LOOK BACK: 75th anniversary of the Philippine Executive Commission
MANILA, Philippines – On this date 75 years ago, the Philippine Executive Commission (PEC) was established, assuming government functions during the Japanese occupation under the authority of the Japanese Military Administration.
The arrival of the Japanese in the Philippines in 1941 was the start of more trying times for Filipinos, who had endured colonial rulers and longed for freedom for the last 4 centuries. Japanese forces occupied Manila, and Filipino and American soldiers were subjected to the Bataan Death March, a brutal 65-mile march that killed nearly half the troops due to starvation, dehydration, and exhaustion. Women were ruthlessly raped by Japanese soldiers. Prices of goods sharply rose. (FAST FACTS: PH-Japan relations through good and bad times)
To prevent more suffering, then President Manuel L. Quezon of the Philippine Commonwealth ordered local officials in Manila to enter into agreements with the Japanese. This led to the creation of the PEC on January 23, 1942.
Rappler takes a look back at some of the key events surrounding the establishment of the PEC.
Jorge Vargas was the first chairman of the commission. He was a lawyer, businessman, civic leader, philanthropist, and sportsman. Before he assumed the leadership role, he was the Acting Secretary of National Defense in 1941 during the term of President Quezon and was the mayor of the City of Greater Manila.
Several political characters also led other government agencies during the occupation years. Benigno Aquino Sr was appointed commissioner of the Interior; Antonio de las Alas for Finance; Jose P. Laurel for Justice; Claro M. Recto for Education, Health, and Public Welfare; Quintin Paredes for Public Works and Communication; and Rafael Alunan for Agriculture and Commerce.
Jose Yulo was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, while Teofilo Sison was Auditor General and Serafin Marabut was Executive Secretary.
Promise of independence
Japan used the promise of freedom to win the trust of Filipinos. Japanese Premier Hideki Tojo vowed to grant the "honor of independence" if the Philippines would understand its "true intentions" for the war and cooperate sincerely with Japan.
Only a few Filipinos believed this pledge. Most of them considered it as a tactic to cooperate with the Japanese. But the PEC saw the possibility of relaxing Japan's demands and to implement reforms in the administration.
In May 1943, Tojo visited the Philippines and echoed his promise of independence. Upon his visit, he later declared that the Filipinos did what he wanted and that he would fulfill his promise of freedom within the year.
The 1943 Constitution
To make the Japanese-sponsored independence possible, Japan mandated the creation of the Preparatory Commission for Philippine Independence (PCPI) with Laurel as president. The commission was tasked to create a Constitution for a free Philippines, although the Japanese had their own wishes on how it should be drafted.
Through the command of the Japanese Military Administration, Vargas released an executive order to create the Kapisanan sa Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas (Kalibapi), a semi-political organization that replaced all parties that existed before the war. This group was tasked to unite Filipinos and have them cooperate with the military administration of Japan in restoring the Philippines.
In September 1943, the Kalibapi ratified the Constitution drafted by the PCPI. This Constitution established an independent Philippines with 3 branches of government: the executive, legislative, and judiciary.
However, the Constitution was meant to be effective only until the end of the war. A new one would be drafted when peace was finally restored.
The Second Republic
Not long after the ratification of this Constitution, the Kalibapi elected members of the National Assembly, with Laurel as leader. He was later invited to visit Tokyo, where Tojo set October 14, 1943 as the date when he would fulfill his promise.
Through this move, the Japanese Military Administration was finally terminated and the Second Republic of the Philippines began. Laurel was declared the President of the Republic, while Aquino was chosen as the Speaker of the National Assembly.
Laurel later had to deal with problems that plagued the country after the war. Among the difficulties he faced were shortage of food and other basic commodities as well as inflation.
The Second Republic he led superseded the Philippine Executive Commission in governing the Philippines. – Cathrine Gonzales/Rappler.com
Cathrine Gonzales is a Rappler intern studying journalism at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.