Saturday, January 12, 2008

Jose P. Laurel Sr.

When one hears the name Jose P. Laurel Sr., one thinks of the puppet president of the Philippines during the japanese occupation. I feel sorry that former President Laurel is such a misunderstood figure in philippine history. I read the late President Laurel's memoirs which he wrote while encarcerated in Tokyo after the surrender of the empire of Japan. Laurel was no such person. He was a witty, intelligent and loving person. If I may summarize:

Prior to his entry into government service, Jose P. Laurel was a professor at the University of the Philippines. He was Secretary to the Interior under the cabinet of Leonard Wood, the american governor-general of the philippines, and during the administration of Manuel Quezon he served as Secretary of Justice and acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

When the threat of invasion from Japan was imminent, McArthur convinced Quezon to move his government to Corregidor Island where they would be better protected. Among the people Quezon wanted to go with him to the former Spanish island fortress was Laurel. When they were already at the pier, Quezon changed his mind and said that Laurel must stay behind to act as the representative of the government once the Japanese enter the City. This way, there will be a peaceful transfer of administration. What Quezon said Laurel must not ever do under any circumstance was to colaborate with the Japanese forces. This was a task easier said than done. When one faced with the might of General Homma and the entire imperial force of Japan, one must wigh his options carefully. Laurel placed the interest of the people before his own. He could have escaped with the guerillas when the Japanese entered the City of Manila, but he chose to face them, if only to save the peopl from unwarranted acts of violence.

Laurel was forced, along with the father of Ninoy Auqino, to set up a government structure. This was the Japanese's way of trying to give normalcy to an abnormal situation. In the end, Laurel was nominated as President and he had no choice but to accept.

Laurel made most of his "power" as president to extend help to the people, although the people saw him as nothing but a traitor. One time when he was playing golf at WacWac, an unidentified man shot him. Laurel forgave the man later on. As the war continued in the country, Laurel felt more and more like a prisoner of the Japanese forces.

At the end of the war, Laurel and his family were forced to move at night from the Malacanang to the Mansion House in Baguio City. It took them several days to reach the summer capital. Laurel and his family spent sleepless nights in Baguio, for the Americans bombed the City day and night. The Mansion's sprawling lawn looked like collander when seen feom above. Shortly before Japan surrendered, Laurel and his family were flown to Japan, where they awaited their arrest by McArthur's soldiers.

Laurel, although branded a traitor by many, including the Americans, believed that if he had the opportunity to do the things he did, he will do it all over again, for the greater good of his fellow men.

In a letter to his son Sotero Laurel, Manuel Quezon (shortly before his death) said that he believed that JP Laurel was not a traitor and was merely acting upon his (Quezon's) wishes, and was saddened that things turned out the way they did.

Laurel was given amnesty under the Amnesty Proclamation of President Manuel Roxas. Laurel went on to serve under Ramon Magsaysay as The Guy's Chief Negotiator, Senator of the Philippines from 1951-1953 and 1954-1957. He was also named Chairman of the Economic Mission to the United States in 1954 and the foudner of the Lyceum of the Philippines


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The writer's mother, Edita, is related to Jose P. Laurel Sr.'s wife from the Hidalgo Side.