English text of the speech of His Excellency, Jose P. Laurel, President of the Republic of the Philippines, before the presidents of District and Neighborhood Associations at the session hall of the City Hall, Manila, January 5, 1944
MR. MAYOR, FRIENDS AND COUNTRYMEN:
In the first place, I would like to thank you all, especially the Presidents of the District and Neighbor-hood Associations, for having come so that we may discuss with one another the problems confronting the country, particularly the City of Manila. I know you have had difficulties in coming here; I know the transportation difficulties during these times. As our Mayor has said, I came here to see and know you all. In the second place, for a man in my position who is at the head of the Government, and those of us who are in the Government, we must know the needs of the people because the man who loves his country and wants to be of service to his countrymen, should serve his country not only by words but by deeds—not only during periods of prosperity and peace, but also in times of emergency and difficulties like the present. For those who are in the Government, it is quite easy to govern at a time when the country is at peace and when the people are not undergoing hardships. But in times of stress, love of country demands that the leaders feel and know the needs of the people and must be willing to face difficulties so that they may be able to tide the country over to better times.
The first big problem that should be solved by the new Republic, which can be solved only through the cooperation of those in the Government and the people of Manila, is the distribution of rice and other prime commodities. What we need is rice and food to stave away hunger and starvation. I know that beautiful speeches and words will not help solve this problem. I know that in the midst of these difficulties the people cannot be satisfied by speeches. What the Government should do is to make use of all its agencies and instrumentalities to transport rice to Manila. The Government should take all the necessary steps to save the people of Manila from an impending hunger. Agencies should be created to help and not prejudice the country. And I want to tell you that the Government is doing and is trying to do and what the Government should do during these difficult times. Before the birth of the Republic we had the Military Administration. The reins of the government were not in the hands of the Filipinos, because the Japanese were the victors in the war. The Filipinos cooperated with the Military Administration in the full belief that such cooperation in the long run will bring about results that will benefit the people. We had to take this step because upon the defeat of the Americans and Filipinos in Bataan and Corregidor, the Filipinos had no more strength to continue the war against the Japanese. Fortunately, we did not make a mistake when we cooperated with the Military Administration because little by little, through our courage and persistence to uphold our rights during those times, we were able to have some authority which, as you know, bore fruit in the establishment of the Republic of the Philippines, in the election of your President, and in the appointment of the mayors of the different cities of the country.
In the past, rice used to be distributed through the Naric. Being an instrumentality of the Military Administration, the Naric was under the control of that Military Administration. You know that our Republic is still in its infancy, but all its efforts are being directed towards the acquisition of all these control associations so that the Government may be able to alleviate the sufferings of the masses of our population. This Naric was returned to the Philippine Government only a few days ago. However, with the information that I have received regarding the Naric, it can no longer be used as an instrumentality of my Administration to give relief to the masses. Why? Because, firstly, this agency was an instrumentality of the Military Administration and the people believed that the Naric was an organization of the Japanese created to supply the needs of the Army. That is the rumor that is being circulated as propaganda by the people who are in the mountains. Secondly, in the Naric, many irregularities and anomalies were committed not only by the Filipinos but also by the Japanese. [Applause.] My countrymen, I will not receive an agency or instrumentality which I know will only work hardships on the people. When I know that the Naric is dirty in its administration and the people so believe it, it is my duty to reject it, as I would a rotten apple. And dissolve it, as I have dissolved it.
We are creating an agency which will be completely controlled by Filipinos. And I want to tell my country that it will be ours, that our rice is for the Filipinos alone; that there will be no Japanese there to meddle because it is not the duty of the Japanese to save the Filipinos but the duty of the Filipinos themselves. [Applause.] Therefore, let us not blame our Government. You yourselves know what happened in the City of Manila. You know that the Republic is barely two months old. Let us give it time, say six months, to undertake its relief work— not one or two or three months—because the Government has to tackle national problems and because I am not a god nor are my colleagues in the Government. We are establishing our own “Palabigasang-Bayan.” It is necessary that Filipinos alone must manage it. It is necessary that it must be administered by the Government and only by men selected by the Government. How? In Central Luzon, especially Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and Tarlac, rice is being harvested normally at the rate of 24 million cavanes a year. The rice consumption of Manila is only two million a year. Therefore, there is no reason why we cannot get from these five provinces the needs of the City of Manila. There is no reason for the hoarding of this rice which the people of these five provinces do not need in excess of their consumption, but which are needed by their own countrymen in Manila who are on the verge of starvation. That is why the Government is inquiring as to how much rice can be harvested in Central Luzon. If Tarlac, for instance, can produce one million cavanes of palay and the population of Tarlac is 100,000, a little common sense will tell us that Tarlac, whose harvest is one million cavanes, only needs 500,000 or half a million. We shall not get the 500,000 cavanes of rice which the people of Tarlac needs. What we will get is only the excess, or 500,000 cavanes and thus prevent profiteering by some of the people of Tarlac [Applause] who desire money and more money. This will be done by the Government [Applause]. I believe that during these times, no Filipino has the right to enrich himself at the expense of his countrymen [Applause]. What will be done in Tarlac will also be done in other provinces. However, it is easy to say that 500,000 cavanes of rice are available. There are people who have rice but still want more rice [Applause}. There are many people who are poor and who need help from the Administration. That is why the “Palabigasang-Bayan” will be created, not only in Manila but also in Tarlac because in Tarlac there are also good people and bad people. [Laughter.]
It is true that there is palay, but it has to be harvested and brought to Manila. It is not because there is rice that we can eat the rice. We should understand that there is also the problem of transportation. There are many people who are against the Administration, like the guerrilleros, bandits, etc. These are considerations which must be taken into account by the Government. In my conference with rice growers recently, I told them that ₱8 a cavan of palay is considered by the Government as reasonable. I asked them if that price is reasonable from their point of view. Some said it was too low. I asked them why. I asked them if they would lose and they said they would not. Therefore I said, the price of ₱8 was reasonable. [Applause.] And even assuming that they would lose, so long as they manage to live it is (heir duty and obligation to sell their palay at ₱8 per cavan in order that the people of Manila, who are without rice, may survive. And I told them also that if they refuse to sell their rice at ₱8, the Government will confiscate their rice and they will also lose their ₱8. [Applause.] It is necessary for the Government to help the poor because they cannot buy rice from the black market. What they earn by the sweat of their brow is not enough for that. The rice growers finally agreed to sell their rice at ₱8 per cavan. Mr. Gabaldon of Nueva Ecija, told me he has 170,000 cavans of palay which he was willing to sell to the Government at P8 per cavan and if need be to give it free to the Government. [Applause.] The palay is there in Guimba, Nueva Ecija. The Government will get this rice; but there is the problem of transportation. We need Constabulary soldiers who will fight the guerrilleros and socialistas who desire to prevent rice from reaching Manila. I do not believe there is a single Filipino who will permit his fellow-countrymen to starve. The Constabulary strength in Central Luzon is now 4,000. If the Government is not strong enough to quell disorder, I might be compelled to ask the help of the Japanese Army. I am willing to sacrifice my life and my dignity in order to save the country. I am even willing to be a slave for this purpose. [Applause.]
I am confident, however, that those guerrilleros—if they are true Filipinos—will understand our situation. The question now is not whether we should love the Americans more than the Japanese or the Japanese more than the Americans but what we should do now is to love our own selves. [Applause.] If they can feel the hardship of the people here in Manila; if they only know the sleepless nights we spend to procure rice I am confident that those people in the mountains—those brothers of ours who sucked milk from the breasts of their mothers, those whose brothers and sisters are now suffering here,—I am confident they will not offer obstacles in the transportation of rice into Manila. However, if they persist and after the expiration of the period of amnesty they do not come down from the mountains and still continue to interfere with the transportation of rice, I shall use an iron hand and the Constabulary forces at my command in order that rice may reach Manila.
At present we have no rice. What will you do? Mr. President, you might ask. While the palay is being taken from the provinces, no distribution of rice is taking place and the poor cannot get rice nor can they buy from the black market. It is true that a person may bring in one cavan to Manila, but the poor can not do this. Only the rich can. The problem, therefore, is how to give rice to the poor in the meantime that there is no distribution of the commodity. This is the reason why through my good friend, the Mayor, I have called all of you here so that we might find ways and means whereby the people may be relieved. I cannot think of any agency that can at present help the Government except you people from the Neighborhood Associations. [Applause.] I say to you that if the Japanese has not done anything good, at least, the establishment of Neighborhood Associations has been beneficial. Firstly, I desire to tell you that there are many people living in Manila. According to our Mayor, we had about 800,000 inhabitants in Manila before the war. Now there are about 1,200,000 inhabitants, or an excess of about 400,000. The Government, respects and recognizes and even protects the individual rights of the citizen as guaranteed in the Constitution. But the individual rights of every citizen must be subordinate to the supreme interest and welfare of the whole nation. There are many people in Manila who are doing nothing at all, and if they are doing something, it is inimical. Those people who are not bona fide residents of the City of Manila before the war and are not a help to the Government or to the country, must be told to return if possible to tin? provinces where they can help in increasing food production. It is possible that Manila may soon be bombed, considering that Formosa, which is only some 400 miles from the Philippines has already been bombed. At Present, Manila is overpopulated. If we are too many here in Manila, let us use our minds a little to know that in time of danger it is better that we disperse. Furthermore, the time will come when health and sanitation can not be maintained. And it is very hard get sick nowadays, what with the scarcity and high cost of medicine. It is, therefore, preferable to the in the provinces, where medicinal plants are available. The social problem, also, is becoming serious. Night clubs and cabarets are multiplying. People recklessly spend their time and money. They have also become very curious.
A control system should be established. But if there is nothing to control it is pointless for a government to establish such a system. The object of control of prime commodities is to ration and distribute equitably to the people these commodities so that not only the rich but also the poor may live. But without commodities, what is the use of a control system? I want to tell you that this Government is having difficulties. Almost everyday, I confer with high Japanese authorities, like the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the Ambassador. I tell them that as President, it is my duty to bring about the salvation of my country and that the means for saving my country, like the railroad, and other means of transportation, and other control associations—not only the Naric—should be placed in the hands of the Filipinos. [Applause.} What is the use of a President who is President in name only and cannot give relief to the people. [Applause.] I am telling you that I am not going to be a puppet of anybody, not even the Japanese. [Applause.]
We may have plenty of rice but they are in the provinces. We have to transport them. We may have trucks but we must also have alcohol. So I asked the Japanese authorities to give us control over alcohol also. [Applause.]
We have in Manila only six thousand sacks of rice. If this rice is to be rationed to the people, it will suffice for only one ration day. This information was given to the Mayor and the District Chiefs of Neighborhood Associations in a conference had with me and Minister Sanvictores and Secretary Sabido. These six thousand sacks of rice will be distributed only to the poor [Applause]; to those who really need the rice because those who have money and are strong may get rice from the provinces even everyday. The rice in the hands of the Government will be distributed only to the poor who have no rice until rice can be brought to Manila from the provinces. If rice cannot be transported and distributed because of the obstructions placed by the guerrilleros in Central Luzon, there is no other remedy than that we must all starve. But I assure you, my countrymen, if you starve, your President will starve with you. [Applause.] I will not resign from my position. I consider it my duty and the duty of every Filipino to die for his country. [Applause.]
In closing, countrymen, I reiterate my thanks for your presence here. If some of you want to speak with me, I regret that I can not see you because I am very busy. But I have established in Malacañan a Public Relations Office headed by Colonel Martinez. If you are ashamed to be seen, you may write and drop your letters of complaint or suggestion in the box installed in Malacañan. Colonel Martinez reports to me every day the needs of the country. I want you to bring to my attention your needs and your problems because I am here not for the glory nor for the position nor money, but to do service to the Nation. No amount of money nor influence of friends will deter me from the performance of my duties to the country. And if there are people who still have the intention of doing away with Laurel as they tried to do at Wack Wack, I am not afraid because I know that God will not allow a man who performs his duties to his country to die. [Applause.} And in my hour of death, I shall feel happy because I have been able to see the Filipino Flag waving proudly alone in the sky. [Prolonged Applause.]