354. Memorandum From the Department of State Executive Secretary (Battle) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)0


  • Statements by Philippine Officials Critical of the U.S. and U.S. Policy

The President on July 10, in a conversation with Assistant Secretary Talbot (NEA), requested a list of statements critical of the U.S. made in recent months by officials of several countries, including the Philippines.1

Official Philippine criticism of the United States and U.S. policy during calendar 1961 has been largely a reflection of the fear of a fundamental change in U.S. Far Eastern policy with the advent of a new U.S. Administration. Much of if has been indirect or implied criticism, involving concern over what is regarded as undue French and British influence on the U.S. in SEATO and Laos.


At the beginning of the year Foreign Secretary Serrano on a number of occasions expressed doubts and misgivings concerning U.S. policy toward China and Laos. He bitterly characterized SEATO as a mere debating society and criticized the U.S. for failing to consult with the Philippines prior to supporting British initiatives with respect to the ICC. Serrano hastily convened an Asian Foreign Ministers Conference in Manila January 18 and 19, 1961 which was attended by the Foreign Ministers of the Republics of Korea, China, Viet Nam and the Philippines.

The Conference called for admission of Viet Nam and the Republic of Korea to the UN and reaffirmed the rightful representation of the Republic of China in that organization. It supported the Boun Oum Government and opposed the division of Laos and, with full realization of the weakness of SEATO, individual conferees sought to strengthen their own bilateral security arrangements with the U.S. One purpose of the conference was to attempt to strengthen the hand of the U.S. vis-à-vis the UK and France.

President Garcia in a major foreign policy speech February 23, declared that even if the U.S. voted for Red China’s admission to the UN that the Philippines would continue to oppose it.
In a public speech at Cebu in March just prior to the SEATO Conference Serrano stated that developments in Laos had cast doubt on the effectiveness of SEATO and on the continuing validity of the Philippine collective security system. In the same speech he declared that it would be a matter of profound concern to all the free peoples of Asia whether (1) in Laos the U.S. allows itself to follow the deceptive path of least resistance or will stand firm on its traditional commitment to freedom; (2) the U.S. bows to a false sense of the inevitable Chinese Communist admission to the UN or valiantly reasserts its leadership to prevent what is still a preventable evil; and (3) the U.S. breaks faith with Taiwan.
[less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Serrano on May 9 [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] said that U.S. Far Eastern policy was changing and that the chief interest of the U.S. was shifting to Europe. He is said to have stated that the U.S. was trying to stop the war in Laos, to have Communist China admitted to the UN, and even to have Chinmen2 and Matsu sacrificed for a cease-fire agreement with the Chinese Communists. He reiterated that the Philippines would continue to oppose admission of Communist China to the UN.
Further, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] some acid “off-the-record” comments of Serrano with respect to the visit to the Philippines of Vice President Johnson which he is reported to have characterized as an “empty and worthless trip.” Serrano claimed his reaction stemmed from his inability to extract from the Vice President specifics on the U.S. position with regard to Laos, the offshore islands and the issue of Chinese representation in the UN. It was reportedly his view that the U.S. was writing off Laos. Embassy Manila is of the opinion that part of Serrano’s disappointment resulted from his pique at being excluded by President Garcia from his substantive talk with Vice President Johnson.
In an interview with the departing Manila AP Bureau Chief, President Garcia a week after Vice President Johnson’s visit, urged the U.S. to stand firm on the question of Communist expansion in Asia “before it’s too late. The question today is whether to let the Russians and their satellites overrun Asia or keep the area in the democratic camp. If the answer is the former, then give up the fight and let the Communists gobble (Asia) up. But if the idea is to keep Asia for the democracies, then do something now.” Garcia emphasized that the U.S. “should put out the fires (Laos and Viet Nam) now before they get too large.” He declared he is still prepared to send troops to Laos—“if it’s in accord with SEATO, we will do our part.” Regarding the Chinese Communist threat: “Red China [Page 772]will expand again in Asia. It’s on their agenda. Forces of the democracies should be on the move also. Democratic forces in Asia will need the stabilizing support of the U.S. This is the time for the U.S. to make a real decision.” Embassy Manila comments: Seldom has the President been so categorical in stating such views. The Embassy believes that Garcia thought it useful to emphasize to the U.S., one week after Vice President Johnson’s departure, that its Asian allies are looking for deeds to back up words, as well as to remind the U.S. of the views of at least one of its Asian partners at the onset of the Geneva conference.

Shortly before the Nacionalista Party Convention Vice Presidential aspirants, in a series of personal interviews with the Agence France Presse correspondent in Manila found occasion to criticize several aspects of U.S. policy. Senator Sumulong, who had stood up to Khrushchev at the XVI GA meeting and had been the target of the latter’s shoe pounding, described the U.S. position on the Communist threat as “hesitant, faltering and undecided.” He compared the timid U.S. approach in Asia with our determined anti-Communist stand in Europe. Senate Majority leader Primicias and Senator Puyat (the successful candidate for the Nacionalista Vice Presidential slot) echoed Sumulong. Puyat predicted that unless the democracies forge a more united front against the Communist danger “we will lose the South East Asian countries one by one.”

Senator Paredes joined Primicias in taking exception to America’s preferential treatment of neutrals over tried and tested friends on whom it would have to rely in time of crisis. Assistant House Majority Leader Montano declared it was time the Philippines “talked turkey” to America. He asserted that “the U.S. has taken the Philippines too much for granted. It gives more aid to neutral countries, but it has not yet settled our money claims.” (This reference is to the outstanding claim for $73 million war damage payments now pending before the U.S. Congress—H.R. 1129.)

Ambassador Hickerson reported a conversation with Serrano on June 13 in which the latter stated that any disposition by the U.S. Government to support the admission of Outer Mongolia to the UN or establish diplomatic relations would be viewed by the Government of the Philippines with the “deepest concern.” Either or both such actions would be regarded as another in a chain of developments indicating relaxation of U.S. policy toward the Soviet-Chinese Communist threat. Most disturbing to the Philippine Government are recent signs of a softening U.S. attitude, especially in Asia. Serrano stated the “faith or fear of the Asian peoples will rise or fall depending on how strongly or how weakly the U.S. Government responds to the Communist threat.” He stated further that if Asians see no other alternative but to depend upon their own means for maintaining independence they will have to revise [Page 773]their policies toward the U.S. Government. Serrano stated frankly that the Philippines had expected something more definite from the visit of Vice President Johnson than statements alone. It was the Ambassador’s impression that Serrano personally was beginning to think in terms of a transition toward neutralism of some sort.
The Philippine press of July 8 and 9 reports that the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs shares the “grave” concern of Nationalist China over reports indicating that the U.S. may establish diplomatic relations with Outer Mongolia and support its admission to the UN.

In the case of the Philippines, criticism of the United States and its policies is not unusual. Regarding the U.S. Government and the American people as their mentors, Filipinos are quick to let us know when we appear not to measure up to the idealistic standards we have set for them and they for us. Despite an overwhelmingly friendly attitude toward the U.S. on the part of the general public, Filipino politicians have at times considered it useful to “tweak Uncle Sam’s whiskers” to demonstrate complete independence of U.S. influence. The Garcia Administration started off on this line but found it politically unprofitable. The 1959 Philippine Congressional elections demonstrated that an anti-U.S. line did not pay off at the polls. The spontaneous popular outpouring of goodwill toward President Eisenhower during his June 1960 visit and for Vice President Johnson in May 1961 further emphasized that the Philippine public rejects an anti-U.S. line. During the current Philippine Presidential campaign, which will culminate in a national election on November 14, 1961, the two principal parties are vying with one another to show the extent of their association with the United States. The present MacArthur visit, at the invitation of President Garcia, gives the public a chance to see its hero again, under sponsorship of the Nacionalista administration, and was undoubtedly considered politically beneficial.

In response to the foregoing statements by Philippine officials, our Ambassador has met frequently with Foreign Secretary Serrano and President Garcia. Consultation and liaison with the Philippine Government on SEATO problems and on the developing situation in Laos have been greatly improved. Secretary Rusk met personally with Secretary Serrano at Bangkok, Vice President Johnson met privately with President Garcia at Manila and Secretary Rusk gave Ambassador Romulo an extensive briefing on U.S. policies just before Romulo’s departure for Manila with General MacArthur, with the request that his views be conveyed to Secretary Serrano and President Garcia.

It is the view of the Department of State that a number of the remarks reported herein, while not unmotivated by personal political ambitions, also indicate natural concern of responsible officials of a country basically friendly to the U.S. It is believed that adequate efforts have been made to meet this concern through increased consultation, improved [Page 774]liaison and more frequent meetings between senior U.S. and Philippine officials. Further action is not recommended at this time.3

The Philippines contributed one Battalion Combat Team (averaging 1371 men) and one medium tank company consisting of 17 tanks to the Korean War.

The Philippines in the event of SEATO action to counter insurgency in Laos is committed to contribute 1 Ordnance Detachment of 2 officers and 48 enlisted men, 10 doctors, 2 dentists, an administrative and liaison group of 3 officers and 5 enlisted men, and, subject to U.S. logistic support, 1 Engineer Special Combat Company of 6 officers and 165 enlisted men. In the event of general aggression in Laos by Communist forces, the Philippines is prepared, again subject to U.S. logistic support, to contribute one BCT.

M.L. Manfull4
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Philippines, General, 2/61–7/61. Confidential. A note by Bundy on the source text indicates that the memorandum was sent to Hyannis Port as part of the President’s weekend reading for the weekend of July 21. In a July 17 covering memorandum, Bundy suggested that Kennedy might want to take advantage of a lunch he was having with retired General Douglas MacArthur on July 20 to elicit his views on the current situation. No account of the luncheon discussion has been found.
  2. The request was also made to Bundy; see Document 353.
  3. Bundy wrote a note in the margin: “Chinmen=Quemoy”
  4. Robert H. Johnson of the National Security Council Staff commented on this point as follows:

    “I have been told orally by State that it does not consider a general démarche desirable because such a démarche would be likely to produce a nationalistic reaction from them that would aggravate the situation. It would be quite possible, for example, for Garcia to call in the press and advise it that he has been the object of such a démarche and that he does not intend to pay any attention to it. In any event, they would view such a démarche as a U.S. intrusion upon Philippine independence.” (Memorandum from Johnson to McGeorge Bundy, July 14; Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Philippines, General, 2/61–7/61)

  5. Manfull signed for Battle above Battle’s typed signature.