(This is a two-part conclusion of “No Eulogies for the Greatest Hero the Philippines Ever Had,” which began two weekends ago. It is given a distinct identity for emphasis of the actual theme of the series of articles which has run for four issues.)
IF only the Filipino people had not forgotten who Dr. Jose P. Laurel was and the many sacrifices he did for the country, they would realize that on the three major concerns currently confronting the Philippines, his presence continues to be strongly felt, more than half a century after his death in 1959.
When, for instance, President Rodrigo Duterte chooses a non-confrontational approach in handling Philippine-China relations over the issue of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), it is quite reminiscent of how Dr. Laurel conducted his presidency during the Japanese occupation. He pursued a policy of “national survival” for “tiding the Filipino people over to better times,” recognizing, as he states repeatedly in his War Memoirs, “that a small country is a small country and a weak people is a weak people.” Completely abandoned by America to the Japanese invasion, the Filipino nation must find its correct bearing under the situation, and Dr. Laurel found exactly that bearing by collaborating with the Japanese invaders.
It’s high time this issue of collaboration was treated frontally. Until today, uninformed sectors of Philippine society, evidently influenced by what they have read about the subject matter as pro-moted by American propagandists, entertain no restraint whatsoever in condemning Dr. Laurel for collaborating with the Japanese. These people never realize that collaboration under the circumstances of the Japanese occupation was not vice but virtue. In fact, collaboration, under principles of international law, is a recognized legal recourse by occupied peoples in relation to their occupiers. In this respect, Dr. Laurel makes a thorough dissertation in Chapter 65 of his War Memoirs:
“Military occupation gives rise to a temporary allegiance of the inhabitants of the occupied territory to the conquering power in return for temporary protection. It does not seem necessary to make any dissertation regarding the origin, reasons and historical development of this rule… the universally accepted principle indicated above which imposes upon the inhabitants of a conquered territory the obligation of ‘temporary allegiance for temporary protection’ of the conquered. Another reason for this rule is founded on practical consideration.
“The non-combatant elements of a conquered territory are not expected to resist or continue ac-tual resistance after its organized armed forces have succumbed to the might of the invading supe-rior forces of the conqueror for the reason that such an attempt is not only futile but unnecessarily destructive of lives and properties.
“Now, applying this legal principle to our case, what was the situation of the Philippines and her inhabitants generally at the time of the Japanese occupation of this country? Americans and Filipinos fought side by side, and heroically, but they were overpowered. Military occupation was as real as it was a fact. The top officials left Manila for Corregidor, and later for Australia and the Unit-ed States – Quezon, Osmeña, MacArthur and others, leaving behind then Secretary Vargas and Associate Justice Laurel at the head of the vast number of officials of the Commonwealth government in Manila to ‘welcome’ the Japanese invading forces. What were the people thus left behind expected to do – the officials and people who could not have had the facilities to go to Corregidor, Australia and the United States? The rule of international law formulated above gives the answer: ‘You must owe temporary allegiance to the mightier power in return for temporary protection.’
“ ‘Allegiance’ here means obedience to the existing dominant physical power that had supplanted the other, subject to the reconquest and the consequent ‘jus postliminii’; and obedience to the dominant physical power is compliance with the decrees, orders, directives and proclamations of the army of occupation. This is collaboration, in the ultimate analysis, whose limitation is not easy to determine because, while in certain instances it is classified by a rule of law or convention or declaration, it is however dependent in practice upon almost unlimited exercise of discretion in the vast field of military operations and military necessity… collaboration there had to be ex necessi-tate re and this collaboration is not punishable and much less treasonable in the light of the ac-cepted legal principle formulated above…
“It is easy to speak of loyalty, courage and determination by radio, removed from the zone of dan-ger, but when you find yourself at the point of the bayonet from all directions in an occupied terri-tory where disobedience or any gesture of hostile character meant not only sure death for you but perhaps desolation and wholesale massacre of people around you on any pretext it would seem to be a different story.
“As a general statement of fact, all acts directed to be done by the army of occupation are acts ‘under pressure’ because they had to be done regardless of whether or not those in the receiving line liked it or not. This was the case of all those who yielded to the organization of the Philippine Executive Commission, apart from the advantages we shall elsewhere refer to resulting from the establishment of such body. What is true in the illustration given is likewise true in principle as to other so-called acts of collaboration. In fact, the inclination should be towards that moral consideration unless the supposed collaborators have had anything to do with the effectuation of the military occupation that had given rise to ‘temporary allegiance’ and resultant forced collaboration. The conclusion on this point is that collaboration which is the necessary and inevitable result of temporary allegiance imposed upon the inhabitants of a conquered territory in pursuance of a universally accepted principle of International Law is not punishable, much less treasonable…”
(To be continued tomorrow)