His Excellency Elpidio Quirino
President of the Philippines
At the award of Medal for Valor to Capt. Conrado Yap (posthumously)
[Delivered at Malacañan Social Hall, December 8, 1951]
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Secretary, Officers and Men
of the Armed Forces, Mrs. Yap:
I appreciate your coming this afternoon ready to hear something your commander-in-Chief may have to say at this critical moment.
Before I proceed to talk to you on matters affecting us in common, I want to reiterate what I said at the Rizal Stadium two weeks ago regarding the conduct of our men both here and abroad. I refer especially to the impressive services rendered by our forces in Korea. Their valor and gallantry and their exhibition of patriotism not only in defense of our country’s rights but also) in defense of the world’s right to fee free have given us a great name and prestige everywhere.
Unfortunately, She would have Mrs. Conrado Yap was not at the rally. been the recipient of greater honor than what she received this afternoon. But on this special occasion, I want to devote my first thoughts to Captain Yap whose name will go down in history as one great example of Filipino valor exhibited outside the confines of our country.
I hope that your brothers in Korea engaged in the same fight in which Captain Yap and your comrades in arms were engaged will bring more recognition to the Philippines by their gallantry and heroism. Prestige cannot endure unless it is developed, preserved and nurtured by those who are supposed to uphold it. Therefore, it devolves upon the Armed Forces of the Philippines whether here or in Korea to enhance and keep that prestige shining.
You who are here fighting the enemies right on our soil have the same opportunity to display your mettle for which our country is well known abroad, perhaps it is harder on your part as it is sometimes revolting to your conscience to have to exhibit valor and gallantry against people of our own flesh and blood. Certainly, it is far more difficult to kill our own brothers than enemies who belong to a foreign race.
It is sad for us to see the continued spectacle of a brother fighting his own brother, but our enemies have proffered such flattering and flagrantly false promises of betterment that a number of our brothers have been misled, going to the extent of attempting to subvert out government.
The special task to which you are now assigned is unique in our history. We have had revolutions in the past. During the Spanish and American regimes some of us sided with the Spaniards and with the Americans. But our Katipunans, our revolutionary forces, were fighting for the liberty and freedom of our country. The men who fought against our revolutionary forces did not become the object of derision. The were not the tool of a foreign power that would deliver us to another country. They were more or less compelled by circumstances to fight in defense of a regime established here, a regime which had the power and summary supervision and control over our own affairs.
In other words, the powers that we were fighting at that time had complete control and exercised sovereignty on our territory, and according to international law we were subject people. Based on such a situation the men who were arrayed against us could not be charged with treason. But the situation today is just the reverse. The power behind the dissident elements, the influence that is making them fight their own governments and their own people has no authority and never had any control or supervision in cur country. It is merely a dangerous and deceptive influence wielded from outside for the sinister purpose of dominating the world, enslaving everybody who falls under its power. Its tools are fighting for the institution here of a new regime which is not only inimical to but also subversive of our sovereignty and independence. You and I and those fighting across the seas are all pitted against the evils of a. foreign power. So, we are practically fighting the same battle that our brothers in Korea are fighting, the only difference being that we are on our own soil and to the misfortune if not tragedy of our country we are fighting here our own men and our own brothers in order to prevent their delivering us to a foreign master.
It is my desire to decorate you for having shown bravery in the local field. Your task is not finished; your responsibility is not ended, and your great work must continue until completed.
It is sad to note that certain elements are trying to divide us when we are so absorbed in our own important task of clearing our countrysides of those regarded as enemies of our freedom and democratic institutions. There is no such division in our rank. We stand solidly united.
I don’t want you to misunderstand the publication in the papers. Both Speaker Perez and I and Secretary Magsaysay coincide in our fundamental views regarding the use of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The present organization has been effected precisely to cope with the current situation. We abolished the department of the interior and transfered supervision of the constabulary to one department at the head of which is Secretary Magsaysay. He has succeeded not only in unifying his command but also in coordinating all divisions of the army. The organization of the army today is so efficient, strong, aggressive and successful that the people now realize that at long last we have a strong, upright, independent and just army that they can trust to do its duty irrespective of this or that party. (Applause.) It is not the success of Secretary Magsaysay alone—and I don’t want to wrest credit from him. It is not the success of the chief of staff alone, nor that of the deputy or vice-chief of staff alone. Nor is it the success of the provincial commanders alone, nor of your captains, your lieutenants, sergeants or corporals alone. It is rather the success of the whole organization, from the commander-in-chief down to the last private.
I have been receiving reports as well as commendations expressing admiration for the conduct of the armed forces not only in its campaign against dissidents but also in the maintenance of peace and order during the elections. I don’t want you to be discouraged. What you have achieved you must preserve. An honor has been conferred upon you—an honor which has raised the prestige of your country because of your exemplary conduct and the valor you have exhibited outside and inside our country during all these campaigns. You must guard it. You must protect at all costs that name and prestige which belong not only to you but also to your country.
As commander-in-chief, I would not allow you to utilize your position, your command, or your organization to abuse your privilege to vote or campaign in my favor or against me or any member of the administration. Such move will expose you to serious criticism. The moment you did that—and this is the warning of Speaker Perez—you would be exposing the whole organization to critisism and to the fear that some day when you decide to support one party, one group, or one man, you would utilize your force or your organization to stage a coup d’etat which is against the principles of a democratic government.
It is right for us to apprise you of that danger. It is right for anybody to warn the people. Such an eventuality, however, should never occur. If it did, outsiders would be justified in calling the Philippines a banana republic. This is not a banana republic. The last election, the success of our campaign against dissidents, the bravery of our armed men on the field of battle, the heroism shown by our people during the last world war, and our fight to preserve democracy, have amply shown that ours is a republic that can stand and can continue to stand. We are all convinced of our individual and collective rights to maintain a free and democratic institution you did not care whether it was a Liberal man or a Nacionalista man who won in the last election. And for this record, you have! won the prestige of being one of the most respected armed forces in the Far East.
I am glad to have been given the opportunity to talk to you from shoulder to shoulder, this being the only time that I had occasion to address key men of the armed forces of the Philippines. I want to tell you one thing. Don’t develop that hostile attitude which many of those who are jealous of the success of the armed forces are trying to capitalize at your expense.
One great thing which nobody perhaps: has realized is the fact that despite the suspension of the habeas corpus, none of us, from your commander-in-chief down to the last soldier has taken advantage of it in order to lock up leaders of the other party. There was that great fear, that great suspicion, which constituted’ the greatest propaganda against the suspension of the habeas corpus two or three months before the elections. What happened? We did not arrest anybody. We did not unreasonably detain anybody. We did not even make any effort to deprive anyone of his freedom of action. Everybody was free to cast his vote as he wanted to. You have so conducted yourselves in the interpretation of the suspension of the habeas corpus that people now believe that that power cannot be abused as long as the men who exercise the privilege exercise it justly, uprightly and reasonably.
I want you to feel that the whole administration recognizes your great service, that there is no attempt on our part to destroy the organization as it is. We have conceived the unification of the armed forces. We have reorganized the armed forces in such a manner that it could operate, as it is operating, especially against dissidents. Once we have cleaned our countrysides of these elements that endanger or retard the life and future of our country, those who have been organized as special forces to quell dissidents anywhere will be transferred to the constabulary forces to police their respective provinces, cities and municipalities. If you are not returned to the constabulary today, it is because you are needed in our campaign against dissidents. But once that is accomplished, and I hope it will be soon, you will be returned to the constabulary to be stationed in the provinces and municipalities to cope with the work of maintaining peace and order or to remain at regional or district headquarters.
That is my concept of the organization of the Armed Forces today and I want you to bear in mind that I know that many of you are tired of fighting. But we don’t have enough men to take your place in the field. We wanted to increase the BCTs. Unfortunately, our funds are limited. We have been able to increase to some extent but the personnel just now are not enough to replace ‘those who should get a little rest. It is our desire, however, to retire the BCTs so that each one could discharge his duties ably, physically and fulfill the tasks assigned to him. For the time being, I want you to keep up with your good work. Don’t lose enthusiasm. Don’t lose your high morale. I want to tell you that the people have absolute confidence in you now. But that confidence does not mean that you can abuse your authority. I warn you together with the Speaker, not to meddle in the local civil affairs unless you are asked to do so. Guard yourselves against the criticism that you are utilizing your uniform and your weapons to impose upon the people your authority which need not be exercised unless you are asked to maintain peace and order.
Now that the elections are over, it is necessary for you to be more calm and serene. I don’t want you to have what we call amor propio. If you denounce any public official for any irregularity and you can prove your charges to the court or to any other competent body, do so as a matter of duty; but don’t appear as if you were persecuting him, especially if the accused is a civilian because if you do that you will arouse the hatred and hostility of the populace. You would be losing the good name and prestige you have so justly earned. I for one don’t want that to happen. I don’t want the name and prestige of our army to suffer, and I want you to feel that I am behind you one hundred per cent. Do your duty justly. Do it without any fear. Stand on your right. Never be afraid of anybody. But, remember, don’t be over-zealous or over enthusiastic, and utilize your uniform or weapon or your influence in order to succeed in prosecuting what you think has been done against the law.
I am making particular reference to cases in which you have aroused not only the anger but also the fear of the civilian population that you were over-playing your role. I am going to ask Secretary Magsaysay, the Chief of Staff, to see to it that you keep aloof from all these entanglements, from any of these political troubles that are now being aired in the courts of justice and befor0 investigation boards. Keep away from these but do not conceal anything that you think ought to be brought to the attention of the public, the court, or the board. Shun the temptation of appearing as if you were motivated by the spirit of persecution to gratify amor propio. Take such cases as a matter of course before a court of justice or an investigation board.
Now, I want to congratulate you again for the splendid work you have accomplished not only in the pursuit of the dissidents but also in the conduct of the last general elections. If you continue with your fine work, I am quite sure that the honor and prestige that our country enjoys will be shared by posterity and everybody will be grateful to you.
Gentlemen, I thank you again.
Quirino, E. (1951). Extemporaneous remarks of President Quirino at the award of Medal for Valor to Capt. Conrado Yap (posthumously). Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, 47(12), 6095-6099.