When General MacArthur stepped ashore on Leyte on 22 October 1944, he was accompanied by Sergio Osmena, the former Philippine vice-president who succeeded President Manuel Quezon who died in August 1944 while in exile in the United States. With U.S. forces pushing the Japanese from the islands, Osmena was brought back to reestablish a legitimate civilian government, to oversee post-war recovery, and to prepare the Philippines for independence. Three days after his arrival in Leyte, MacArthur returned civil control of liberated areas to the commonwealth president and, on 27 February 1945, he granted Osmena civil control over the entire Philippines. Unfortunately, Osmena was considered by many to be a weak and ineffectual leader, lacking the skill and charisma of his predecessor.1
But what of the nation Osmena was given charge of? The islands were devastated. General Eisenhower remarked that, "Of all the wartime capitals, only Warsaw suffered more damage than Manila."2 Essential services were in chaos. Transportation and communication systems were barely operational in most areas, food production was at a standstill, and the health system was horribly overtaxed. The economy was in shambles -- unemployment was epidemic and the nation's export industry had collapsed during the war. In fact, only graft and corruption seem to have
increased from pre-war days.3 To accomplish anything, many hands in government had to be crossed with silver and assistance was provided to those with connections, not to those with the greatest need.
In January 1946, Paul V. McNutt, the U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippines, delivered a report to President Truman outlining conditions and their effects on the scheduled independence of the islands that July. "The situation is critical," McNutt reported, "it does not at this moment seem possible for the Filipino people, ravaged and demoralized by the cruelest and most destructive of wars, politically split between loyalists and enemy collaborators, with several well-armed dissident groups still at large, to cope with the coincidence of political independence and the tremendous economic demands of rehabilitation."4
During this trying period the United States Congress made sincere efforts to assist Philippine recovery through economic assistance programs. In October 1945, Senator Tydings (co-author of the 1934 Tydings-McDuffie Act) introduced legislation in the Senate for Philippine rehabilitation. Originally seeking $620 million in emergency economic aid, Tydings' bill was reduced in scope by $100 million.5
The act provided for several important actions to assist reconstruction. The first of these provisions established a Philippine War Damage Commission, chartered by Congress to
investigate and pay claims for property lost as a result of military action. The commission owed its conception as much to an August 1943 promise by President Roosevelt to "assist in the full repair of ravages caused by war," as it did to concerns about conditions on the islands.6 A second provision authorized the U.S. government to transfer surplus military equipment and property, at cost or as grants, to the Philippine government. Together, Congress hoped that the influx of economic aid and Philippine acquisition of cheap, reliable equipment would speed reconstruction and put the nation's economy back on track.7
This well intentioned program, as well as other smaller ones, however, did little to solve the problems faced by the Philippine people or promote an enlightened climate for political or social reforms. American money, supplies, and equipment were quickly absorbed by an economy starved for even the most basic commodities. Amidst a people hungry for all types of goods, black markets flourished, relief and rehabilitation materials disappeared, and the Osmena administration seemed unwilling to do anything about corruption. War damage claims, administered by a joint U.S.-Philippine War Damage Corporation, began business in June but, soon became hopelessly mired in bureaucratic redtape. Although the U.S. Congress allocated $520 million for Philippine war claims, that figure fell far short of the $1.2 billion estimate made by President Osmena, or even the $800 million estimate submitted by the U.S. War Damage Commission that visited the islands shortly after liberation.8
During the corporation's four year life, more than one million private claims were processed. Each of some 685 daily claims had to be validated before payments were made. Although the first payment to the Philippine government was made in December 1946, payment of the first individual claim was not made until April 1947. When the commission finished its work in 1950, it had dispersed only $388 million against claims totaling $1.25 billion.9 Slowness, inefficiency, and overt corruption within the Commission set public feelings against the central government and by extension against the United States. Needless to say, Huk propagandists combined these feelings of neglect and corruption with those about land-tenancy as they rebuilt their popular base. As the people's frustrations grew, so did their affinity for the communist cause -- not so much from an ideological position, as from their desire for change and reform.
UNITED STATES POLICY TOWARD THE PHILIPPINES
The attitudes of U.S. policy-makers toward the islands in the period between liberation and independence was paternalistic, economically based, conservative, and anti-Huk. Post-war policy was aimed at returning the nation to normalcy through economic assistance that would, in essence, reestablish conditions as they existed before 1941. In short, American policy sought to return the status quo and cut the umbilical cord with Manila, by granting the nation independence, just as soon as it could. This policy resulted in the implementation of poorly administered assistance programs that often worked to the Huks' advantage.
Emergency assistance in the forms of food and aid were rushed to the islands on the heels of liberation. By mid-1945,
200 million pounds of food were shipped to Manila to relieve shortages caused by the near total breakdown of Philippine agriculture. However promising the effort, emergency programs suffered from a lack of American supervision once the aid reached the Philippines. Once unloaded, the distribution of aid was mismanaged by inept, usually corrupt, Filipino officials. These problems were aggravated by the release of several thousand Filipino collaborators by United States and Philippine authorities when their skills were needed by the Osmena government.10 However, as often is the case involving large sums of money and materiel flooding into an impoverished nation, many local officials took the opportunity to become wealthy through corruption and the black market at the expense of their countrymen.
Based on U.S. wartime experience with the Huk, intelligence reports produced in the closing days of the war by the Southwest Pacific Area staff, and in consultation with President Osmena (who had a narrow understanding of the Huks and their goals), MacArthur ordered the guerrillas disarmed and dispersed. Of all the Huk squadrons that participated in the war, only two from southern Luzon were offered official recognition and promised veteran benefits, back pay, and the opportunity to integrate into the Philippine armed forces. Conversely, most USAFFE veterans were integrated directly into the Philippine Military Police Command, and promised full benefits.11 These seemingly arbitrary actions led to serious confrontations between Huk and U.S. forces and, when coupled with U.S. reluctance to even recognize them as bona fide anti-Japanese guerrillas, the stage was set for longterm disaffections.
It became official U.S. policy to ignore the Huks, considering them but bands of armed civilians. Several squadrons offered to join the AFP, but were refused and ordered instead to surrender their arms. In more than one instance, Huks were confronted by armed U.S. and Philippine forces sent to carry out U.S. policy regarding the disarmament of armed civilian groups. In Pampanga Province, American troops surrounded three squadrons who refused to lay down their arms. These Huks were finally disarmed at rifle-point. In mid-February, U.S. troops arrested members of the Huk GHQ and imprisoned them in San Fernando. When Taruc and Alejandrino were arrested, temporary control of the movement fell to Mariano Balges, Huk GHQ political commissar. Balges fled with many of his supporters to the jungles and swamps of central Luzon and began the process of rebuilding the Huk organization. Many local people, who just weeks before had applauded the arrival of U.S. forces, viewed the incarceration of the Huk leadership and other hardhanded American and Filipino actions with disdain and threw-in once again with the guerrillas.12
After twenty-two days of imprisonment, Taruc and Alejandrino were released when mass demonstrations threatened to undermine peace, throughout central Luzon. United States and Philippine government authorities hoped that the two leaders would convince Huks to come-in and surrender their arms. Instead, Taruc reassumed his position as Hukbalahap "El Supremo," this time vowing to continue the fight against the government and the United States. Unfortunately for Taruc and Alejandrino, Huk intelligence suffered seriously during liberation and they were arrested once again by U.S. CIC agents in April. This time, they were sent to Iwahig Prison on the island of Palawan, far from
their supporters. As harsh as American actions were toward the Huks, MacArthur had in fact resisted even stronger ones. He held sympathetic feelings for what the Huk were fighting for and told his biographer, William Manchester, that if he (MacArthur) were a Filipino, he would have been a Huk.13
Another problem faced by the government after liberation concerned local governments established by the Huks during the war. These Barrio United Defense Corps (BUDC) maintained a degree of order within the villages and were seen as legitimate by the local populace. In the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Rizal, and Laguna, entire government structures from provincial governor to local postal clerks were held by Huk/CPP officials or their supporters. President Osmena considered these local governments invalid and, with the consent of the U.S. High Commissioner, refused them recognition and ordered them replaced with his own appointees.14
At this critical point in Philippine reconstruction, U.S. policy makers failed to see the Huks and their popular, peasant-based movement for what it really was -- a communist revolutionary struggle capable of mass support under current conditions. Instead, the Huks were treated as bandits, their mass support was seriously underestimated, and no real efforts were pursued to bring about socioeconomic changes or reforms.15 Few Americans understood the Huk movement or what was needed to defeat it. Those who did, men such as then Air Force Major
Edward G. Lansdale, were few in number and not politically influentia1.16
American insensitivity to internal Philippine problems continued into 1946 when the U.S. Congress passed two measures that strained Philippine relations and fueled Huk propaganda fires. In February, the Congress addressed the issue of Filipino veteran rights. In a move that shocked people across the Philippines, Congress, initially at least, denied them GI Bill benefits, breaking a promise made to them by General MacArthur as he retreated from Bataan. The American decision also denied back-pay, hospitalization, mustering-out pay, and burial benefits. In the Philippines, this decision met widespread opposition. The U.S. Congress readdressed the veteran issue over the following five years, finally approving money for Philippine veteran hospitals in 1948, burial benefits in 1951, and later paid Filipino veterans $473 million in backpay and allowances.17
A second action that inadvertently aided Huk calls for a Philippines free of U.S. domination was the Philippine Trade Act (or Bell Act) of 1946. Introduced by Missouri Representative C. Jasper Bell in September 1945, the highly controversial act underwent five revisions before being passed in April 1946. Designed to stabilize economic ties with the United States help Philippine recovery, the act formalized pre-war economic trading patterns and ensured U.S. economic hegemony over the country.18 Provisions of the 1946 act fixed the Philippine peso to the dollar and prevented the Philippine government from changing the
value of the peso without U.S. consent. As a final insult, the act legislated a twenty-eight year extension for duty-free trade between the nations and mandated equal and free access to Philippine markets by American businessmen and companies.19 The Trade Act was the. subject of hot debate in the Philippine legislature before being ratified on 18 September 1946, primarily due to the efforts of a coalition of local merchants, businessmen, and politicians (those most likely to benefit from a return to the old status quo).20 Huks seized upon this legislation as just another example of the United States acting through the Philippine government to maintain a neo-colonial relationship for the benefit of Filipino landlords, rich businessmen, and corrupt government officials.
THE RESUMPTION OF HUK/CPP ACTIVITY
By summer of 1945, the people of central Luzon had serious doubts about the intentions of their newly reestablished central government. Local authorities were not recognized by President Osmena and Huk friends and relatives were being arrested -- certainly unusual treatment for those regarded as brave, patriotic freedom-fighters. To make matters worse, peasants were now falling victim to government police and troops who often preyed upon the peasants for food and supplies much as the Japanese had done. As lawlessness increased, the peasants were forced to choose between supporting a central government that was legal but could not exert control, or to support the Huks, who
although illegal, attempted to provide control and worked to enforce order.21
Sensing the growing climate of disaffection, the CPP moved its base of operations into the Manila barrios and began to organize new labor unions. In July 1945, the CPP formally joined with two of the more successful unions they helped establish before the war -- the National Peasant's Union and the broad, socialist-based Congress of Labor Organizations. Together, the three groups formed the Democratic Alliance (DA). Under Lava's control, the Alliance set to plot a strategy for the upcoming November 1946 general elections as a major opposition party to the ruling Partido Nacionalista.22 At the same time, Democratic Alliance leadership planned the timetable for the eventual overthrow of the Philippine government.
The Democratic Alliance timetable defined three periods in which an alliance of political and military activists would work toward specific goals. The first phase, from 1946-1949, would be devoted to organization. During this preparatory stage, the movement would attempt to win the support of the working and peasant classes. Once this support was well entrenched, they would set up a national revolutionary bloc of workers, peasants, and intellectuals to prevent the capitalist classes from extending their control over the nation.
The second stage of the strategy was to take place between 1949 and 1951, and would focus on the "political offensive." DA leaders planned to couple the mass political base, built during the first phase, with the military wing of the organization, the
Hukbalahap. The planning document used for this strategy called for Huk strength to peak at 172,800 members by September 1951. Fin=ally, in 1952, the communists planned to see their strategy through to fruition with the takeover of the government in the third and final stage. This takeover would be accomplished in a mass uprising -- an uprising so grand in scale that the existing capitalist government could not stand in its path.23
Throughout the summer of 1946, the Democratic Alliance organized large demonstrations in Manila to demand the release of Taruc and Alejandrino. In September, following an especially violent and bloody riot, Osmena ordered the two Huk leaders released from Iwahig. They returned home and organized political campaigns for the November elections.
The communist political organization also took advantage of yet another sensitive issue that appeared after the war-collaboration. Questions over who collaborated with the Japanese and why, sparked violent debates and hatred in the post-war Philippines. For many Filipinos who suffered greatly at the hands of the enemy the slightest hint of collaboration by a public official was cause for deep resentment. This problem intensified in cases involving the Philippine Police Constabulary and members of the new government. The police had been used by the Japanese to control the countryside and, although they seldom cooperated fully with the enemy, they did operate under his control. Many members of the reconstruction government had also cooperated with the Japanese and were under similar suspicions.
Manuel Roxas, a politician and army brigadier general before the war, was a government administrator during the Japanese occupation. At liberation, Roxas, along with 5,000 others, was
taken into custody by U.S. military authorities and imprisoned for collaboration. Due to his administrative skills, and evidence that he collaborated to minimize violence directed against Filipinos, he was among many former government officials released on the orders of President Osmena and General MacArthur in April 1945.24 Roxas had strong support from MacArthur, and because of his administrative background was appointed to the Osmena administration and soon returned to a position of power in the Nationalist Party from which he challenged President Osema. During the first post-war election in 1945, Roxas was elected president and forty-five members of the occupation government were returned to the legislature.25 The issue of collaboration played heavily on the minds of most Filipinos and quickly became a key element of the Huk propaganda campaign.
When the guerrillas returned to the jungles and swamps of central Luzon, they began to rebuild their wartime organization. Luis Taruc resumed his role as military commander while Jose Lava ran the movement's political campaign. Seeking shelter and protection in the same areas they used so effectively against the Japanese, Taruc's armed guerrillas ventured out to harass government forces, intimidate civilians who favored the Manila government, and raise supplies and money through taxes levied on villages, and an occasional robbery or kidnapping when voluntary contributions failed.26 Concurrently, other armed units were formed that terrorized and murdered landlords returning to lay claim to the lands they abandoned during the war. The Huks received active support from the peasantry for these actions,
since most of the peasants remained with the land and attempted to resist the Japanese when the landlords fled.27
Indoctrination and propaganda campaigns were conducted to support the armed struggle at every opportunity. Stalin University was reopened in the Sierra Madres mountains for promising recruits. Huk propagandists were quick to exploit even the most minor case of government abuse or corruption, and there was no difficulty in identifying these. Realizing that most of their support came from the peasant farming class, the movement adopted the slogans "Land for the Landless" and "Prosperity for the Masses".28 This strategy proved most effective in the days prior to independence in 1946 as the people searched for socioeconomic reforms that never came from Manila.
Thus, as the nation approached independence, little constructive change had taken place since 1941. If there was any dramatic change at all, it was a worsening condition for the peasant, brought about by the ravages of war. The Manila government was riddled with corruption and showed no visible concern for the peasant farmer. Landlords and wealthy Filipino businessmen continued to hold firm sway in government and, aided by post-war U.S. policy, had returned the Philippines to the status quo that most favored their own purposes. The peasant felt forgotten, abused, and saw no hope for substantive social or economic change coming from the current government once the islands achieved independence.
1. Leo S. Comish, Jr., The United States and the Philippine Hukbalahap Insurrection: 1946-54, (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, [8 March 1971]), pp. 3-6.
2. Robert A. Smith, Philippine Freedom 1946-1958, (NY: Columbia University Press, 1958), p. 115.
3. William B. Steele, Internal Defense in the Philippines: 1946-1954, (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, ), p. 2.
4. Comish, The US and the Philippine Hukbalahap Insurrection, p. 8.
5. Ibid., p. 26.
6. Milton W. Meyer, A Diplomatic History of the Philippines, (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1965), p. 5.
7. US Department of State, The Philippine Rehabilitation Program: Report to the President by the Secretary of State, Far Eastern Series, (Washington, D.C.: GPO, [31 August 1954]), p. 3.
8. Robert R. Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurgency: Economic, Political, and Militar Factors, (Washington, D.C.: Office of the Chief of Military History, 1963]), p. 60.
9. Comish, The US and the Hukbalahap Insurrection, p. 27.
10. Ibid. p. 45.
11. Rodney S. Azama, The Huks and the New People's Army: Comparing Two Postwar Filipino Insurgencies, (Quantico, VA: Marine Corps Command an to College, April 1985]), p. 42; and Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurgency, pp. 53-55.
12. Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurgency, pp. 53-58; and Luis Taruc, Born of the People, (Bombay: People's Publishing House, LTD., 1953), p. 173.
13. Ibid., p. 55; and William Manchester, American Caesar, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1978), p. 4.
14. Lapus, "The Communist Huk Enemy," p. 15; and Reginald J. Swarbrick, The Evolution of Communist Insurgency in the Philippines, (Quantico, VA: Marine Corps Command and Staff College, [7 June 1983]), p. 8.
15. Comish, The US and the Hukbalahap Insurrection, p. 17.
16. Reference Book RB 31-3, Internal Defense Operations: A Case History, The Philippines 1946-1954, (Ft. Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, ), p. 37.
17. Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurgency, p. 62; and Comish, The US and the Hukbalahap Insurrection, p. 36.
18. Comish, The US and the Hukbalahap Insurrection, p. 31; and Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurgency, p. 62.
19. Azama, The Huks and the N.P.A., p. 43; and Napoleon Valeriano (Colonel, AFP), "Military Operations," in Counter-Guerrilla Operations in the Philippines 1946-53, (Ft. Bragg, NC: U.S. Army Special Forces Center and School, 15 June 1961]), p. 26.
20. Comish, The US and the Hukbalahap Insurrection, p. 34.
21. Center for Research in Social Systems, Internal Defense Against Insurgency: Six Cases, (Washington, D.C.: The American University, [December 1966]), p. 47.
22. Lapus, "The Communist Huk Enemy," p. 16; and Swarbrick, Evolution of Communist Insurgency, p. 10.
23. Donald MacGrain, Anti-Dissident Operations in Philippines, (Carlisle Barracks, PA: U.S. Army War College, [26 March 1956]), p. 6. 39
24. Comish, The US and the Hukbalahap Insurrection, p. 10; and F. Sionil Jose, "The Huks in Retrospect," p. 67.
25. Smith, The Hukbalahap Insurgency, p. 59.
26. Medardo Justiniano (Major, AFP), "Combat Intelligence," in Counter-Guerrilla Operations in the Philippines 1946-53, (Ft. Bragg, NC: U.S. Army Special Forces Center and School, [15 June 1961]), p. 40.
27. Azama, The Huk and the NPA, p. 19.
28. Justiniano, "Combat Intelligence," p. 40.
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