The Secretary of State to the Ambassador of the Philippines (Elizalde)1
Excellency: I have the honor to refer to your note of February 15, 19502 requesting the Department of State to recommend to the Congress of the United States that favorable consideration be given to certain proposed legislation which was introduced during the First Session of the present Congress and designed to grant Philippine Army veterans certain educational and burial benefits. I also refer to your note of the same date referring to a previous note of April 21, 1949 which transmitted a petition for the recognition [Page 1420]by the United States Government of a guerrilla organization known as the Northwest Pampanga Military District.3
While these two notes concern slightly different matters, in actual fact they have to do with a single question of general policy between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States. It is my belief that a general statement of the policy of this Government in respect to these questions will constitute the most satisfactory reply to the two questions raised.
As you have pointed out in the first note under acknowledgment, both the President and the Department of State had previously given strong support to the basic idea embodied in the proposed legislation to which you refer. H.R. 4073, which was introduced into the 80th Congress, was drafted by a Committee appointed by the President, on which the Department was represented, and the draft of the legislation was sent to the Congress with a strong endorsement by the President. This legislation provided for hospitalization of Philippine Army veterans and also proposed a program of educational and burial benefits. The Congress, however, approved only that part of the proposed legislation which had to do with hospitalization for Philippine veterans and by the enactment of Public Law 865, approved on July 1, 1948, authorized for hospital construction and for the expense of hospitalization a total of $38,925,000.
The possibility of the enactment of additional legislation to carry out the balance of the program recommended by the President’s Committee has been given careful consideration by the Executive branch of the Government and was discussed by President Truman and President Quirino, on the occasion of the latter’s visit to the United States in 1949.4 After a careful consideration of all the manifold factors involved, it has been reluctantly concluded that further efforts to secure action on this proposal would inevitably prove fruitless. It is believed that it would be misleading and unfair to potential beneficiaries under such legislation for the Administration to make a gesture toward securing such legislation in the certain knowledge that no action would be forthcoming.
In connection with your second note under reference making inquiry concerning a petition transmitted to the Department by the Embassy’s note of April 21, the Department’s records indicate that Deputy Under Secretary Rusk in a letter dated May 11, 1949 forwarded you a copy of a letter from the Secretary of the Army dated April 21, 1949, of which a copy is attached for your convenience.5 As will be noted from [Page 1421]Secretary Royall’s letter, the Army Department had given consideration to the possibility mentioned in your note of April 21 that there had been an administrative or typographical error involved in the recognition of the officers and men of the Northwest Pampanga Military District, but had found that no such error had in fact been made. Your attention is particularly invited to the statement made in Secretary Royall’s letter that “ … the Department of the Army considers that the recognition program has been properly terminated and that recognition claims have been accorded due and careful consideration in all cases.”
From the beginning the Department of State has considered that the decision as to whether a particular unit or individual would be given credit for serving with our Armed Forces on a full-time basis was one which by its very nature could properly be made only by the Department of National Defense. The Department of Defense on its part, after an examination of all cases involved, has concluded that no useful purpose would be served by constant review of cases heretofore decided adversely, and considers the issue closed. That decision has been approved by the President.
It is realized that owing to the large number of men involved, and to the somewhat inadequate records available, there may have been isolated cases of deserving persons denied recognition where less deserving ones were given such recognition, but obviously this question could never be decided to the satisfaction of all concerned. As long as the United States Government continues to receive and give consideration to petitions looking toward a reopening of this question there will be those who will take advantage of that situation.
Recognition of only a relatively small segment of the population as members of armed forces which rendered full-time military service does not in the least impugn the patriotism of the additional hundreds of thousands of citizens of the Philippines, both men and women, who often at great risk were helpful in the common cause. The general program of rehabilitation in the Philippines and assistance rendered to the Philippine Government by this Government following the war has been recognition of the fact that this Government was keenly aware of the devotion and sacrifices of the Philippine people as a whole.
With great reluctance, therefore, I am compelled to inform you that the United States Government sees no possibility of favorable action along the lines you suggest and believes that in the final best interest of all concerned it is necessary to consider these questions closed.
The Government and people of the United States are today engaged in a herculean effort to preserve throughout the world the benefits of the victory which resulted from the common struggle in the recent war against Germany and Japan. The burden being assumed by the [Page 1422]American people is, and will continue to be, a heavy one. Our aid must be governed by the resources at our disposal in determining what is to the best overall advantage of peace-loving nations throughout the world.
Accept, Excellency, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.
A memorandum of March 3 from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs Merchant to the Secretary of State, drafted by Deputy Director of the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs Ely, not printed, explained the object of this note as follows:
“Immediately after the close of the war strong pressure was brought to bear on this Government to extend in full the so-called “GI” benefits to Philippine veterans and to greatly increase the number of guerrillas who had been recognized by our Armed Forces. You will recall that President Quirino brought this up with President Truman in Washington last August. President Truman informed him that he had clone all he could on the veterans benefits and that the guerrilla program was closed. Notwithstanding this, President Quirino has continued to mislead his people by asserting that the Administration would still give favorable consideration to these matters. Much racketeering goes on and Ambassador Cowen has repeatedly urged that the Administration come out flatly with a statement that the programs are finished. We have heretofore seen no convenient hook on which to hang such a statement but we now have two notes from Ambassador Elizalde bringing up these questions again which seem to offer a convenient method of stating our position.” (103–VA/3–1350)↩
- Not printed.↩
- Neither the note nor the petition under reference here are printed.↩
- President Quirino visited the United States in August 1949. For the record of his call upon President Truman at the White House on August 9, see Foreign Relations, 1949, vol. vii, Part 1, p. 597.↩
- Neither Deputy Under Secretary of State Dean Rusk’s letter to Ambassador Elizalde nor then Secretary of the Army Kenneth Royall’s letter under reference here are printed.↩