796.00/5–1250: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Philippines (Cowen) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Rusk)

top secret

1395. For Rusk. Deptels 503, March 241 and 792, May 4.2 I, May 11, attended luncheon given for Diplomatic Corps by President Quirino ostensible purpose which was bid farewell Italian Chargé Strigari. President looked very tired but somewhat better than when I last saw him. He asked Diplomatic Corps return 5 p. m. witness swearing in of Romulo, explaining he want him have position as Foreign Secretary when he visits Indonesia.

1 asked the President if from now on we were to see him or see Romulo. He said that as we all knew, and as I particularly knew, the post of Foreign Secretary had been and would continue to be his first love and that he was relinquishing it with no little heartache, but that he was now pleased to turn the reins over to Romulo. He remarked he assumed that this would please me as I was one of Romulo’s earliest advocates for the position. He said that although we would necessarily see Romulo in his new official capacity when Romulo was here, he hoped all of us would continue come to see him because he wanted to maintain a close relationship with all of us.

At conclusion luncheon I stayed behind at his request in order further discuss question of economic mission, and in particular so that he might reconsider contents reftel March 24 and its implications. Having anticipated he might make such request, I had copy that telegram with me and again read him close paraphrase second paragraph. He indicated his satisfaction with proposal for American mission saying he would be pleased receive it any time we wished send it. I mentioned Elizalde’s request (reftel May 4) that US Government supply written commitment that aid would be forthcoming. President expressed amazement that Elizalde should have effrontery make such request, and said that Elizalde should have realized no such undertaking should be expected or requested. (I did not remind Quirino he had himself made such request of me March 26 and had repeated it March 28.)

Quirino also stated he was instructing José Yulo and his associates [Page 1449] to reduce their thoughts to writing so that they might be available to mission immediately upon its arrival. He added that he would have Yulo get in touch with me; that Yulo would be moving into Malacanan May 12 where he would occupy desk in capacity of assistant to the President; and that Yulo would later be transferred Washington as Ambassador US. His eyes became moist as he told me that this, too, was something he knew I had wanted, and that he hoped I would be pleased. (On basis information I have received recently I am not at all sure that I am pleased, but I did not mention this to Quirino.) Romulo has since informed me Elizalde has discussed matter with him by telephone, suggesting that he be left in his post for time-being in order avoid creating impression their relations are such that Romulo immediately after taking office would effect his removal.

Incidentally, Quirino expressed great concern over unfavorable publicity Philippines has been receiving in US re lack law order and more particularly, in connection official corruption. He specifically mentioned two recent Washington Post editorials and alluded to fact that Chronicle (which is controlled by Vice President and his brother3) had May 11 reprinted in full Post editorial dealing with Buenavista–Tambobong estate deal.4 This connection he said he has asked Vice President desist from further speeches on subject official corruption. (On May 12 Vice President informed me President had made no such request, stating he would continue making such speeches.)

These various steps by Quirino would appear be part of series moves designed end his dangerous political isolation and bring Vice President Lopez under control. He evidently has won over Romulo whose ego should be gratified by fact that he now is Secretary General UN,5 Philippine Ambassador UN and Foreign Minister; Romulo’s support will be invaluable during forthcoming SEAU meeting6 and inclusion his name will lend prestige-value to Quirino’s Cabinet, but he presumably will be in New York much of time between now and expiration his term as President UNGA and hence will not be too much in President’s hair. President doubtless hopes appointments Romulo and Yulo will please me, will cause me put stop to unfavorable publicity in US press (which he apparently was led believe I had [Page 1450] instigated), and will minimize chance that I may lend other support to opposition elements within party which have formed about Vice President Lopez. By telling me he has forbidden Lopez talk on official corruption, he probably believes he will cause me conclude Vice President’s disobedient and undependable—unless, of course Vice President makes no more such speeches in which case Vice President’s leadership of opposition within party will be impaired. At same time President is wooing Nacionalista Party leaders, doubtless hoping prevent their voting with Liberal Party Senators who have been refusing grant him emergency powers. In short Quirino, whatever the condition of his physical health and not withstanding the errors of judgment which made these most recent steps necessary, has not lost his ability for political maneuvering.

  1. Ante, p. 1425.
  2. Not printed, hut see footnote 4 to telegram 1310, May 6, from Manila, p. 1445.
  3. Eugenio Lopez, brother of Vice President Fernando Lopez, was a prominent Philippine businessman and publisher of the Manila Chronicle.
  4. The reference here is to the purchase of several properties (the Buena vista and Tambobong estates) by the Philippine Government at inflated prices which resulted in large profits for several persons, apparently including President Quirino’s brother Antonio.
  5. Romulo was not Secretary-General of the United Nations but rather President of the Fourth Session of the U.N. General Assembly.
  6. For documentation on the meeting of Australian, Ceylonese, Indian, Pakistani, Philippine, and Thai representatives at Baguio in the Philippines, May 26–30, see p. 100.