796.00/4–153: Telegram

No. 331
The Ambassador in the Philippines (Spruance) to the Department of State


2981. No distribution. Eyes only Allison. Elizalde asked Lacy visit him at his apartment early a.m., April 1. Elizalde opened conversation by characterizing present situation Philippines as “very bad but I hope not irreparable”. He then went on to draw parallel between present situation and that which characterized conflict and long deadlock between Quezon and General Wood.1 He said that as was true in Wood’s case and as he had advised Quirino the more Spruance was subjected to attacks of the sort projected during last few days the more difficult it would be for Quirino to “get rid of Spruance” since he, Elizalde, realized that the US Government would be most reluctant to recall Spruance while under fire of this nature. He said that he had told Quirino that Spruance occupied remarkably high position in the esteem of his countrymen who considered that Spruance “could do no wrong”. He said that Quirino, up to the present, at least, had remained unconvinced of the validity of this proposition.

Elizalde said that during recent weeks he had almost concluded that Quirino was “mentally unbalanced”, since he seemed to project himself irrationally into situations from which extrication seemed almost impossible.

Lacy expressed gratification that Elizalde had had wit and courage to suggest to Quirino folly of hoping to get rid of Spruance through attacks of sort which have appeared in press here during [Page 533] last four days. He went on to emphasize Ambassador’s desire to observe strict neutrality in present political struggle a desire shared by Embassy staff. Lacy told Elizalde in strict confidence that it had been suggested that text of President Eisenhower’s letter to Quirino be published by Embassy but that Ambassador and staff had decided not to do so. Elizalde, with great emotion, said publication of letter would exacerbate present situation immeasurably and expressed gratitude that Embassy had seen fit to keep letter unpublished.2

Lacy told Elizalde that primary mission US Embassy Philippines was to promote and maintain good relations with Philippine Government and that Ambassador, Lacy and other members of staff stood ready to consult with him or other members of Philippine Government at any hour of night or day to end that that mission be achieved. Elizalde, suggesting that Quirino–Spruance relations at present strained to breaking point, asked Lacy to consult with him on short notice and frequently. Lacy of course agreed, stating that he was sure Ambassador Spruance would welcome such association. Lacy then asked Elizalde what he thought could be done at moment to apply necessary sedation to situation. Elizalde instantly replied that both sides must be absolutely quiet. Lacy agreed that this simple course of action highly desirable and said that Elizalde could count upon the absolute silence and complete neutrality of US Government. Elizalde said that he thought State Department’s release (Deptel 3019, March 31)3 great mistake and hoped that Department would observe rule of silence. Lacy said he would pass this information on to Department.

Lacy asked Elizalde if he had read Chronicle April 1. Elizalde replied that he had only glanced at it. Lacy then showed him item appearing page 4 reading as follows:

“The Quirino–US Embassy imbroglio took on a new angle today as several Congressmen revealed that US Ambassador Raymond Spruance is being used as a ‘front’ by another Embassy official who is a better authority in Philippine and Far Eastern politics.

“The name of this Embassy official is however being withheld for important reasons.

[Page 534]

“This Embassy official, the Congressmen said, was responsible in [for] fomenting the charges that the American Embassy is teaming up with the Nacionalistas for the election of Magsaysay in the coming elections.…”4

Lacy said that he had been warned previous day that Perez was about to commence attack on him and wondered if Elizalde could advise on this matter. Visibly perturbed, Elizalde asked Lacy “for God’s sake, say nothing whatever they say about you”. Lacy agreed. Elizalde took sudden leave of Lacy saying that he must immediately find President which he would do “if I have to follow him to Baguio in an airplane”.

Embassy believes Elizalde’s perturbation due to fact that, when he called Lacy, he thought he could offer some disciplined forebearance on Liberal side, but learning of what appears to be beginning Perez attack on Lacy realized Quirino either had not or could not discipline Perez. As he said goodbye Elizalde characterized Perez in colorful and uncomplimentary terms adding that San Francisco’s ConGen Pidlaon was Perez’s creature. As Department knows it is reliably reported that Elizalde told Quirino he would resign unless Pidlaon was fired.

Elizalde obviously in highly nervous state. His physician left him as Lacy arrived. Elizalde told Lacy that his blood pressure was several thousand times as high as it should be.

I agree with Lacy as to seriousness of present situation, and have admonished my staff to maintain silence and neutrality at all times. I trust Department will do likewise. Since conversation between Elizalde and Lacy was of highly personal character I hope Department will give it maximum protection.5

  1. Gen. Leonard Wood, Governor-General of the Philippines, 1921–1927, at which time Manuel Quezon was President of the Philippine Senate. The constitutional issue involved in their dispute centered around General Wood’s right to veto legislation and, subsequently, his administration of the government without consultation with Philippine officials.
  2. Reference is to a letter of Mar. 16 from President Eisenhower responding to one of 9 days earlier from Quirino. Eisenhower’s letter said that the United States was ready and willing to consider any proposals from the Philippines for revision of the Trade Agreement and suggested that they be given to Ambassador Spruance to facilitate study by U.S. authorities who would determine if they provided a basis for renegotiation of the Agreement. Both letters are printed in Department of State Bulletin, Sept. 7, 1953, pp. 316–317.
  3. Telegram 3019 informed the Embassy of the Department of State’s release of the text of telegram 2854, printed in footnote 3, supra.
  4. Ellipsis in the source text.
  5. On the following day, Apr. 2, Lacy wrote to Assistant Secretary Allison supplying further information which, he said, could not for obvious reasons be included in telegram 2981. He indicated that Elizalde had confided to him that Ambassador Spruance was not the man for the job in Manila because of his inflexibility and unwillingness to listen to warnings about the coming crisis between the administration and the Embassy over the elections. Elizalde went on to say that Ambassador Spruance obviously wanted Magsaysay to win in November, which was perhaps understandable, but his mistake lay in never having been subtle about his desire. (PSA files, lot 57 D 416, box 209)