The Goods Fight, by Manuel L. Quezon


FOR THE purpose of securing action that would remedy the “injustices and inequalities” in the
trade relations between the United States and the Philippines as provided in the Independence Act and
also promised by President Roosevelt, I came to Washington in 1937.

It was likewise my purpose to present to the American people in its true light, the nature and objective of my policy of national defense which had been the subject of the most unfair and malicious attack from certain quarters in the United States. At the same time, I wanted to obtain more enthusiastic support from the War Department. For these reasons, I brought with me my Military Adviser, General Douglas MacArthur.

On my way to America, I passed through China and Japan and was entertained, while in those countries, by government officials as well as by private persons and civic organizations. The Mayor of Greater Shanghai, General Cheng, gave a reception in my honor and in the name of his Government delivered to me a decoration given only to heads of states, which I accepted with the understanding that the constitutional requirements under the laws of the United States and of the Philippines would later be complied with.

I had met General Cheng many years before, when he was an aide-de-camp to Dr. Sun Yat-sen, on the occasion of my visit to the Father of New China in his home in Canton. It was a visit I could never forget. That wonderful patriot had explained to me at length his vast plans of political and material development for his beloved fatherland. Old Dr. — , ex-Minister from China to Washington, was present at the luncheon which was presided over by charming Madame Sun Yat-sen. The old diplomat assured me he would live a hundred and twenty-five years, when he objected to my offer to help him up the innumerable stairs that we had to climb to reach the living rooms of Dr. Sun Yat-sen.

After the reception of the Mayor, General Cheng, Mrs. Quezon and I were guests at dinner given by Dr. and Madame Kung. Dr. Kung is a descendant in direct line from Confucius and was, even then, one of the most influential officials in the Chinese Government. Madame Kung, sister to Mesdames Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek would, in my opinion, grace any throne whether European or Oriental.

In Japan, Ambassador Grew honored me with an afternoon tea and a reception. While the party was going on, I was handed an envelope from the Foreign Office containing a copy of the speech which the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs was to deliver at the banquet he was giving in my honor that night, to which Ambassador Grew and General MacArthur had been invited. There was also note in the envelope wherein I was requested to send a copy of my response to the toast. Since I had intended to say nothing more than a few pleasant words on this occasion, I did not have any written speech. I was, therefore, compelled to abandon the most pleasant occupation of dancing, in which I was engaged, and dictate a formal address.

I noticed that in his toast the Foreign Minister had completely ignored the United States while he stressed the need of closer cooperation between Japan and the Philippines. I made it a point, therefore, to avow our eternal gratitude to the United States for the unselfish policy pursued in all her relations with the Philippines. I started further that it was our desire to maintain the friendliest kind of relationship with
Japan, as indeed it was, that this was also our aim in dealing with all foreign countries, but that in the case of America, we were bound to give her special considerations as we would owe to her our having become a member of the sisterhood of independent nations. Among those present at the banquet was the Prime Minister himself, Prince Konoye.

In the course of the evening, the Foreign Minister expressed his desire to have a visit from me at his office the following day, to which, of course, I readily agreed. At our conference, he expressed the appreciation of his Government for the far treatment I was giving to the Japanese residing in or doing
business in the Islands. I assured him that it was fixed policy of the Filipino people to deal justly with every other people in the world, that we were bent on making friends and not enemies.

“Is it definitely settled,” he asked, “that the Philippines will be granted independence by the United States?”

“Of course,” I replied. “On the 4th of July 1946, the Philippine Republic will be proclaimed by the Government of the United States as a separate and independent state.”

“But many Americans believe,” he retorted, “that Japan will take the Philippines once you are free, and these Americans, plus many others who are imperialists at heart, object, even now, to the independence of the Philippines.”

I agreed with that view, adding that among the Filipinos there were also a few who feared independence because they thought that ultimately it would only mean a change of sovereignty — to that of Japan instead of the United States.

His Excellency gave me the typical smile of a Japanese diplomat and said: “Mr. President, you may tell your people — you may even assure President Roosevelt when you see him — that Japan will gladly be a signatory to a treaty that will recognize the Philippines as a neutral territory once it shall have become independent. . ..Japan,” he continued, “has no aggressive intentions towards the Philippines. All we want is your trade — to buy your products and to sell you our goods.”

I expressed to him the hope that Japan and the Philippines would always be on good terms. As to trade relations, I saw no objection to his ideas.

“But you must realize, Mr. Minister,” I said, again repeating what I started the night before, “that the Philippines owe much to the United States and we are bound to give her special considerations if she should want them, so long as her wishes do not conflict with our national interests.”

“I understand, of course, your position,” he remarked.

I stood up to leave.

“By the way, I take it that you are informed of the impending change in the Government. To-morrow I shall cease to be the Foreign Minister, but Japan’s foreign policy remains unaltered despite changes in the personnel of the Government.” These were his last words.

We shook hands and he accompanied me to the door.

On the following day, His Imperial Majesty had me as guest at luncheon in the Imperial Palace. The other guests were Ambassador Grew, the Emperor’s brother, and the Minister of the Household. After luncheon, His Majesty conversed with me through an interpreter. Whether by design or by accident, Ambassador Grew was so placed that his bad ear was toward us, while his better ear had to listen to the continuous talk of the Emperor’s brother.

The seating arrangement of the guest aroused my suspicion and, I bet it did Ambassador Grew’s, too. But the Ambassador was helpless. If there was going to be a conspiracy against the United States between the Emperor of Japan and the President of the Philippines, the American Ambassador, whose duty was to protect American interests, would have been an innocent witness of the proceedings.

The conspiracy, however, did not take place. It was not even attempted, at least so it seemed to me. Emperor Hirohito thanked me for my good treatment of his subjects,- told me that he had heard of the beauty of my country, asked me how many times I had visited Japan, and whether I had enjoyed my visits. I gave the appropriate answer to each question, and as we walked backwards bowing three times, we finally stepped out from the presence of the Son of Heaven.

Upon my arrival in America, I learned that my visit to Japan had been widely and diversely commented upon in the newspaper. I was misrepresented as having entered into negotiations with the Japanese Government, with the suggestion between the lines that the negotiations were more or less of a treacherous character.

It was incorrectly stated that on the occasion of my visit to Japan, there had been a great demonstration of armed force at a ceremony in my honor and that as a result of my conviction that Japan was unbeatable from the West, I returned to my country convinced that my people would have to make some special terms with the Japanese in order to avoid being attacked or dominated. The fact is that there never was any such demonstration of armed might in my honor or while I was there, and while I was in general aware of the Japanese military strength, I never thought that she was unbeatable from the West.

While I was in Japan, I stated in public addresses that it was our desire to be on good and friendly terms with Japan and with all the countries of the world, but that our special aim would be to maintain very close association with the United States even after the termination of any political ties between the two countries.

General MacArthur was present on one of these occasions and congratulated me on my address. When war broke out in Europe in 1939, I assured President Roosevelt that if the United States should become involved in the conflict the Filipino people would fight by her side to the bitter end.