contemplated the calling of only 3000 trainees in Jan., 1937, and, so Col. Ord & I were informed, you decided to raise this to 20,000, after consultation with the Mil. Adv.” He replied that he had not made such a decision, and had been, from the start, opposed to the idea of rushing too rapidly into the training of enlisted reservists. I told him I could throw no more light on the subject,  and that if he’d examine the records of 1936 he could easily substantiate my statements. One piece of direct evidence, I told him, was that for 1936 we had asked for only 350,000 pesos for construction, a sum which could not begin to supply the shelter and so on needed for 20,000 men. I informed him, further, that the reasons given to Col. Ord and me for this change was that he, the President, believed the psychological reaction of the people would be bad if only a small number of trainees was inducted promptly after the first registration of military manpower. He just said, “I never heard of such a thing.”
Then he said, “If it is possible, I’m going to correct that mistake now! I’m going to call fewer trainees, and devote more money to officer development.”
It then came out that his distrust of our present corps of officers was based on the results of several courts-martial. He considers, properly, that these courts have condoned offenses for which dismissal, and even prison sentences, would have been appropriate. He cited several instances. I explained to the Pres,, in detail, that I no longer was concerned in any personnel or administrative matter. I explained General MacA’s famous “re-organization” order of Oct. 14, which relieved me as his C. of S., and placed in my hands planning, training, etc. The President expressed great astonishment–and wanted to know why! I replied I did not know but it developed that one of his reasons for sending for me was because he assumed that due to my experience here, and so on, I was General MacA’s chief assistant for all functions. I disabused his mind.
He speculated whether or not the decision to call 20,000 men in 1937 (total of 40,000 for the year) was based upon Gen’s desire to be Field Marshal, with the resultant idea that it would be a good thing to get some soldiers under arms so the appointment would have some basis in logic. He said he bitterly opposed the appointment, although he did not say he opposed it openly to General MacA. He did say that the incident made his government look ridiculous!! I was astounded, since General MacA’s account of the same affair was exactly the opposite already related, I think, in these notes. Somebody certainly has lied!!! The Gen. said he accepted the appointment with great reluctance, and only because refusal would have mortally offended the Pres.!! Wow!!
A dozen other related subjects were brought up and the Pres.  discussed all in a manner that I thought showed a fine, thoughtful mind,  and a much keener insight into some things of questionable validity than one would suppose if he listened only to talk in this office.
I told the Pres. I wanted to go home. The matter was not discussed in detail, but he expressed the hope I’d stay until next year.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Diary entry for April 5, 1939

A review of the situation being discussed is handy at this point. On May 18, 1939, Fidel Segundo then recorded a conversation he had with Quezon:

We are invited to luncheon at 1 oclock. We did not leave the palace until 4:30. He talked on various subject. The Montilla case the recall of the Scout officers, the case of Laconico and Villareal, the case of Torres. On the subject of Laconico and Villareal he said that Valdes brought my letter of protest to him accusing me of disloyalty in view of the fact that I tried to protest a decision which had already been rendered. The president said he could not understand how I could be accused of disloyalty for presenting my views. It was only after I had known the decision that I could express my opinion. He said he sent for MacArthur to find out the practice in the U.S. army whether a subordinate who express his opinion is considered disloyal. MacArthur told him “No,” provided such opinion were expressed thru proper channel. He told MacArthur he was glad of such advice as he was determined that such an expression by a subordinate did not constitute disloyalty and that he would have issued an order that it was not disloyal if in the U.S. Army, such act was considered disloyal. He looked at me and said “Segundo that was a strong letter.” He quoted my statement about personal circumstances and personal liason. He did not understand what I meant so he asked Sec. Vargas what I meant and Vargas said that Laconico is Santos aid and the son-in-law of Assemblyman Alano, then he understood. He ordered the name of Laconico removed from the list right away. Later we talked about Villareal and I said Villareal was not the best to go to school. The President said that it was only thru my letter that he knew such things were happening.

Fidel Segundo

Diary entry for May 18, 1939

An interesting postscript to this, is MacArthur’s own response, to Filipino officers, after their concerns raised with Quezon, had led Quezon to vetoing one of MacArthur’s proposals:

Macarthur talks at length on the history of scattered camps, trying to justify their establishment. He recognizes however the fact that in as much as the president relieves him of the political phase of the national defense, he (MacArthur) has no more alternative. He appointed a preparatory committee consisting of Eisenhower, Southerland and myself to present recommendation in a month. MacArthur insinuated that the subject of concentration was brought to the president’s attention not thru him. This was a wrong procedure, he says as when a subject is presented to the president, there should be combined agreements and opinion of all the military men concerned. Divided opinions of military men on military subject always destroys the effectiveness. 

Fidel Segundo

Diary entry for June 2, 1939

Quezon and MacArthur on civilian supremacy

Quezon himself had strong views on the armed forces and civilian authority and the officer corps being created. A letter from a reader in 2004 summarized it this way:

I am a member of class 1944 of the pre-war Philippine Military Academy [PMA], an academy envisioned by your grandfather, Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon, to produce an elite corps of highly principled regular officers and gentlemen of our Armed Forces, steeped in the tradition of honor, dedicated to the service of and sacrifice for country, imbued with courage, loyalty and integrity, completely apolitical and committed to the supremacy of civilian authority over the military. While we did not take a vow of poverty, we were trained to disdain the accumulation of material wealth, as it was beneath our dignity to be filthy rich. The military was supposed to take care of our economic well-being, so that we could direct all our efforts in our profession of arms. To make sure that we remain apolitical, your grandfather even denied us the right to vote and decreed that the secretary of defense should always be a civilian to emphasize the [principle of the supremacy of] civilian authority over the military.

A set of diary entries helps us triangulate the issue of civilian supremacy over the military. The letter above gives us context to Quezon’s account of his confrontation with MacArthur on April 4, 1939, in which he mentions the importance of having a civilian as Secretary of National Defense. In his diary for June 15-16, 1942 (written shortly after Quezon had established the Philippine government-in-exile in Washington, D.C.), former Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison, who was at this time, once again an adviser to President Quezon, wrote down Quezon’s response to some of Harrison’s questions over circumstances in Manila prior to World War II. Here, he is quoting Quezon directly:

“As for General Lim, I found that a meeting during that time of strain was necessary with MacArthur, Lim and General Valdes, to curb Lim’s proposals, and to show them that they must not take their important orders from MacArthur while he was only my adviser without consulting me. During that brief period before MacArthur was given full command of the armies, I kept the sole authority to decide important questions.”

Manuel L. Quezon

as quoted by Francis Burton Harrison in his diary, June 15-16, 1942

Not having been in Manila during the events alluded to by Quezon, Harrison’s version is a bit muddled. From the diary of Fidel Segundo we have a contemporary insight into what the issue —the “strain”— was about.

This is how Quezon resolved it, from the diary entry of Fidel Segundo for March 29, 1939:

Present at meeting –Pres. Q. Sec[. Jorge B.] Vargas and the three of us, later Auditor Hernandez and Comptroller [Serafin] Marabut. Pres. Q[uezon] asks this Question to Gen V.[aldes] Gen[eral], what do you understand to be your relation to the Military Advisor? Valdes stutters and could not answer promptly. Pres. Q. again asks Do you receive orders or advice from the Military Adviser? Valdes says sometimes he receives orders, sometimes advice. Pres. Q. tries to find the paper containing Sutherland’s indorsement to the Concentration study of mine. He could not find it from a stack of papers, so I open my confidential file which I brought with me and tell the Pres.[ident] that this may be what he was looking for. He looked at it and says yes. Pres Q[uezon] then asks Valdez how he interpreted the indorsement saying, Gen V[aldes] how do you understand this indorsement? Do you take it as an order or as an advice. Gen V.[aldes] says it is an order. Pres. Q.[uezon] then says the military adviser is adviser to him and not to the general staff so that he is going to redefine the relation of the military adviser to him.

Fidel Segundo

Diary entry for March 29, 1939

This insight into how Quezon handled the officer corps can be compared to a more contemporary entry from May 17, 1939 in Fidel Segundo’s diary, in which he records how Quezon settled a brewing confrontation between Filipinos who were officers in the U.S. Army detailed to the Philippine Army, and Philippine Army officers who had come from the Philippine Constabulary:

Lim takes his oath. The Military Adviser’s Office, all the Philippine Army officers from Lt Col up and all the officers of the Constabulary from [?] up in Manila except Gen Francisco, present. Members of the Cabinet also present. After the oath taking and picture taking, the President directs that all P.A. and Constabulary officers remain. He starts by saying that what he was going to say was the result of his intuition and that nobody had told him. He said he was going to talk with his “corazon en tu mano.” He felt that there was no full cooperation between the Scout Officers and the Const. Officers. He said the Scout Officers fill [feel] themselves superior because of their training and Const. Officers are jealous and suspicious because the Scout Officers are getting the rank away from them. At the beginning of the Nat. Def there were only two sources from which I could draw the officer personnel with which to build the Army — the Constabulary & the Scouts. The Constabulary had proven to be good police officers. Since the P.I. Army is the same gov’t, I did not doubt their loyalty since the Scout Officers were officers of the Fed. gov’t I was not sure of their loyalty but by _______ I inferred that they were also loyal because loyalty to America doesn’t mean this loyalty [sic; i.e. disloyalty] to their own country. And I was very glad indeed when a delegation of these officers came to see me to offer their services. In this visit of their repres. I gathered from the conversation that they were apprehensive of the future of the Nat. Def. unless a man of mil training was selected as chief-of-staff. You know, I appointed Santos, a retired major of the Constabulary, without any mil training, passing over Gen Valdes who was then Chief of Const. and several Cols and Lt. Cols. senior to him. This was a test of loyalty for the senior Const. officers and also for the Scouts, because of their stand as to who the chief of staff should be. I found that the Const. officers were loyal, & I was very glad indeed when the Scout officers volunteered their services for then I was doubly sure of their loyalty despite the Santos selection. Then happened the unfortunate incident when sev. of the Scout officers left the Phil. Army. I was mad and I told Gen. MacArthur to get rid of all the Scout officers but I started my own investigation & found that there was a misunderstanding more our fault than theirs. Wedid not keep our side of the bargain; we did not live up to our promise. The officers that stayed after this proved themselves again to be loyal to the gov’t. I am going to get back most of these officers who left the Phil. Army –not all of them. You of Const. have no kick. Some of you have received two or three promotions. Were it not for the Phil. army many of you would die majors whereas many of you are Cols & Lt Cols today. The Const. are not trained in a mil. sense. Naturally, they do not do the mil. work of this army. Most of the Scout officers were trained as young men in the U.S. They served long years in the U.S. Army, doing nothing but mil. work. Some of them have had further schooling in U.S. Army Schools. They each have the the experience of commanding big bodies of troops. I don’t understand why misunderstanding should arise and I want both groups of officers to feel alike & equal in manhood and worthiness. I found many liars and crooks among the Const. officers, [?] of courts-martial who don’t appreciate the seriousness of lying and cheating, & I want to get rid of these officers. This is the only way we can build our army, as no army is better than its corp of officers. I am going to clean up this army of all its crooks! I want you to honor, respect & love that uniform, love it more than your wife, your children & home. By your own sense of honor you should refuse to associate with these liars and crooks who are wearing this uniform and you should clean them up yourselves! He concluded by saying he wanted to thank the Mil. Adv. for his services, & the Scout officers for their loyalty & the former Const. officers for their loyalty.
He mentioned about the the ultimate goal of the man who goes to U.S.M.A. by saying that preparation is for his own people & not for the U.S. this is shown by the fact that Annapolis grads are not commissioned in the US Navy.
In talking about the Scout officers that left the Phil. Army, he mentioned the fact that these Scout officers are not given the rank that used to be given to Amer. officers detailed in the Const. He said that any Capt. detailed in the Const. was made a full Col. The reason for this is clear he said. These Amer. officers were temporarily assigned to the Const, whereas these Scout officers are to occupy permanent position in the Phil. Army.

Fidel Segundo

Diary entry for May 17, 1939

Here is Dwight D. Eisenhower recalling events on July 16, 1939. It is a useful postscript to the events leading to Quezon’s “heart in his hands” talk with Filipino officers. It provides an interesting glimpse into how Eisenhower was honing (and had) his political instincts, as well as his skill at understanding power relations in institutions:

One reason that the Military Adviser’s post has lost for him some of its former attractiveness is continued proof that he is losing influence and prestige, that no longer may he announce an arbitrary decision and see it accepted as the law of the Medes and Persians by the President [Quezon] and the [Philippine] Army. Almost four years ago poor old Jim [Ord] and I tried to make him [MacArthur]see that the price of staying at the top of the heap was eternal watchfulness and, above all, so conducting himself and his job as to inspire confidence and a dependence upon him for important information and decisions. We begged him to arrange a weekly meeting with the President, so that there would not grow up a tendency on the part of the President to depend upon others. He ridiculed us. He was then riding so high that his favorite description of himself was the “Elder Statesman”. He informed us that it was not in keeping with the dignity of his position for him to report once a week to Malacañan.
While I was home last summer the Scout question came to the fore once more, and the General’s decisions and attitude were so unsatisfactory to the Scouts that many of them left us and went back to the American Army. At that time he succeeded in working up the President to the point where the latter believed in a “scout cabal seeking the eventual seizure of the government a la Cuba!” So–with a supposedly decisive victory, one that clearly re-established his power and prestige, the General felt that all was clear on his horizon. But the Scouts did not quit… As time went on they kept dinning away until the Pres. got another slant on the whole affair. Finally in a public speech, that is, it was public so far as the officers of the Army were concerned, the Pres. announced that he was misinformed as to the fact at the time he expressed a desire to get rid of the Scouts, that he had acted hastily, that he regretted his statements and decisions of that time and he would seek to correct them. The General was present when all this was said, and I think it was really the first time that he clearly realized how far we had come from the days when the merest expression of his “professional opinion” served to enlist enthusiastic and universal support for any and all of his schemes.

Dwight D. Eisenhowe

Diary entry for July 16, 1939

The generation of the Commonwealth was very conscious of its nation-buidling responsibilities. Civlian leaders were trying to establish precedents that would establish the parameters for civilian-military relations while Filipino officers trained in the United States were trying to establish a qualified officer corps, even if it led to their confronting Americans invited to help set up the new Philippine Army. Many of the concerns riased by these figures remain relevant to this day.