Quezon came into my room at the Shoreham for a two hours’ talk. Yesterday he had offered me an official position to go around with him and help him with his English in preparing his speeches. I told him I thought his command of English was excellent, and that I had not come to him to get a job. “But that was the reason why I asked you to come,” he replied. So here I am back again as adviser to the President, as I had been in 1935 and 1936. I hope I may be of some use to him in his very trying situation as head of a government-in-exile.
I then asked him whether he had foreseen the coming of war between the United States and Japan. He replied that during those last few weeks before the Japanese struck he had been sure of it. I enquired what he had thought of the note handed by Secretary of State Hull on November 26, 1941 to the two Japanese Ambassadors. He replied: “What did you think of it?” “I thought it,” I said, “the equivalent of a declaration of war upon Japan.” “So did I,” he put in; “with such a people as the Japanese,–no government could possibly accept such a proposal as to get out of China and give up Manchuria; the government which did that could not survive. So immediately I asked Admiral Hart urgently to call on me, and told him: ‘Admiral, this is the same as a declaration of war by the United States upon Japan. What will happen if our communications with the Mainland (i.e., the U.S.) are cut?’ The Admiral replied: ‘Oh, it will only be a matter of three weeks.'” Quezon continued by saying that a few days before Pearl Harbor in his speech on “Heroes’ day” (on December 2nd, 1941) at the University of the Philippines in Manila, he told the students how heavy his heart was, because many of those magnificent young men who had just passed in parade before him were soon to lay down their lives for their country.
Quezon then went on to describe to me the meeting of the American-Japan Society in Tokyo which was attended by Ambassador Grew, on the occasion of the appointment of Nomura as Ambassador to the United States. At this meeting, Foreign Minister Matsuoka had told them of his efforts to get Nomura, a retired admiral, to go to United States as Ambassador, because Nomura was known to be a personal friend of President Roosevelt. At first Nomura had been unwilling to accept the post, but Matsuoka went to his house and persuaded him to take on the serious and difficult talk of reaching a working agreement with the United States Government. Matsuoka then emphasis his opinion that it was the duty of the United States and of Japan to avoid war–if not, it would be a terrible conflict, and would destroy civilization. Matsuoka then sent a letter to Quezon enclosing a copy of this speech and wrote at the bottom of the letter as follows: “To His Excellency President Quezon: Dear Mr President, I hope you will agree with my views.” The envelope was addressed in Matsuoka’s own handwriting, and was handed to Quezon by the Japanese Consul General at Manila–so every precaution had been taken to conceal the identity of the person to whom the letter was to be delivered–even the stenographer was not to know. Quezon said that at the time, he thought this was a very “suspicious circumstance,” and that Matsuoka was in deadly earnest. “But,” Quezon added, “I did not then know anything about the real strength of Japan, and I simply wondered how they dared even to consider a war against the United States, since he assumed that America would immediately send their whole fleet against Japan and completely destroy the Japanese navy.”
He did not believe that the second Japanese envoy Kurusu was sent to the United States to join with Nomura in order to “gain time.” Indeed, he thought that it was the United States that needed “time”–not Japan, and he added: “The seriousness of the situation was apaprent when the attack was made on Pearl Harbor, because the Japanese never go to war unless they are thoroughly prepared.”
On the question as to why the Japanese aviation had bombed President Quezon’s birth place, Baler, Quezon did not believe at any time that this was done in reprisal because he had called upon his people to support the American side; “If it was aimed at me,” he asked, “why did they respect my houses at Baguio, at Mariquina and Malacañan Palace itself? Those buildings have not been damaged nor looted.” (N.B. It transpired later that the bombing at Baler had been aimed at the small wireless station there.)
Quezon then reported a conversation he had had a few days ago with the Chinese Ambassador who had told him Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek had recently gone to India not, as reported, to try to persuade the Indians to join the English in resistance against Japan, but to try to persuade the British Government to give independence to India!
I then asked the President to elucidate the phrase he had used: “doubts as to my duty to the people of the Philippines” which beset him when he arrived at Corregidor and of which he at once had informed President Roosevelt by cable. Of course, I could understand his perplexity as to whether it would be best to insist upon further resistance when he was already convinced that the United States neither could nor would send reinforcements nor supplies to them while concentrating on the German War, but I asked him to explain further his state of mind then on that momentous question. Thereupon, he replied that he might have considered advising his countrymen to join an association of Asiatic nations which were to be partners in the real meaning of the word but that he had no confidence in the Japanese offer to them of self-government. He added: “Those fellows would not really leave us alone to govern ourselves—-it would take them three hundred years longer to learn how to do so.”
Asked about the internal situation in the Philippines just before the war, Quezon began his reply by stating that he himself was a sincere democrat and really believed in the rule of the people, but that in dealing with the application of this theory, especially in times of strain, there were too many people going around advocating democracy for everybody without any real sense of responsibility towards the people themselves or knowledge of the struggle and fight necessary to protect democracy. He believed it was especially necessary to know the background of a people, and to understand what their history meant. This, of course, recalled my effort in 1936 to prepare for him at his suggestion, and when first acting as his adviser, a bill to reform the system of landholding in the Philippines, so as to protect the millions of small farmers (taos) in their tenant holdings and really to begin the dividing up of the many great haciendas. The bill was modelled upon Gladstone’s “three F’s” land bill of the 1880’s for Ireland, as had been suggested to me by Quezon himself. But, as related in the first part of this “diary,” the members of his Cabinet all balked at it and the President had handed it back to me with the remark that it was “loaded with dynamite.” I replied that I had, at the time, been greatly distressed by the failure of this effort at reform, but that I know a little of the background in Philippine history: how, always until the Spanish liberals had begun in their own country for reforms, with repercussions upon the Filipinos, the state of society in the Philippines as in other Malay communities elsewhere had been entirely aristocratic. “Why,” I said, “Your own Cabinet then, and most of the members of the legislature–those gentlemen were almost all aristocrats.” “Except me” he interrupted, “I wasn’t one.”
Then I got him to tell part, at least, of the story of the constant friction existing between High Commissioner Sayre and himself during the year before this war. He started by saying that Sayre is, personally, a very nice fellow, but unlike his late father-in-law, Woodrow Wilson, he does not understand government. He is one of those lovers of liberty who goes around trying to apply liberty as a solution to problems which arise without much consideration of the results to follow; that he started all his arguments with him (Quezon) with the statement: “I am a Christian gentleman,” which is no doubt perfectly true, but in itself does not solve by its application all political problems. The serious disagreement between Quezon and Sayre which had some bearings on inadequate civilian preparedness in the Philippines just before this war broke out, arose through what the United States would call the “Office of Civilian Defense,” and had nothing to do, as I had previously presumed, with any attempt by President Quezon to spend part of the $50,000,000 then held in the United States for the Philippines. Nor did Quezon try to get the United States to pay for his Office of Civilian Defense.
The trouble between the President of the Philippines and the High Commissioner started in 1940 when the legislature passed an act delegating to Quezon powers to regulate the civilian defense corps and otherwise prepare for a supply of food and for making air-raid shelters for the protection of the civilian population of the Philippines. The Philippine constitution placed his power in the legislature only “in a national emergency,” with restrictions on the power to be exercised by the President. They had studied the history of difficulties which had arisen in the United States over the “delegated powers” which are forbidden by the American constitution.
In 1941, during the growing tension throughout the Far East, Quezon issued the necessary executive orders based upon this grant to him of limited delegated powers. At once, a group of young Filipinos called the “Civil Liberties Union” passed a resolution of protest. High Commissioner Sayre was aroused, and is believed to have notified President Roosevelt who cabled Quezon warning him that adverse sentiment was aroused in the United States since the American “Civil Liberties Union” had joined in the fray. Quezon at once cabled back to Roosevelt that he would not exercise any of the powers so delegated to him without a direct application to him from High Commissioner Sayre.
A few months later, Major General Grunert then in command of the Philippine Department of the American Army, asked Quezon to attend a meeting with him. High Commissioner Sayre and the American Admiral. The general wanted to know what plans there were for the protection of the civilian population in the event of war and complained that so far as he could see, nothing had been done; what was Quezon going to do about it? The President replied: “Ask High Commissioner Sayre”–who sat absolutely silent. Finally, at this conference, it was agreed that a committee should be appointed as an Office of Civilian Defense, consisting of General Douglas MacArthur, then a retired Lieutenant General of the American Army, but engaged as Quezon’s Adviser on Military Affairs and occupied in organizing the Philippine Army, and Quezon’s secretary George Vargas, and A. D. Williams, adviser to the President on public works. This committee was to cooperate with the American General and Admiral. At the meeting, General MacArthur asked Major General Grunert if he would state to him first of all, as Department Commander, whether the American Army was going to protect the Philippines and what plans he had for getting the equipment necessary for such protection? The Department Commander replied that he was only a soldier, and knew nothing of politics; that he intended to fight for the protection of the Philippines but could not state what equipment would come to him for that purpose. General MacArthur then expressed himself as dissatisfied with the latter part of the Department Commander’s reply, and refused to serve on this committee until he had a satisfactory answer. So MacArthur retired from this committee and A. D. Williams and Vargas went ahead with their plans for air-raid shelters, etc.
Shortly after this, A. D. Williams returned to the United States after forty years of service in the Philippines on public works and construction, and by this time General MacArthur had been put in command of all American and Philippine forces in the islands.
At the public meeting on “Heroes’ day,” December 2, 1941, to which reference has already been made in these pages. President Quezon said in his public address that he had not been able to discharge his full duty and prepare adequately for the civilian population a sufficient food supply nor adequate air-raid shelters because he had been prevented from doing so by the President of the United States, and this statement was reported in garbled and misleading form in some newspapers in the United States. Further, Quezon stated that the protest against due preparation in the Philippines had been started by the local Civil Liberties Union, and that if they were thus responsible for any evil results, they merited condign punishment.
At dinner that evening, Quezon told me had rented the house of General Hurley, “Belmont,” near Leesburg, Loudon County, Virginia from next Sunday for the summer, so he will be only two days at Hot Springs–another of those sudden and unexpected changes of his plans to which his entourage are thoroughly well accustomed. This means, however, that I am not to have him to myself to get on with the manuscript.
Bridge in my room at the Shoreham, nine p.m. to two a.m. Very lively bidding and the playing was animated. The other players were Quezon, Dr. Trepp, his devoted physician from Manila and the attractive and modest young a.d.c., Lieutenant-Colonel Velasquez from the Province of Bulacan, a West Pointer, who has been through the battle of Bataan. When the Governor General of Australia met Quezon a few months ago, Quezon told the Governor General that Velasquez was one of the Filipinos who had been doing the fighting. The Governor General talked with him for five minutes and turned and thanked Quezon for the delaying battle in the Philippines which had helped to save Australia. Quezon, however, agrees with me in doubting whether the Japanese plans included the conquest of Australia.