His Excellency Manuel Roxas
President of the Philippines
Delivered at the Convention of the Confederation of Legions
of Filipino Veterans
[February 5, 1947]
I am grateful to the N. S. Chinese Volunteers for inviting me to this gathering today, for sponsoring this fine and distinguished assemblage. The Chinese Guerrillas, known during the war for their daring and courage, for their patriotism and fearless love of freedom, prove today to be happy hosts as well. I think guerrilla banquets and luncheons are a delightful institution. Probably because they ate so little and so infrequently during the trying days of war, guerrillas make up for it now in the days of peace. I imagine a feast like this is what many guerrillas dreamt about in the long days and nights in the jungles and mountains. I am happy to be present at one of the occasions when dreams come true.
I think it most proper that the Chinese Guerrillas Association should be the host of the entire Guerrilla Confederation. It dramatizes the extraordinary and undying unity of men of good faith and goodwill in the holy cause of liberty and freedom. The guerrilla movement was a union of all men and women who loved liberty, and who loved the Philippines. I know that the Confederation of Legions of Filipino Veterans is actuated by that same unity, love, and devotion today.
A year ago I stood before this very organization, then in its birth pains, and invited your cooperation in the great task of national awakening and rehabilitation. I urged you then to complete your organization, and to grow strong and exert your influence in the shaping of your country’s destiny. I told you that no group had a greater right to be heard in the decisions regarding the future of our country and people.
You who had fought to preserve our homeland and to redeem it from the evil grip of the enemy; you who sacrificed comfort and security, who risked life and fortune in the uncertain scales of military decision; you who wagered your all on the victory of freedom; you who suffered the indescribable privations of Bataan, Corregidor, and Mindanao, and the heroic struggles of the occupation years; and you who joined in the liberation, who marched Up glory’s road, side by side with the long-awaited forces of redemption, and cleared this land of the darkening blight of Japanese rule . . . you had and have the right, the privilege and the obligation to participate in a major way in voicing the will of the Filipino people.
So I was happy a year ago to welcome this organization into existence. Today, under slightly different circumstances, I am proud to hail your organization and your members. As President of the Philippines, I welcome you. As a fellow veteran, I salute you. The year that has passed has been an eventful one for you, for me, and for us. You have achieved progress in the growth and influence of your organization. A number of your demands and requests to the Government have been redeemed by my Administration. Your Government is doing everything in its power to help you, to encourage you, to promote your well-being and grant recognition to the legitimate services and needs of your members.
When I addressed your organization a year ago, I promised that if I were elected President, I would do my best to see enacted into law a Philippine G. I. Bill of Rights. I have fulfilled that promise. A bill of veterans’ rights has been enacted. It forms the pattern of your country’s gratitude to you. Pensions for widows, orphans and the disabled are provided. Priorities in government employment and in other government-sponsored undertakings are established. The financial benefits are limited by the precarious fiscal condition of your Government. We look to the United States Government to undertake the main financial responsibility for the care of veterans. But we are doing for our own veterans everything we can afford. We would do more if we could. I propose to grant for veterans’ benefits for the coming year an appropriation at least as large as that for the current one.
The chief significance of the legislation we enacted, however, is not the size of the appropriation we were able to provide, but rather this: we enacted into the law of the land the proposition that those who had fought and risked all in their nation’s name are entitled to the first consideration of the Government, if special favors are to be granted to any group or class of citizens. Thus in the sale of surplus property, in the granting of homesites, in resettlement projects and in government employment, duly recognized veterans have priority. That does not mean, as some of you unfortunately think, that regardless of all other considerations, veterans have the right to buy the surplus property, or to settle on government land, or to acquire homesites. It does not mean that among any group of Filipinos who make a similar offer for surplus property, veterans are to receive a preference. It means that when lands are opened up for general resettlement, veterans will receive a preference, provided the veterans are equipped and willing properly to use the lands for essential national purposes.
Some of our procedures in this respect remain to be worked out. Some of them are faulty. I trust that your organization will be continuously vigilant in bringing to the attention of the appropriate officials of the Government, and to my attention, any departures from the law of the land, in this or in any other respect. That is one of the purposes of the existence of your organization. I promise you that in every case, I will give careful attention to the representation made to me, and will cause a thorough investigation to be made. I am determined that, with all due consideration for the overall national welfare, our veterans should receive the honor and the consideration that the nation properly owes them.
In specific reference to the Davao lands, regarding which, I understand, some of you are concerned, we are now hard at work on the plans for the distribution of these lands and for the granting of preferences to guerrillas. But some of the lands have not yet been officially turned over to us. All of the lands must be carefully surveyed according to law. All of this takes time. I must ask your patriotic cooperation in the necessary delays.
I have referred to a part of what the Administration has done and is doing, in law and practice, for the veterans. I shall continue that recital.
Under the law, a Veterans’ Board was established. I appointed to that Board no politicians or bureaucrats. I asked no recommendations from party leaders or political advisors. I gave the responsibility for the administration of the veterans’ law to the men in whom you, yourselves, had reposed confidence. I appointed your officers and your leaders as the administrators of veterans’ benefits. I gave them free and unchecked rein to cut every corner, to dispense with every dispensable red tape. And I wish to tell you, as I told the Philippine Congress a week ago, that I am proud of the manner in which Administrator Peralta and his colleagues have set up their organization and have proceeded to function. They have established a high water mark for speed, efficiency, and, I hope, justice. You are to be congratulated.
I have also, as you know, made every effort to speed the effectuation by the United States Government of its program of assistance to Filipino veterans. I have worked in earnest cooperation with your friend and my friend, Ambassador Paul V. McNutt, in his continuing efforts to secure the broadest possible program of benefits for you, and to effectuate that program through speedy and efficient administration. I have been in direct contact with President Harry S. Truman on this matter. It was as a result of an appeal that I directed to President Truman, an appeal fully and lengthily endorsed by Ambassador McNutt, that the current review of United States policies in connection with our veterans was begun. President Truman assured me . . . and I fully honor and am grateful for that assurance . . . that he will do his best to make sure that the American Government does justice to the Filipino veterans. This means that widows, orphans, and the disabled will certainly be cared for. Hospitalization, I think, will be provided. Some educational and vocational aids are now under study.
Payment of back pay to guerrillas has been completed in some areas, and is well under way in others. Everything is being done to expedite these payments. A U. S. Army Claims Commission has sent teams all over the Philippines to receive the claims of Filipinos holding vouchers or receipts from recognized guerrilla units for supplies and equipment. These claims are being paid as rapidly as possible.
We have worked closely with the U. S. Veterans Administration office here, and through conferences, have succeeded in eliminating many problems, or in easing them. We have the sympathetic support of the Veterans Administration office here, for instance, in the move to extend the expiration date of filing for insurance claims. In this and in similar matters, we try to be continually alert to your needs.
You all know the status of our efforts to redeem guerrilla currency. We now have, from the United States Government, P30,000,000 as a redemption fund for that currency. The currency is now in process of being registered. I urge you to expedite that registration in all your respective provinces and municipalities. Be sure that every legitimate holder turns in his guerrilla currency and receives in return a legitimate receipt. That receipt, and not the currency, will be redeemed. The currency must be registered, so that Congress will know how much of it is outstanding in the various islands, and how it is distributed, so that a formula can be considered for redemption. Counterfeits must be detected and located. Until registration is completed, Congress cannot intelligently begin a detailed consideration of this complex and difficult problem. I have urged Congress, however, to begin public hearings on guerrilla currency at the earliest practical date. I urge you to make all the facts you know concerning this situation available to the congressional committee. Congress will be interested in knowing all the uses…and misuses…to which the guerrilla currency has been and is being put. Congress will want to know about the chiselers and the speculators, as well as about those patriotic and loyal folks who have kept their guerrilla currency, and who have every right to be given adequate consideration. But speculators must not be permitted to profit by one centavo in this recognition of patriotism and loyalty.
In a rather brief but rambling way, I have reported to you on what has been done for the veterans in the past year, or rather in the past eight months since I took office. But what I have reported is not all that has been done. It is far from all. It is, in fact, only the direct measures. The other and much more important measures, are those which have benefited, not you as guerrillas, not you as veterans, but you as Filipinos. This country, as you know, has taken long and swift strides forward during the past year. A year ago when I stood before you, predictions of anarchy and revolution were on many lips. There were many both here and abroad who doubted, who were convinced that our efforts to become free and independent would be swallowed up in the flames of chaos and upheaval. Many of you, then in arms, were reluctant to surrender your arms or to be demobilized, because you feared that the prevalent disorders of a year ago would assume total proportions once we were independent.
We have given the lie to all those doubts and fears. We have reestablished order. We have firmed up the authority of government. There is no doubt anywhere in the world, and least of all in our own country, that this glorious and independent Republic, the Republic of the Philippines, for which you sacrificed so much, for which you risked so much, for which the thousands of your absent comrades clasped the white cloak of eternity, is here, and here to stay, for now and for all time.
This we have done for you. And more.
We have formulated and begun to execute plans for the rehabilitation of our country. Look about you. The sound of the saw and the hammer is everywhere throughout this land. New buildings are springing up. Old buildings are being reconstructed. Roads are being repaired. New companies are springing up like mushrooms. Old companies are resuming operations. Jobs are opening up to replace curtailed employment in the service of the U. S. Army and Navy. Confidence has been restored. Two of our prime products, copra and abaca, are being sold at premium prices in the world markets, and the producers are enjoying a comparative measure of prosperity.
We have formulated and laid plans for the economic expansion of our country. A program of agrarian reform has been enacted into law, and projected into the future, restricted only by our fiscal capacities. Power development projects and land development and resettlement projects are under study. Vast new areas of corn and rice lands are soon to be opened to cultivation. Agricultural methods are being progressively modernized. A plan for the industrialization of our country is being pushed. A Rehabilitation Finance Corporation has been established, with authority to loan millions for rehabilitation and reconstruction projects.
All our government corporations and instrumentalities have been mobilized for this great work. As far as it is within my power and the power of the Government, no effort will be spared to turn faster and faster the wheels of our national economy, so that eventually the hum of our national enterprise will drown out completely every echo of destruction and despair. This country and all our people will be partners in a vast undertaking, unlimited in scope, whose immediate objective is multiplied production, production for consumption and production for export, and whose final objective is the happiness and prosperity, the well-being and security of every single Filipino. This is what we propose to do.
From such a future, you veterans stand to gain much more, many times more, than from any isolated benefits or grants or bonuses which you might receive. In such a future, in such an economy, each of you will have every opportunity, not only to prosper, but to find dynamic employment, employment that will tax your courage and your imagination in the same degree, even though not in the same way, as your heroic employment during the war.
And now I come to the central theme of my speech. What does the Philippines owe to you, to you veterans? I will tell you what I think we owe. Of course, we owe to the disabled an opportunity to be rehabilitated, to learn new vocations, and to be assisted in finding a useful role in society. That is the least we owe. For those who are tragically beyond the point of rehabilitation we owe hospitalization, and after hospitalization, a decent care. I believe that is an obligation of the Government. The United States Government has accepted that obligation for recognized guerrillas and veterans who suffered disability in line of duty during the recent conflict. Widows and orphans of those who died in action must likewise be cared for, and in the same way and degree. Our hero-dead must be assured of that much. In this, too, the United States Government has acknowledged its obligation. But in all these cases we will do our utmost to fill in the essential gaps where the United States Government cannot act swiftly, or in deserving cases for which, for one reason or another, the United States Government does not make the necessary provision. That much society certainly owes to the veterans.
But that is not all. Those who left farms, schools, businesses and homes to defend and to save their country have a much greater credit with the Government than merely the care of the wounded, the disabled, the widows and the orphans. The nation has an obligation to insure that, even though veterans suffered no permanent impairment of their physical functions, they shall have at least an equal opportunity with those who stayed at home to find a useful place, in society. This can be assured by special education, by vocational training, by priorities and preferences in employment, by priorities in obtaining homesites and farmlands, by preferences in the grant of crop-loans, by preferences in government aids or in small business. This much, too, the nation and the Government certainly owe to the veterans.
But all this is only the first bill, the first account. Beyond the direct discharge of the Government’s obligations, there is a much greater obligation. There is an obligation ail on the part of all of us to make this nation a worthwhile place to live in, not only for veterans, but for their children and the generations that will come after. There is .an obligation to broaden the national vistas, the national horizons, to insure social justice and equal opportunity for all our people. There is an obligation to build our nation so that it will be perpetual monument to the sacrifices not only of the living, but of the dead.
We owe it to the memory of those who passed on and to their widows and their children, as we owe it to the living and to their children, to make every effort to see so that their sacrifices shall not have been made in vain, and that the democratic forms which they fought to retrieve will be preserved and converted into the true democratic substance of all the freedoms . . . freedom from want, freedom from fear, freedom of worship and expression. We, the living, must consecrate ourselves to the enhancement of that heritage of liberty, which the dead preserved for us at so great a cost to themselves.
I have said before, and I shall repeat today, and shall repeat in the future, that we fight today a two-front war, a forward campaign against physical ruin, insecurity, and social injustice, and a rear-guard action to preserve our liberties and individual rights. Victory in that two-front war is the true debt, the greatest debt that we owe to the veterans of the Philippines. That is the debt which the Government and society owe you, to continue the great efforts you made and to take from your heroism renewed determination that this Republic, in all its splendor and dignity, shall not only be preserved but advanced in the swift race of nations.
This involves, among other things I have mentioned, the making of such arrangement for our national defense as will insure, as best we can, the security of our land and of our people. Surely we have the obligation to take every precaution to make the Philippines as nearly impregnable as we can. We must never again be unprepared, certainly not while we see the threat of conflict on the world horizon. I see no alternative to and every advantage in continuing our close and mutual ties of interest and defense with the United States of America, whose giant strength in world affairs today gives us security, and whose principles and program in international affairs run exactly parallel with our own.
You, of all our people, have every reason to cherish the unity with America, which you forged with your own blood. Our fields and cities are still drenched with the common blood of Americans and Filipinos, shed in the same cause. You, who were their comrades, can testify, I know, that the American dead who lie side by side with your own Filipino brothers-in-arms died not in a selfish cause, but for our liberation. Let us cling to that comradeship, the more so now that we are free and equal both in fact and in name. That much we owe both to the living and to the dead.
Were we to believe today the false cries of alarm over American imperialism that are heard from some political quarters, we would be conceding that your sacrifices were in vain, that your heroism was a hollow mockery, and that you were all mere stooges who could not see that the Americans came not to free but to enslave us. Will you credit such a travesty on truth? Will you give comfort to such a distortion of fact? Or will you rise up, despite some natural disappointments, and give the outright lie to such libels on the names of noble comrades, many of whom, 50,000 of whom, lie buried in our own soil?
That brings me to a subject I have frequently discussed in recent weeks, the subject of parity. I do not think that before this audience I need well on it long. There are many among you who, during the grim and desperate months of the occupation, were led by Americans. There are others who had American advisors, and American subordinates and comrades. I do not recall hearing any stories of how these Americans exploited you or oppressed you or enslaved you. Mostly I heard of how they led you, and when they fell in heroic battle, or were captured, you were able to take over and fight on, without diminution of effort. The same practice and principle applies without modification to my advocacy of the constitutional amendment for special rights for Americans. I have no foolish fear that Americans will seize, steal, or rob our natural resources, and exploit or enslave us. I have no inferiority complex with regard to Americans. A calm appraisal shows me that Americans have the capital and the technological the skills we need for our rehabilitation and industrialization. I invite them here, with every inducement I know. I am sure that when they have helped us to develop our land, the to rebuild and repair our damaged facilities, and to expand out our economy, they will also have trained many of our people to take over, to take command, to continue the work they have started.
Americans, for a peculiar but understandable reason, prefer their own homeland in the long run to ours. Contrary to what some would lead you to believe, there are few Americans who desire to come here as immigrants. There are no American laborers who desire to come here, to take away your jobs . . . Should we advertise throughout America for American citizens to come to the Philippines as common laborers, I do not think we could find one who would be willing to come at the prevailing rates of pay. I think America is the only country in the world of which we that can be said. If there is any immigration problem, it is the problem of Filipinos who wish to go to America. And so when some politicians tell you of the danger of Americans overrunning the Philippines, they are talking through their hats. American businessmen would be willing to come here. American scientists and technologists would be willing to come here. But they would come here as transients for adventure, for pioneering, and for profit. Some of the profit would be theirs. Some would make no profit at all. But the great profit, the great advantage would be ours. It would be our country which would be richer, whose productive capacity would be increased, whose mines would be opened, whose forests would be developed, whose public utilities would be established, improved and expanded; it would be our citizens who would be given jobs, who would be able to build homes; it would be our Government which would receive increased taxation and revenues. And in the end all the business and facilities established by Americans would be owned by Filipinos, in part or in whole. That is the promise of our country, its greatest prospect. And yet some of our politicians whine, cry and bleat about exploitation and imperialism. The problem of all the neighboring peoples of Malaysia today is to get their independence without driving out the business and technical men of the Occident who help make their economics function. We have our independence. Americans are willing not only to stay, but to come in conservative numbers to help us develop our land. Yet there are some Filipinos who would actually keep them out, who would refuse to let them lend us their technical knowledge, their capital, and their know-how. It would be the same thing as if you, the guerrillas, had told the Americans who were with you: “We want to win the war, we want to drive out the Japanese, but we don’t want you to fight with us, because you might always want to stay and command us. We would rather lose the war without you than win the war with you.”
Yes, these prophets of disaster cry “Wolf”. They raise wild alarms over the danger of imperialism and exploitation. I tell you, who will understand me, that unless we have and retain the true friendship of America, some day we will have real occasion to cry “Wolf”, and then there will be none to help us drive the real wolf away.
I hope I have not belabored too hard the fable of the boy who cried “wolf” once too often. I had wished to confined my remarks to matters of interest to you as veterans, to the obligations the nation owes to you. I think that the approval of parity, an expression of confidence in America, and an invitation to Americans to assist us in our crusade for national betterment, is one inescapable obligation the nation owes to you for helping give our nation its chance to succeed and to prosper.
I have spoken at some length regarding the debt that we owe to you. There is no debt without a balancing credit. What is the obligation which you, the veterans, owe to your country? It is true that you have served your country nobly and well. It is true that your ranks are broken with the eloquent absence of men who can make no further sacrifices. You, the living, are under a sacred obligation to insure that what you fought to preserve shall be preserved, that what you fought to save shall remain saved, that what you fought to regain shall not only be kept intact but improved and cultivated. You who know best the meaning of democracy and the meaning of freedom, you who have shown by your actions your devotion to that holy cause, I cannot now relax your energies or lay down the arms of vigilance. You must fight on and on and on. The battle for the freedoms is never ended. There are always new summits to reach, new heights to be taken, new enemies, to be dislodged. You have an unshakeable obligation to continue to be vigilant, to take a more vigorous part than ever before in the achievement of the goals for which you fought in war. As you have every right to have a full voice in the national decision, you have an obligation to use your voice and to assure the maximum role of leadership of which you are capable. No less will do.
You are a vigorous and, I hope, vigilant sector of our national population. As you were the mainspring of our greatest national glory, I trust that you will be in the future, the shock troops of our fight for national development and growth. I have a word of advice for you. Many of you have received, are receiving or will receive considerable amounts in back-pay and other emoluments. The fear has been expressed that this money will be squandered and dissipated in consumption spending, that it will increase the national inflation and add to our economic problems. That has been one of the arguments in the United States against greater benefits for you. It is a real and cogent argument. What we need today is not more purchasing power for a few, but more producing power for all. Yet it takes capital to produce. I urge you then, with all the persuasiveness and force at my command, to pool your resources and to hoard them, not for spending, not for luxuries, not for comforts, but for productive purposes. Save every centavo and invest it. Make every possible economy in your personal living, and divert all your money into productive channels. Your guerrilla units and organizations can well serve economic as well as social purposes. Establish producers’ and marketing cooperatives. Go into business; buy land, and invest in farm machinery, to be shared on a cooperative basis. Establish factories, transport systems, and chains of retail stores. Some of you have been quartermasters; others have been transport and ordnance men. Use your skills and experience acquired in war for the constructive purposes of peace. Use your unity and your comradeship, your experience in organization administration, your habits of working together as a team and as a unit to undertake economic enterprises. The Government will give you every encouragement, aid and cooperation. Present concrete and specific programs, and I emphasize the words “concrete and specific”, to the appropriate government agencies and if you do not get favorable action, write to me. I will give every such application, if it is concrete, specific, detailed, and practical, my sympathetic support. I want to see you, above anybody else, have a lion’s share in the new land of plenty and freedom which we are building here.
NOTE.―On February 4, 1946, President Roxas, then head of the Senate and a presidential candidate, spoke before 500 delegates to the first convention of this Confederation to which all guerrilla groups may belong. On that occasion, he made the following commitment: “I will get the Philippine Congress to pass a Guerrilla Bill of Rights as a fair and just reward for the heroes of the resistance movement.”