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Chapter 7 (1st of 3 parts)

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  • 1 Bataan .
  • 9 years ago

National polls

            Under the leadership of President Sergio Osmeña, the national government was reorganized to make it responsive to the imperative needs of the newly-liberated nation. The old Commonwealth Congress was recovened and on June 6, 1945, a  special session was held. In July, the President called Congress to a regular session.

            One of the first things the Congress did was to reward its members with three years back pay corresponding to the three years of the Japanese Occupation. The other issue tackled was the problem of collaboration. Osmeña wanted all those who collaborated with the Japanese be removed “from authority and influence over the political and economic life of the country.”

            In September 1945, the American Counter-Intelligence Corps handed over to the government all detained political prisoners. Some of them, big names in the political scene before the war, were set free upon the recommendation of both President Osmeña and Senator-General Manuel Roxas.

            In the meantime, food distribution centers continued to open in the provinces. Rice, cracked corn, sardines, salmon and other American canned goods were distributed free to the people in all municipalities. The amount of goods distributed was based on the number of people in a family. Because there was not much food to buy even if one had the money, most of the heads of the families padded the number of persons comprising their families in order to get more goods. The 1946 population of Bataanwas placed at 76,000.

            The Philippine Civil Affairs Unit also provided employment to laborers who were each paid one peso daily with food, and/or one peso and twenty centavos without food. The agency also provided consumer goods to wholesaler at fixed prices. Reconstruction and rehabilitation continued all over the country.

Balanga visit

            In October 1945, Luz Banzon Magsaysay finally returned to Balanga to visit her mother and eight siblings. She was accompanied by her husband Ramon and their three children. It was a teary but happy reunion. The visitors had a wonderful time in the newly-rehabilitated Banzon residence in Balanga during their two-week stay  in Bataan. The Banzon family also decided to exhume and bring the remains of their father, Jose “Mameng” Banzon from Hagonoy to Balanga.

National election

            On November 22, 1945,President Sergio Osmeña, after being informed in advance by US-based High Commissioner Carlos P. Romulo that the US Congress had set April 30, 1946 as the deadline for the holding of a national election in the Philppines, immediately called for a party meeting in Malacañang with his major political allies and campaign handlers. He wanted them to decide on the exact date when the polls will be held exactly to their advantage.

            Three dates were submitted during the meeting: April 23, 1946 (Wednesday) was suggested by Congressman Jose Romero; April 15, 1946 (Monday) came from Senator Eulogio Rodriguez; and March 28, 1946 (Friday) from Senator Carlos P. Garcia.

            The three were asked to explain why they picked such dates. Among the three, Senator Carlos P. Garcia’s date was the most promising. First, it will be held early, giving Senator Manuel Roxas, a known presidential contender, not enough time to launch a nationwide campaign; and second, not enough time for Roxas to solicit the needed campaign funds, even though they already knew that the latter would be the candidate of the wealthiest men in the Philippines).

            Unfortunately, President Osmeña deferred his final decision on the date of the election. He, however, asked his allies to prepare the names of those who would be running for senators and congressmen. He also admitted during the meeting that he already had three potential candidates for the vice presidential position. Another party meeting was scheduled to be held on November 30, 1945.

Roxas alerted

            Senator Manuel Roxas, already cleared of the collabortion taint through the intercession of General Douglas MacArthur, was also alerted by the decision of the US Congress for the Philippine Congress to set a deadline not later than April 30, 1946 for the holding of a national election in the Philippines. Almost immediately, he started contacting and recruiting political leaders who will support his presidentail ambition.

            Roxas also invited Captain Ramon Magsaysay of Zambales to a meetng in Manila on  November 27, 1945. In the  said meeting, Roxas immediately asked Magsaysay of his own plan upon discharge from military duty. “Our country needs young, energetic and aggressive leaders and I want you to join me politically.”

            Magsaysay answered: “I prefer to remain in the Army and I intend to support Cesar Miraflor for congressman of Zambales. I hope you will support his canndidacy. He is a good man and I know he can do a lot of good for our province. I also promise to support you (Roxas) in your campaign…”

Change of heart

            Upon his return to Zambales, Ramon received a big surprise from his wife Luz who told him that Don Jose “Pepito” Corpuz was also invited to the house of Manuel  Roxas a day earlier upon the senator’s invitation. Luz said that “Corpuz, in front of Roxas, had declared his intention to support the senator’s candidacy and at the same time will run for the lone congressional post in Zambales against all comers.

            After hearing and confirming Luz’ information, Magsaysay had a sudden change of heart about running for congressman. Pressed by the guerrilas of Zambales, he talked to Senator Roxas again, and this time, asked the senator to annoint him as official candidate in Zambales. This time, however, Roxas told him that he had already picked Cesar Miraflor as  his “official” candidate, not Don Pepito Corpuz.

            By this time, Ramon Magsaysay had already decided to became a candidate whether as an independent or official candidate. He acceded to the plan launched by ZMD staff officers like Ramon de Jesus, Sixto Cacho and Hilario Hilario to get the guerrillas in the province to “initiate” a written pledge of support for his candidacy.

            In February 1946, despite voices of skepticism from other guerrilas, Magsaysay officially launched his candidacy for the congressional election set to be held on April 23,1946. Naturally, Luz Banzon got the biggest surprise of her life this time.

Yamashita’s end

            On February 23, 1946, General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the last Japanese general who reigned as military governor of the Philippines in 1944, was hanged to death inLos Baños, Laguna Prison Camp, about 30 miles (48 km) south of Manila.

            He was led out of his cell early in the morning and brought to the site located at the back of the prison camp. After climbing the thirteen (13) steps leading to the gallows, Yamashita was asked if he had a final statement. To this, the Japanese general replied, through a translator:

            “As I said in the Manila Supreme Court that I have done with my all capacity, so I don’t ashame in front of the gods for what I have done when I have died. But if you say to me ‘you do not have any ability to command the Japanese Army,’ I should say nothing for it, because it is my own nature.

            “Now, our war criminal trial going under your kindness and right. I know that all your American military affairs always has tolerant and rightful judgment. When I have been investigated in Manila court, I have had a good treatment, kindful attitude from your good natured officers who protected me all the time. I never forget for what they have done for me.

            Even if I had died, I don’t blame my executioner. I’ll pray the gods bless them.

“Please send my thankful word to Colonel Clarke and Lt. Colonel Feldhaus, Lt. Colonel Hendrix, Major Guy, Captain Sandburg, Captain Reel at Manila court, and Colonel Arnard. I thank you.” After the hanging, General Yamashita’s body was immediately buried in the Los Baños municipal cemetery. Yamashita’s chief of staff in the Philippines, General Akira Mutō, was executed much later, on  December 23, 1948, after having been found guilty of war crimes by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.

Congressman’ Ramon

            On March 21, 1946 General Douglas MacArthur openly endorsed Senator Manuel Roxas as his own candidate for president who, according to him, was a “true friend,” the “man of the hour” and the “strong man” who could save the Philippines in a critical period. This was a public endorsement of the American general despite the fact that he was with President Sergio Osmeña since he started the liberation of the Philippines in October 1944.

            This early, poll surveys in Manila had already indicated that Senator Manuel Roxas would certainly win the presidency after General Douglas MacArthur openly endorsed his campaign.

Osmeña’s supporters

            Luis Taruc of the Hukbalahap organization took the opportunity and publicly allied himself and his Democratic Alliance party to President Sergio Osmeña’s political ambition. Taruc’s support for President Osmeña was already expected because it was Osmeña who caused the former’s release from the Palawan penitentiary on September 30, 1945, as well as that of Castro Alejandrino, another Huk leader.

            In a political rally in Pampanga, Taruc and Alejandrino attacked Senator Manuel Roxas’ loyalty to the republic by accusing him of “collaborating with the enemy” during the Japanese Occupation. They said  Roxas wined and dined with General Tomoyuki Yamashita in Manila and also while hiding in Baguio City.

Campaign trail

            From March 23 to 31, Senator Manuel Roxas spent eight days campaigning in the Visayas. His biggest show of force was seen in San Jose de Buenavista (Antique) on March 24, as well as in Bacolod (Negros Oriental) on March 26, and Tacloban (Leyte) on March30.

            General Douglas MacArthur’s recent personal endorsement on the candidacy of the senator from Panay convinced Colonel Macario Peralta of Negros and Colonel Ruperto Kangleon of Leyte to adopt Manuel Roxas as their candidate for President. Peralta and Kangleon were both known as MacArthur’s personal friends.

Active service

Guerrilla Colonel John P. Boone, formerly head of the Bataan Mlitary District, rejoined the active service in the US Army on March 25, 1946 and received an official rank of Army major. He was also designated as Chief of the Guerrilla Affairs Section, 86th Division, with headquarters located in Marikina, Rizal.

On March 30, 1946, Boone received a letter from Brevet Colonel Jose B. Lingad, GFCP acting district commander in Pampanga. The letter reads:

          “Did you know that there are hundreds of my boys who fled from Huk terrorism in

            Pampanga and are now going hungry again? Most of them are here in the city (Manila)

            and many of them are jobless. Is this what they fought for? They fully believe in their

            very simple and humble way that their comrades-in-arms died in the field of battle for the

            cause that after the peace all, including they, can enjoy once again the so-called Four

            Freedoms.Today they feel that the government and the democratic institutions which

            they fought and died for have let them down. I share that feeling with them.       

            “And did you know that one of your boys, Major Manalansan, is working in one of the

            Navy civilian units at Olongapo receiving the wages of a common laborer? His story is

            similar to thousands of instances in Pampanga and in Central Luzon for that matter.

            Can anyone of us, who know the real situation, deny that nobody who refuses to line up

            with the Communist-Huks can live the usual normal way of’ life? Oh, I am sure, you

            know all that, too. “There are times when the thought comes to my mind that the only

            ‘crime’ which we committed was that we fought for my country and for the Allied cause.

            And for that we have to live, as we are living now, the lives of the hunted. In Central

            Luzon today we have, in place of the Jap tyrants, new rulers-the Red Huks with their

            Moscow brand of Communist Dictatorship.”                                                                 

            On April 01, 1946, General Masaharu Homma’sun named wife who had arrived in Manila to witness the general trial, personally appealed to General Douglas MacArthur to spare the life of her husband..

            Unfortunately, her pleas were denied by the American general. MacArthur stressed that the International Military Tribunal for the Far East court which convictedHomma had already agreed to have the Japanese general shot, rather than be sent to the gallows, the latter being considered as “the greater dishonor amongst military men.”

Contradicting opinions

            John H. Skeen, Jr., Homma’s chief defense counsel, stated before members of the Media in Manila on April 01 that Homma’s trial was a “highly irregular trial”. It was conducted in an atmosphere that left no doubt as to what the ultimate outcome would be. General Homma’s death verdict was no longer new to me and my co-counsels.”

            On April 03, General Masaharu Homma, the conqueror of Bataan and Corregidor, was executed by firing squad composed of Filipino and American soldiers in Los Baños, Laguna. He was earlier convicted by the U.S. military tribunal for his war crimes in the Philippines, including the “Bataan Death March,” and the atrocities at Camp O’Donnell and Cabanatuan concentration camps which followed.

            Homma was not a fanatical militarist. He was known to have pro-Western leanings, embracing a humane approach to the grisly matter of war. It was said that he had tried his best to have the sick and wounded USAFFE soldiers treated properly, but that his subordinates, hamstrung by a lack of men and supplies, failed to carry out his instructions. In fact, despite his overwhelming victory in the Philippines, Homma was often reprimanded by his superiors for his lenient treatment of enemy forces.

            But someone had to pay for the horrors of Corregidor and Bataan—and it was Homma, as the commander immediately responsible, who stood trial and got convicted. Homma’s wife was at the execution area and personally witnessed how her husband bravely faced the soldiers who shot him to death.

            Homma’s wife returned to Japan on April 07, bringing with her the casket of General Masaharu Homma. She had planned to bury him in Sodo island, Niigata Prefecture, the general’s hometown.

Roxas’ magical campaign trail

            Senator Manuel Roxas also held numerous meetings and campaign sorties throughout Luzon from April 4 until 21. In this particular day, April 19, Roxas and his team went to campaign in San Fernando, Pampanga, against the advice of his security detail. They were afraid that something bad might happen to him while campaigning inside the territory of the Hukbalahaps who were openly supporting the candidacy of President Sergio Osmeña.

            The Pampanga meeting was the first and only time Roxas’ supporters from Bataan, to include former Governor Joaquin J. Linao, Mayor Joaquin Banzon of Pilar, Atty. Medina Lacson-de Leon (candidate for congressman), former Bataan Governor Simeon Salonga and Board Member Lorenzo dela Fuente Jr. of Abucay, were able to see and hear Roxas spoke about his beautiful “promises of heaven” for the country. The delegation of Ramon Magsaysay and two bus loads of local guerrillas were also in San Fernando to lend support to his presidential canndidate.

            The smaller delegations of Valentin Afable of Subic, Guerrilla Major Jose A. V. “Pepito” Corpuz of San Antonio; and the ‘annointed’ Atty.Cesar Mirafor also arrived at the big Pampanga event and were mesmerized by Roxas’ almost magical personality – young, a go-getter, brilliant and an effective orator. They were transfixed by his fiery oratory as he tackled before his audience the paramount issues of graft and corruption against the Osmeña administration.

            Roxas was the exact opposite of President Sergio Osmeña who refused to go out more often to campaign. He satisfied himself with saying that “the people already knew his 40 years of honest and faithful service to the country.”

Free-zone

            Having enjoyed power by appointment as military governor and guerrilla chief of Zambales, Ramon Magsaysay now wished to retain it by popular mandate. Unfortunately, he found himself competing with five other candidates. Neither he nor his opponents, it turned out, had been chosen or annointed by Roxas as  his congressional candidate in Zambales. None of them had been chosen in a provincial party convention; they simply offered themselves for election upon consulting with friends and relatives.

            Besides Magsaysay, the other candidates supporting the candidacy of Senator Manuel Roxas for president were Congressman Valentin Afable of Subic; Major Jose A. V. “Don Pepito” Corpuz of San Antonio; and Atty. Cesar Miraflor of Santa Cruz.

            Ex-governor Agustin Medina of Candelaria who was also running for congressman, openly supported President Sergio Osmeña. Ex-Member of the Provincial Board Gregorio Dolojan of Iba chose to be uncommitted to any presidential candidate. Valentin Afable for his part, only planned to resume his political career by seeking his third consecutive term as congressman. Jose “Pepito” Corpuz , on the other hand, aimed to fulfill a pre-war ambition. He also wanted to redeem himself against Valentin Afable who defeated him duringthe 1938 congressional race, and against Ramonn Magsaysay who had dislodged him as guerrilla chief and emergency military governor of Zambales.

            Meanwhile, Cesar Miraflor decided to be the politician-in-office after many years of service as a political assistant to the mayor of Manila and as campaigner for incumbent Zambales Governor Francisco Anonas. Former Governor Agustin Medina and ex-board member Gregorio Dolojan hoped for a combined political comeback and promotion.

Personal presidential bet

            Ramon Magsaysay personally liked Senator Manuel Roxas whom he believed was a dynamic fellow soldier. By co-incidence, his brother in-law, Alejo Labrador, was also a Roxas man. To him, and to most other politicians, the leader, not the party, was what really mattered.

            It was natural for Magsaysay to seek the support of his relatives, compadres, friends and barriomates, who in turn were expected to swing a few more votes to his side. But Magsaysay regarded the guerrillas and their relatives as his most important single source of support, especially because he expected their personal stakes in his election to transcend their loyalties based on acquiantance, region or dialect. If he had any campaign strategy, it was to employ the guerrilla officers and men in Camp Porac in Zambales as his principal campaigners or leaders in their respective places. As a group, they represented every town from Olongapo to Santa Cruz.

            Magsaysay had hoped to run as the official candidate of the Roxas Liberal Party but Cesar Miraflor had seen Roxas earlier with the official backing of Gregorio Anonas, the brother of Governor Francisco Anonas. Since Valentin Afable and Jose “Pepito” Corpuz  were also on the Roxas side, Senator Roxas was soon compelled to declare Zambales as a “free zone” for all the four Liberal candidates. It turned out to be a blessing for Ramon Magsaysay.

During the campaign period, Ramon sought Luz’ approval and the support of both their respective parents. He also told Luz the long story of how his men had pushed him into the  political ring.

Still, Luz was cold to the idea. She said:“I am just going home to Bataan…” Gently pressed for her reasons in objecting, she confessed: “Well, because my father used to be in politics when I was still a baby. My mother used to complain too much, I heard. The salary is not enough, people come and go in our house. I used to hear that since I was small and I hate to be in that kind of life. And I heard that to be a politician, you should be able to know how to drink, smoke, then… the women.”

Ramon laughed understandingly and tried his best to convince her. Not until after he had promised to be a worthy exception, Luz finally gave in.

Ramon’s parents, Exequiel and Perfecta, were also both adamant at first. They would have nothing to do with their son’s candidacy. Ramon was  deeply disappointed. He had hoped for their assistance in money and food for he had no funds for the campaign. He then tried to convince other relatives. He even wrote his newspaperman-cousin Vicente del Fierro for support. A subsequent visit to Manila elicited not only an assurance and a little contribution from Vicente but also of actual campaigning by the whole Del Fierro family for Ramon.

Relatives, neighbors and friends of Ramon also helped put up a tent next to the Magsaysay shack. They also brought food for the people who were beginning to come as Luz had predicted and feared. Ramon Magsaysay’s campaign was on.

Even before he got his honorable discharge on Februry 9, 1946, Magsaysay and his guerrilla campaigners had already begun their campaign in many towns.

 

To be continued

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