Sergio Osmeña's State of the Nation Address
GENTLEMEN OF THE CONGRESS:
Today, a moment of great historic significance, the voice of our people, muted throughout the long dreary night of enemy enslavement, is to be heard again in the halls of this Congress, through their duly elected representatives.
It has been a long lapse of time since that day in November, 1941, when you were elected, to this day when you gather in your first session. We can hardly recognize our country after the cataclysm that has engulfed it. The war has left its livid scars everywhere—on our buildings as well as on men’s souls. Probably nothing can more starkly summarize our present plight than the fact that the Executive and Legislative branches of our Government have to meet today in a borrowed house because our Legislative Building is a heap of rubble and ashes, mute witness to the savage desperation of the beaten enemy.
The tragedy that has afflicted our nation has lacerated our hearts. We all miss today many dear and familiar faces that are no more. But perhaps no sorrow has touched us more deeply than the passing of our beloved leader, Manuel L. Quezon. I know, however, that you feel as I do that his immortal spirit abides with us in this hour of trial and crisis, encouraging us to proceed with the arduous tasks that lie ahead. This great man, who dedicated his entire life to his country, died as he would have wanted to die—in line of duty. Soon his mortal remains, kept at the Arlington National Cemetery at Virginia, will be brought back to the Philippines, and we shall all have the opportunity of rendering him our last homage of admiration and affection. We shall erect him a monument so that we and our generations yet unborn may keep his memory enshrined in our hearts.
The Philippines is the one territory under the American flag which has suffered the most at the invader’s hands. Not only are its war casualties the highest in proportion to population, not only have its cities and towns been destroyed and looted, its countrysides and farms laid waste, and its whole economic structure ruined, but its people have undergone more physical pain and mental anguish than in any other part of the United States. As early as December 8, 1941, a few hours after her felon attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan sent bombers and task forces to the Philippines. Unavoidably turned into a battlefield, our country suffered heavily in men and property, especially in Bataan, where the Filipino-American Army battled the Japanese forces for four long months.
Then followed a period of enemy occupation, cruel and humiliating. No sooner had the fighting in Bataan ended than the enemy began the systematic looting of our country. There was no limit to what he could requisition with his worthless money. Even our barest necessities were commandeered. And when we tried to stand by our rights, force, ruthless force, immediately intervened. With or without cause, people by the scores were arrested and sent to prison and concentration camps—some to be tortured, others to be executed. As time went on, we became more impoverished, while the enemy became still more cruel and arrogant. After undergoing three years of enemy domination, no people was a more pitiful sight than the Filipinos—lean, ragged and famished.
I wish to stress the fact that the extreme suffering of the Filipinos and the widespread destruction wrought on our country has been due, in a large measure, to their unwavering loyalty to the United States. No people, I believe, has given so much proof of fidelity to the cause of the mother country as the Filipinos.
When Japan invaded the Philippines, the American flag was here. Even without that flag, Japan would probably have launched her attack. But as long as the Philippines remained under American sovereignty, the responsibility for the defense of the Islands lay with the United States. For forty odd years, in our continuous preparation for self-government, we exercised jurisdiction over matters of education, public works, sanitation and other functions of public administration, but never over our national defense. This function remained in the hands of the United States as the sovereign power. It is true that as soon as the Commonwealth was established, we started giving our citizens military training and building up a modest army, but these steps were in preparation, not for war, but for the fulfillment of our peaceful duties as an independent nation.
Notwithstanding these facts, the Filipino people rallied to the defense of the American flag, paying no heed to the cost and consequences. The sad moment came when it had to be admitted that the battle was lost, since a relief force could not be sent to the Philippines. But far from wavering, the Filipino soldier, side by side with his American comrade, fought on harder than ever until he was overwhelmed by superior numbers.
Unwilling to bow to the enemy, the Filipino people valiantly took up the struggle with all the strength they could muster. Patriotic groups soon sprang up throughout the length and breadth of the Archipelago. At first eluding the enemy, the guerrillas took to the mountains, but with the active support of the civilian population they quickly grew in number and strength to become a virtual challenge to the enemy. The story of the guerrilleros and of the civilian patriots who helped them, is an epic of heroism, loyalty and sacrifice. As far as possible they should be given recognition. Recognized guerrilla units have already been incorporated into the Philippine Army.
As stated in Leyte, in praising the guerrillas we should not be forgetful of the loyal civilians who were left behind and, at the risk of their lives, supported the resistance movement. Included among these civilians were those who, at the beginning of the war, were civil service employees or holders of subordinate positions in the government, and who remained at their posts to protect the people and extend to them all possible aid and comfort. They should, as a general principle, be recalled as soon as their services should be needed; only for strong reasons should they be deprived of their privilege to serve. This policy applies as well to elected provincial and municipal officials who were chosen in the election of 1940, thus giving due consideration to the will of the people as expressed at the polls.
Filipino loyalty to America is an incontestable fact. It is the more remarkable when we consider that right from the start of the war the Filipinos were subjected to a terrific barrage of anti-American propaganda. Claiming invincibility and professing a brotherly spirit toward the Philippines, Japan declared that she had come to our country to free us from the American yoke, and offered us a place of honor in here much vaunted Co-Prosperity Sphere. But we contrasted these soothing words with the factual, liberal and generous record of America. Against the obviously empty promises of Tojo was the solemn pledge of President Roosevelt to the Filipinos that “their freedom would be redeemed and their independence established and protected.” This pledge was later enlarged to include the promise that the Philippines would be “assisted in the full repair of the ravages caused by the war.” It was in quest of the fulfillment of the promises of President Roosevelt that President Quezon and his Cabinet accepted his invitation to transfer the Commonwealth Government to Washington. In the course of this session, I shall have occasion to report to you the activities of our government in the United States. In this message I propose to discuss only the salient phases of that labor.
When we reached the United States, this country was entirely preoccupied with the problems of her mighty war effort and her attention was concentrated on the European front. She was straining all her means and resources towards the fulfillment of her resolution to crush Nazi Germany first. It was then extremely difficult to divert American attention to the Pacific, but determined to present our cause before the American people, President Quezon held conferences with President Roosevelt and appeared before the Senate and House of Representatives. In spite of the delicate state of his health, he worked ceaselessly during the first year of his stay in Washington, delivering important speeches and repeatedly broadcasting to the Philippines in an effort to maintain the faith of his people. In active support of the President, the members of his Cabinet also made speeches throughout the United States, inviting the attention of the people of America to the loyal stand of the Filipinos and urging prompt efforts for their early redemption.
The United States has kept her pledge. The Philippines is now liberated. This arduous campaign of eight months, beginning at Leyte Gulf, has ended with the current final phase of mopping up in Mindanao and Northern Luzon. Only the mountain corridor of Cagayan Valley, a trap from which there is no escape, remains under Japanese occupation.
Yet, in the flush of victory, we are apt to take for granted the monumental effort which the United States has had to exert to liberate us. Into the Southwest Pacific Area the Japanese General Staff had poured a tremendous amount of troops, planes and ships. Estimates place the Japanese, military forces in the Philippines as comprising an entire army area, two army corps, at least 22 divisions and brigades, and a large number of service troops, totaling at least 450,000 men. Merchant marine, laborers and hastily drafted civilians swelled this locust plague of armed of occupation forces.
Enormous distances had to be traversed, but within the framework of a master plan that took everything into consideration—climate, terrain and an enemy who preferred suicide to capture—operations stretching over 3,000 miles were relentlessly pursued throughout the bitter years of 1942, 1943 and 1944, until the brilliant goal is within inescapable reach in 1945. The main goal of these far-flung operations was the liberation of the Philippines. Enemy losses in the Philippines to date exceed 380,000, a mortal wound inflicted on the Japanese army. With relatively low losses to ourselves, we have before us another example of the brilliant strategy of that genial military leader, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur.
The strategic effect of the liberation of the Philippines has been to set the stage for ultimate Japanese defeat at home and in the south, two areas now severed from each other. Filipinos have done their part in this work by giving lavishly of their men and resources to the United States. But the fight is not yet over, and so I have offered to General MacArthur one division of Filipino troops, under Filipino officers, for the final assault on Japan. Words alone cannot express our gratitude to the United States for all it has done for us, and I take this opportunity to repeat the offer made by President Quezon in 1941 to the people of America—that the men and resources of the Philippines are unconditionally at the service of the United States.
While our Government in Washington did its utmost to present before the American people the political aspect of the struggle in the Philippines, it did not neglect the economic phase, fully aware that the war would produce serious dislocations in the economic life of our country. President Quezon initiated personally the negotiations with the Federal Government to obtain the necessary economic assistance after the war. He did not stop negotiating directly with that Government until, because of his health, he had to retire temporarily from active labor. To proceed with the work already commenced, he created a Post War Planning Board. This Board held sessions continuously and completed its preliminary work. This served as the basis for a program which was finally submitted by the representatives of our Government on the Filipino Rehabilitation Commission presided over by Senator Tydings. I am presenting to you with this message the reports which have been submitted to me by the Filipino group of this Commission. Upon their examination you will find that the program of relief and rehabilitation, as prepared by our representatives in Washington, is very comprehensive. I wish on this occasion to praise the work done by our group. Our men there accomplished a difficult task within very limited means. Now that there is available to me a wealth of human material, it is my purpose to appoint to this Commission new representatives, among whom will be members of this Congress.
When I assumed office as President of the Philippines, I considered it my duty to exert every possible effort to obtain the active personal interest of the President of the United States in our problems. But when I was prepared to confer with President Roosevelt on his return from Quebec last October, I received an urgent request from General MacArthur, to join him and the forces of liberation that were poised to retake the Philippines. Because of this urgent request, I was able to have only a short conference with President Roosevelt, but I promised him that I would return to the United States as soon as possible to continue our conversations.
After the reestablishment of the Commonwealth Government in Leyte, I returned to the United States. President Roosevelt being then out of Washington and, on the other hand, finding myself in urgent need of submitting to a physical examination, I went to Jacksonville, Florida. Everything was in readiness for my hospitalization there when I received another telegram from General Macarthur urging me to join him in Luzon immediately. Reaching Lingayen on the very day I was expected, I rejoined General MacArthur in his headquarters and with him I entered Manila.
Upon resuming my functions in this Capital, I endeavored to convene the Congress, but due to the military situation, it was not possible to do so. I then decided to return to the United States to renew my conferences with President Roosevelt. We met on April 5th and reached an agreement on some of our basic problems. We further agreed to meet again in Washington. Unfortunately, the President died on the 12th.
Shocked by the sad news, I hastened to express to his successor the most profound condolences of the Filipino people. I flew to Washington to attend the funeral services. In the passing of President Roosevelt we, with the entire world, have suffered an irreparable loss. I recommend the erection, by public subscription, of a national library to be named “Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Library” as a lasting tribute to him who was a true friend of the Filipinos and a great champion of human rights and liberties.
President Roosevelt had suggested that our next meeting be at the White House on April 19. On that date President Truman received me and we conferred in the presence of the Secretaries of State, War, Navy and the Interior. This was followed by another conference the next week in which President Truman accepted as his own President Roosevelt’s commitments with respect to the Philippines and decided, with my concurrence, to send Senator Tydings of Maryland as his special envoy to the Philippines. The object, of the Tydings Mission was not to collect data here, since all the necessary statistical and other information were already available to Senator Tydings before he left Washington. The mission desired, firstly, to obtain a personal impression of the situation in which the war had left us, and secondly, to contact personally the officials of the Philippine Government, the Military Command and other interested parties, with a view to coordinating their suggestions and fitting them into the rehabilitation plans already under consideration. Deeply moved by what he saw in Manila, Senator Tydings decided to return immediately to Washington to report to the President of the United States. Indicative of the sympathy, zeal and industry of the Tydings Mission is the four-point program for the rehabilitation of the Philippines which it has publicly announced. I am confident that action on this and other programs will soon be forthcoming.
First and foremost in our minds, as Filipinos, is the question of our political future. In this matter, no greater and nobler message has been given to the Filipino people than that of President Roosevelt when, on August 13, 1943, reiterating his previous promises on independence made on December 28, 1941, he expressed himself in the following words:
- “On December 28, 1941, three weeks after the armies of the Japanese launched their attack on Philippine soil, I sent a proclamation to you, the gallant people of the Philippines.”
- “I said then”
- “I give to the people of the Philippines my solemn pledge that their freedom will be redeemed and their independence established and protected. The entire resources in men and materials of the United States stand behind that pledge.”
- “We shall keep this promise just as we have kept every promise which America has made to the Filipino people.”
Soon after, on the initiative of President Quezon, steps were taken to obtain congressional sanction for these pledges. If President Quezon did nothing but this in his political career — and his political record can hardly be surpassed — it alone would entitle him to the eternal gratitude of his people. Senate Joint Resolution No. 93, which President Quezon and I asked for and accepted, is the culmination of our joint congressional efforts. This legislation authorizes the President of the United States to advance the date of independence provided in the Independence Law. It also provides, through the maintenance by the United States of bases in the Philippines, “for full security for the Philippines, for the mutual protection of the Islands and the United States, and for the future maintenance of peace in the Pacific.”
So that the import of this new legislation, and the responsibility which we Filipinos have assumed thereby, may be better understood, it is necessary that we review past events even if we have to walk again on well-trodden paths.
National independence was the goal which our revolutionaries of 1896 and 1898 set for themselves. When the fortunes of war were adverse to our arms and American sovereignty was established in 1898, individual liberties were recognized, among them the right of free assembly. Under the protection of this freedom, two political groups came into existence: the Federalistas, who declared themselves in favor of the annexation of the Philippines to the United States so as to constitute, in due time, a state of the Union; and the Nacionalistas, who advocated the ideal of independence which the Filipino revolutionaries had proclaimed but were not able to achieve in war.
The aspiration to be free, nurtured in an atmosphere of peace, was received with sympathy in the United States. The legitimacy of this aspiration was recognized by Dr. Jacob G. Schurman, President of the first American Commission sent by President McKinley to the Philippines, in these memorable words:
- “The watchword of progress, the key to the future of the political development of the archipelago, is neither colonialism nor federalism, but nationalism. The destiny of the Philippine Islands is not to be a State or territory in the United States of America, but a daughter republic of ours—a new birth of liberty on the, other side of the Pacific, which shall animate and energize those lovely islands of the tropical seas, and, rearing its head aloft, stand as a monument of progress and a beacon of hope to all the oppressed and benighted millions of the Asiatic continent.”
On their part the Filipino people, who had elected a majority of Nacionalistas to the first Philippine Assembly, which met in 1907, repeatedly reiterated their confidence in them in successive elections, until the Congress approved in 1934 the Tydings-McDuffie Act creating the present Commonwealth. This law was accepted, first by the Legislature and then directly by the people, thus binding America and the Philippines to a virtual covenant by which the United States formally committed itself to withdraw its sovereignty from the Philippines and proclaim our independence on July 4, 1946. The ten-year transition period was not established to delay the proclamation of independence, but only to prepare the Philippines adequately for the responsibilities of nationhood. We were well advanced in our preparations for independence when we became the object of an unjust aggression by Japan. But Japan’s military occupation of the Philippines had not affected the independence program agreed upon between the United States and the Philippines. When President Roosevelt invited the President of the Government of the Commonwealth and his Cabinet to evacuate to the United States, he did not do so merely to preserve the constitutional integrity of the Philippine Government but also to assure the realization, in due time, of the program of independence.
With this fundamental idea in mind, the United States took the initiative of considering the Philippines as possessing all of the attributes of complete and respected nationhood. I cannot give you a more authoritative statement concerning the status of our Government in Washington than that which President Roosevelt himself made in his broadcast to the Philippines on August 13, 1943: “The Philippine Government is a signatory of the Declaration by the United Nations, along with thirty-one other nations. President Quezon and Vice President Osmeña attend the meetings of the Pacific War Council, where the war in the Pacific is charted and planned. Your government has participated fully and equally in the United Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture, and a Philippine representative is a member of the Interim Commission created by that Conference. And, of course, the Philippine Government will have its rightful place in the conference which will follow the defeat of Japan.”
In confirmation of this status we are now participating, among the free and independent nations of the world, in the United Nations Conference on International Organization now taking place in San Francisco.
This war, which has ravaged the world and which is yet to be won in the Pacific, has brought to the Philippines a permanent blessing. I refer to the fundamental change in America’s policy with regard to the outside world, namely, her abandonment of the attitude of isolation and her frank acknowledgment of her duty, as one of the most powerful nations on earth, to preserve for all mankind liberty, justice, peace and security.
In conformity with this new, well-asserted ideology, Congress approved in 1944 Joint Resolutions 93 and 94 which provide, among other things, for the permanent security of the Philippines. America will not only acknowledge our independence as soon as it is possible after the Japanese have been expelled from our soil but will provide, besides, protection for that independence.
When the Philippine Assembly in 1907 formulated the first official petition of the Filipino people that it be granted independence, it did so fully aware of the responsibilities which the new status would impose on us with respect to our security. The Jones Law of 1916 offered us independence as soon as we had organized a stable government, and we accepted it in spite of the fact that such a law did not contain any promise giving us the protection of America after the attainment of our political freedom. In 1934 the Filipino people had occasion in a plebiscite to accept or reject an independence law without adequate American guarantee for its maintenance. The people accepted the offer by an overwhelming majority. With America now offering us protection which assures the permanency of our independence, it would be inconceivable for any Filipino to vacillate.
The program of independence, initially written with the blood of the heroes and martyrs of our history, which took root in the days of the first Philippine Assembly in 1907, which acquired consistency throughout the long period of Filipino-American collaboration resulting in the approval of the Jones Law in 1916 and the establishment of the Commonwealth in 1935, is a program definitely accepted by the Filipino people. Those of us who are temporarily in charge of the affairs of state are mere trustees of the sacred ideal of our people. We have no right to turn back—we shall not turn back—cowed by imaginary dangers or swayed by the desire to lead a life of ease and plenty. We cannot sell our liberty for a mess of pottage.
When Andres Bonifacio and his men uttered their now historic First Cry of Balintawak, they were not held back by fear of the enemy, or by any love of earthly goods. When we took over the banner of liberty from those that fell in the night of our defeat, we asked only for freedom and for nothing more. When we were asked in 1934 if we preferred liberty to prosperity, our people answered overwhelmingly that they desired liberty above everything else. Now that the United States, in recognition of our role in this war, has declared itself our ally and, with liberty, offers us security, it is our duty and our choice to accept.
So I say to every Filipino and to all other elements in our state, that the die is cast. Our course is straight and inflexible. We are going forward to the achievement of our national aspiration.
Gentlemen of the Congress: You are gathered today under the most trying circumstances. There are many serious problems ahead of us. But we who have so long and ardently clamored for self-government must prove to the world that we are equal to the most exacting tasks of public administration. That great and distinguished friend of the Filipino people, General of the Army Douglas MacArthur, once said that they are only fit to live who are not afraid to die. Our people have shown on the battlefield that they are not afraid to die.
But the tasks of peace are at times more exacting than those of war. We are administering the affairs of eighteen million people just delivered from three long years of enslavement. To them we owe justice, order and the means to live in contentment and happiness. I am aware that our means at the moment are inadequate. We are not able to provide our people with as much as they deserve. But we shall not falter in the line of duty.
Let us get together in one mighty effort. Let us set aside selfish considerations and forget petty differences. Only in unity can there be strength. To the experienced, I turn for advice. From the youth of the land, I ask for its enthusiasm and energies. My faith in our people is unbounded. Over the ruins of our cities and barrios we shall build anew. In this most crucial hour of our history, I look forward to our destiny unafraid, confident that, God willing, ours will be a happy, progressive and prosperous land.
In closing, permit me to congratulate you most heartily for being the first elective Congress to meet in a country liberated from the enemy, although the Philippines is among the last to be free from enemy occupation and control.
I wish you all success in discharging the tremendous responsibility that is yours during the present emergency.