796.001/1–851: Telegram

The Chargé in the Philippines (Chapin) to the Secretary of State

secret

1925. Embdesp 845, December 14.1 General Hobbs January 4 expressed to Embassy officers his concern re current trial members Communist Politburo Secretariat who were captured during October 18 raids. Failure convict these men due possible negligence in “dotting the I’s and crossing T’s”. He stated would have most lamentable effect on morale armed forces. He indicated hope Embassy would do anything possible see that Judicial Branch of Government put on its toes. From study captured Secretariat documents we have concluded that defendants include 3 of 9 members Politburo and that one of them, Jose Laca, is revolutionary of highest calibre. Besides concurring in JUSMAG’s appraisal of effect on armed forces morale which would be brought about by defendants release we accordingly consider release would make positive contribution of importance to Communist capabilities. While Secretary National Defense quite reliably quoted as saying we should not worry as these men will not be alive year from now it seems to us important trial be as expertly handled as possible.

Therefore I January 8 called on Secretary Justice Bengzon in order express concern JUSMAG and interest Embassy. Bengzon expressed satisfaction with adequacy evidence in hands prosecuting attorneys and confidence in their ability handle case and in friendliness judge Oscar Castelo remarking he had been responsible for Castelo’s recent appointment as permanent judge Manila Court of First Instance. He stated defense seems reconciled to convictions ground sedition and rebellion but trying hard prevent similar result with respect charges they are responsible for murder, arson. Hardest task prosecution he said will be prove identities Communist leaders on trial but NBI hopes accomplish this with aid American hand-writing expert. Bengzon confirmed statement Recto’s son that defense attorneys were appointed by court and asserted they all serve without pay. He added that with his appointment as Ambassador Spain Recto2 who is defending Jose Larva will turn case over one of his assistants named Barredo (an attorney in Recto’s office named Antonio Barredo is on our list Communists suspects). We will be glad see Recto give up case [Page 1494]as his exceptionally sharp mind has at some points proved too much for prosecution.3

Chapin
  1. Not printed.
  2. Senator Claro M. Recto of the opposition Nationalist Party. Senator Recto declined the Ambassadorship shortly thereafter.
  3. In telegram 1426 to Manila, January 9, drafted by John F. Melby, Deputy Director of the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs, the Department replied as follows: “Dept wholeheartedly concurs with your action re current trial Communists Politburo Secretariat and believes you shld continue such pressure as you believe helpful.” (796.001/1–851)

    In despatch 1811, June 18, the Embassy summarized the convictions obtained. Of 30 defendants, 26 were found guilty of rebellion with murder, arson, and robbery. Six were sentenced to death, a penalty subject to automatic review by the Philippine Supreme Court. (Appellate proceedings were not completed during 1951.) The Embassy commented in part: “The active prosecution of other Communists or HMB members may now be expected since this verdict has provided the legal basis for such action.” (796.5–MAP/6–1851)