209. Telegram From the Embassy in the Philippines to the Department of State 1

1213. Subj: Call on Romulo.

I called on Romulo at his request this afternoon. He held in his hand two notes to present to me. As I suspected they were on the subject [Page 443]of U.S. military leaving the Philippines to evade criminal jurisdiction by the Philippines.
I opened by saying that in view of our past conversations (nearly daily) I had hoped he would feel that he need not have to give me these notes today. He replied that he felt he had no alternative because he was “sick and tired” of evasion on these issues. He then went into a bit of speech-making which ended up with him asking me point blank what I was going to do about Moomey.2 I told him that I was not ever going to even try to do anything about Moomey, inasmuch as I was sure he knew, there was nothing I could do about bringing him back. I also told him that I had every hope that Williams would be brought back. I did not see why, when he knew we were in the process of working very hard on this case, which had its complexities in American (as it would in the Philippine) system, that he would feel compelled to make a strong case publicly until the matter could be resolved.
I did not bother to read his notes, but proceeded to talk to Romulo in the strongest language I believe I have ever used with a foreign minister. I said I recognized the element of sovereignty in these cases which concerned him, but wanted him to know that as far as the real issues were concerned, which included matters of life and death, the exercise he was trying to put me through paled into semantics. I also told him that I could not believe he was fully aware of the things going on around town and feared that he was unwittingly joining into a pattern which seemed to me both serious and sinister.
I told him I thought there was an obvious effort going on in Manila to divert attention from the government onto the Americans, and this included efforts to divert the rioters and troublemakers as well. I suggested he think long and hard before he engaged in public polemics about us today in view of the anticipated troubles here in Manila tomorrow. There were rumors around town that there would be an indiscriminate attempt to kill some Americans in connection with the demonstrations scheduled for tomorrow. I felt these were serious enough that as a precaution I was making considerable effort to keep Americans in their homes tomorrow, even though I regretted taking this step as it might in a way contribute to the feeling of unease of everyone here. It was for this reason that I have made all my moves in this regard as low-keyed as possible.

I also told him that the charges that he was leveling against us for infraction of rules around the bases paled even more into insignificance when one considered the security situation around these bases.

[Page 444]

I told him I thought I would be ready soon to present him with facts that I was sure neither he nor the President knew about. In addition to the normal graft and corruption and straight malfeasance of justice situations which had long existed, things were now taking a more serious turn. It appeared to me that a pattern might be developing of periodic, indiscriminate killing of Americans. I said he could not accept forever that publicity would come only from him or his side, and that I might have to start speaking out publicly on these matters. I gave him four or five lurid cases which I must admit had even Romulo speechless.

I said he might likewise not know that he was planning this public attack on us at the very time that I was working closely with President Marcos in an effort to be helpful to him and the government in their current crisis.
Romulo interrupted and said that he wished he had talked to me earlier as he had already given the notes and comments to one afternoon newspaper. I said in that case I guess it was even too late to see the President, and my only recourse was to consider what I might myself do publicly.
Romulo jumped up and went into his adjoining office and came back with the material he had planned to use in the press conference after my departure. He threw it on his desk and said, “There it all is. I won’t give out any more to the press and I will see what I can do to tone down what I have already done.”3 He said that he had not known many of the things I had told him and wanted me to know personally that his intended action had been at his own initiative and he did not want me to think that he was joining others to turn Filipinos against us at this time.
Comment: I think that the latter is probably true and that Romulo, for purposes of his own shaky position and prestige, had decided that this was a good time for him to weigh in. There will be another staff cable enroute on these cases. I see now that his note complains about a case involving a Sgt. Moore back in August who apparently left on August 15 without a subpoena being issued to him which was received by base authorities on August 11. I also understand the Embassy was not informed of either this case or Williams for a long period of time. In any event, if I am going to get tough with the [Page 445] GOP on our side of the line, which I am in the mood to do,4 I would certainly like no more dallying about getting Williams back here as the Filipinos have a fool-proof case on this one. An international agreement has clearly been violated and I must say I cannot understand the reluctance of Defense to make amends.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 556, Country Files, Far East, Philippines, Vol. II. Secret; Priority; Limdis; Noforn. Repeated to CINCPAC and CINCPACREPPHIL.
  2. Moomey and Williams were U.S. servicemen stationed in the Philippines who were accused of serious crimes, and whom Philippine authorities wished to try in Philippine courts rather than the customary U.S. military courts.
  3. Telegram 1243 from Manila, February 12, reported that the “scathing tone reflected in February 11” newspapers was “nowhere to be found February 12,” and that the morning dailies had “temperate stories.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 556, Country Files, Far East, Philippines, Vol. II)
  4. In a memorandum to Kissinger, February 17, Holdridge characterized this telegram as “some effective bare-knuckle diplomacy by Byroade.” Holdridge surmised that Romulo had intended to present the protest notes and then report the whole affair to the press, which would have stirred up anti-American sentiment and diverted attention from Marcos’ problems with the students. He reported that “Byroade made a very strong presentation as to the danger of using us as a whipping boy in the situation.” Holdridge drafted a note from Kissinger congratulating Byroade, but the note apparently was not sent. (Ibid.)