A few weeks ago, we mentioned in passing something we thought everybody always knew: that civil police were, in just about every case in history, just as willing to serve a totalitarian government as the republican one that preceded it; and that incidents of cops failing to fall in line, being, in effect “oath keepers,” were individual, idiosyncratic, and rare.
It turned out not everybody “always knew” this, and we tossed out a couple of references to German WWII practice, in which the rubber (truncheon) of the Final Solution met the road (Jews being herded into boxcars, or just shot into mass graves) at the hands of the conventional Ordnungspolizei or the Einsatzgruppen that were formed, largely, from reserve police formations. They were far from the only cops who were very far afield from police work in 1939-45. If you look, you will see that Weimar Republic plainclothesmen made the transition effortlessly to Gestapo and subsequently to Stasi in case after case.
But if we’re going to say this applies generally, we ought to provide more examples. So let’s consider the Philippines, a multi-island nation that was a sometimes restive American territory from 1898 to 1946, with a brutal Japanese occupation reigning from 1942-44.
Prior to the outbreak of the war in December, 1941 (Philippine Islands targets were hit on 8 Dec 41), the United States had tried to build up native military forces, including very backward and primitive naval and air forces, and a large, modern, well-equipped and quasi-military national police force, the Philippine Constabulary. But after the war, the Constabulary per se was not reconstituted. Why not?
Because it went over, more or less in toto, to the Japanese occupation authorities and served them, against its own countrymen. In addition, many of the Filipino soldiers accepted Japanese parole to leave POW camps and join the Constabulary. Their tasks were not only normal police law-and-order duties, but also COIN and population control.
In July, 1946, the US and the new Republic of the Philippines together met their prewar schedule for Filipino independence. At that time, the islands were still recovering from the effect of the war, which included at least four separate devastations: direct damage done by Japanese occupation; economic ruin produced by the US naval (mostly submarine) interdiction and blockade during the occupation period; physical damage done by US bombing; and the broad swathes of destruction that attended the US campaign to defeat the Japanese occupation in 1944.
Immediately prior to Philippine Independence, the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence of the US Army Forces Western Pacific produced a Report on “P.I. Rehabilitation.”
Here is what the report says about law and order in the Philippine Islands, prewar:
Pre-War – Crime statistics for the Philippines before the liberation the Spring of 1945 are not available in the Philippines. As far as is known, records were destroyed during that war. However, it is generally agreed that the Philippines was a law-abiding nation before the war, with lawlessness of the present type mainly confined to the provinces of Sulu and Lanao in Mindanao. The national police force was the Philippine Constabulary, with cities such as Manila, Baguio and Zamboanga having their own police forces.
The Philippine Constabulary had been built for 50 years by the Americans — sometimes carefully, sometimes haphazardly. Sometimes the Americans mentored the Filipinos in their own image, and sometimes they dismissed them as primitive half-savages of a hopeless race, expecting little of them. As tension in the Pacific ramped up in the 1930s, American mentoring got more serious and more professional.
Americans were confident that the Filipino Army with the US Army elements in the islands could hold the islands against any likely Japanese attack. When they were proven wrong, they thought that at least those Filipinos from the Army and the Constabulary who had fought alongside the Americans — as Macarthur always called his troops during the campaign, the Filamerican Forces — would be loyal, and form a core of resistance.
They were wrong.
During the war, the Japanese reorganized the Constabulary and it soon became infamous throughout the Philippines. The Constabulary was dissolved upon the liberation of the Philippines….
Not only that, but individual members of the Constabulary were called out for war crimes, and mere membership in the wartime occupation Constabulary has been found by US courts to constitute disloyalty to the degree that it erases any previous or subsequent honorable service. Here are some quotes from a 1994 appeal, rejecting a Filipino’s claim for veterans’ benefits:
In this case, the veteran was a member of the PC, also known as the Bureau of Constabulary, which was an organization established by the Imperial Japanese Government with their puppet Philippine Government to administer the Philippine Islands during the Japanese occupation in World War II. The veteran’s membership in the PC is clearly shown by the evidence of record, although he attempted to conceal such PC service in a March 1945 Philippine Scout affidavit. …. This March 1945 affidavit, however, is of no probative value, in light of the numerous subsequent statements and affidavits in the record, by and on behalf of the veteran, which indisputably establish the fact of the veteran’s sustained service with the PC during the Japanese occupation of the Philippine Islands.
Of record is a November 1945 Report of Proceedings of a Board of U.S. Military Officers (also referred to as a Philippine Scout Loyalty Board) convened to determine whether the veteran, a Philippine Scout, served under the Japanese or Japanese Puppet Government in any capacity. The veteran furnished sworn testimony to the effect that he began his service with the Japanese in mid-January 1943 in a constabulary academy, from which he graduated in early March. Thereafter, he was assigned the duties of a patrolman and was issued a rifle, serving in that capacity until he “escaped” in September 1944.
The board recommended that he be discharged from service without honor with a character rating of less than “good.” In January 1946, military authorities approved the findings of the board of officers….
For political reasons, the war crimes trials of the Constabulary men and leaders never happened… indeed, none of the Filipino collaborators was ever tried, and all were amnestied in 1948. There were several reasons for this, but one is that the cream of the Filipino native elite was disproportionately represented among the Quislings; the men and women of the resistance tended to be at the other end of the socioeconomic status scale.
In addition, it was hard to tease out who was who, because some patriots had pretended to collaborate in order to collect intelligence for the resistance; other, more cautious, types had had a foot in each camp for reasons of expedience, rather than espionage.
And a Macarthur postwar report noted, in a chapter on resistance activities, that the prewar Constabulary provided the cadre not only for the occupation Constabulary, but also for some guerrilla units; one type comprised:
…guerrilla units … of purely local origin, under the leadership of prominent civic personages or former Constabulary, which sprang up more or less spontaneously to combat the immediate threat of uncontrolled banditry.
The Constabulary men in resistance were widely outnumbered by those in collaboration. Still, with former Constabulary men in important roles on both sides, the peculiarly Filipino solution, where the organization was disbanded and the individuals amnestied, was probably the most practical solution, even though it remains controversial. (The organization itself was re-established in 1959, and disbanded again in the 1990s).