Excerpts from The Blue-Eyed Enemy: Japan Against the West in Java and Luzon, by Theodore Friend, Princeton University Press, 1988. Footnotes have been omitted.
SUKARNO AND QUEZON AS BONDSMEN AND LORDS
Two individuals, Sukarno and Manuel Quezon, exemplify the workings of “lord” and “bondsman” at various levels. Each had roughly fifteen years of significant apprenticeship before rising to twenty years of national political primacy. Quezon was second behind Sergio Osmeña among young Filipino constitutional nationalists, until defeating him to become Nacionalista party leader in 1922 and president of the Commonwealth from 1935 to 1943. Sukarno began to get control of the Indonesian stage as the years of Quezon’s Philippine leadership concluded. After many years in detention during the period 1926-42, he made use of the Japanese era to rise to the presidency of the Indonesian Republic. His formal power began in 1945, and lasted until the events following the attempted coup of 1965 initiated his decline…
Quezon’s trajectory is less dramatic than Sukarno’s, but it illuminates the range of modern Philippine history. As a young guerrilla officer, after two years in the hills he surrendered, unpunished, to the Americans in 1901. He never forgot that the war for independence, which could have been won against Spain, was lost against the Americans. Even though the new regime propelled the Philippines rapidly toward autonomy, he cherished his anger: “I keep remembering it was done by force of arms.”
Sometimes he wished the lords would still show naked steel. “Damn the Americans! Why don’t they tyrannize us more?” They did not supply the oppressive target that could have facilitated nationalist politics. They no longer offered a life-and-death struggle, but a relatively easy and comradely tutorial relationship. So comfortable and secure was the bondsman, in fact, that Quezon scrambled twice—before passing of the Jones Act in 1916 and during the congressional independence debates of 1929-33—to avoid having his country cut loose by the United States. Only the pressure of American anti-Philippine lobbies and anti-imperialist principle, combined with Quezon’s tactical vulnerability to internal oppo- nents, made him move finally, in 1934, to take the banner of independence determinedly in his own hand.
When the Japanese overlords came, Quezon was reluctant to go, but he yielded to MacArthur and to exile. From Washington, before his death, he wrote in 1943 a “last political testament” that entreated his people to see an even closer relationship with America as their destiny. For national security and for a share in American prosperity he was willing to accept a relationship that could only be subordinate in power.
If internationally Quezon was willing to be a semibondsman ad infinitum, he was not so intraculturally. Within the framework of the Commonwealth autonomy, he advocated one-party government, practiced considerable executive fiat, and advocated an authoritarian ethos (even a social Bushidol) in the affairs of the anticipated sovereign Philippine state. But the cries of tyranny that he produced he also mollified, with exemplary support of freedom of speech and assembly, civil rights, and due process of law. An American high commissioner looked over Quezon’s shoulder, and American political and educational values continued in the ascendent. The histories of Indonesia and the Philippines converged with regard to indigenous authoritarian rule in the 1970s. But they were widely different in the 1930s. Quezon, during his only trip to the Netherlands East Indies, in 1934, was brought by Indonesian nationalists to a secluded darkened room in Surabaya. They asked how to go about getting independence. “Open all the windows and shutters,” Quezon urged them, and “make a hell of a lot of noise.” He did not appreciate that throwing open windows in Java had led to Sukarno’s being thrown in jail.
Forty years and martial law made a great difference. When the American ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, visited Manila, he met with the opposition to President Marcos and gave them a strangely Quezonian message: tell the police beforehand about the meeting you are planning—when, where, who is speaking, who is coming. That is how the civil rights movement dispelled hostility and suspicion in the south, and eventually won. The Filipino opposition leaders were polite, but shocked to incredulity at the black American leader’s lack of understanding. Young’s counter-response, not verbally expressed to them, was implicitly critical of their relying on the United States to restore democracy instead of doing the job themselves.
What worked in Manila in the 1930s would not work in Surabaya. What worked in Atlanta by the 1970s would not then work either in Manila or Surabaya. The appearance of indigenous lordship in repressive strength carries us back to an analysis of its preceding imperial forms…
LEADERSHIP: CHARACTERS, STYLES, AND SITUATIONS
Having no strategic use for Japanese help, and lacking a shared view of sociopolitical order, Filipino leaders were far more difficult for the Japanese to manage. American colonial rule, while it democratized the Philippine polity overall, helped secure an already landed, comfortable, and educated class in power. The persistence of Filipino leading families from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century was irregular, but still probably had no equal in colonial Southeast Asia.
Filipino leadership in 1941 consisted characteristically of land-wealthy lawyer-politicians. They had usually not traveled abroad for higher education, because it was available in the Philippines. Few of them were intellectuals in the Dutch-Indonesian sense, although Claro Recto had written plays and become a member of the Spanish Academy, and Jose Laurel had a disposition toward moral philosophy, also inspired mainly by Spanish heritage. Almost none of them fed on Marxist theory, for instead of having to rationalize a repressed desire for independence they could practice law and politics in advancing toward a scheduled goal of national sovereignty.
As Japanese critics noted, the Filipino elite resulting from the American system was lacking in engineers, businessmen, and military men. In Indonesia, the Dutch devoted special effort to training native engineers, but native military officers were not desired, nor native businessmen nurtured. Indonesian lawyers educated in Holland, who numbered in the 1930s perhaps no more than one hundred, either slipped quietly into the civil service, or tried desperately to compete against Dutchmen for clients in the private practice of law. Some young ones, like Ali Sastroamidjojo and Achmad Subardjo, went into the nationalist movement, resolving the choice between functionary and politician in favor of the less secure alternative.
The Filipino lawyer-politicians of 1941 were in charge of a stable autonomous polity with a split-level culture. Many of them, like Sergio Osmeña and Benigno Aquino, spoke Spanish better than English. Few besides Laurel had even a theoretical interest in a Malay culture; none could be seen as leading the Philippines in resolving its state of cultural transition. Nonetheless, they ran a country where nobody starved. Population pressure had not yet made the man-to-land ratio intolerable, technological lag insuperable, or recourse to communism inevitable. Life expectancy had increased from fourteen years in 1900 to forty years in 1940, literacy from one in five at the beginning of the American period to nearly one out of two in 1938, and the electorate from 3 percent to 14 percent between 1907 and 1941. All of these increases were modest, and coexisted with underdeveloped industry, increasing farm tenancy, exploited labor, and regressive taxation. For most Filipinos of that era, however, the changes they saw both created and to a significant degree fulfilled their vision of progress.
Presiding over this system was Manuel Quezon, surrounded by a group of lawyer-politicians, cronies, compadres, and Hispanic elitists who lived an ethos of tayo-tayo, or “just among us.” The banter and plotting of this in-group and its proximity to Quezon affected the shape of the whole Philippine polity, the rise of careers, the definition of issues. Quezon himself developed a personal affinity with some Filipino radical leaders of the 1930s, but he could not or would not force this part of his social vision into major legislation or administrative reality. Presiding with some democratic compassion and much autocratic flair, he was the personal symbol of a sociopolitical system whose sense of hope was rising faster than its indexes of social quality.
When General MacArthur evacuated Corregidor in 1942, he persuaded Quezon to go with him. Quezon in turn chose Vice-President Sergio Osmeña and Manuel Roxas, a senator who had recently become an aide to MacArthur, to accompany him. Roxas, a dozen years younger than Osmena and Quezon, and a dramatic speaker with presidential ambitions, chose instead to remain. Quezon had already deputed Jose Vargas, his executive secretary, and Jose Laurel, his secretary of justice, to stay behind and arrange an orderly transition. Laurel’s longstanding legal and personal relationship with the Japanese, Quezon reasoned, could help Vargas to ease the impact of Japanese power. Laurel tearfully protested, but Quezon did not relent.
Laurel later recalled asking how he should behave with the Japanese. Vargas allegedly relayed the question to MacArthur, and Quezon himself gave Laurel MacArthur’s reply: they might do anything they thought necessary except taking an oath of allegiance to Japan; “If you do, when we come back, we’ll shoot you.” In 1945 however, Roxas apparently began telling newspapermen that Quezon, not MacArthur, was the authority for instructions to cooperate, short of an oath of allegiance; and as early as 1943 MacArthur himself denied giving any such instructions to Laurel on this or any other subject. “I never trusted him,” said MacArthur, “and believe him to be thoroughly pro-Japanese.”
Recollections on the question vary in almost perfect relationship with the depth of one’s involvement for or against the Japanese. Laurel’s legal mind, however, would certainly have posed the question and sought an answer. Perhaps the Filipino leaders remaining in Manila exaggerated an offhand remark that MacArthur conveniently forgot. If some of them may be unreliable on this point out of self-vindication, MacArthur is often unreliable out of self-glorification. Laurel, in any case, came to believe in the efficacy of the remark attributed to MacArthur and on occasion said to his wartime interpreter, Hamamoto Masakatsu, that he expected to be shot if the Americans returned.
Within a week of the departure of the Quezon group, the Japanese military initiated consultations with the Filipino leaders remaining. The Filipinos met ten times in the next eighteen days, discussing the Japanese proposal that they constitute themselves a provisional government. They submitted three alternative proposals: (1) continuation of the Commonwealth, (2) an emergency civil administration, or (3) establishment of the Philippine Republic.
General Maeda Masami made clear his objections to the Commonwealth: born of American sovereignty, hence gone with American sovereignty; led by Quezon, who was against the Japanese; a government responsible for the death of many young Japanese by Filipino hands. The Japanese could install a “government of iron backed by military force,” or a “puppet government,” but they seemed to hold out the possibility of an emergency civil administration for the purposes of public peace, order, and relief, and to be willing to make the question of a republic the subject of future conversations. When a group of thirty Filipinos did agree to organize themselves into a provisional council of state, Maeda replied that he was extremely satisfied they had decided to “pledge [their] fidelity to our country.” Few if any Filipinos felt that committed yet, but the process of cooperation, co-optation, and collaboration, once begun, went inexorably on.
In appointing a leader of the new government in 1942, a split arose between a hard-minded bloc of Japanese army leaders, including the chief of the Kenpeitai, who had brought Artemio Ricarte back for the purpose, and Benigno Aquino, who had immensely wide political contacts and was favored by pro-Japanese Filipinos. The matter was resolved by turning to Jorge Vargas, a malleable functionary, who conveyed the legitimacy of the departed Quezon. When the Japanese later needed someone of genuine stature to lead the puppet republic they established in 1943, they considered the three men who had dominated the constitutional convention of 1935. But Manuel Roxas feigned illness and Claro Recto was too idiosyncratic for them. Roxas threw his support, ultimately, to his friend and compadre, Jose Laurel.
BINATIONAL RESTORATION IN LUZON
ORPHAN SECURITY: THE BASES
Bases arose first in the planners’ minds; and to what the planners sought there was little popular opposition. Quezon, Osmeña after Quezon’s death, and Roxas, even though he became Osmena’s opponent on other matters, all wanted American bases in the Philippines. Without significant objection from any quarter, they saw such bases as indispensable to the nation’s future security, as possibly alleviating its budget costs for defense, and as contributing toward a new democratic era in the Pacific. The Philippines would be a favored and exemplary party within a Pax Americana, a kind of inverse Cinderella, most beloved adoptee of a benign and powerful stepmother.
In September 1943, Manuel Quezon wrote President Franklin Roosevelt his last “political testament” to the Filipino people, and asked that it be published if he died before American reoccupation. When he did die, shortly before Leyte was taken, his letter was forgotten. But his message, even without publication, seemed to be expressed in the actions of most Filipino and American leaders in the years that immediately followed. The Japanese effort “to convince the Filipino people that their salvation depends upon abandoning . . . their occidental way of life . . . would accomplish nothing less than the disappearance and destruction of the Filipino people as they are today.” Geographically the Filipinos will be forever Oriental, but spiritually, “because of our culture and Christian civilization, we are with the West.” Quezon repeatedly stressed that “After the lessons of the present war, one would be very blind indeed not to see that the post-war relationship between the Republic of the Philippines and the Republic of the United States should be as close, if not closer, than our relationship before the war. The security of both the United States and the Philippines, and perhaps the future peace of the Pacific, will depend very much on that relationship.”
The young S. P. Lopez had already envisioned new and different syntheses in the Filipino national character. Future statesmen, and Lopez himself as a cultural commentator, would strive to evolve away from a relationship too close for comfort, and too special for self-respect. But Quezon’s view prevailed long after his voice was gone. It stood as the consensus of experienced American hands among Filipinos, and Philippine hands among Americans, a binationalist statement of faith that weathered attacks from Filipino nationalists and American internationalists of many varieties. The elements of binationalism have since split and frayed in many ways, but the two nations are not yet uncoupled. A persistent, if possibly accursed, connecting factor has been successive revised agreements on bases.
As early as November 1943, President Quezon succeeded, through a directive from President Roosevelt, in getting the Joint Chiefs of Staff to stipulate a list of air bases that the United States would need in the Pacific and on the Asian coast. Thirty-nine areas were proposed in January 1944 to the president, who approved the findings and asked Secretary of State Hull “as a matter of high priority” to initiate negotiations for long-term or permanent bases, “at the earliest possible moment.” Urgencies of conducting the war delayed such action, but the United States was already clearly transforming itself strategically from a Western Hemisphere power in the early 1930s, with a standing army smaller than that of the Kingdom of Thailand, to a global power with clear transPacific capabilities. Instead of being a reluctant empire incapable of defending the Philippines, it would adopt a new strategic poise in which the Philippines was of critical air and naval value in the West Pacific and East Asia.
In May of 1945, President Truman and President Osmeña signed an agreement of “the fullest and closest military cooperation,” determining that “military plans . . . will be closely integrated in order to insure the full and mutual protection of the United States and the Philippines.” After the requisite staff work, the Joint Chiefs of Staff submitted to the secretary of state through the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee a list of bases and facilities for negotiation.
Discussions between High Commissioner McNutt and President Roxas began in June 1946, before the Philippines became independent. The initial difficulties—a sharpness of feeling on the Philippine side to which General Eisenhower was sensitive, and which he was concerned might become “potentially recriminatory”—had to do not with the large number of bases desired, nor the long terms sought for them, but the possible presence of large numbers of American servicemen in the area of Manila. Eventually, in March 1947, agreement was reached on twenty-two military- and naval-base sites with ninety-nine-year leases, from which the Manila area was excluded.
Subic Bay and Clark Field were the most notable inclusions. Their continued importance in American strategic planning would prolong for decades problems that may be defined as either neoco- lonial or postcolonial—problems of jurisdiction and behavior touch- ing depths of racial and cultural feeling; problems of aid or rent that were critical to the evolution of politico-economic relations be- tween the two countries; and problems of intention and use, which were critical to each nation’s concepts not only of its security, but of its identity…
MIRRORING AND MUTUAL DEPENDENCE
After Manuel Quezon escaped Corregidor in 1942 and returned by way of Australia to Washington, he paid a call on General Dwight D. Eisenhower, then deputy chief of the War Plans Division. Quezon sought to press upon Eisenhower a large emolument for his services to the Philippines Commonwealth from 1935 to 1939.
Eisenhower answered that it was “inadvisable and even impossible for me to accept a material reward for the services performed.” He labored with all his tact and charm to make the Filipino president understand. In the end he accepted a citation instead, which had been devised to accompany the honorarium; and Quezon left without any apparent loss of face. “This latter point . . . had given me tremendous concern,” Eisenhower wrote. “To refuse a gift from anyone raised in the Far East, especially if a point of ethics had to be plead, is quite apt to develop into a serious personal matter.” Where Eisenhower managed to sustain friendship with Quezon while declining the gift and hewing clearly to regulations, his former commander, MacArthur, had chosen another course. On Corregidor, in January, he accepted $500,000 from Quezon as “recompense and reward.” By late February the transaction had resulted in a deposit to his account at the Chase National Bank in New York. Does the difference in behavior suggest why Eisenhower rose to become president of the United States, and MacArthur, despite his appetite for the apex of power, did not? Perhaps. But that is too simple, and does not explain why MacArthur chose as he did.
The temptation exists for some to think of MacArthur as enriching himself, another imperial parasite in a plantation economy. But that would be tendentious to the point of being grotesque. MacArthur had deep emotional ties with the Philippines, going back to his father, who had served as military governor in 1900-1901 during the Philippine-American War. He himself had put in four tours of duty in the Philippines, had become Quezon’s close friend in the 1920s, and had made Quezon his compadre, and godfather of his only son in 1938. Between MacArthur’s first, unhappy marriage and his second, happy one, he had had a Filipina mistress whom he brought to Washington while he was Chief of Staff. His first wife had wounded and inflamed him with allusions to his sexual inabilities, but the publisher, Roy Howard, well knew the MacArthur of the Philippines. He jestingly asserted of the first wife, “If he was impotent, it was just geographical, limited to one spot.” In Corregidor, a terrible impotence threatened of a different sort: no guns, no planes, no troops were promised to help relieve the garrison holding out against the Japanese. In his cablegrams to Washington, MacArthur ranted for help. Quezon considered a neutralization treaty with the Japanese. Washington denied their requests. Isolated, and told to brave it out, the two men turned to each other in the bicultural terms with which each was familiar: Quezon projecting the Americanized surface style that had made him a credible colonial leader; MacArthur, receptive in some core sensitivities, presenting the values of a would-be Western frontiersman, an outsider looking for a home, and a commander relishing devotees. Quezon had little power left but through his portable treasury, and MacArthur felt indignant at being abandoned for a Europe-first strategy. The only remaining mode of self-validation that each had was the other. So Quezon conferred half a million dollars upon MacArthur for services rendered. MacArthur accepted it.
In that moment the master-servant relationship took its most inverted form in the colonial period. More even than those times when he had refused to see MacArthur in 1940, Quezon could feel his lordship as employer. More than at any instant until his wadings ashore in 1944-45, MacArthur could feel appreciation for his service to America’s colony—a wave of positive feeling that seemed to flow to him more readily from the Philippines than from the United States.
The value of the transaction was far more emotional than financial. At the time it was made, neither man could be sure of surviving; oddsmakers might have quoted against both. Nothing was available to be bought by either. The cash sum gave hugely more momentum to the honor that MacArthur received; and the gift probably did not, in Quezon’s mind, deplete the treasury so much as give him a transient symbolic eminence over the soldier.
Quezon had already paid MacArthur annually as much as the former American governors general. The half-million dollars in addition is a datum in a compadrazgo tie with a mutually binding utang na loob (debt of honor). But it did not purchase a particular policy, or practice, or act from MacArthur, any more than large prewar gifts to Quezon from Manila business leaders swayed him from his own caudillo impetuosity. Either man could be patron, either client, in their mutual relationship; the important thing was to intensify the bond for the sake of mutual trust and dependence.
Isolation and the chance of death on Corregidor did not rob MacArthur of soldierly courage. Circumstances did, however, deprive him of what he always had in lesser supply, his civil judgment. Accepting the money was a clear offense against military regulations. Secretary of War Stimson, Secretary of the Interior Ickes, and President Roosevelt held their noses and attended to more important business.
In that instant of accepting the half-million dollars, MacArthur went beyond reflecting Filipino values, and passed through the looking glass itself. Being Filipino, however, did not suit him, except at such a moment. There would be ahead of him greater roles— as liberator of the Philippines, and as de facto emperor of Japan. For Quezon there were few great moments left. He died in the United States wracked by tubercular coughing. He was still close to his compadre, the general; but he cursed the little neoimperial lords on MacArthur’s staff.