The Secretary of Defense ( Johnson ) to the Secretary of State


Dear Mr. Secretary: On 14 March 1947 the United States and Philippine Republic concluded a Military Base Agreement,1 currently in force between the two countries. At the time of signing, it was the hope of this Government that Article XIII of the Agreement would provide satisfactory criminal jurisdiction for offenses against the United States.

In the intervening two years, however, a condition of lawlessness in the Philippines, as evidenced by numerous acts of violence against United States personnel and property, has grown to serious proportions. I enclose for your information copies of two reports prepared in 1948 by the Commanding General, Philippine-Ryukyus Command, United States Army and the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Philippines,2 to indicate the nature and extent of the offenses to which I refer, as well as the measures taken by these commanders to cope with this situation.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed the matter at length. They consider that from a military viewpoint these acts of violence do not in themselves affect the security of the United States, but that they do seriously hamper the proper conduct of the affairs of our armed forces in the Philippines, and also affect adversely the security of armed [Page 593] forces personnel and Government property in the Philippines. The Joint Chiefs believe, and I agree, that this situation is principally the result of reluctance by Philippine authorities to enforce their own criminal laws in the case of offenses against the personnel and propery of the Armed Forces of the United States.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended that the Philippine Government be requested to bring about more adequate enforcement of its criminal laws, and I accordingly ask you to make formal representations in this connection. I recognize that a variety of factors may contribute to anti-United States sentiment in the Philippines, in which this Goverment may not be entirely without fault. However, I think you will agree that the incidents cited by the Army and Navy commanders reflect failure by the Philippine Republic properly to fulfil its obligations under the Agreement, and may therefore be made the subject of direct representation by the Department of State.

Article I, Section 4 of the Military Bases Agreement states that an exact description of the bases listed in the Agreement “will be agreed upon between the appropriate authorities of the two Governments as soon as possible”. The lack of exact metes and bounds has proved a source of conflict between United States and Philippine jurisdiction. I wish to emphasize the importance of concluding an agreement on this matter during the current negotiations which I understand are now in progress in the Philippines.

For your information, the Secretary of the Army is formulating proposals for a revision of Article XIII of the Military Bases Agreement, in the event that conditions do not improve. The Department of State would then be a position to negotiate on this queston with the Philippine Republic at such time as you may deem politically appropriate. However, I believe that the United States Government should, as a matter of urgency, make representations now to the Philippine Government concerning lax criminal prosecution under the Military Bases Agreement in its current form.

Sincerely yours,

Louis Johnson
  1. Signed at Manila; 61 Stat. 4019. See footnote to telegram 448, March 14, 1947, Foreign Relations, 1947, vol. vi, p. 1108.
  2. Dated May 10, 1948, and July 6, 1948, neither printed.