No. 340
Memorandum by the Officer in Charge of Philippine Affairs (Bell) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Drumright)



  • Statement by Secretary Elizalde alleging interference in Philippine domestic affairs by Mr. Bell.1

Secretary Elizalde’s statement made the following reference: [Page 555]

“Of course, the State Department, through Mr. James D. Bell, head of the Philippine Division, who was Political Secretary in the American Embassy in Manila under Ambassador Spruance up to a few months ago, came out with a declaration in a public address that ‘Absolute impartiality with respect to internal partisan politics has been our policy, is our policy and will continue to be our policy’ but in the same breath, he added that ‘Yet as one of our main objectives is political stability, we cannot deny that we are concerned that the democratic processes function so that the people may freely express their will.’”

Secretary Elizalde in subsequent paragraphs charged that this statement by implication accuses President Quirino and his administration of subverting the democratic ballot, constitutes meddling in the Philippine elections, is an indictment of the officers charged with the duty of safeguarding the sanctity of the ballot, lends aid and comfort to the opposition candidate, tends to undermine the faith of the Philippine people in their ability and determination of the Philippine Government to execute the laws faithfully and impartially, is a lack of regard for Philippine sovereignty, reflects on the will of the Philippine people to hold an honest election, is an expression of doubt that there will be a free election, may lead to serious post-election problems and demonstrates that the issue of American intervention in Philippine elections is not a false issue.

Secretary Elizalde failed to point out that immediately following the statement he quoted, I said:

“We are confident, on the basis of statements from Philippine leaders, that the elections will be conducted in such a way as to prove a blow to the aspirations of international communism and will advance the cause of the Free World in the Far East.”

This address was written early in October and delivered on October 8, before the presidential campaign in the Philippines had reached its present high emotional pitch. The Embassy had announced a policy of complete non-intervention and refusal to comment on charges of American intervention as early as April 1953. Officers of the American Embassy at Manila, including the Ambassador, had stated privately on many occasions to Philippine leaders our concern with the conduct of the coming elections. It was the opinion of PSA at the time I made my address in New York that an official expression of this view was desirable. President Quirino’s insinuations of American interference in the Philippine election had not at this time reached the pitch that they did subsequently. My statement was the first and until November 6 the only [Page 556] official statement of our concern.2 Although my address received no publicity in the United States except for a very small item buried in a New York Times story, it appeared on the front page of several Manila newspapers on October 9. I am attaching a clipping from the Manila Bulletin.3

I believe that in a sense there is some merit to Secretary Elizalde’s contention that by expressing concern over the conduct of the elections we are meddling in Philippine domestic affairs. However, at the time I made this statement PSA believed that an expression of our position was desirable. The circumstances prevailing then were considerably different from the circumstances prevailing now, particularly in view of Quirino’s oblique attacks on us and the fact that our position has been stated once and that the principal effect of reiteration would be to antagonize some members of the present Philippine administration.

My address was read and approved by Mr. Bonsal, Mr. Robertson, and FE/P.

  1. On Nov. 3, Elizalde issued a lengthy statement charging the United States with interference in the Philippine elections. His statement was made partly in response to remarks made by Bell on Oct. 8 in a speech before the Philippine session of the Conference of the Far East-American Council of Commerce and Industry at New York; text is printed in Department of State Bulletin, Oct. 19, 1953, p. 523.
  2. On Nov. 6, President Eisenhower released the text of a letter which he had sent on that date to Myron M. Cowen, former Ambassador to the Philippines, in response to a letter from Cowen of Oct. 27 concerning the elections. The President expressed his conviction that the Philippine people would meet this vital test of their democracy in a manner reflecting pride on themselves and on the American people who had worked long for Philippine independence. The text of Eisenhower’s letter is in Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953, p. 749.
  3. The clipping, not printed, is from the Manila Bulletin, Oct. 9. 1953.