The Good Fight, by Manuel L. Quezon


ON January 28th a radio broadcast from Tokyo gleefully announced that a new government had been established in the Philippines, and that it had pledged its adherence to Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere Policy. The broadcast also gave the names of the Filipinos who were supposed to constitute this new government. The effect of this broadcast among Americans on Corregidor, including the United States High Commissioner, members of his staff, and some of the officers of the United States Army, was very bad. Filipino officers who came to see me from Bataan later in the day were eager to find out what I thought of the announcement made by Tokyo. Having known for many years the men who were alleged to constitute this new government and having tested during that time on many occasions their loyalty to the United States as well as their personal loyalty to me, I felt certain that whether the creation of this new government was a fact or not, if the men who constituted it were those mentioned in the radio broadcast, they could be depended upon under any and all circumstances to commit no act of disloyalty, either to America, to the Philippines, or to me, the head of their government. So I told the young Filipino officers from Bataan that there was nothing to fear from those whom we had left in Manila, and I asked them to return at once and communicate this information to their commanders. General MacArthur, in our conference that day, was also reassured by me, although I did not find him as skeptical as High Commissioner Sayre who had come to ask me if I would not give out a statement repudiating the action of those Filipinos and reminding them that the day of reckoning was not far away. I told High Commissioner Sayre that I would not take any such statement, first, because I was sure of my men, second, because it seemed to me ridiculous that in my powerless situation, I should adopt a threatening role. Moreover, knowing the psychology of my people, I felt that if those men had been hesitating in the face of a situation that would try men’s souls, any evidence of my faith in their loyalty would in itself serve to fortify their determination not to betray me, whereas, any indication that I considered them lost to the cause and practically traitors, would perhaps force them to go over to the Japanese. I therefore emphatically refused to adopt the suggestion of High Commissioner Sayre, and I told him that considered the matter closed. However, fearing the effect in the outside world of Tokyo’s broadcast, I proceeded at once to write a letter to General MacArthur, asking him that some parts of it be given the widest possible publicity. This is what I wanted publicized:

I have been mortified by the radio broadcast from Tokyo asserting that a new government has been established in the Philippines, which government has pledged its conformity with Japans New East Asia Policy.

I know what the real sentiments of my people are and I am certain that their stand is not changed despite the military reverses of our forces. I am likewise convinced of the loyalty of the men who have accepted positions in the so-called new government.

I want you, therefore, to give publicity to the following statement: “The determination of the Filipino people to continue fighting side by side with the United States until victory is won has in no way been weakened by the temporary reverses suffered by our arms. We are convinced that our sacrifices will be crowned with victory in the end and in that conviction we shall continue to resist the enemy with all our might.”

Japanese military forces are occupying sections of the Philippines comprising only one third of our territory. In the remaining areas constitutional government is still in operation under my authority.

I have no direct information concerning the veracity of the news broadcast from Tokyo that a Commission composed of some well-known Filipinos has been recently organized in Manila to take charge of certain functions of civil government. The organization of such a commission, if true, can have no political significance not only because it is charged merely with purely administrative functions but also because the acquiescence by its members to serve on the Commission was evidently for the purpose of safeguarding the welfare of the civilian population and can, in no way, reflect the sentiments of the Filipinos towards the enemy. Such sentiments are still those I have repeatedly expressed in the past: loyalty to America and resolute resistance against the invasion of our territory and liberties.

The foregoing statement was publicized in the Philippines both by printed leaflets and radio broadcasts, and it had an immediate reassuring effect so far as the Filipinos were concerned, both in the occupied and the unoccupied territory.

In my letter to General MacArthur I also made certain statements which were intended not so much for General MacArthur as for the President of the United States.

I said in part:

At the same time I am going to open my mind and my heart to you without attempting to hide anything.

We are before the bar of history and God only knows if this is the last time that my voice will be heard before going to my grave.

My loyalty and the loyalty of the Filipino people to America has been proven beyond question. Now we are fighting by her side under your command despite overwhelming odds. But, it seems to me questionable whether any government has the right to demand loyalty from its citizens beyond its willingness or ability to render actual protection.

This war is not of our making. . .

Despite all this, we never hesitated for a moment in our stand.

We decided to fight by your side and we have done the best we could and we are still doing as much as could be expected from us under the circumstances. But how long are we going to be left alone? Has it already been decided in Washington that the Philippine front is of no importance as far as the final result of the war is concerned and that, therefore, no help can be expected here in the immediate future, or at least before the power of resistance is exhausted? If so, I want to know, because I have my own responsibility to my countrymen whom, as President of the Commonwealth, I have led into a complete war effort. I am greatly concerned as well regarding the soldiers I have called to the colors and who are now manning the firing line. I want to decide in my own mind whether there is justification for allowing all these men to be killed when for the final outcome of the war the shedding of their blood may be wholly unnecessary. It seems that Washington does not fully realize our situation nor the feelings which the apparent neglect of our safety and welfare has engendered in the heart of the people here. . .

In reference to the men who have accepted position in the commission established by the Japanese, every one of them wanted to come to Corregidor, but you told me that there was no room for them here. They are not “quislings.” The “quislings” are the men who betray their country to the enemy. These men did what they have been asked to do, while they were free, under the protection of their government. Today they are virtually prisoners of the enemy. I am sure they are only doing what they think is their duty. They are not traitors. They are the victims of the adverse fortunes of war and I am sure they have no choice. Besides, it is most probable that they accepted their positions in order to safeguard the welfare of the civilian populations in the occupied areas. I think, under the circumstances, America should look upon their situation sympathetically and understandingly.

I am confident that you will understand my anxiety about the long-awaited reinforcements and trust you will again urge Washington insure their early arrival.

Without delay, President Roosevelt answered my letter to General MacArthur in a radiogram addressed directly to me as follows.

I have perused your message to General MacArthur and I appreciate completely your position. I am fully sensible of the profundity and honesty of your feelings with reference to your unavoidable obligationsto your fellow-countrymen and I solemnly state that I would never ask of you and them any sacrifice that I believe without hope in order to further our attainment of the goal towards which we are all pressing. I desire, nevertheless, to emphasize as strongly as possible that the superb defense of our soldiers in Bataan is a definite contribution in bringing about an eventual and complete overwhelming of the enemy in the Far East. The deficiency which now exist in our offensive weapons are the natural results of the policies of peaceful nations such as the Philippines and the United States who without warning are attacked by despotic nations which have spent years in preparing for such action. Early reverse, hardships and pain are the price that democracy must pay under such conditions. However, I have dedicated to the accomplishment of final victory every man, every dollar and every material sinew of this
nation, and this determination to attain victory necessarily includes as an objective the restoring of tranquility and peace to the Philippines and its return to such government as its people may themselves choose.

Although I cannot at this time state the day that help will arrive in the Philippines, I can assure you that every vessel available is bearing to the southwest Pacific the strength that will eventually crush the enemy and liberate your native land. Vessels in that vicinity have been filled with cargo of necessary supplies and have been dispatched to Manila. Our arms, together with those of our allies, have dealt heavy blows to enemy transport and naval vessels and are most certainly retarding his movement to the south. By the trans-African route and lately by the Pacific route our heavy bombers are each day joining General Wavell’s command. A continuous stream of fighter and pursuit planes is traversing the Pacific, already ten squadrons of the foregoing types are ready for combat in the South Pacific area. Extensive arrival of troops are being guarded by adequate protective elements of our Navy. The heroes of Bataan are effectively assisting by gaining invaluable time, and time is the vital factor in reinforcing our military strength in this theater of war.

Words are inadequate to convey to you my esteem and appreciation for the totally magnificent showing of faithfulness, heroism and spirit of sacrifice that the Philippine people, under your superb guidance, have shown. They are maintaining the most glorious standard of all free people.

Those parts of your message to General MacArthur which you request be brought to the attention of the world at large are being broadcast from Washington. Your speech and your actions will encourage not only your fellow-countrymen but all those throughout the world who are partners in the battle for democratic ideals and liberty in the right of self-government.

The message of President Roosevelt was not only admirable in its form and substance but was evidently all that could be expected under the circumstances described by him. The human sympathy and understanding of this great man in the face of an almost intrusive radiogram from me, especially if contrasted with the attitude of other heads of government in dealing with people under their sway, could not be overestimated. Yet I must confess that my grave concern for the welfare and security of my people and the incalculable loss of life on the part of our soldiers was not put at rest. If I could only be sure that the Dutch East Indies and Singapore would not hold out long enough to keep the sea-lanes open during the period which I felt certain the American and Filipinos in Bataan and on Corregidor would hold, then I felt that bombers, fighters and pursuit planes, and the troops to which the President’s radiogram referred, would reach the Philippines in time for the Army of MacArthur to take the offensive and drive out the Japanese. But would Singapore and Java fight as long and as well as we were fighting? The destruction of the Prince of Wales and the Repulse right at the beginning of the war was a sinister revelation of the basic weakness of the defense of Singapore — lack of adequate air power. The easy gains which the Japanese were making through the supposedly impassable jungles of the Malay Peninsula (as was daily broadcast to us) raised increased doubts of the impregnability of Singapore, contrary to what we in the Far East had assumed to be the completeness of English fortifications. And it was clear to me that, if Singapore fell, the Dutch East Indies would be an easy prey to Japanese land, se and air forces, despite the fact that the whole American Asiatic Fleet had joined the Dutch East Indies fleet.

With Singapore and the Dutch East Indies in the hands of the enemy, Bataan and Corregidor were doomed. That was the dreadful and horrible thought which haunted me day and night after receiving the foregoing message of the President of the United State. I did not conceal my serious misgivings from General MacArthur. But he would always retort: “I will bring you in triumph on the points of my bayonets to Manila.”

In the meantime my health was not improving. [I was ill and confined with tuberculosis when I went to the tunnels of Corregidor.] I was being carried in a wheel-chair in and out of the tunnel during the frequent air raids and bombardments. Rumors about the doubtful attitude of the Filipinos in the occupied territory, especially in Manila, were being circulated and these increased beyond expression my anxiety. One day when information regarding the situation in the Malay Peninsula and Singapore convinced me that the surrender of this English fortress was only a question of weeks at most, I told General MacArthur that I was not certain that my stay in Corregidor was of any practical value to either the defense of Bataan and Corregidor or to the maintenance of the morale of the civilian population. This, together with my rapidly declining health, caused me to feel that perhaps I would render better service to America and the Philippines if I went to Manila and allowed myself to be made a prisoner of war by the Japanese. [I wanted them to know I was not afraid and not even if it cost me life itself].

On February 6th, General Aguinaldo, in a radio broadcast addressed to General MacArthur, urged him to surrender in view of the futility of continuing to fight against superior enemy forces. Although I would not condemn in my own mind this attitude of Aguinaldo, despite the fact that he was my enemy, as an act of treason and for this reason refused to enter into a public controversy with him as was suggested to me by Commissioner Sayre, his actions at this reminded of his conduct under similar circumstances when he was the President of the Philippine Republic and Commander-in-Chief of its forces. It will be remembered that when General Aguinaldo was convinced of the superiority of the American forces, many years before, he had been willing to enter into negotiations with the American authorities in Manila on a basis other than independence. Recalling this incident, I also remembered that great Filipino character, Apolinario Mabini, and what he done even after he had been captured and was a prisoner of war in the hands of the American army. Mabini, a paralytic, refused to take the oath of allegiance even after he had been deported to Guam, and only took the oath when the whole people of the Philippines had accepted the sovereignty of the United States and expressed their willingness to cooperate in carrying out the policy of ultimate freedom propounded by the Untied States.

I told General MacArthur my fear of the effect on our people, especially the less educated classes, of the promise of independence made by Premier Tojo in his speech before the Japanese Diet, wherein he said that Japan was ready to give the Filipinos “independence with honor.” This promise which was used by Aguinaldo as further reason for urging the surrender of our forces might well have had the effect of weakening the Filipino leaders if they found the people in general to be won over to Tojo and Aguinaldo, so I informed General MacArthur that I was seriously considering placing myself in the hands of the Japanese and defying them, in the belief that such action on my part would solidify the opposition of
the Filipinos to any Japanese influence. General MacArthur told me that, in his opinion, that would be a mistake, that he thought the Japanese were too smart to make me a martyr, knowing as they did in so doing they would forever win the enmity and hatred of the Filipino people. He believed that the Japanese would allow me to go to Malacañan and would advertise this fact, but would allow no Filipino to get near
me, and that without my knowledge or consent they would give statements, as coming from me, telling the Filipinos that they should cooperate with Japan and advising the Filipino soldiers at the front to surrender and abandon the American forces. Moreover, General MacArthur said that he feared that my action might be misinterpreted abroad. To this last consideration I retorted at once that I was not interested in the judgment of outsiders so long as I was satisfied that I was acting in accordance with my duty as in conscience I saw it. The struggle on the part of the American and Filipino armies was heroic, but in a sense it was a futile one. It might even be questioned that the entire American army at that date if present could have defended the Islands against vast numbers of men, machines, material of the Japanese forces. However, his remarks as to what the Japanese might do did impress me. Knowing something of the Japanese, the views of General MacArthur seemed perfectly reasonable, so I told the General I would think more about the matter.

After further consideration, I came to the conclusion that it might be an unwise thing for me to attempt to imitate Mabini. The Americans in those years long ago had dealt with the Filipino revolutionaries entirely above board. When they captured Mabini they did not conceal from the Filipino people the courageous stand of this patriot. Nor did they pretend that they were treating him as other than a prisoner of war. So Mabini died as the noble and great man that he was in the eyes of his countrymen and of the world. Whereas, in my case my sacrifice would not only have been in vain but might have carried with it my eternal dishonor, for it might not have been possible for any one but me and my Japanese jailer to have known or to furnish proofs of what I had done or been trying to do.

There remained, however, what, in my opinion, was a larger question — the possibly useless sacrifice of the Philippine Army, and why shall I not say of the American Army as well, for my heart had gone out to those heroic men and women, officers, soldiers and nurses who, after all, were fighting in defense of my country at the same time that they were righting to maintain the honor of their flag. At last, I thought I found the key to the problem. I would ask the President of the United States to authorize me to issue a public manifesto asking the Government of the United States to grant immediate, complete and absolute
independence to the Philippines, that the neutralization of the Philippines be agreed at once by the United States and the Imperial Japanese government, that within a reasonable period of time, both armies, American and Japanese, be withdrawn,- that neither nation should occupy bases in the
Philippines, that the Philippine Army be demobilized, the only organized force remaining in the Islands to be the Philippine Constabulary for the maintenance of law and order, that Japanese and American noncombatants who so wished be evacuated with their own army under reciprocal and fitting stipulations. It was a great anxiety of mine to achieve independence for my people under the Americans. I wanted it done before the Japanese who played no part in this development could claim credit for it.

When I submitted this question to my Cabinet, Lieutenant Colonel Roxas expressed serious doubts as to the effect such a proposal would have on President Roosevelt, and Vice-President Osmeña was inclined to agree with Roxas. They frankly expressed to me their fear the President might think that we were weakening in our stand, or might misunderstand our motive. I told them that I was gravely concerned as to the reaction of the people, as well as of the Filipino leaders, to the offer of independence made by Premier Tojo, and I expressed the conviction that if Japan were to actually establish an independent government in the Philippines, the masses of the people who knew very little of the history of Japan in Manchukuo would fall into the trap and our leaders would be powerless in the face of such a situation. On the other hand, if the Japanese government should refuse to accept my proposal, the Filipino people and our forces would discover at once the perfidy of Tojo’s promise of independence, and our spirit of resistance to Japan would naturally be strengthened.

Again I explained to them my misgivings as to the ability of our forces to prolong their resistance with so little food and so much dysentery and malaria — a resistance which might be further weakened by their knowledge that the civilian population had accepted “independence” at the hands of Japan. After hearing my views, the Cabinet unanimously approved the sending of the message to the President of the
United States. On the next day, President Roosevelt sent me the following answer:

I have just received your message sent through General MacArthur. From my message to you of January 30, you must realize that I am not lacking in understanding of or sympathy with the situation of yourself and the Commonwealth Government today. The immediate crisis certainly seems desperate but such crises and their treatment must be judged by a more accurate measure than the anxieties and sufferings of the present, however acute. For over forty years American Government has been carrying out to the people of the Philippines a pledge to help them successfully, however long it might take, in their aspirations to become a self-governing and independent people, with the individual freedom and economic strength which that lofty aim makes requisite. You yourself have participated in and are familiar with the many carefully planned steps by which that pledge of self-government has been carried out and
also the steps by which the economic independence of your Islands is to be made effective. May I remind you now that in the loftiness of its aim and the fidelity with which it has been executed, this program of the United States towards another people has been unique in the history of the family of nations. In the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934, to which you refer, the Congress of the United States finally fixed the year 1946 as the date in which the Commonwealth of the Philippine Islands established
by that Act should finally reach the goal of its hopes for political and economic independence.

By a malign conspiracy of a few depraved but powerful governments, this hope is now being frustrated and delayed. An organized attack upon individual freedom and governmental independence throughout the entire world, beginning in Europe, has now spread and been carried to the Southwestern Pacific by Japan. The basic principles which have guided the Unites States in its conduct towards the Philippines have been violated in the rape of Czechoslovakia, Poland, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Albania, Greece, Yugoslavia, Manchukuo, China, Thailand, and finally the Philippines. Could the people of any of these nations honestly look forward to a true restoration of their independent sovereignty under the dominance of Germany, Italy or Japan?

You refer in your telegram to the announcement by the Japanese Prime Minister of Japan’s willingness to grant to the Philippines her independence. I only have to refer you to the present condition of Korea, Manchukuo, North China, Indo-China, and all other countries which have fallen under the brutal sway of the Japanese Government, to point out the hollow duplicity of such and announcement. The present
suffering of the Filipino people, cruel as they may be, are infinitely less than the sufferings and permanent enslavement which will inevitably follow acceptance of Japanese promises. In any event is it longer possible for any reasonable person to rely upon Japanese offer or promise?

The Unites States today is engaged with all its resources and in company with the governments of 26 other nations in an effort to defeat the aggression of Japan and its Axis partners. This effort will never be
abandoned until the complete and through overthrow of the entire Axis system and governments which maintain it. We are engaged now in laying the foundations in the Southwest Pacific of a development in
air, naval and military power which shall become sufficient to meet and overthrow the widely extended and arrogant attempts of the Japanese. Military and naval operations call for recognition of realities. What we are doing there constitutes the best and surest help that we can render to the Philippines at this time.

By the terms of our pledge to the Philippines implicit is our forty years of conduct towards your people and expressly recognized in the terms of the Tydings-McDuffie Act, we have undertaken to protect you to the uttermost of our power until the time of your ultimate independence had arrived. Our soldiers in the Philippines are now engaged in fulfilling that purpose. The honor of the United States is pledged to its fulfillment. We propose that it be carried our regardless of its cost. Those Americans who are fighting now will continue to fight until the bitter end. Filipino soldiers have been rendering voluntary and gallant service in defense of their own homeland.

So long as the flag of the United States flies on Filipino soil as pledge of our duty to your people, it will be defended by our own men to the death. Whatever happens to the present American garrison we shall not
relax our efforts until the forces which we are now marshaling outside the Philippine Islands return to the Philippines and drive the last remnant of the invaders from your soil.

The effect of the foregoing telegram on me was overwhelming. I thought I could read between the lines
more than what the President had actually said. I suspected that he had gone so far as to tell General MacArthur that if the Filipinos desired to quit, which they did not, no obstacle should be placed on our way, that the President of the Philippines with his whole Government and his (Philippine) army could surrender if they wanted to, as long as they did not compromise any of the rights of sovereignty of the United States over the Philippines, but that the American forces should fight for their flag and in defense of the Philippines to the last man. The Filipinos wanted to fight to the bitter end because of their gratitude to the United States and because they resented the ruthless invasion of their homeland.

I first knew President Roosevelt when he was Under-Secretary of the Navy. I had close and almost personal relations with him after he had become President of the United States. From the first time that I had met him, his irresistibly winning smile had attracted me to him. I gave him from the beginning my personal affection. From my official dealings with him, I had come to the conclusion that he was a great statesman —with broad human sympathies and a worldwide knowledge of affairs, a leader of men, with physical and moral courage rarely seen in a human being. I had become convinced of his extreme regard for the welfare of the Filipino people and his abiding faith in liberty and freedom for the human race. But
I did not know, nor did I suspect that this man was so great as to be able to renounce the power, which was given him by the Philippine Independence Act, to compel the Filipino forces and people to stand by America in the defense not of America but of the Philippines during the period before complete independence. When I realized that he was big enough to assume and place the burden of the defense of my country upon the sacrifice and heroism of his own people alone, I swore to myself and to the God of my ancestors that as long as I lived I would stand by America regardless of the consequences to my people and to myself. We could not in decency be less generous or less determined than President
Roosevelt. Without further discussion with anybody, I called my Cabinet and read them my answer to President Roosevelt, as follows: “I wish to thank you for your prompt answer to the proposal which I submitted to you with the unanimous approval of my Cabinet. We fully appreciate the reasons upon which your decision is based and we abide by it.”

That was the end of my worries. The course of the ship was definitely charted and at the helm I was ready to break through every rough sea, every torment and every hurricane. Nothing in the world would steer me away from my course. I pondered over the general situation and came to the conclusion that if the fight was to be carried on, Corregidor was not my place. I had to leave that beleaguered fortress at whatever risk and be with my people in the unoccupied territory so as to arouse to the point of supreme heroism the patriotism and loyally to America of every man, woman, and child. It was also necessary to marshal the resources of the country to provide supplies and cash for the Army in the Visayas and Mindanao and to send food to Bataan and Corregidor by every possible means at our disposal. After discussing the plan with my War Cabinet, I submitted the program or plan to General MacArthur who instantly approved it. Then I sent it. Colonel Roxas went to the front to prepare the Filipino generals for the news of my departure when the time came for making it known to them. On his return to Corregidor, Colonel Roxas reassured me that the Philippine Army would understand and fully approve of my departure. Then I asked General MacArthur to inform Washington of my plans. I also authorized him to destroy the silver currency we had in Corregidor if such action became necessary because of impending seizure by the Japanese. My order to this effect must have convinced President Roosevelt that I meant what I said when I informed him that I abode by his decision, for on February 15 received the following telegram from him:

A radiogram just received from General MacArthur informed me that you have ordered that the silver currency, property of the Commonwealth Government, be destroyed, if such action becomes necessary because of impending seizure by the Japanese. It is extremely gratifying to have this added evidence of the absolute fidelity of your government and yourself to the United States and of your willingness to sacrifice in behalf of the ideals for which we are all striving. I am sorry that the necessity for secrecy prohibits my making public your splendid action for such indication of absolute single mindedness of purpose of the United Powers inspires all our peoples to an accelerated exertion toward ultimate triumph.

The next day General MacArthur informed Washington that it was my wish, concurred in by my War Cabinet, that the seat of the Philippine Government should be transferred to the free territory of the Islands, at first in the Visayas. We had expressed the feeling that we members of the Government would be of greater service to the cause if we could have direct contact our countrymen, which was not possible from Corregidor.

The message further outlined our plan to maintain the unity and heighten the morale of the Filipino people in the free portion of the Islands, in order to oppose more successfully the enemy.

General MacArthur occurred heartily with our plans and requested the authority to use submarines to get us out of Corregidor, which was approved by Washington.