Mar 012013

editbannerVolume No. 53

August,  2008


Icons, Informers, Intellectual & Family Reunions

I.( ICOPHIL Conference)

During the recent 8th International Conference on Philippine Studies (ICOPHIL) hosted by the Philippine Social Science Center (PSSC), the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo de Manila University last July 23-25, 2008, a noted historian from the United States, Al Mc Coy of the University of Wisconsin at Madison,
disturbed many Philippine Studies specialists in a panel audience with his explosive revelations:

“During the period of most intense political agitation by radical nationalists after 1907, the Constabulary owed its success to Filipino spies, including three famous Filipinos who today personify resistance to U.S. rule — (1) Aurelio Tolentino, the renowned radical dramatist; (2) Manuel Quezon, a senior Nacionalista legislator; and, (3) Santiago Alvarez, a former revolutionary general. ”

Historian Mc Coy, who has a very good reputation as a serious historian on Philippine issues has dug up from the U.S. archives “confidential intelligence reports” of the U.S.-created Philippine Constabulary and the U.S. Army, that the three were feeding “informer”  reports to the Constabulary and US Army intelligence. In his paper at the ICOPHIL conference with the title “Philippine Pacification and the Rise of the U.S. National Security State”, Professor Mc Coy with the meticulous use of primary sources from the U.S. national archives, outlined the surveillance activities, tactics and technical capabilities of the U.S. colonial secret service which was to serve as “laboratory” and predecessor to the present-day U.S. national security state. This sophisticated apparatus, established with the creation of the Philippine Constabulary in the Philippines, Mc Coy wrote,  preceded the FBI, the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) or even the CIA. Mc Coy however claimed that the colonial Constabulary maximized the use of blackmail and “relentless PC pressure” to transform these nationalist icons into colonial assets.

We have yet to see Mc Coy’s evidence and archival documents. Under what circumstances were they prepared and submitted? I remember that during the Marcos dictatorship’s martial law years, all political detainees who were later released and classified as “temporarily released detainees” were all asked to submit detailed written reports of all their weekly activities and to submit these reports to Armed Forces of the Philippines or Philippine Constabulary authorities. These reports, by themselves do not prove that these former detainees have become spies or informers, just because these reports would later find themselves in the shelves of the archives. Some of the papers and files in these archives can likewise be manufactured to demolish some nationalist icons.

What matters is the quality of these reports, such as did they cause the arrest or death of Filipino nationalists and freedom fighters? In the case of Quezon, Mc Coy claims that the PC under its chief Henry T. Allen had “extraordinary information” –products of intense surveillance of the households even of the Filipino elite– on the scandalous activities of Quezon which  were never released in exchange for his collaboration and information to the Constabulary. But the PC’s greatest catch was Aurelio Tolentino, nationalist dramatist and icon to many Filipino literary persona today. The PC also used coercion, threats and probably blackmail to force Tolentino to cooperate with them in the form of later becoming a spokesperson of sorts “to defend America and denounce Filipino agitators” as when “Tolentino campaigned against the wave of disruptive strikes in 1909” in favor of American companies who were treating Filipino employees harshly.

As for former revolutionary general Santiago Alvarez, he was, according to Mc Coy, “used…in a covert operation to split the Dimas-Alang mutual-aid society which had grown dangerously popular under radical leadership that threatened the colonial order.” This led to the disintegration of the mass-based nationalist movement, thereby leaving to the conservative patronage politicos the monopoly over the political terrain during the period. If the archival documents on Tolentino and Alvarez are authentic, then I pity these two nationalist icons who were persecuted during their era by U.S. colonial authorities. For, in this instance, now they will be persecuted by the people’s collective memory, and history.

We are not surprised with Manuel Quezon who was a compromising political animal if it advanced his political career. Quezon during his heyday was a reputed ladies man, a Casanova, but scandalous affairs have their limits when they do involve directly family members such as the information in PC General Henry T. Allen’s dossier that Mc Coy cites, entitled, “The Family History of M.Q.” that made Quezon cooperate with the colonial authorities and intelligence units. I am not surprised if these actions of Manuel L . Quezon came from someone who said ” I prefer a country run like hell by Filipinos to a country run like heaven by Americans.” Like hell you do .

The paper of Dr. Alfred Mc Coy was formally presented on August 25, 2008, during the ICOPHIL Panel 8 (B) on “Capillaries of Empire: Philippine Colonial Rule in the making of the Modern American State” (Part I.The Hard Power of Coercive Controls). Co-panelists included Warwick Anderson,Daniel Doeppers and Joshua Gedacht. Over-all, the 8th ICOPHIL was a reunion of sorts for all Philippine Studies specialists from all over the world: Europe, North America, Asia, Australia.


A real grand reunion it was last July 13, 2008 for the Simbulan family
held at Marikina. That whole day reunion brought together at least 80 family members from all over the country and from other parts of the globe. We had our last family reunion in Virginia U.S.A., but the participants were mostly from those based in North America, with a few coming from the Philippines. In this age of globalization, internet, texting and online chatting, families are never really kept apart mentally and emotionally. They may  physically be scattered around the globe but it is now much easier to be in contact.

Family solidarity is important only if it helps inculcate civic consciousness and values needed for nation-building. Four of our family members (excluding spouses who also gave their invaluable share for the struggle)  fought the Marcos dictatorship and its chief foreign sponsor, and for this they were detained, some tortured. During those dark years, members of the family stood by each other, protected each other and that is probably why we have survived and outlived the Marcos dictatorship’s martial law without any casualties. Political struggle has tempered and strengthened family solidarity in the Simbulan family.

In contrast, if family solidarity inculcates selfish or self-serving values at the expense of the community and nation, then it (the family) becomes the breeding ground for corruption, nepotism and distorted values. The most corrupt officials in our country as well as those of others, quislings, traitors and informers, etc. are usually very good providers for their family or families!  That is how they justify their despicable acts to themselves, by sharing their ill-gotten wealth with family members. “Contrast this with what Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro did when he launched agrarian reform in Cuba: he started with the good example of distributing the vast tracts of the hacienda of his own family, making his mother and other family members curse him, after which they fled to Miami, Florida.”

One thing we observe though, when Filipinos abroad contact family members living in the Philippines, they connect not with their country or nation but with individual members of the family. This is in contrast with overseas Japanese or Koreans whom we have observed while travelling abroad. When there is trouble and crisis in the country, Filipinos urge and facilitate more of their family members to flee their country and join them in greener pastures overseas, or in what they think are more secure and convenient comforts of a First World country.

However political and economic exiles justify their stay overseas, we can never be convinced. There is no place like home than your own country and homefront.

* Article by Roland G Simbulan – For a full professional background of Professor Roland G. Simbulan (Click Here)


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