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.
Had conference with Jacinto, Milleres and Foster Knight at custom House. Jacinto had appeared before Budget Committees of House of Representatives this morning, and had told them that the Commissioner of Customs should be ex officio Collector of the port of Manila. He did not mention my alternative plan, i.e., complete separation of Commissioner and Collector. In view of the position he took, I said it would be a waste of time for me to draw up details of this alternative plan. Jacinto and Milleres both said that my plan might be the better in normal circumstances but, with the present set-up in the Custom House, the Commissioner must be the ex officio Collector in order to check malpractice by the present Deputy Commissioner and ex officio Collector Melicio Fabros!! And he must maintain his office in the Custom House in order to watch Fabros and company. A pretty nasty situation.
To dinner at Bing Escoda’s. She lives with two aunts — one single and one married — in a lovely house in Quezon City. Other guests were Mr. and Mrs. Hendry (he was born in China; she is part Filipina and very lovely); Mr. and Mrs. Ford Wilkins; Mr. Escoda (Bing’s uncle; Press Officer of House of Representatives); Mr. Roy, Chairman of the Banking Committee of the House of Representatives; and 2 other attractive Filipino couples. We had a delicious Filipino dinner — a whole pig, and Spanish rice and several other dishes. Excellent conversation. One of the guests was
formerly Philippine Cultural Attaché at the Legation in Buenos Aires. While in Rome last year, he called on Santayana, who was living in a hospital, cared for by English nuns. Santayana is 90-odd years old, but (except for deafness) in command of all his faculties. Mr. Escoda drove home with me, and we talked a long time in the hotel. I asked him about the Huks, and he said that the government had made progress against them recently. He said that he thought they would not be eliminated for 30 years; after the Americans took the Philippines in 1900, the rebels had only about 500 old-fashioned rifles, but it took the American army 5 years to suppress them. The Huks have 200,000 rifles, and plenty of machine-guns. Mr. Escoda said that the Huks live off the country, and are often cruel to the peasants, but that the Constabulary have treated the peasants even worse than the Huks! The Huks take one of his chickens; the Constabulary take two. Escoda referred to the US “surplus” scandal and said that a good many American Army officers made a lot of illegal money. One of his friends — a small saloon-keeper — was approached by an American officer who drove a truck-load of silk piece goods up to his shop and offered them to him for US $200. The saloon-keeper had only a few pesos at the time, but a wealthy Chinese came along, examined that silk, and a offered the officer $300. The officer said: “For $300 you have the silk and the truck.” The Chinese sold the silk for over US $100,000.
(At Lion’s Club lunch yesterday, the Sec. of Finance was dragged into the discussion. An awkward question was asked, and he said: “I feel like the fish in the market, who
remarked ‘If I’d kept my mouth shut, I wouldn’t be here.’” Ford Wilkins next to whom I was sitting, said that the original motto under the stuffed fish was:
“My address would still be Pacific South If I’d only remembered to close my mouth”.
Second line would be better thus:
“If I hadn’t opened my big, old mouth.”
To lunch at Lion’s Club as guest of Pio Pedrosa, Secretary of Finance. 9-10 had conference with Pedrosa, Jacinto, Jastram and Knight. Handed my memorandum re relationship between Commissioner of Customs and Collector of the Port of Manila to the Secretary. We had general discussion of the two alternatives I proposed, and the Secretary asked me to work out details of the two proposed, which he can submit to the Legislature. In the course of our talk, it was made shockingly clear how much the Customs is involved in politics. The present Deputy Commissioner and ex officio Collector at Manila (Fabros) has far more power than his nominal superior (Jacinto), and has placed relatives in several of the key posts in the Customs. He has very powerful political connections, and is, I fear, a thorough-going rascal.
The discussion at the Lion’s Club was about the desirability of creating a free-port, or foreign trade zone at Manila, and I have seldom heard more uninformed and half-baked ideas. It was a nice affair, however. The service clubs (Rotary, Lions, etc.) seem to be very popular in the Philippines. There must have been 150-200 men at today’s lunch. Called on Col. Soriano, president of Philippine Air Lines, San Miguel Brewery, etc. – one of the world’s rich men, I’m told. He was once a Spaniard, then a
Filipino, and is now an American citizen. We had half an hour’s talk about the Customs. Like everybody else, he says get politics out of the Customs and pay the staff a living wage. With Foster Knight, inspected the two principal piers with Delgado, the Arrestre contractor. The storage sheds are very capacious and well-built, and the stacking and handling of cargo are very well done. Lift-trucks and other mechanized equipment was in full use. Delgado took over the Arrestre contract last month, and his predecessor company did everything possible to sabotage the property and equipment. A very disgraceful performance. I had following to dinner here: Dr. and Mrs. Ray Moyer; Jim Ivy; Doris Bebb; Mrs. Pedigo. We had amusing time watching the dancing (it was Valentine’s Night). Many of the young Filipino couples were dancing the ?, which consists chiefly of facing each other 2 feet
apart and wiggling their behinds. Most of them kept very sober faces, and seemed to be taking their pleasures sadly.
To lunch here: Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Sycip (formerly Bonnie Liu). Mr. Sycip’s grandfather came to Manila from Amoy. His Chinese name was “Hsueh”, which is pronounced “Si” in Amoy dialect. The origin of the “cip” is unknown, but probably the Amoy pronunciation of another Chinese character. In the Spanish days, anybody who was baptized into the Catholic Church became ipso facto a Spanish subject. Sycip grandpére was baptized and given the Christian name Jose Larade Sy. My other guests were Charles Glaser of E.C.A. and Chapman, whom I met once in Shanghai. He used to be with Mackay radio, but is now retired. He had the next bed to W.H. Donald while interned at St. Tomas and was with him in Shanghai when he died — and a bearer at his funeral. He told me that he has a verbatim record of many of Donald’s stories and recollections made during internment. He has sent to America for them, and will let me see them if they arrive before I leave. He said that Donald would never have permitted the publication of “Donald of China” had he lived. Donald paid the author of that book $4,000! He could have gotten 25 to 50 thousand dollars from the S.E.P. or Time for his autobiography.
Had an hour’s talk with Jacinto in the office. He is very anxious to prepare legislation to improve the Customs organization, and wants me to get Bradley out here as soon as possible to help him. Spoke to Cecchi about it. Called on Donn Muni (away for a week), Wilkins (Manila Bulletin) and Ramon Escoda. Col. Miguel Enriquez came to my room at 9 a.m. to hand me copies of documents prepared last June by the reorganization committee of the Ministry of Finance setting forth a plan of reorganization of the Customs. (This was before the Bell Mission was formed.)
To office and to Custom House a.m. and p.m. Tried to see Jacinto in afternoon, but he was out for the day. Actually, he is trying to avoid the politicos who are trying to save the Customs jobs of their protégés. Talked for over an hour with Sr. David, Chief of the Arrastre Division. He has been in the Customs 25 years or more, and is completely disillusioned and discouraged. He said that the greatest curse in the Customs is political pressure to secure places for friends and relatives. Many men are appointed to places for which they have no experience or aptitudes, and over the heads of qualified long-service career men. He said graft and squeeze are widespread. Low pay is another important factor in the demoralization of the Customs. Although prices have gone up 4, 5 or 6 times pre-war scales, the pay of the higher echelons in the Customs has not been increased. In his own case, before the war he could own a car; now, he cannot afford even an occasional taxi. His two sons have finished high school and gone to work, because he could not afford to send them to college. Pay of the lower ranks has been increased, but not proportionately to the cost of living. He also said that present arrangement whereby the Commissioner of Customs is divorced from control of the Manila Customs while the Deputy Commissioner is collector of the port of Manila, is most unsatisfactory and the cause of constant friction. He recommends that the Commissioner should be ex officio Collector of Manila. (I can see that this question is agitating the entire Customs staff).
Saw Bonnie Liu (Mrs. Sycip) in her I.R.O. office. To Custom House where I spent most of morning. Had long talk with Alfredo V. Jacinto, Commissioner of Customs. He makes a good impression. The Customs has recently discharged 180 employees, each of whom apparently has a political sponsor who is trying to save the job for him. Jacinto said that he is being subjected heavy pressure by Senators, representatives and other influential people who are interested in the Customs employees who have been discharged. That is the reason he stayed away from office yesterday afternoon; and the receiver was off his telephone this morning, to prevent incoming calls. The Customs is honeycombed with politics. Senor Jacinto complained bitterly about the recent reorganization of the Customs whereby, inter alia, his Deputy Commissioner becomes ex officio Collector of the Port of Manila. He said this plan was cooked up between a subordinate in the Budget (or Audit?) office and the Deputy Commissioner, Senor Melicia [Melecio] Fabros; and that it results in clipping the authority of the Commissioner. I gathered that there is bad blood between Jacinto and Fabros. Mr. David, arrestre Division [arrastre], took me around the Custom House and introduced me to the officers in charge of the various departments. The building is in shocking disrepair, and filthy.
At dinner, Wilson told of the evacuation of civilians from Honolulu after Pearl Harbor, and said that, among others, several very prosperous prostitutes were put on a ship for the mainland. An Army chaplain responsible for entertainment, got up a dance for the first night a Sunday — and, to start the ball, picked out one of the prostitutes as his partner. Wilson said: “I never thought to see a minister of the gospel dancing with a whore on a Sunday night.”
Had about 6 hours sleep but routed out of bed before daylight to breakfast at Wake Island. The sun came up as we ate in the little dining room — with which I have become quite familiar. Arrived Guam about noon; lunched there and took off at 2:30. Guam was pretty hot. Several of our passengers left here, and were not missed — especially 3 or 4 young men who came out for the contractors who are working here. These lads started drinking at 8 a.m., and kept it up all day. One of them — an electrician — said he had a swell job: all expenses paid and pay of about $25.00 a day. Time difference between Wake and Manila is 4 hours, so we sat our watches back accordingly. Arrived Manila at 6:45 p.m., Manila time, and met by Senor Jacinto, Commissioner of Customs, and Mr. ? of the E.C.A. staff. Five or six newspaper reporters on hand. To Manila Hotel. No room for me, because President Sukarno of the Indonesian Republic is paying a state visit to Manila. I am in Foster Knight’s room; he is away for a few days.
Warnings have been issued by the Commander of the Japanese Landing Forces.
(1) Anyone who inflicts or attempts to inflict an injury upon Japanese soldiers or individuals shall be shot to death.
(2) If the assailant or attempted assailant cannot be found, we will hold ten influential persons as hostages who live in and about the streets or municipalities where the event happened.
(3) Officials and influential persons shall pass this warning on to your citizens and villages as soon as possible and should prevent these crimes before they happen on your own responsibilities.
(4) The Filipinos should understand our real intentions and should work together with us to maintain public peace and order in the Philippines.
Reign of terror! The law of the gun! People avoid Japanese soldiers in the streets. Everybody is afraid. When you pass a Japanese sentry, you must bow. A man was slapped for not bowing. Others have been tied to posts and made to look at the sun for hours. A man stealing a can of milk from a parked Japanese truck was bayoneted to death. Saw a naked woman bound to a post. She was quite young. There were many onlookers.
Had an important meeting with high ranking Japanese officers at the Army and Navy Club this afternoon. The food situation, particularly rice, was discussed. Present were Col. Masaki, who was apparently the ranking officer; Lt. Col. Yoshida, supply officer; Mr. Mori, manager of the Daido; Yamamoto, manager of the Yokohama Specie Bank; Murasse of the Oracca Candies; Kitajima of the Kinkwa Textile Company; Mitsuda, manager of the Bank of Taiwan and C. Mori, head of the Nang Prostoa. The Filipinos were Gregorio Anonas of the NDC, Jacinto, Villamin, Sabalvaro, Melo and myself.
Discussions mainly centered around the problem of rice distribution. NARIC would distribute rice to dealers in 12 public markets within Greater Manila for sale to the public. Purchasers would be required to first present their residence certificates. The selling price to the public was fixed at P.15 for one-half ganta. The price to rice dealers would be at P6.20 each cavan. Japanese soldiers were to be posted in the 12 markets to insure order. War notes (military money) have been issued by the Imperial Japanese Government. The proclamation of the Commander-in-Chief says that the military notes are backed by the Japanese Government. The death penalty will be imposed on anyone “who attempts to interfere with the circulation of the war notes such as deeds of rejection of payment, forgery or spreading false news regarding the war notes.” I am afraid the printing of this money will cause inflation in the not-too-distant future. The days of “a wheelbarrow of marks for a loaf of bread” may yet come.
Five truckloads of Japanese dead, covered with vegetables, passed by Santa Mesa this afternoon at a little after sunset. There must be stiff fighting in Bataan.
More Japanese troops have arrived in the city. It is their convoy that keeps on arriving.
More people go to churches these days. There are a lot of marriages too.
In a small side-door, ironically near Quiapo Church, many soldiers go in and out. It is a flourishing business.