One Must Die
by Teodoro M. Locsin
May 7, 1949–I KNEW both Luis Taruc and Philip Buencamino III. Taruc has disclaimed responsibility for the murder of Philip, but in the absence of evidence other than the word of Taruc, one must conclude that Philip was killed, if not at the order of Taruc, at any rate by his men.
This is the story of two men, who had never met each other, as far as I know, yet one must die because the world apparently was not big enough for the two of them. Yet Taruc felt, I am sure, no personal animus against the dead man. What he did, he did as a matter of principle. Unless it was all a senseless accident.
I knew Philip slightly before the war. We were together when the Americans entered Manila in February, 1945. We were given a job by Frederic S. Marquardt, chief of the Office of War Information, Southwest Pacific Area, and formerly associate editor of the Free Press. Afterward, Philip would say that he owed his first postwar job to me: I had introduced him to Marquardt.
Philip and I helped put out the first issues of the Free Philippines. We worked together and wrote our stories while shells were going overhead. Philip was never happier; he was in his element. He was at last a newspaperman. He had done some newspaper work before the war, but this was big time. We were covering a city at war. Afterward, we resigned from the OWI, or were fired. Anyway, we went out together.
Meanwhile, we had, with Jose Diokno, the son of Senator Diokno, put out a new paper, the Philippines Press. Diokno was at the desk and more or less kept the paper from going to pieces as it threatened to do every day. I thundered and shrilled; that is, I wrote the editorials. Philip was the objective reporter, the impartial journalist, who gave the paper many a scoop. That was Philip’s particular pride: to give every man, even the devil, his due. While I jumped on a man, Philip would patiently listen to his side.
The paper was pro-Osmeña and against the rest of the government. It was anti-collaborationist and, later, anti-parity. It leaned to the left and praised the wartime record of the Hukbalahap. One day a small, thin-faced man, timid-looking, shy, showed up at the office. He came to thank us for our editorial policy. His name, he said, was Luis Taruc.
During the war, I carried a message of Taruc’s to Negros where it was flashed to Australia by the radio station established on the island by Villamor. The message was addressed to General MacArthur and offered to the general all the forces of the Hukbalahap in the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese. When the Americans came, Taruc was arrested and, with the most prominent collaborators, imprisoned in Iwahig.
Seeing Taruc for the first time, I thought he was a government clerk, with some petty complaint, until he gave his name. He was humbled, unobtrusive; he seemed like a man other men usually pushed around. He talked softly, in a low voice. Later, in another meeting, he was to take correction mildly, without rancor. A man who had no vanity. I did not know of the will of steel underneath, of the fire burning in his brain. I should have known, for I knew enough about Communism, that here was a man who had declared war on all the non-Communist world.
I liked him because he was brave; it was only later that I was to learn that he was also ruthless. As for Philip, he was eager to work, willing to listen, and devoted to the ideals of his craft. He was always smiling—perhaps because he was quite young. He had no enemy in the world—he thought.
After the paper closed up, Philip went to the Manila Post, which suffered a similar fate. Philip went on the radio, as a news commentator. He had a good radio voice; he spoke clearly, forcefully, well. He married the daughter of the late President Manuel L. Quezon, later joined the foreign service. But he never stopped wanting to be again a newspaperman. He would have dropped his work in the government at any time had there been an opening in the press for him.
Philip never spoke ill of Taruc. He saw the movement, of which Taruc was the head, as something he must cover, if given the assignment, and nothing more. Belonging to the landlord class though he did, he did not rave and rant against the Huks.
He had all the advantages, and he had, within the framework of the existing social order, what is called a great future. He was married to a fine girl and all the newspapermen were his friends. They kidded him; they called him Philip Buencamino the Tired, but they all liked him. He wanted so much to be everybody’s friend. he got along with everyone—including myself and Arsenio H. Lacson.
When he returned from Europe to which he had been sent in the foreign service of the Philippines, he was happy, he said, to be home again, and he still wanted to be a newspaperman. His wife was expecting a second child and life was wonderful. Now he is dead, murdered, shot down in cold blood by Taruc’s men.
He was, in the Communist view and in Communist terminology, a representative of feudal landlordism, a bourgeois reactionary, etc. I remember him as a decent young man who tried to be and was a good newspaperman, who used to walk home with me in the afternoon in the early days of Liberation, munching roasted corn and hating no one at all in the world.
At that time it seemed entirely possible and such was the belief of men like Franklin Delano Roosevelt that the Communist world could live in good faith with the non-Communist. Recent events have proved the falsity of the proposition. . . . Mentally dishonest Filipinos pay lip service to human liberty, still invoke freedom of speech and the press, but their heart is with the totalitarian system. They do not love liberty, they only make use of it. When they are in power, they will erase the infamy.
I met Luis Taruc once, twice, and I met him again before he took to the “field” in 1946, after the election of Roxas and after he (Taruc) had, anyway in my opinion, been cheated by an unscrupulous majority of his seat in the House of Representatives. I know little of the man except that he is, within his lights and according to his definition of the word, honest. He is self-denying. He believes in Marx. He loves the peasants. There is nothing he would not do for them and there is nothing he would not do to them, for what he considers their good. He is not a man but an instrument of the party to which he belongs. He cannot call his life his own, and there is no life he would spare in the pursuit of the Communist dream.
I interviewed him in a tailor shop, just before he took to the mountains. With him were dark-skinned, burly men: his bodyguards. He spoke of being prepared to accept martyrdom. He was not afraid to die. That is what makes him so formidable an adversary. He had no pity, and he is brave. It is proper and fitting that he should be the commander-in-chief of the Hukbalahap, the military instrument of the Communist party of the Philippines.
When next we met, it was at the Quirino residence on Dewey Boulevard where he was being kept by the government in “protective custody” after the grant of amnesty. We shook hands and he embraced me. Later during the interview, I told him to stop repeating the Communist jargon, to talk like a man. He accepted the correction with a humble smile. It was the only way he could talk, he said.
What can one say of Taruc? A man without pretension, who does not live for himself, who is willing to die for his convictions. . . but who would make it impossible, with power his for others to life for theirs. He is the New Man, who has no country but Russia, no home but Moscow, and dreaming of a Communist Philippines, will take criticism, or a life, with a smile.
It is still possible to build a bridge between the two ways of life: ours and Taruc’s? Or must one die? The difficulties seem insuperable. The Communists are not the kind to tolerate any way of life other than theirs. They speak of peace, but it is only the peace of dictatorship, the peace of the slave state. And how are we girding for the struggle? Are we doing what must be done, or are we merely talking, talking about it? Must we lose the Battle of Survival?