AHC: US executes Filipino politicians who collaborated with Japan

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by David T, May 15, 2019.

  1. David T Well-Known Member

    Nov 8, 2007
    Can anyone see a US government vengeful enough to execute the leading Filipino politicians (Jose P. Laurel, Benigno Aquino, Sr., etc.) who collaborated with the Japanese?

    Obviously, there are all sorts of reasons not to. These people were after all part of the Filipino political establishment. They were not anti-US fanatics the way that Subhas Chandra Bose was anti-British. They had plausible excuses for their actions: some may have faced personal threats if they didn't serve, and anyway the country was under Japanese occupation, and some sort of civil government was necessary that could be on speaking terms with the Japanese and help mitigate repression against the Filipino people. Moreover, the US was committed to quick independence for the Philippines, and it was more convenient to let the Filipinos themselves handle the problem of what to do about the collaborators.

    And yet, after all, Laurel for example had signed a declaration of war against the US, and I can see a US administration wanting to make clear that that was a serious business. (Laurel later argued that the declaration was a mere formality, as the Japanese did not raise a Filipino conscript army to fight the Americans. Of course the Japanese had enough logistical problems supplying their own forces in the Philippines and had no interest in arming the Filipinos, knowing perfectly well that many of those arms would get in the hands of anti-Japanese guerrillas.) And indeed "In 1946 [Laurel] was charged with 132 counts of treason, but he was never brought to trial due to the general amnesty granted by President Manuel Roxas in 1948." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jose_P._Laurel Laurel even claimed that he had asked MacArthur what to do before the latter's departure from Manila and that MacArthur had told him "You have to do what they ask you to do except one thing--the taking of any oath of allegiance to Japan." "Laurel argued that he had avoided this one pitfall and that he had been badly treated by the victorious Americans who failed to discern his patriotism." David Steinberg, "Jose P. Laurel: A "Collaborator" Misunderstood," The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol. 24, No. 4 (Aug., 1965), pp. 651-665 https://www.jstor.org/stable/2051111?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

    Steinberg incidentally argues that Laurel's subsequent explanations for his acts were misleading or at least incomplete:

    "...Laurel accepted the Presidency because he wanted to use the power of that office, albeit circumscribed by the Japanese occupation authorities, to effect reforms which he felt were essential to the growth of Philippine society. Jose Laurel was neither a weak puppet, as was claimed by his post-war enemies, nor a martyr, as was claimed by his friends and himself. He believed that he could achieve certain goals despite the occupation, or perhaps because of it, and he gambled on that belief. He failed in the gamble, but his motivation has been so misunderstood that it is nearly impossible now to perceive what he wanted to accomplish and why. He must bear a large share of the responsibility for this confusion since he knew that his own you-war rehabilitation depended on creating a sympathetic image of his war-time behavior.

    "On June 6, 1943, Laurel, then Minister of the Interior in the Philippine Executive Commission led by Jorge B. Vargas, was shot while playing golf, probably by an anti-Japanese guerilla. Critically wounded, he was confined to a hospital bed for seven weeks. If he had wanted to avoid any further involvement in a Japanese-supported government, his wounds afforded him a perfect excuse to go into semi-retirement at the least.. Nevertheless, exactly twelve weeks after he was released from the hospital, he was inaugurated as the first and only President of the Japanese-sponsored Second Republic. Laurel was not a weak man, and he obviously did not accept the office on a whim.

    "Unfortunately, as a part of his post-war defense of his actions, he argued a kind of non-specific duress and compulsion, justifying his action on the basis of the instructions left by Quezon and MacArthur. It is impossible to verify whether Quezon ever left such instructions, but MacArthur denied that he did so in a letter to the author in which he wrote, "I gave no instructions to Santos, Roxas, Laurel, or any other Filipinos. ... Every Filipino except those in the armed services, acted according to his own conscience so far as I know." And indeed, of the three men MacArthur mentioned, one, Jose Abad Santo, preferred to die by the firing squad rather than participate in the Japanese administration; and the other, Manuel Roxas, President Quezon's heir presumptive, avoided high office throughout the war years by pleading a cardiac condition more severe than it was. If Roxas, who became the first post-war president, managed to deceive the Japanese, surely Laurel, near death from his wounds, could have opted for retirement for the remainder of the war.

    "Despite claims by Laurel and other ranking officials like Clam Recto that the risk to their families and themselves was too great, the Japanese were remarkably tolerant toward those who chose not to serve. Jose Yulo, for example, who was initially under intense pressure as one of the ranking prewar official, was able to assume a more and more obscure role during the war years merely by doing as little as possible. The wives and families of officials like Romulo and Osmena, who had been evacuated to Washington, were allowed to live in peaceful retirement..."

    Steinberg argues that Laurel in fact thought that the occupation and his presidency offered an opportunity to create a new type of Filipino citizen, who would subordinate himself to the Filipino state and show more interest in the welfare of his nation than in his individual rights and freedom. He was in fact in many ways impressed with Japanese society, which he saw as correctives to some defects of his own society's culture--insufficiently disciplined, too tolerant of corruption, etc. Reading Steinberg's article, it occurred to me that there is more than a little resemblance between Laurel and those Frenchmen who saw Vichy as a chance for the moral regeneration of France...

    Anyway, to get back to my challenge: Maybe in 1945 President Henry Wallace (re-nominated and re-elected in this scenario) is convinced by pro-Communist advisors that the Filipino political establishment are largely traitors and that the Huks were the true Filipino patriots? (But this probably exaggerates Wallace's' leftism at the time. It was only after he was first dropped from the ticket and then fired as Secretary of Commerce that he really came under the influence of the pro-Soviet left --roughly from late 1946 to the beginning of the Korean War in 1950.)
    Last edited: May 18, 2019