• Benigno S. Aquino Sr.: a snapshot of elite self-preservation


    On January 8, 1942, while Filipino and American forces battled against the Japanese Imperial Army and President Quezon and General Douglas MacArthur were holed up in Corregidor, a select group of Filipino leaders presented themselves to General Masaharu Homma and formally surrendered to Japanese rule. Within a few hours of occupying Manila, high-ranking Japanese military men had set out to gain the support of the nation’s political elite. They promised emancipation from American oppression and independence, touting the slogan “Philippines for the Filipinos” under the so-called Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

    The occupation made the nation’s elite nervous. US failure to hold the Philippines had left them in shock. One of their own had been seized by the Kempeitai, the Japanese military police, and interrogated. Whether they were moved by cowardice and fear, or a sincere wish to protect the citizenry and prevent further destruction and bloodshed, Filipino public officials, eventually numbering about 30 men, including Jorge Vargas, Quezon’s secretary, and former congressman and Speaker José Yulo, collectively decided that capitulation was the best option. They pledged their allegiance to the new order with such promptness that even the Japanese were surprised. Before the end of the month, the Japanese had secured the cooperation and active collaboration of the country’s most prominent politicians.

    Jovito Salonga despaired. As he watched a new government come into being, the enforcement of martial law in occupied areas, and escalating abuses and atrocities committed against his people, he couldn’t help but wonder “whether these national leaders were willing tools of the Japanese or whether they were acting under duress.”

    Salonga was 22 years old at the time and already showing his mettle. He had secretly been tuning into short-wave radio broadcasts of BBC Australia, which was a capital crime, and circulating the news with his own commentaries. He was arrested, imprisoned for 10 months, and endured harsh beatings. Still very much a political outsider but astute enough to follow developments, he noticed how, among the elite members of the new government, Benigno S. Aquino (1894-1947), was emerging as a major player in the Japanese regime.

    The Japanese had abolished all political parties and created in their stead a single non-partisan party called the KALIBAPI (an abbreviation of the Tagalog Kapisanan sa Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas – Association for Service in the New Philippines). Aquino impressed the Japanese high command with his charisma and vocal enthusiasm for the new order. He was appointed head of the KALIBAPI and quickly became one of the most influential supporters of the regime and an outspoken pro-Japanese propagandist.

    Aquino was relentless in his efforts to persuade his countrymen to collaborate with the Imperial Forces. With Vargas, he created a junior KALIBAPI similar to the Hitlerjugend, the youth organization of the Nazi Party in Germany. Aquino even echoed ideas of racial purity. “I believe,” he said, “[that]our Supreme Creator… made us Malays – Orientals and not Europeans or Anglo-Saxons. In essence and spirit, we are Orientals.” He pounded on the message that Filipinos should reject the US and the West. “A Philippines perpetually dependent on the whims and fancies of the West cannot stand. A Philippines…tied to the apron strings of America is artificial, unnatural, illogical, and untenable.” A confidential report on Aquino compiled by the US military secret service described him as “an old cacique aristocrat,” the son of a wealthy landowner in Tarlac, and a “charter member” of the oligarchy.

    There were always degrees of collaboration. Some oligarchs in government posts got away with doing very little. Jose Yulo kept a low profile and his involvement to a minimum. Some managed to quietly slip out of view and were allowed to go into retirement. That there was no shortage of others keen to fill the vacated positions showed how coercion was not the most pressing motivation to collaborate. José P. Laurel, who accepted the offer of the presidency, together with many other elite politicians, believed that only men of their class could steer the nation in crisis and so understood their survival as vital. Collaboration, to these men, was a pragmatic issue. None had confidence in the intelligence and capabilities of the average Filipino.

    Only one important member of the political elite refused outright to cooperate with the Japanese. Left behind by Quezon, who escaped to Australia, Chief Justice José Abad Santos was captured in the Visayas and idealistically chose martyrdom. His peers did not regard him as a hero nor considered his defiance and sacrifice as heroic. Collaboration, they reasoned, ensured personal survival as well as that of the status quo. In line with this logic, Abad Santos’ patriotic convictions were seen as a betrayal of his class and his death treated as an embarrassment.

    Four decades later, Salonga found himself the legal counsel of Aquino’s son, Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino Jr. Writing in his memoirs, he could wryly reflect on how the lines of elite descent were successfully preserved. Elites have always been inclined to behave with monstrous arrogance and self-interest. They are remarkably skilled at political accommodation and making sure that their intricate web of loyalties and allegiances always work in their favor.

    More than most, perhaps, Aquino Sr. was guided by personal ambition and enjoyed power. Few embraced their wartime role under Japanese fascism with quite so much relish.



    Please follow our commenting guidelines.


    1. During World War II in our country , the Japanese Imperial army corraborated with MAKAPILI na may saklob ng bayong sa ulo at nagtuturo sa mga hapones kung nasaan ang ating mga gerilya. And those makapili were Aquino family, just to save their family from Invaders Japanese imperial aarmy.. They were traitors and that everybody knows… USO NUON MAKAPILI NA MAY SAKLOB NA BAYONG SA MUKHA NA MAY BUTAS ANG MATA LAMANG ANG NAKIKITA MO.. AT KUNG IKAW AY GERILYA , ISUSUMBONG KA NG PAMILYA NG MGA TRAYDOR AT HANGGANG SA NGAYON AT DALA PA RIN NILA…ITO ANG AYAW IPAALAM NG MGA DILAWANG MEDIA NETWORK SA MGA FILIPINO AT DAHIL SA INTERNET WITH SOCIAL MEDIA, LUMABAS NA ANG KATOTOHANAN AT ANG KASINUNGALINGAN NG MGA DILAWAN… GOD SAVE PHILIPPINES FROM THE TRAITOR OF OUR NATION..

    2. What an expose’ for young readers to read. Readers should share this story in every social medium so that people are enlightened. It can be shared over coffee since election fever is pitching in, we can insert this discussion. At least, we can unmask the hypocrisy of the Aquinos and their yellow minion. To the writer, bravo!

    3. aquino sr is part of history that should be judged in his own time instead of speculating now on what really his motives that time.

      i appreciate the author’s share of her thinking although she was not born yet during the hardshipt that all legit filipino heroes endured. i however i doubt the accuracy of her source.

      only one thing that i want the author and readers to consider and envision is that what could have happened to us if Ninoy did not perform the ultimate sacrifice to liberate the filipinos from marcos dictatorship….maybe the author will be a …..

      • Roner Del Rosario on

        If Ninoy Aquino did nto die, we would have been saved from the stupid leadership of his dumb wife Cory and his triply stupid son Noynoy. We will not be in this sorry state we are in now.

    4. My grandfather used to say “Aqui No Duran Laurel y Vargas” the Japanese puppet quartet, which had Aquino hated most.


      He was allowed to carry a firearm, to boot !!

      And his grandson was feted at the Emperor’s Palace recently , hmmmmm….

    5. Amnata Pundit on

      There is nothing ignoble about promoting Filipino nationalism or resisting westernization. In my book, Benigno Sr is a hero compared to the Legardas and the Paternos of the Philippine-American War, although I know it will need a full article to explain to those who do not understand. But bombing Plaza Miranda and blaming it on Marcos? Ignoble would be an understatement. By the way, Joma Sison said recently in an interview where he denied his and Ninoy’s involvement in the Plaza Miranda bombing that Ninoy has always been a CIA asset since his days as a war correspondent in Korea. Straight from the horse’s mouth himself. Ninoy was CIA+ Joma in NATO stronghold Netherlands + NPAs allowed to use American shield of human rights against our military + Plaza Miranda bombing. Connect the dots. I hope this angle is what alternative historians should focus on. Nevertheless, this is a nice article. Well done.

    6. Federico Lojo on

      Thanks for your truly enlightening column today. It makes me more confident never to vote for one from the elite class and would rather risk my lot for someone who successfully worked his way out of poverty. Binay is my guy.

    7. Ecclesiastes on

      Nice piece of tidbits in history that exposed the traitor and elitism genes of the Aquinos…These ambitious lust for power by the Aquinos was aptly satiated by the unfortunate events in 1987 when they willingly sacrificed one of their own in the person of terminally ill ninoy aquino to be assassinated to become a martyr….

    8. I read somewhere that the son, Benigno Jr. made overtures to the Huks during the time of Magsaysay and that’s why he was the youngest governor of Tarlac! Is it like father like son? How about Benigno III? Does anyone know of his involvement with the Huks & NPAs?

      • Hindi na kasi uso ang HUKBALAHAP at NPAs. Talk of MAMASAPANO and the Basic Bangsamo Law ang you’ll get the answer. What is the Basic Bangsamoro Law? Ito ang batas na kumikilala sa mga Muslim bilang mamamayan na may sariling Bangsa or Bansa. Bansang Moro sa loob ng Bansang Pilipinas? Only in Daang Makitid!!!

    9. Jerome Suarez on

      The greediness of our today’s elite is the cause of the poverty in the Philippines aside from corrupt politicians being voted by those people who exchanged their country’s future for a bribe of money, canned goods and some rice.

      • greed indeed is the cause of so much poverty and continuously widening gap between the rich and poor.

        It is as my professor said about the application of the golden rule:
        “Those of make the rules, get the gold”.

    10. jeff jaramillo on

      The Aquino blood line. Years can’t alter its the attitude of these people–always a kontra bida–a devil.

    11. That is an enlightening article Miss Reyes !!! … how would you like also to write about the great-great grandmother (girl friend of Antonio Luna , I think) of the President ?

      NOW !!! … is it not proper for Pres. BS Aquino III to APOLOGIZE to the Filipino people for the treacherous act of his grandfather during the Japanese time ?

    12. its very obvious na may pinagmanahan ang mag amang ninoy at noynoy. i don’t now what kind of people we are. some considers traitors as heroes. this aquino clan must be hanged for whatever they deed to our country. i hope that day will come.