No. 321
Memorandum by the Officer in Charge of Philippine Affairs (Wanamaker) to the Director of the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs (Bonsal)



  • Comments on Mr. Lacy’s letters of November 19, 21 and 24, 1952 to Mr. Allison1

Sources of Intelligence

Practically every bit of information listed in the letters comes from Magsaysay himself. Although his apparent candor may be genuine, after working on Philippine matters for over five years I can not but help suspect ulterior motives, in this case, the discrediting of Quirino as far as possible. It would be a particular clever maneuver on the part of the Nacionalistas, who are perfectly capable of using Magsaysay for all he is worth and then discarding him when he had served his purpose. It should be possible for the Embassy to check up with other sources on the allegations made by Magsaysay. Mrs. Irene Murphy in STEM is particularly close to Colonel and Mrs. Marking and might be able to ascertain which way the wind blows there.

Past United States Involvement in Philippine Politics

The long period of association between Americans and Filipinos and the continued dependence by Filipinos upon Americans for aid and advice have made it particularly difficult for United States representatives to avoid being drawn into domestic political matters. These are some cases in point, which, although they have not done the United States any serious damage so far, have made a number of Filipinos bitter and cynical on the subject of their independence: [Page 518]

Ex-President Osmena2 to this day is convinced (members of his family have told me so) that the influence of Ambassador McNutt3 on the side of Roxas4 was instrumental in Osmena’s losing the election of 1946.
In the 1949 elections between Quirino and Laurel, Ambassador Cowen was in favor of using all influence possible to secure the election of Quirino. There was strong disagreement within the Embassy, the Economic Counselor, Mr. Hester, and the Political Officer, Mr. Rice, passionately arguing for absolute neutrality. Thus, although the Embassy per se remained neutral, everyone in Manila knew Ambassador Cowen’s opinions on the matter. This did not make for close relations with the Nacionalistas thereafter.
Ambassador Cowen’s support did not mean any guarantee of Quirino’s friendship or appreciation. Mr. Ely’s memorandum of May 24, 1950, to Mr. Rusk5 reads in part as follows:

“Elizalde remembered that the under-cover feud between Quirino and Vice-President Lopez was extremely bitter and that Quirino blames Cowen for conspiring with Lopez against him.”

Mr. Ely’s memorandum of May 12, 1950, to Mr. Rusk, commenting on Manila’s telegram No. 1342 of May 11, 1950,6 points out that Quirino “might adopt a policy of open defiance and denunciation of the United States, the first step of which would be to ask for Cowen’s recall”.

… a Philippine Communist party propaganda leaflet entitled “Filipino Students—What?”. It reads in part as follows:

“In the Philippines, political domination by the United States has never ceased, in spite of the formal declaration of July 4, 1946. The key to continued political domination is control of the Army. What has the JUSMAG been doing all these years, if not to control Magsaysay and make the Philippine Army subservient to the United States? And they succeeded 100%. Magsaysay is the most willing and most effective puppet of the U.S. monopolists. Now they are honoring him for services rendered to his masters. They are building him up so that he may be able to render more valuable services in the future—maybe as president. Was not the Army used by the U.S. imperialists to down the Liberal Party, which is losing its effectiveness as a puppet, in order to insure the victory of the less exposed puppets—the Nacionalistas? So long as they have the control of the Army, political life is also under their complete [Page 519] control. Economic, military and political control—and even educational control.”


We must not forget that Quirino is an extremely astute politician regardless of what we may think of him as a statesman. If he were determined to win the November 1953 elections by hook or crook, it would not be very logical for him to declare martial law in January 1953. Such a declaration would simply turn over the normal civilian functions to the armed forces. Quirino’s tactics instead, it would seem to me, would be the following:

Remove Magsaysay from competition with him for the presidency in 1953 without losing the benefit that Magsaysay’s popular appeal would give the Liberal Party. This could be accomplished by having Magsaysay run as Vice President (with the succession to the presidency after two years since under the constitution Quirino cannot serve more than eight years) or by having him run as Senator or by keeping him in his present position.
Discredit the opposition by all tactics possible. How well Quirino can do this was illustrated by the recent special session of Congress. By failure to pass a public works bill Congress then placed itself in the position of not being able to oppose Quirino’s use of his emergency powers to allocate money for public works and relief for victims of the recent typhoons. If the Nacionalistas challenged immediately his use of the emergency powers, they would place themselves in the position of obstructing relief for typhoon victims.
If the discrediting process does not work, then trump up serious charges against certain Nacionalistas and perhaps order their arrest but not more than one month before the elections.

The accusation that Quirino planned to assassinate Magsaysay I find incredible. Such harsh tactics aren’t required and would certainly boomerang.

We today can be most thankful that we didn’t officially back Quirino in 1949. How will we feel about Magsaysay three years from November 1953 if he should win the presidency with our open support?

  1. See footnotes 1, 4, 5, and 6, Document 319.
  2. Sergio Osmena, President of the Philippines, 1944–1946.
  3. Paul V. McNutt, Ambassador in the Philippines, 1946–1947.
  4. Manuel Roxas, President of the Philippines from 1946 until his death in office in 1948.
  5. Not printed. At the time, Richard Ely was Deputy Director of the Office of Philippine and Southeast Asian Affairs and Dean Rusk was Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs. Ely subsequently became an attaché at the Embassy in Manila.
  6. Neither printed.