Friday, November 23, 2012

Pres. Manuel Quezon: Ingratitude or patriotism?

Post WW2 - Battle for Manila Memorial at Intramuros, Manila

On February 19, 1937, had the U.S. Charge d'Affaires in London, Ray Atherton, not discovered the nature of the clandestine meeting that was to be held between President Manuel Quezon and the British Foreign Minister, Anthony Eden, the Filipinos would have been belting out "God Save the Queen" instead of humming Yankee doodle de dum tunes at local gatherings.

Two years prior to this discovery, making good on his infamous sound bite, "I would rather have a government run like hell by Filipinos than a government run like heaven by Americans," Quezon -- upon assuming the presidency of the Commonwealth of the Philippines -- immediately pursued the task of laying the foundations of the future Philippine Republic.

However, the relations between Quezon and his American overlords during the transition period were often less than amenable; the resulting tensions and exasperations eventually prompted Quezon to secretly approach the British and explore the likelihood of the Philippines becoming a part of the British Empire -- as a self-governing dominion, like Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

As early as August 1933, then Senate President Quezon had already told his British friend and adviser, Frank Hodsoll, that should the United States abandon their protectorate interests in the Philippines, he would go to London, and on behalf of the 14,000,000 Filipinos, ask for admission to the British Commonwealth of Nations. Hodsoll, acting as Quezon's secret liaison agent, finally contacted top British officials on January 20, 1935.

At this time, Quezon was already coping with serious concerns about the threat of a Japanese invasion. He was also alarmed by the Americans' continued indifference on the issue, as well as their lackadaisical attitude toward strengthening the military defenses of the Philippines.

The British Foreign Office recognized the merits of Quezon's concerns and approved holding official, though initially clandestine, talks with Quezon. Unfortunately, the Americans got wind of the planned meeting in London. President Roosevelt and many high-ranking government officials were aghast; thus, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Francis B. Sayre immediately censured Quezon as per orders received from Washington.

In his response, Quezon riposted that for the survival of the Philippines, it was his duty to seek protection from another powerful nation; that is, if the United States were unable to provide it. He then pointed out the lack of palpable measures by the United States to fortify the archipelago and make her impregnable to a Japanese invasion.

Quezon also admitted that he would consider a treaty of amity and alliance with Japan if the United States and Great Britain refused to protect his country.

Ironically, despite their horrified reaction to Quezon's seemingly lack of loyalty, the United States' war plans from 1937 onwards, prioritized winning the war in Europe. Essentially, America was prepared to accept the initial fall of Guam, Hawaii, and the Philippines to Japan. Such priority was mainly due to the fact that the American oligarchy at that time was mostly of European ancestry. Therefore, the Philippines was merely regarded as a not too significant a territory located in some far-flung remote region across the Pacific.

Furthermore, the U.S. did not appear to be in any position to guarantee, let alone provide, formidable military defense systems and logistics for the Philippines. This was made apparent when the American contingent at the 1941 secret Japan-US diplomatic negotiations began to consider permanently declaring the Philippines as a neutral country. Regrettably, diplomatic talks between the U.S. and Japan came to a sudden halt when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

These days, local historians could only speculate that perhaps, the eventual massive carpet-bombing of Manila by the U.S. forces during its liberation, might have been America's ultimate true response to Quezon's disloyalty, though his death saved him from seeing the city -- the seat of his government -- practically reduced to rubbles.

A very dapper President Manuel Quezon 
(photo credit: Correos Filipinas)

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History of the Filipino People
by Teodoro A. Agoncillo
Garotech Publishing

The Philippines: A unique Nation
by Sonia M. Zaide
All-Nations Publishing

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  1. Ingratitude for what? I think he told his kumpadre, Gen. MacArthur, when they were both in Corregidor that Pinas has nothing to do with this war and he would rather declare Pinas neutral. He is my kind of a leader.

  2. Probably "God Save the King" instead of "the Queen." George VI was still King until February 1952 when Elizabeth II,in her own right, became Queen.

    Was the bombing of Manila by American artillery and war planes intended to spite Quezon? Or was MacArthur just concerned for his military image as the liberator of Manila with no regard for cost and destruction. This city he claims to love so much, was the most devastated city during WW II, second only to Warsaw.