Honorable Claro M. Recto
Minister of Foreign Affairs
On the Second Anniversary of the Greater East Asia War
[Delivered at Station PIAM, Manila on December 9, 1943]
Two years ago yesterday we were witnesses in the Philippines to the first violent explosions presaging the birth of a New Order in East Asia. In all frankness it must be admitted that, on that fateful day and for some time thereafter, we looked upon the bewildering developments of the war with dread and suspicion.
There was no time to consider the larger issues of the struggle, to train the cool light of analysis upon the tangled thread of motive and aspiration. At the moment, we Filipinos knew only that it was our duty to rise in defense of our native land.
Because of this faith and conviction, thousands upon thousands of our young men went forth to battle to give proof of their manhood and patriotism to all the world. Bataan will be long remembered for this reason, and for this alone: that in the jungles of that battle-torn peninsula, in the face of bullet, shell and bomb, of disease, starvation and despair, the young manhood of this nation made a stand for what it sincerely believed to be a just and righteous cause and held its ground to the bitter end, without counting the cost.
More than a week ago, on National Heroes Day, we paid homage to the memory of these gallant heroes of the Fatherland. Today, as we observe the second anniversary of the war that provided the occasion of their supreme sacrifice, it is fitting to recall that they, too, in their single-minded and soldierly fashion, were builders of an independent Philippines, contributors to the greatness of Asia, and upholders of the honor of all Asians.
How has this transformation of values come about? With characteristic gallantry the Japanese people have .encouraged us to take pride in the heroic sacrifices of our men who died on the battlefields of this war, to honor and venerate them, not as if they were merely misguided or ill-advised individuals, but as exponents of the highest aspirations of our people and as the embodiment of the noblest qualities of our race.
This instinct of sincere appreciation is symbolic of the new spirit that has animated all of East Asia during the past two years since the outbreak of the war. It shows that Japan, far from being intoxicated with the heady wine of victory, has soberly kept in mind the goal and object of her sacred mission. Even in the Philippines, where her ideal of liberating East Asia and of establishing a Sphere of Co-Prosperity was received with more suspicion than elsewhere, she has shown a degree of patient indulgence that is remarkable in any nation that is yet in the grip of total war.
The concrete proofs of Japan’s understanding spirit since the advent of the war have been as numerous as they have been eloquent. China has been restored her full political and territorial integrity. Burma and the Philippines have become independent. Thailand has regained her lost provinces. The Andaman and Nicobar islands have been restored to the Provisional Government of Free India. The peoples of Malai, Djawa, Sumatra and Celebes have been allowed to participate for the first time in the administration of their own affairs. Thus, a new era has dawned for the nations of Greater East Asia as a consequence of this war. Inspired by Japan’s example, one billion people have risen to the challenge of achieving their rightful destiny under a regime of equality, reciprocity, cooperation and mutual assistance. The foundations of a New Order based on liberty, peace and moral justice have been laid, assuring to each country the right to life, equal opportunity, and the utmost measure of freedom consistent with the common good.
The Joint Declaration adopted by the Greater East Asia Congress embodies all these principles which, if put into practice with sincerity and good will, would transform the dream of the Co-Prosperity Sphere into a living reality. This great charter of rights not only provides a broad practical foundation for the welfare and security of the entire Sphere but also guarantees respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the member-nations, and gives the widest latitude and all the necessary incentives and opportunities for the full flowering of national individuality.
It is highly providential, and a cause for profound gratitude, that the Philippines should have entered upon the full estate of an independent nation at a time when conditions in East Asia are propitious for the unimpeded growth of our young Republic. The threat of successful aggression from without has been dissipated by Japan’s victories, while her recognition of every nation’s right to its proper place under the sun has caused complete harmony and confidence to prevail among the countries of the Sphere. The Philippines has thus fortunately been placed in a position to develop the material and spiritual resources essential to the well-being of its people, free from exploitation by any foreign power, and at the same time to contribute to the progress not only of the Sphere but of the whole world.
Our Pact of Alliance with Japan, concluded on October 14, assures perpetual good relations between the two countries on the basis of mutual respect of each other’s sovereignty and territory. The formal recognition which the Government of the Republic on October 29 extended to the Provisional Government of Free India, was at the same time an affirmation of the Filipino people’s belief in the divine and inalienable right of every nation to become free and independent. The participation of the President of the Republic in the epoch-making Greater East Asia Congress proclaimed to the world our country’s adherence to the proposition that all nations on earth should have their proper place under the sun and enjoy prosperity in common as an indispensable condition to abiding world peace. While the intention of maintaining special relations of friendship, consideration and attachment toward the other countries of East Asia with whom the Filipino people are inseparably linked by geographic, racial, economic and ideological ties, has been frankly avowed, the Republic also stands committed to assist in the establishment of a new World Order through the promotion of everlasting amity and good will among all nations and peoples.
The Filipino people realize with mingled joy and thanksgiving that, even while the world is still at war, they have been privileged to achieve the supreme goal of their national aspirations. The rise of the Philippines to the status of a sovereign State, presenting the heartening spectacle of progress and reconstruction amidst a world in ruins, has but strengthened the Filipino people’s firm conviction in the righteousness of their chosen course and confirmed their abiding faith in their immutable destiny. They face the future with high hopes, confident that, under the aegis of the Republic, they can freely attain a standing of dignity and honor in relation to other independent States, securing for themselves and their posterity all the blessings of a sovereign, united and prosperous nation and contributing in however modest a measure to the peace and progress of the world.