The Good Fight, by Manuel L. Quezon


AFTER completing my mission, I stayed in the house of Dr. Albert with the idea of remaining there until I could find work and resume my study of law. Before I could find a job, however, my siesta was interrupted one afternoon by a most unwelcome visitor. This suspicious looking fellow told me that I was wanted by the Provost Marshal. On reaching the Provost’s office, I was told to follow an American sergeant who knew what to do with me. The sergeant was a gentleman. He conducted me to a big house which during the Spanish regime had been occupied by the Civil Governor of the province of Manila. It was now the stopping place for the leaders, civilian and military alike, and for intransigent chiefs of the revolution. Mabini, the greatest character of his time and many times the Prime Minister of Aguinaldo, had hallowed its halls. Two Filipino generals were then unwilling guests in the house. I was left in a nice room where I lived for two months, eating good food but not knowing why I was confined there.

One day the two generals were taken out, General Diokno to his own house and General Aquino to Bilibid Prison. The latter had been court-martialed and sentenced to death for the alleged murder of an American prisoner. However his sentence was commuted by the President of the United States to life imprisonment, and he was later set free when the general armistice was proclaimed.

I, on the other hand, was taken to another prison — a room by the Postigo Gate inside the stone wall which surrounds the Old City of Manila. During the Spanish regime, this room had housed the keeper of that gate. I found in this dungeon more than thirty men, and we slept there almost on top of each other. It was a damp place with only two small windows. Our food consisted of rice and canned salmon. Here I remained for four months without having to answer any charge. At long last, one stormy night the officer in charge of my cell came to notify me that I was free. He had been doing this humanitarian service from time to time as the jailed insurrectos were successively set free. He used to read from a sheet of paper the names of the fortunate ones. On this particular evening, as soon as I heard my name I jumped from my seat and almost cracked my head against the ceiling. On noticing my excitement, the officer, doubtless with good intentions, told me that since it was raining that night, I could postpone my departure until the next day. I thanked him for his kindness and promptly left, not for the house of Colonel Albert but for the old hiding place in Navotas. There I waited until I could verify whether I had been let loose by mistake or not. It was my firm determination to go back to the hills if they tried to arrest me again. To this day, I have never known why I was so badly treated. Of course, this made me more anti-American than ever before. After becoming convinced that I was really free, I returned to the house of Dr. Albert.

I was, in effect, penniless when I surrendered to Lieutenant Miller in Bataan. All I had with me then was the five-dollar gold coin given to me by the parish priest of Pilar which I had saved and had spent before I was imprisoned. The Alberts gave me room and board while I was looking for work. Before I could start working I had a nervous breakdown. Upon the request of the Dominican friars, the then acting Archbishop of Manila, Bishop Alcocer of Cebu, gave instructions that I be given a room in the Catholic hospital of San Juan de Dios. Here I was treated for many months by the best physicians in the hospital — Doctors Miciano, Valdes and Singian. When I was convalescent, Dr. Singian whom I had met in San Juan de Letran, although four years my senior, took me to his home and kept me with him until he married the daughter of the Filipino Chief Justice of the Supreme Court —Justice Cayetano Arellano — a leading member of the bar in the later years of the Spanish Government, whom Mr. Taft praised as the equal of the best lawyers in the world.

By the time that Dr. Singian was married, I had completelyrecovered from my malaria and my nervous breakdown, and was again the strong, healthy young man that I was when, for the first time, I joined the revolutionary forces. I began work for twenty-five pesos a month as clerk in the Monte de Piedad — a sort of pawnshop established as a charitable institution. During the Spanish regime it had been administered by a board appointed by the Governor-General and, upon the transfer of sovereignty to America, was taken over by the Archbishop of Manila and administered by a board appointed by him. Years afterwards, the same Archbishop converted the Monte de Piedad into a trust and banking institution.

Once I had this job, I lived in the house of Mr. Antonio and stayed until I took my bar examination in April, 1903.

By the time I resumed my study of law I did not have to attend classes at the university. The American Government had by then enacted a law reorganizing the whole educational system of the Philippines which provided, among other things, that any one who had taken a three-year course in law was entitled to practise the profession after passing the bar examination. Since I had already fulfilled this condition
I proceeded to prepare for the examination, and in April, 1903, I was admitted to the bar. The day that I learned of the result of my examination, I bid good-by to Mr. Sotelo, the cashier and chief of the department where I worked. The old man advised me to stay in my post. He reminded me of the fact that many lawyers were starving in the streets. “Here,” he said, “you have your future assured. In a few years
more, your present salary of twenty-five pesos [$12.50] will be doubled and who knows, it may be that before you have grown too old you will be receiving as much as I am getting now.” (He was perfectly satisfied with his salary of two-hundred pesos [$100] a month.) After thanking him for his fatherly counsel, I left.

Two days later, I was sent for by Francisco Ortigas, at that time the head of one of the best and most successful law firms in Manila. Francisco Ortigas had been an intern in the College of San Juan de Letran where the Dominican friars for five years had given him, as they had done with many others, free room and board, free tuition, and even clothes and shoes. He had known me as a youngster in San Juan de Letran and also a freshman, sophomore and junior in the University of Santo Tomas. He invited me to work in his office at one hundred fifty pesos a month to start with, with the right to have my own clients in cases where the client came to seek my professional service. I accepted the offer and I still remember the thrill of my heart when I won the first case that Ortigas entrusted to me — the defense of five ignorant men accused of aiding the few revolutionaries still fighting in the hills. The first month that I worked in the law firm of Ortigas I made only the one hundred fifty pesos that he paid me as salary. The second month, I made ?50.00 besides from a case brought to me by my first client. The third month, I made from my own clients twice as much as I was receiving as salary from the law firm, so I decided to open my own law office. There were then plenty of civil as well as criminal cases while lawyers were still few in number.

I may say here that I had not as yet been reconciled to the American regime. I was proud of the fact that I knew nothing of English and was determined not to learn it. How contemptible seemed to me those Filipinos who belonged to the Federal Party — a political organization which advocated permanent annexation of the Philippines to the United States on the basis of eventual statehood. I blamed this party for the cessation of Filipino resistance to the American regime for it was the party’s campaign praising America and its libertarian policy that induced the people to refuse to us, the revolutionaries, further aid and support.

In October, 1903, I had to go to the province of Tayabas to attend a case in court that affected me personally. Upon the death of my father, his life long rival — one Fabian Hernandez — had taken possession of our little farm in Baler pretending that my father had sold it to him. Hernandez had falsified my father’s signature. It was not so much the value of my small two-acre farm that forced me to abandon
temporarily my profitable practice in Manila. It was the fact that that tiny piece of land had supported my family and myself for many years and that as a young man I had sweated in clearing those fields. Then I felt that somehow, by this act of usurpation of my father’s property Fabian Fernandez had become in some way implicated in the murder of my father and young brother. So I went to Lucena, the capital of
Tayabas province. Although by this time Baler had become a part of this province, I knew no one there, for during the Spanish regime, Baler, San Jose, and Casiguran constituted a district under a sort of military government. There had been no intercourse whatsoever between Baler and Lucena.

Before I embarked for Tayabas, I got a letter of introductio from another lawyer — a friend of mine — to the governor of Tayabas who was a Filipino, for since 1902, the American Government had permitted the people to elect their provincial and municipal officials. On my first day in Lucena I delivered to Governor Paras the letter of introduction. In line with the proverbial Filipino hospitality, Governor Paras invited me to stay in his house until I was ready to go to the town of Tayabas where the court was holding sessions.

With the governor I talked about the situation of our country. He was an honest and real patriot. He told me that he did not seek the job, but accepted it because it was his sincere opinion that the only way of promoting the freedom as well as the welfare of the Filipino people was by cooperating with the American Government. He pointed out to me that the founders of the Federal Party (branded by most of the Filipinos as the Americanista Pary) were already taking part in the highest council of the civil government, and that the steps taken so far by the United States all confirmed the policy enunciated by President McKinley that America had come to the Philippines not to subjugate but to train the Filipino people in the art of self-government so that in due time they might become a self-governing nation.

Although I dissented from the opinion of Governor Paras, his words made some impression on me. I wondered, in my own mind, if the freedom which we lost by fighting America could not be won by cooperating with her. The idea flashed through my head that I might renew the same fight by peaceful means, by taking active part in the political field. “Why not start with the governorship of Tayabas?” I asked myself.

Governor Paras introduced me to Colonel Bandholtz who immediately befriended me. He invited me to his house, presented me to Mrs. Bandholtz and asked me to come to lunch before I went to Tayabas. Colonel Bandholtz was a very unusual man. Although an American, he had been the first elected governor of Tayabas. He had learned the Spanish language well and knew a few words of Tagalog, the
native tongue in that province. He made me feel at home in his company and asked me to come to him whenever I was in need of his services. In this way my first meeting with Colonel Bandholtz almost made me forget the ill-treatment which I had received while a prisoner in the Postigo Gate.

I easily won my case in the court of Judge Linebarger, who knew as little of the Spanish Civil Law as I did of the American Common Law. Judge Linebarger boasted of having studied law in Spain and indeed, like Colonel Bandholtz, he also spoke Spanish well. He dictated his decisions following the Spanish form, but his legal attainments did not go any further. This judge was industrious and perfectly honest. He presided over the courts of Tayabas, Mindoro, and Marinduque. Soon after my own case had been disposed of, I received other cases — the most famous one being my defense of the mayor of the town who had been persecuted by the most influential family in Tayabas who had bossed the town since Spanish days. It was generally expected that my client would lose, for the Filipinos still believed that justice favored the rich. Furthermore, the prosecuting attorney was a member of this family and although he took no part in the prosecution it had been taken for granted that he would have great influence with Judge Linebarger. To the surprise of most people, although with manifest public approval, my client was acquitted, a fact which not only inspired confidence in the American courts but at once gave me some
legal reputation throughout the whole province.

Thereafter clients came in numbers to my law office in Tayabas — the rich as well as the poor. I adopted two rules, one for the rich client, whom I charged heavy fees, and one for the poor clients, whom I served gratis with as much interest and zeal as I did when working for money. I decided to establish myself permanently in Tayabas, in the first place, I was making much more money than I expected to make in
Manila, and in the second place, I had more opportunities to defend my old comrades in arms who would yield neither to force nor to prosecution. It is worthy of note that after the establishment of the American Civil Government (replacing the American Military Dictatorship) which was vested with both executive and legislative powers during the first years after its establishment, a law was enacted imposing up to
twenty years’ imprisonment of any revolutionary who had not surrendered or been captured before that time, or of any one who in any manner or form helped those who still kept the guerrilla warfare. The law defined both the guerrillas and their helpers as bandoleros (bandits). In the latter part of 1903, and even during the first half of 1904, every provincial jail in the Philippines was filled with so-called bandits. Innocent Filipinos living in faraway villages who were put in jail on mere suspicion or on woefully deficient evidence, were innumerable. I volunteered to defend all those who had no lawyers to represent them in court, and I hope I may be forgiven if I proudly state that I won the liberty of every man whom I defended. As usual, I divided my time in reasonable proportions between making money — and plenty of it — and
serving the poor without charge.

The neighboring towns of Tayabas — Lucena, Sariaya, and Lucban — which from time immemorial had been the richest and gayest places in the province, were in turn the scenes of my social diversions. Judge Linebarger became fond of me and placed much reliance upon my knowledge of Spanish substantive law and procedure. Colonel Bandholtz, whose house was in the near-by town of Lucena, continued to ask me to visit him and our friendship developed from day to day.

By the end of 1903 Judge Linebarger called me to his office after the court session one day and inquired whether I would like to be the prosecuting attorney of the province of Mindoro, a position then vacant. He said that the salary of the office was about three thousand pesos ($1,500) a year. I told him I would give him my answer, one way or another, in twenty-four hours.

I pondered over this matter. Neither from the point of view of experience and knowledge that I would gain as a lawyer, nor from the viewpoint of pecuniary return could the offer be seriously considered. A prosecuting attorney only dealt with criminal cases and the annual salary of the prosecuting attorney of Mindoro was much less than what one of a number of my cases had netted me. My conversation with Governor Paras came to my mind with striking force, for the kindness of Colonel Bandholtz as well as his fairness in dealing with Filipinos, together with the honesty, if not the learning, of Judge Linebarger, had already inclined me to try in practice the advice of my provincial governor. I said to myself: “This position which is being unexpectedly offered to me may be the starting point set by fate for a greater service that I may render to my people in their work of self-redemption.” Anyway, as a sort of mental reservation, I told myself that I could always resign the post and return to my law practice if I should be disappointed.

I saw Judge Linebarger at the appointed time and gave him an affirmative answer. Dr. Trinidad Pardo de Tavera was then visiting Tayabas on an official inspection trip. He with two other Filipinos were members of the Philippine Commission, a body originally constituted entirely of Americans appointed by President McKinley and invested with all governmental powers to administer the affairs of the Philippines, though subject to the supervision and control of the Secretary of War. Dr. Tavera, a distinguished Filipino scholar in the last decade of the Spanish regime, had been the founder of the Federal Party which advocated full and unreserved cooperation with the United States. In his hands Judge Linebarger left the matter of my appointment as prosecuting attorney of Mindoro. Upon Dr. Tavera’s return to Manila, Civil Governor Taft signed my commission and I went to the dreaded island of Mindoro.

This province was said to be infested by malaria, although in the towns the disease was not so prevalent as in the hills.

My office was located in Calapan, capital of the province, and there I met the governor, Captain Offley of the American Army. At that time the province of Mindoro had not been listed as one of those entitled to choose their own governor. My duty, of course, was to prosecute criminal offenders. After going over the papers left by my predecessor, I came to the conclusion that two-thirds of the men in prison, on the serious charge of banditry had been put there without sufficient evidence. At that time recourse to the writ of habeas corpus could not always be had in the provinces where judges with jurisdiction to grant the writ were only available during the regular or extraordinary sessions of the court. So I had to wait until the arrival of Judge Linebarger and then move for the dismissal of all cases unsupported by proper evidence.

After serving six months as prosecuting attorney here I was promoted to Tayabas. On my return I still found my old friends, among them Governor Paras and Colonel Bandholtz.

Colonel Bandholtz then insisted that I should learn English and offered to be my teacher. He set the day for my first lesson after presenting me with an English grammar. We did not get very far. The lessons could not be given regularly either he was on an inspection trip of the Constabulary forces under his command, or because I was too busy with my cases, but a beginning had been made. I no longer boasted, but rather was sorry that I spoke no word of English.

The case which definitely established my popularity in Tayabas and which, in my opinion, later contributed to my election as provincial governor, I shall call the “Mason Case,” because that was not the name. Mason was an attorney, and accompanied by his secretary who acted also as his interpreter, he came to my office one day with twenty-five different deeds of sale of agricultural properties which he
wanted me to register in his name. (The prosecuting attorney was then at the same time the register of deeds.) I took the papers from him and said that I would attend to it as soon as possible, and he left.

I placed the papers in one of my drawers and was so busy that I forgot all about them. A week later Mason’s secretary came to see me in behalf of his principal to inquire whether I had registered the deeds and I told him no, explaining my reasons, promising, however, to do it immediately. One hour later, Mr. Mason himself, accompanied by the same secretary, came to my office with his hat on without even
greeting me, shouted: “What did you do with the papers I gave you?” I repeated the answer I had given an hour before to his secretary. He then threatened that he would complain to my superiors in Manila unless I register the deeds immediately. My temper, which I had been trying to control since he entered my office, gave way and getting hold of my inkstand, I ordered him out of the office, saying that otherwise I would break his head. He left, but not without repeating his threat.

No man is really brave who does not feel completely blameless, and since I knew that I had not been to busy to have registered the deeds, as soon as Mr. Mason left I took the papers from the drawer and proceeded to examine them. I found that the documents covered sales of lands planted with coconut trees including the working animals, and that all in all, the twenty-five deeds of sale represented several
thousand acres with about 50,000 coconut trees and two or three hundred working animals. The total value of the properties exceeded sixty-thousand pesos ($30,000). The owners of these properties were all in the provincial jail of Tayabas. They had signed the deeds while in jail, with Mr. Mason’s secretary and one of the jail guards acting as witnesses. The Justice of the Peace of the town in those times
performed the duties of notary public. The consideration for the transfer of the properties to Mr. Mason was his services as a lawyer to be rendered in defense of these men, all of whom were charged with banditry (violation of the act which I have before referred).

I was most suspicious of the whole transaction, so I went immediately to the provincial jail of Tayabas. I asked the first prisoner if he knew Mr. Mason and he said yes, as he was his lawyer. I asked him if he had given Mason his farm and working animals in consideration of Mason’s services as his lawyer, and he answered most emphatically, “No.” Then the man told me this story: “Mr. Mason came to me and offered
to defend me. I said I had no cash but that I owned some land planted with coconut trees and a few working animals. He then promised to take my case if I would pay him three hundred pesos ($150.00), the amount to be delivered to him after I was out of jail, but he demanded as guarantee my land with coconut trees, plus my working animals. I agreed.”

“Is this your signature?” I asked, pointing to his name written in the deed for sale. He answered affirmatively.

“How do you know the paper you have signed contained what you have just told me?”

“That was the information given me by Mr. Mason.”

All the prisoners told me the same story. I sent for the Justice of the Peace who confirmed the declarations of the men. I asked the Justice of the Peace, who knew Spanish, the language in which the deeds were written, if he had read the documents, and he answered in the negative, adding that after
hearing what Mr. Mason told the prisoners in his presence, he felt that it was unnecessary to read the documents for that would be a proof of lack of confidence in Mr. Mason who, being a lawyer, must be an honorable man.

I got everybody to sign the necessary affidavits in accordance with their testimony and went back to my office to prepare immediately the presentation of twenty-five cases for estafa (swindling) against Mr. Mason. After giving his bail, Mr. Mason left for Manila. He immediately accused me to the Attorney General of the Philippines, of concocting those cases to cover my negligence in failing to register
the deeds. An American newspaper in Manila was quick to attack me, but Colonel Bandholtz who was still the Chief of the Constabulary in Tayabas, and whose duty, among other things, was to go after violators of the law, gave me his support after making his own investigation of the case. The office of the Attorney General sent to Tayabas to help me try these cases, a Mr. Basset, a bright young lawyer who had just arrived from the United States. Mr. Basset later became one of the most successful lawyers and respected businessman in all China and is now in America. It should be stated before going any farther that in the Philippines there was not then, nor is there now, any trial by jury, so that Mr. Mason was tried
only by an American judge. When the day of his trial arrived, four of the best lawyers of Manila came to defend him. They were Judge Kinkaid, Mr. Fred Fisher, Judge Bishop, and Mr. Green, who practised law mostly in Tayabas. Mr. Basset and I entered into an agreement with the defense that we would try one case first, and if the defendant was acquitted either by the court of first instance or, on appeal, by the Supreme Court, we would ask for the dismissal of all the other cases.

Mason’s case caused commotion in the province of Tayabas, if not in the Philippines. It was the first time since the beginning of American occupation that an American —and an American lawyer at that — had been prosecuted in the courts of the Islands, and what amazed the Filipinos most was the fact that the prosecutor was a Filipino. Those were still the so-called “Days of the Empire,” when the majority of the Americans in the Philippines were decidedly anti-Filipino and looked upon us with contempt. Men like Bandholtz and few others were rare exceptions. Governor Taft himself was not only disliked but actually hated by the majority of his compatriots because he delivered a speech entitled “The Philippines for the Filipinos.” It was in those days that the expression originated: “He [the Filipino] may be a brother of William H. Taft, but ain’t no brother of mine.”

Needless to say, Mason was convicted. He appealed the case to the Supreme Court. While the case was on appeal, he went to Hongkong and on learning that the decision of the lower court had been confirmed, he forfeited his bail and never returned to the Philippines. A few years later, I saw him in a hotel in Shanghai.