No. 338
Memorandum Prepared for the Ambassador in the Philippines (Spruance)1

top secret


  • Philippines Situation
Most of what follows is familiar to you. Its a synopsis of what we know of today’s outlook of Filipinos. Their attention is centered on only one thing: the November elections. All else, including U.S. bases, Bell Act revision, and back-pay, is of interest only as it affects the election.
The Nacionalistas
Magsaysay is confident that, given a clean election, he will win 80% of the popular vote. His overwhelming personal popularity, [Page 548] now being enlarged by senatorial and congressional candidates who make use of it in their own campaigns, makes this optimistic estimate of his not too far from the truth. His personal nightmare is that he is going to be robbed of the election.
The Nacionalistas are plagued by lack of organization, no effective command, internecine feuds. Magsaysay insists upon spending most of his time in the field, on his personal campaign (he is not too happy over some of the other candidates on the Nacionalista slate). The lack of funds, primarily due to disorganization, is felt mostly by Congressional candidates.
There is a strong possibility that at least two Nacionalista Senators (Zulueta and Verano) will defect before election day. This is not serious, although Zulueta carries many votes and has the fierce loyalty of his own followers.
The Liberals
In a free election, Quirino most probably would run far behind vice-presidential candidate Yulo and possibly also behind such senatorial candidates as Avelino, Madrigal, Osias, and maybe even Pecson. Other Liberal candidates are negligible.
The Liberals are not as well organized as they had expected to be. Defections, strong opposition, unwillingness of some hired hands are all causes. Rumors are strong that they lack non-governmental funds, although this hasn’t shown up yet in their actions. Liberal treasurer J. Amado Araneta is privately worried, probably near personal bankruptcy. Despite such factors, the Liberals are loudly confident (especially children, relatives, party bigwigs). Their nightmare; there might be a Magsaysay-inspired coup d’état.
Liberal confidence obviously is based upon Party control of all governmental machinery, including the Armed Forces. Or, in event of partial loss of such control, sufficient means to produce fraudulent returns successfully. (Nacionalista leaders estimate that they could overcome 400 to 500 thousand fraudulent votes and still win; in June, Liberal leaders had estimated they could count upon about 200 thousand stuffed ballots in the natural course of events; Liberal estimates on how many fraudulent ballots will be required to win now are unknown.)
The Armed Forces

For terrorism, intimidation of voters, and the protection of fraud, the most effective existing machinery available to the Liberals is that of the Armed Forces. Can the Liberals make use of the AFP as their private instrument?

. . . . . . .

Deputy Chief of Staff Vargas personally favors Magsaysay, stood up to Quirino in the 1951 election, has the respect of most AFP combat leaders, and is convinced that political use of the AFP would ruin it. Thus, the Liberals will try every tactic to immobilize Vargas, even if they cannot send him out of the country as they had hoped.
Brigadier General Arellano, whom strong AFP staff rumors place as successor to Duque, is probably working already for Quirino, although this information is not confirmed.
Two-thirds of the Provincial Commanders of the Philippine constabulary (37 officers to date) have been transferred in the past 8 months. Into the key post of keeping law and order in the provinces have come men with records of political misconduct and violent partisanship, including men previously expelled from misconduct.
Within the past 4 to 6 months, there has been a gradual shuffle of command, with nearly every higher-ranking officer who was known to oppose the use of the AFP for political purposes now transferred to a non-command position (mission in U.S., attending school, teaching on review boards, etc). AFP officers call this “cold storage” among themselves, look upon it as punishment (at this particular moment).
There still remains the possibility of a replacement for Secretary of National Defense and Chief of Staff. Among rumored replacements are Castaneda, Ramos, Crisologo, Peralta, and Pendatun. Such a change probably would result in demoralization of the AFP.
Other Government Agencies
The Provincial Treasurer has the most sensitive task in a national election: receiving the tallies from municipal treasurers, preparing the consolidation, calling the meeting of the board of provincial canvassers (by custom they confirm his figures, by law they are supposed to make the consolidation), and reporting provincial results to the Senate (presidential returns) and to the Commission on Elections (all other returns). If fraud is intended, the Provincial Treasurer is in a position to change tallies, hold meetings at times inconvenient for the canvassers, delay his report, change it. Teamed with a dishonest Provincial Commander of the Constabulary, the two can change election results to their hearts content.
Around July and August, selected Provincial Treasurers (nearly all of whom are reputed to be men of high integrity and definitely opposed to political chicanery) were called to Manila and set to work on the national budget for the next fiscal year. Excuse: they were fiscal experts. In their places were appointed acting Treasurers who follow orders.
There have been attempts by the Liberals to pressure provincial managers of the Philippine National Bank (also the RFC managers) to refuse crop and developmental loans to selected persons opposing the Liberals. So far, these Liberal attempts have not been too successful; bank officials have shown real courage, are actively being noncooperative.
The Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Lands are both used as instruments of punishment, in attempts to bring the opposition into inactivity. Sudden demands for taxes or sudden reallocations of land are the means used. These means have been used, also, in keeping Liberal rank-and-file in line.
Other Election Instruments
Yulo has reaped a certain acclaim from his statements about refusing to be seated if he wins by fraud. His statement is strengthened by the fact that Rafael Lacson, engineer of fraud in 1949 and 1951, is opposing Yulo in Negros. Our reports from Negros are that Yulo’s lieutenants there have quietly taken control of mayors and municipal police formerly controlled by Lacson, and are employing most of his chief thugs now.
We have strong, but unconfirmed, reports that Speaker Perez has distributed ballots to the Liberal machine in the provinces—the ballots to be filled out by Party workers and used to stuff the ballot boxes on election day. Places reported so far are: Concepcion (Tarlac), Iloilo, Cebu, and Sulu. Three samples of these ballots, on the way to where we could examine them in Manila, disappeared; the wife of the courier bringing them is reportedly asking for burial expenses; we are checking. These reports are the first ones we place any credence in, after a long series of rumors re ballots being printed in Hongkong, being printed in Perez’ backyard, etc. There is some possibility that the ballots now being distributed actually were taken out the back-door of the Commission on Election by employees there.
We have no confirmed reports on the number of goons hired by the Liberals. Our conservative evaluation of unconfirmed reports would place the number between 800 and 1,000 gangster types wholly or principally supported by Liberal leaders throughout the Philippines. This number can be expected to balloon as election day nears. The toughest group of goons has been organized by Ben Ulo for Antonio Quirino. Apart from the goons is the Commando Intelligence Unit, Office of the President, organized by Marking. Last payday, there were 36 full-time regular agents in this unit. It is both an intelligence (political) collection group, as well as undertaking agent-provocateur actions politically.
Liberals have turned to the goon idea from rich experience in past elections. This time, however, they are provoked to stronger [Page 551] action by their belief that Terry Adevoso (of the MPM) has organized 10,000 former guerrillas as a vigilante group for Magsaysay. The Adevoso group supposedly is built around the Hunters ROTC guerrillas, of whom he was the wartime head. We know positively that Adevoso has no such organization, nor has Magsaysay. On the other hand, such an organization could be built up rapidly if Magsaysay clearly asked for it, and if there was concrete evidence of patriotic need. The former guerrillas are not plain hired hands to be ordered up by whim, but patriotic citizens who would have to sacrifice a great deal if they participated.
The possibility of armed revolt against a Quirino government elected this November is real, even if fraud cannot be proven in court. A people’s revolt requires leadership. This one would have it (not only Magsaysay, but rabblerousing lieutenants like Laurel and Recto). Military leadership would come from experienced men who fought the Japanese, including probably the cream of combat commanders of the AFP. Such a revolt could muster an armed force at least equal to that loyal to the government, but would be backed morally by an overwhelming majority of the people.
Quirino’s nightmare is that the AFP would switch allegiance to Magsaysay. This is not quite true. A number of military men would stick to Quirino, with their men—although there is strong likelihood that most of the AFP men in the initial Quirino force would soon defect to Magsaysay when the shooting started. Thus, the top Liberal command, through Antonio Quirino (who was put on active duty as a Lieutenant Colonel with the Chief of Staff), is reportedly arming civilians with political allegiance to the Liberal machine in the provinces. Magsaysay states that the General Staff has informed him that Duque ordered a fresh distribution of firearms to civilian commandos and that 17,000 arms have been distributed in the past 3 months. Magsaysay estimates that he distributed 14,000 firearms to civilian commando units to fight the Huks while he was Secretary.
Our2 problem has been, and remains, to channel the energies of fighting men into the legal means for a free election under the Philippine Constitution. This has met with some success, but not entirely. We are up against the age-old problem of trying to fight an uninhibited, free-wheeling force by the slow and difficult means provided by law. It is always easier to shoot a man you feel certain is guilty, than to try to prove his guilt in court. The United States is not in position to exert sufficient pressure to stop a revolt; all [Page 552] the U.S. can do, from Filipino’s past experience, is scold, and words are soon forgotten.
Pressures applied on Quirino via the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. press might well cause Quirino to undertake an anti-U.S. campaign. President Quezon did so, in the past, and was popular. If permitted to be unchecked, such a campaign could gain a popular following for Quirino as the underdog fighting a U.S. pictured as a bully, or at its mildest, a gallant little David fighting Goliath for the amusement of a crowd whose sympathies would gradually go to the little fellow.
Filipino reactions must be watched closely. However, the main actions to overcome an unfavorable reaction are simple: to get Filipinos to see Quirino as a bad actor, and to laugh at him. These actions are being planned and will be undertaken,3 if there is the need. Filipinos have already started, by themselves. The most biting action is being sponsored by Yabut, radio disc-jockey with an immense provincial following. His latest vehicle of attack is a song patterned after that used by Filipino beggars: President Quirino do not eat too much more or you will burst, we are hungry and starving, my family does not have work, the whole nation is miserable, we beg you to retire so our nation may live. This song is bringing a sort of embarrassed giggle throughout the provinces; it will soon turn to open laughter as people become used to the idea of ridiculing their leader.
  1. An unsigned handwritten note on the source text reads: “Prepared by Col. Ed Lansdale of JUSMAG”.
  2. On the source text, the word “our” is circled with a question mark in the margin.
  3. A handwritten notation in the margin of the source text reads “by whom?”.