Staying with the President alone at the Guest House across the Pasig River from Malacañan Palace.
At luncheon we had Don Alejandro Roces, proprietor of the T.V.T. newspapers and Paez, manager of the Manila Railroad Company. Paez told of the success of the new branch of the railroad in the Bicol Provinces –at last, they have through connection with Manila and it is no longer necessary to cross Ragay Gulf by steamer. Quezon mentioned that he had refused the request of residents of those provinces for a highway parallel with the railroad.
Roces came in excited by the press dispatches giving the exceedingly strong reply of Assistant Secretary of State Sumner Welles to the German Charge d’Affaires in which he refused to apologize for the very strong denunciations of Germany by Secretary Ickes. Parallel and even more aggressive statements had been made by Ickes himself, and by Key Pittman, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, which contained the language: “We do not like the government of Germany and we do not like the government of Japan.” Roces is expecting serious consequences –perhaps war. Quezon remarked: “The way to keep the peace nowadays is to use insults.”
Later Roces told me of his conversation about me with the late Governor General Leonard Wood, who had asked him what he thought of me. Roces replied enthusiastically about me, stating that before my coming here, the Filipinos had felt they were “nobodies.” Wood replied: “What wonderful friendship!” Roces answered him: “That is not merely friendship –it’s justice.”
Roces then went on to relate a conversation he had just after the defeat by the United States of the Philippine insurrection. He said tartly to a friar: “You gave us Heaven and Hell, but kept the earth for yourselves –now we want our earth, and you can take back your Heaven and Hell!”
This started the President talking about the present troubles on the Buenavista estate in Bulacan, belonging to the Church. These difficulties had come to a head this week. Quezon said: “The Archbishop is my friend, or used to be.” The Buenavista through its revenues supports the “San Juan de Dios” hospital in Manila. At the moment, the estate is in the hands of a receiver, who had ordered the new crop to be left untouched while the financial troubles were adjusted; the aperceros (or tenants) are to receive their share –there have been disorders, threats and danger of bloodshed. Secretary of Justice Santos recently called this serious situation to Quezon’s attention in a recent Cabinet meeting, and the President became indignant that he had not been earlier informed. He telephoned at once to Orense, the lawyer for the Church, to the Governor of the Province, to the Constabulary &c. to hold up everything for a week until he can get the situation straightened out. Quezon even threatened Orense with violent resistance from the Constabulary if his agents proceeded. States that he will not be like General Weyler who sent a company of Spanish artillery to the Calamba estate to shoot down the tenants there (vide Rizal). He then sent for the Archbishop and recalled to him the reason for the Filipino insurrection against Spain. The “Friar Estates.” He then offered to lease the estate for the government for an average rental equal to that which the Church had received from this estate for the past five years, plus ten per cent, which would make 115,000 pesos as an annual return for an estate assessed at four million pesos. Quezon said the government would buy the estate for three million pesos. The Archbishop withdrew to consider, and the matter is still pending.
I remarked that when Governor Taft had negotiated the famous Friar Lands purchase, it was a pity he did not buy all the Church estates for the government. Quezon explained that Taft bought only the Friar Estates because he thought that those belonging to the Archbishop would be protected by the Filipinos who are all Catholics.
Quezon then mentioned his last summer’s veto of the bill for religious instruction in the state schools –he said that over two thirds of the Assembly favored this bill.
Finally, he talked of the commencement exercises this year at San Juan Letran, the college he had attended as a boy. They had played during these exercises, not only the Filipino National Anthem, but that of Spain also –then everybody else present gave the Fascist salute but at that point, Quezon sat down. When he made his address, a little later, he slapped them severely for this incident, stressed the need for neutrality in the Spanish Civil War, and commended the attitude of High Commissioner McNutt in avoiding partisanship. Then in order to temper off the severity of his rebuke, he remarked to them: “I am glad to get even with the faculty, these padres did just what they wanted with me for eleven years!”
A little later, when he went to mass in some parish church, the friar organist started the old (Franco) Spanish anthem and immediately switched to the Philippine anthem, and he realized how directly the Filipinos had derived their anthem from the old Spanish one.
At dinner that night, the President developed a theory in favor of representative democracy instead of “mob democratic rule.” “The people care more for good government than they do for self-government,” he asserted, adding that “the fear is that the Head of State may either exceed his powers, or abuse them by improprieties. To keep order is his main purpose.”
As I felt there was more than a dash of unorthodoxy in his present philosophy, I then led him to a discussion of the qualities of those who are candidate to succeed him.
His present choice is Yulo, of whom he thinks so highly as a lawyer, and added that it was most important for an executive not to exceed his powers. He has consulted Yulo at every turn of his administration. Now he will make him speaker to “give him his chance.” At the same time he is bringing Manuel Roxas close to him as Secretary of Finance, to study him as well. I put several questions as to Yulo’s qualifications in handling other men, and in getting the best out of them. Quezon replied that if Yulo succeeded him he could sustain him and put him over. He admitted however that the frequent appearances of Yulo at the glittering social events of the sugar barons did not help him with “the people” adding the view that Joe’s (Yulo’s) only weakness is that his wife runs him: she is very extravagant. The President added that Yulo has no control whatever over Mrs. Yulo’s exhibitions of wealth; she used, moreover, to come to a banquet up to an hour late. He, Quezon, finally gave instructions to his staff at the Palace, that his dinners were to be kept waiting only ten minutes for Mrs. Yulo, and no longer. Shortly after this, she came to a dinner party half an hour late and was told at the door that the dinner was going on, and empty places at the table had been removed. This put a stop to her tardiness.
Roxas, he says, will certainly be President of the Philippines some day –“nothing can stop it” though he does not know whether Roxas will actually succeed him. Roxas has built up a great reputation throughout the Philippines; has matured and improved tremendously in the last three years.
I asked him what would be the position of Roxas if his new tax measures were rejected by the Assembly? He replied: “I will put them over.” Roxas has planned his new taxes on the mines in consultation with the principal representatives of the mining companies, and they have already agreed that the proposed taxes are fair.
Paredes, he says, is a very strong man and is the leader of all the Ilocanos; he has Tinguian blood, but not as much as had the late Ignacio Villamor, whom I had nominated as the first Filipino President of the University.
Paredes, he continued, is a very able man, but violent. Quezon greatly appreciates his support of Yulo for the speakership, and he spoke very highly of the former –but he knows, of course, how warmly I am attached to Paredes. I told Don Quintin the next day that Quezon had spoken so well of him, and he expressed the utmost skepticism then added: “if he wants to extricate me from my difficulties here, why does he not ‘deport’ me on one of those missions to the United States or Europe?” He added that he had no career in the Assembly, and that unless he keeps quiet for the next three years, it will just bring on a row with the administration; that if he does not keep quiet, he will lose his political influence.
This conversation was so confidential that I did not report it to Quezon, and the President made only one further comment at this period upon Quintin Paredes, which was to the effect that Paredes had a big personal following in the Assembly of which he was Speaker –while Roxas, as Speaker had only a dozen personal followers there, and had to be helped by Quezon and Osmeña.
My conversations with the President that night at the “Guest House” concluded early because he was so tired, and as we said “good night” he dwelt for a few minutes upon the subject of the book he wishes to write in collaboration with me. He suggested that I work up my own notes first and he will supply a thread of narrative for the administrations that came between mine and his! It is difficult to see how this would work out –I have no talent as a Boswell and not even an ambition to fill so exacting a role!