Future of the Philippines: Manuel L. Quezon

Manuel L. Quezon

(from World Chancelleries: Sentiments, Ideas, and Arguments Expressed by Famous Occidental and Oriental Statesmen Looking to the Consolidation of the Psychological Bases of International Peace, by Edward Price Bell, Chicago Daily News, 1926)


YOU want complete and immediate independence for the Philippines?’’ I remarked to President Manuel L. Quezon of the Philippine Senate, perhaps the most influential Filipino leader at the present time.

“Yes,” was the reply.

“You see no danger to the Philippines or the peace of the Pacific and the world in a withdrawal of the United States from the archipelago and its waters?”

“None. On the contrary, I think untrammeled statehood for the Philippines would reinforce peace influences in the Pacific and elsewhere.”

“You should expect no aggression against the islands from any source?”

“Not from any source. When people talk about warlike movements against a free Philippines, they have in mind just one nation. They do not mean Russia or China or France or England. They mean Japan. Let us, therefore, consider the question of what Japan might be expected to do if the Philippines were liberated and left to their own resources. I will say at once that Japan, in my opinion, would not dream of any hostile act toward us and I will explain why I think so.

Japan’s Peaceful Purposes

“In the first place, I believe Japan to be  nonaggressive. I believe both her heart and her mind urge her to international peace. I am convinced she sees no profit, only universal disaster, in war. Japan will fight, if I understand her, only to preserve her national security and to defend those rights and interests which seem to her indispensable to her liberty and life. Such rights and interests do not beckon her far afield; they lie within the circumference of her natural and legitimate position in the Far East.

“But, for the sake of argument, let us suppose that Japan is not peaceful, but warlike. Even then the Philippines would be of very little use, if any, to her unless she contemplated hostile operations against the United States or Australia, and every student of Japanese feeling, thought, and policy knows she contemplates no such thing. Were it otherwise—were her instincts and ambitions really running in the direction of expansion by conquest—how could she embark upon such a course?

Let us indulge in the fantastic conjecture that she desires to attack the peaceful country of the United States.

If Japan Should Attack America

“Let us forget the frightful devastation of the earthquake of 1923. Let us forget Japan’s financial, industrial, and social difficulties and the burdens that closely contiguous foreign problems place upon her statesmanship. Let us put all these things out of mind and assume that the Asiatic Island Empire wants to go to war with the American Republic, the richest and most powerful country in the world. Japan could not strike from the Philippines; at the very least she would need Hawaii, and who does not realize that even so her enterprise would be desperate? The thought that Japan may some day want to attack the United States is to every sane mind too preposterous for even hypothetical discussion.

“As for Australia, Japan knows that any war or attack upon that country would raise against her—on the instant and with all their wealth, armament and indomitable fighting spirit— the combined nations of the Anglo-Saxon world.

If Japan Should Seize Philippines

“Very well, then. If Japan does not want the  as a stepping stone to conquest, the Philippines. would she want these islands as a defensive base? I can conceive of no principle of strategy that would cause her to covet them for such a purpose. It is obvious, indeed, that possession of the Philippines would be a source of weakness, not of strength, to the Japanese, if they were attacked. They have Formosa and Formosa is in the right line for their defense and nearer home. If Japan were attacked, she would not scatter her forces; she would concentrate them. If she had naval craft in Philippine waters, she quickly would withdraw them to the support of her main fleet.

“If the United States removed its authority and its fighting forces from the Philippines, neither Japan nor any other power would molest us. If Japan moved against us, whether America did or did not call upon her to halt, Britain would call upon her to halt and compel her to halt. Australia’s cry easily would reach to Downing Street and it would be augmented by the cry of every British possession in Asia. Britain would threaten Japan, not from British home waters, but from Singapore and Hongkong, and if Japan had naval or military contingents here or on their way hither she speedily would recall them to her vital defensive lines. Surveying the whole horizon of possibilities, I can discern no presage of an attempted seizure of this archipelago as a result of an American withdrawal.

Japanese Dislike the Tropics

“On the economic side also there is an utter absence of incentive to Japan to incur the reprobation of the world by interfering with the freedom of the Philippines. Japan does not want the Philippines for her people. The Japanese are not a tropical people. They are a people of the temperate zones. Their whole organic and temperamental adaptation is to a climate different from that of our latitude. If they do not like weather too cold—as they do not—neither do they like the meteorology of the tropics. Japanese die here in great numbers. We once had some 15,000. They came to work in the hemp fields. Probably not more than 5,000 are left. In all the centuries of the past, before Spain came, during her 330 years here and since she went away, no considerable body of Japanese ever availed itself of its liberty to enter the Philippines at its own will.

“Why, then, anticipate at this time an emigratory flood of Japanese in this direction? They will not come. Nor has Japan anything to gain by seeking a preferential industrial or commercial position in the Philippines. Efforts of that kind would run directly counter to her interests, and she knows it, for Japan has an enlightened people and leadership in these days.

Orientals Who Are “Possessed”

“‘What she wants in this group of islands is what she wants on themainland of Asia —the Open Door. It promises her more than anything else. ‘Open Door’ means equality of opportunity to all States, big and little, and under the egis of this principle Japan not only keeps the good will of the world, but enjoys all the material advantages appertaining to her geographical position relative to the Philippines and the entire Far East.”

“What would be the repercussion of Philippine emancipation in British, French, and Dutch possessions in Asia?”

Mr. Quezon smiled a somewhat wry smile.

“Naturally,” said he, “every vindication of the rights of man stimulates all who are struggling for the rights of man. Peoples do not like to be ‘possessed.’ They long to be free. Freedom in this archipelago, I have no doubt, would be welcomed by and would give encouragement to all Asiatics and others under alien rule. I should not be surprised if Britain, France, and Holland would be pleased to see the American flag continue to fly over these islands in perpetuity. But to those nations | will say a word in all friendship. It is this: What their subject peoples ultimately do will not be determined by anything which happens in the Philippines.

When Far Eastern Peoples Strike

‘”What do I mean? I mean that when the millions of the Indies, of Java and Sumatra, and of China are ripe for freedom they will take their freedom regardless of what the muse of history shall have meted out to the Philippines. If America elects to hold the Philippines she can hold them for all time so far as we can see, because we Filipinos are numerically weak. But look at India! Four hundred millions of people! Forty millions in the Dutch islands—more than in unconquerable France! And China—her people are countless! When those peoples become nationally self-conscious, when they are unified and organized, no power on earth will be able to dominate them or retain so much as a toehold on their territory against their wills.”

“How do you think Australasia would feel over the hauling down of the stars and strips in the Philippines?”

“Very likely she would be alarmed. But I do not think her alarm would be justified in the smallest degree. White men in the south Pacific fear Japan. Their fear, I am sure, has no basis in fact. It is purely fanciful. But, as I have said, Japan would not dare, whatever might be her desire, to start upon a career of militaristic imperialism. She would not dare to trouble the Philippines and still less Australia or New Zealand.

When Colored Races Achieve Power

“If America is defensively of importance . to white civilization in the Southern Hemisphere—as she unquestionably is—it is not because she is in the Philippines. It is because of her tremendous, her almost measureless, strength at home, with its unmistakable implications.”

“What do you expect to see if and when the Asiatic peoples shall have power commensurate with their numbers?”

“I expect to see the States of the world living together harmoniously on the basis of universal respect for their several political and territorial rights.”

“You do not expect that the colored races, by way of retaliation, will attempt to dominate white peoples?”

“I do not. International education is advancing. We are wise today in at least some things in which we were foolish yesterday. Our wisdom will increase with the years. Both practical knowledge and the humanities, in my judgment, are on the march against the ignorance and the inhumanity of which we have seen so much in history. It will be a century, if not more, before Asia can stand erect in the full majesty of a strength now only potential. By that time, let us hope, the moralities of the world, not armies and navies, will be the sheet anchor of its national liberties.”

Fruits of Colonial Possessions

“You think colonial possessions are mischievous?”

“I think they tend to breed war. It is a historical fact that they have bred war. They bred the World War. Germany came upon the international scene late. Earth’s treasure grounds had been parceled out to her rivals. She wanted colonies. She felt that her greatness, actual and latent, demanded colonies. She was willing to fight for them. She fought and was crushed, but the world was terribly crippled in the process. Colonies are still with us and still a source of bitterness, unrest, and possible war. Nations must give up the idea of seizure, of domination, of obtaining raw materials and trade anyhow, of force—nations must walk in the ways of humanity and justice—if they want peace.”

“What is your estimate of America’s contribution to Philippine development?”

“It has been a great contribution. America has been remarkable not only for what she has done but also for what she has not done affecting Filipino development. She had it in her power to practice in these islands the creed of the military despot, and she did not do so. She co-operated with us in our efforts to make the Philippines a prosperous country. She promoted education, liberal and political. She fostered applied science. Economic and financial aid accompanied the Americans into the Philippines. All America did and all we did, as we consistently have been led to suppose, were predicated upon the theory that one day the Philippines would be free. We believe the day when they ought to be free has arrived.”

Disadvantages of Alien Control

“You think the Filipinos are able to maintain  order and administer justice in the islands?”

“Decidedly so. What Filipino of any class or type could wish to see the American flag come down here, if he were able to believe that our civilization would come down with it—that we should have a welter of slaughter, villages on fire, people shelterless and hungry, a stricken country?”

“You do not believe in alien control, however benevolent?”

“No. Alien control and native progress to the maximum of native capacity are incompatible. For material and for moral reasons | am pleading for the independence of my country. It is arguable, and I consider it true, that mutual benefit may accrue for a time to a dominating country and the country dominated. There has been this time of mutual benefit as between America and the Philippines. But, in such a conjuncture, a stage is certain to be reached at which the dominating country begins to stand in the way of the interests, material and moral, of the country dominated.

Hampering Philippine Progress

“Let us call America the most generous, as she is the most powerful, nation in the world. She always, none the less, must remain America. America must come first with Americans. American sovereignty must be inviolate. There must be no fiscal arrangements, no fixing of channels of commerce, not concordant with American interests, though such arrangements or direction might promote Philippine interests. We claim the right on behalf of the people of the Philippines to consider their interests first, just as America has the right to consider American interests first. We want to make our own tariff laws and our own commercial treaties and do everything else belonging to national sovereignty exclusively with a view to what is best for the Filipinos.

“That is the material side of the matter. Now the moral side, in my opinion, is still more vital from the standpoint of the welfare of the Filipinos. As it is deadly to an individual to lack liberty, reasonable liberty, the liberty stopping only at the boundary of the liberty of others, so it is deadly for a nation to lack that liberty which stops only at the boundary of the liberty of other nations.

Learning Democracy by Its Practice

“When we have our unfettered self-rule, I dare say we shall make mistakes, but in that respect we shall not be original or monopolistic. It is by our mistakes that we shall learn. America has aided us to learn much of the art of government, but we can master that art only by self-practice. In politics, as in law or medicine or music or painting, concrete achievement is not in the scholastic sphere, but only in the sphere of scholasticism applied. And, anyway, even in the United States and in England, democracy is still on its trial.”

“It is better for the Philippines to be ill-governed by the Filipinos than well-governed by the Americans?”

“By the Americans or any other non-Filipinos.”

“Have the diverse peoples of the islands, with their varied dialects, a recognizable psychic homogeneity—a national soul?”

“Indisputably. This national soul already has crystallized in striking national decisions—for independence, for joining America in the World War, against huge landed estates, against applying United States coastwise shipping laws to the Philippines. Our people are politically keen and peculiarly democratic.

Filipinos’ National Aspirations

“There is not a barrio (city, town, village, or  rural district) without its political vigilance,  interest and discussion. Ten per cent., over 1,000,000, of our people have the franchise and between 80 and 90 per cent of the registered electors go to the polls on election day. You speak of dialects. We have many. But our major dialects are only three—Tagalog, Visaya and Ilokano—and whoever commands these can make himself understood in every part of the Philippines. All of our people speak one of these languages, which have an extensive printed literature.

“To regard the Filipino peoples as sentimentally and mentally diversified in proportion to their diversities of ethnography or religion or dialect is to misunderstand them completely. They all are Filipinos. They all have nationalistic emotions and aspirations. They are intelligent and proud and ambitious. Independence they know would mean equality of opportunity for Filipinos. Of a political or social caste depriving them of their liberties or otherwise wronging them they have no fear. Such reports they dismiss as contrary to their experience and knowledge. Have they not seen their humblest neighbors rise to positions of dignity and influence in the country? Do they not know that nearly all their leaders have been and are of the people?

Acceptance of Democratic Views

“Take myself, for example. Holding the  premier elective position in the Philippines, . I am a farmer’s son, born on the soil, born poor and without influential friends, reared in one of the remotest villages in these islands, compelled to climb over trackless mountains to come to college in Manila.”

“So it will be mettle that will count in a free Philippines?”

“It will be mettle, just as it is mettle in the United States and in every other country where men are free.”

“You say you are peculiarly democratic.”

“We are so because we are unincumbered by monarchic or oligarchic traditions or institutional inheritances. We have nothing of that sort to destroy. Our ground upon which to erect a pure republic is clear.”

“It is alleged that freedom of speech in the Philippines is suppressed—that the people fear their leaders.”

“That word ‘fear’ should be changed to ‘respect.’ If respect be fear, then the Filipinos fear their leaders, as they have shown on many occasions.

Political Alertness of Filipinos

“My advice to any honest inquirer who wishes to know whether free speech is or is not suppressed in these islands is to go out among the people and sound them on any of the burning questions of the hour. He will get their opinion without any trouble. And, if he be a Filipino politician, and venture to speak or vote against independence, he will discover on election day that while the Filipino people have no reason to fear and do not fear their leaders, their leaders have some reason to fear them. Public opinion in the Philippines is not only unsuppressed, but vocal and militant. We have two parties and they must be careful to learn what the people want. Our electors do not vote by ethnographic group, nor by language or dialect, nor according to their religion; they vote as their hearts and minds tell them is right and for the good of the country.”

“One is told that an independent Filipino government would solve the Moro problem by stamping out the Moros.”

“We practically governed the Moros during the seven years of the last Administration and had no trouble with them, whereas whenever they have been governed by Americans there has been continual trouble with them.

Christian Filipinos and Moros

“We naturally understand every element of our population better than can foreigners. We never have been guilty of persecuting the non-Christian peoples of the Philippines. We have been fair and generous to them in respect of education, roads, sanitation, and everything else. From this practice there would be no departure under independence. We believe in educating all our people and promoting their prosperity and happiness in order that we may have a great and contented nation. As for the Filipino leaders, it should be plain to all thinking persons, in my opinion, that they can hope for a future only if their country has a future. They cannot build up fame, joy or even enduring material success upon the ruins of their fatherland.”

“What do you think of the Mayo book on the Philippines?”

“Unilateral, extreme, grossly unfair, passionately dedicated to a particular obsession, destitute of validity as impartial criticism.”

Material Side of the Question

“Certain advocates of American annexation of the Philippines, among the points they make, state that ‘we need them in our business’.”

“Ah,” remarked Mr. Quezon dryly, “that is not an ethical argument. That is the argument of the sugar. That is the argument of the sisal, the copra, the coconut oil, the tobacco, the rattan, the lumber, the pulp, the dye, the rubber. It is not the argument we expect to prove conclusive with the American people. But even this argument has no value because under an independent Philippines you may have our sugar, tobacco, copra, hemp and the rest.”

“Opponents of independence describe your argument—the argument for independence—as ‘doctrinaire’.”

“Our argument is no more an argument of apriority than is that against independence. It is true we base our case, to some extent, upon principles, upon philosophy; but we base it to a larger extent upon the general history of humanity and upon our own particular experience and knowledge. Our argument is a posteriori.”

Validity of America’s Title

“It is argued that  title to the Philippines is of triple validity, resting upon conquest,  purchase, and formal cession.”

“Our reply is, first, that conquest is no moral justification for the seizure of a country and the deprivation of its inhabitants of liberty; and, secondly, that purchase is not valid when the seller has no right to sell, and cession not valid when the power enacting it is ceding what belongs to others.”

“It is declared that no Malay people, of all the millions of Malays, ever created a nation.”

‘*That is not true. About the thirteenth century there existed a Malay Empire. But, not troubling to question the sweeping dictum concerning the political ineptitude of the Malay race, I should not regard this point as worthy of serious notice. If no Malay people in all the centuries yet has built up a free civilization of its own, I think it high time one were given a chance to try.”

If Philippine Freedom Were  Denied

“What would happen in the islands if the Congress of the United States declared the Philippines permanent American territory?”

“Our people would be profoundly disappointed and depressed. They also would be unutterably surprised. I do not think there would be an uprising, but the Philippine question would not be settled. It would live on as an embarrassment to Americans and Filipinos alike. You have promised us freedom. Our people are being educated for freedom. We Filipino leaders have assured the Filipino people that, if they bore themselves patiently and with dignity, if they strove to lift themselves up, the United States undoubtedly would set them free. They believed us. Their faith is unshaken today. To destroy their hopes would be immoral, illogical, inhuman, and a blunder that history one day inevitably would put right.

Insuring Peace in the Pacific

“Your great newspaper,” concluded Mr.  Quezon, placing emphasis on each word, “‘is endeavoring to clarify the problems of the Pacific. It is working for the peace of the Pacific and of the world. I should like to say through The Chicago Daily News that, in my judgment, the peace of the Pacific is in the hands of the United States of America. Japan, I repeat, will not fight America or any other nation except in self-defense. I believe American-Japanese relations would be improved by an American withdrawal from the Philippines—not that Japan would lift a finger to get America out, and not that Japan fears American aggression based on these islands, but simply because her going would be interpreted in Japan as a magnanimous act and a definite assurance that the United States has no intention, now or forever, to use her unequaled power for purposes of material or moral domineering in the far east.”

Edward Price Bell
Author: Edward Price Bell

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