Police as Oppressors: the Filipino Case

Flag of the Philippine 2nd (Collaborationist) Republic, 1943-5.

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.

Constabulary Special Agent badge, period unknown.

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.

This Japanese Occupation badge is for the collaborationist Manila metro Constabulary. Most police had no problem switching badges.

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).

24 thoughts on “Police as Oppressors: the Filipino Case

  1. James F..

    incomplete sentence: “Their tasks were not only normal police law-and-order duties, but also”

    Benigno Aquino Sr., father of Corazon Aquinos husband, and grandfather of Benigno Aquino Iii, most recent President of the Philippines, was in the Japanese Occupation Government.

    1. Hognose Post author

      So was a who’s who of Filipino leadership. And among them, the only top-level collaborator MacArthur flagged as a secret resister and intel asset was General Manuel Roxas.


    “Prior to the outbreak of the war in December 1941…”

    Hey Hognose..errmmm….ahhh….I don’t want to be That Pissant Guy or anything, and with all respect, a lot of shit went down prior to December 1941.

    1. Hognose Post author

      In the Philippines. Honestly, I do know Europe had been at war since 9/39 and China and Japan since 1937 (and earlier). I was referring, I thought rather obviously, to a specific war in a specific place.

    1. Hognose Post author

      Not in a post on the Philippines. The French police deserve one of their own, as do those of the other captive nations, all of whom stayed in place and kept policing for their new masters. The Soviets, on the other hand, tended to purge not only the police but all institutions. The Nazis did purge Jews and highly political Socialists, of whom there were few in the police; the Soviets purged anyone who was not a Communist from leadership, as well as anyone who was not the son of workers or peasants from the organization. (Not just in the police, but society wide). But those remaining switched their loyalty seemingly unthinkingly. Maybe they didn’t like the Jews or the sons of kulaks?

      My point is, that people do not believe it could happen here. In fact, it already is happening here. Look how enthusiastically that regular, ordinary cops leave behind the pursuit of malum in se violent criminals to focus on malum prohibitum gun owners in places like MA, NJ, NY. Look at how California, which is plagued with violent gang crime, releases swarms of gang members early from prison sentences for violent crimes, but has formed task forces to hunt down registration violators. None of the people doing this are political extremists, they are just ordinary beat cops and detectives, “just following orders”– which happen to come from political extremists.

      If the orders become, under some future Great Leader, to put Jews in boxcars, guess who gets a boxcar ride?

      Guess what? Your ISP will now sell your browser history to the authorities, and they can buy it for general “intelligence and surveillance” purposes without a warrant or even probable cause. Who do you think cares who is searching for “80% Receiver”? In California, Big Brother does. And criminals do. Look at the whole world of internet advertising, and tell me with a straight face that anyone in that industry has integrity. It’s all spammers, all the way down, and they too dream of making common cause with police Power.

      1. Aesop

        Truer words, etc. etc.

        As friend Roger Daltrey & Co warned us long since:

        Meet the New Boss,
        Same as the Old Boss…

        “Just following orders” will always merit the same rope and gibbet it got in 1946, and for the same reasons.

        1. MD

          Aesop – very few of the deserving Nazis actually faced trial and punishment. There is an excellent series on Netflix that examines the nazi ensatzgruppen death squads. It’s tough to watch but informative. The final episode shows how few were tried, and how many just resumed their pre-war lives. As Hognose points out, that is not unique to post-war Germany.

          1. Mike_C

            >how many just resumed their pre-war lives
            Or, in other Axis countries, not only resumed their lives, but ended up in the National Diet.

            It’s a problem. Japan could be/is a useful counterweight to China, but pretty much every nation in east and SE Asia flat out hates the Japanese. And not without reason.

          2. Aesop

            This isn’t news to me.

            The afterward notes in the excellent Conspiracy made clear that of the architects of The Final Solution, only a bare few of a baker’s dozen got anything like what they deserved.

            This is why, whether it’s Khaddafi in a strip mall parking lot, or some future iteration of retired camp guard, you whack them on the spot at the initial opportunity, rather than depending on the simulacrum of official “justice”.

      2. Mike_C

        >Look how enthusiastically that regular, ordinary cops leave behind the pursuit of malum in se violent criminals to focus on malum prohibitum gun owners

        Of course. It’s much safer to go after generally law-abiding gun owners than clearly NON law-abiding violent criminals. Not just real cops do that. I saw this at Major Midwestern University when the MMU security forces were unarmed mall-cop types. They’d harass some 85-lb Indian (dot) grad student quietly eating her lunch in the courtyard “You can’t be here. Get out!” but disappear when inner-city black gangbangers from nearby Spectacularly Failed Big City were actively selling drugs in that same courtyard. Buncha pasty-faced, hollow chested, lard bellied contemptible swine superficially puffed up with Authoriteh over an inner core of (justified) insecurity and self-loathing. /not that I have strong feelings about this. Heh. (Admittedly, most of the former security folks were perfectly decent people, including retired police, grad students working a night job, people like that. But also a cadre of strutting loser punks as noted previously. Now MMU has a professional, armed, and mostly fit-looking police force which IMO is markedly better than the prior incarnation.)

        To be fair, it’s not just police. Sadly, many/most people are more likely to go with authority regardless of whether the authority is legitimate or not. Some of that is understandable: they have families to support, loved ones who would be put in harm’s way if they resisted. (Not saying it’s right, but understandable nonetheless.) Others, they’ll sell anyone out for a buck,or an extra ration of slop, or to feel powerful. To “get back” at their perceived oppressors.

        As I said, not just cops; other people we were taught to respect and trust as kids (or at least I was) are in the same boat of shame. It sure as hell won’t be doctors bravely supporting the resistance if it comes to that. All that “I’m a doctor, damn it! My responsibility is to the patient!” stuff on TV is bullshit. Medical training is very hierarchical, and ass kissers get ahead. Combine the legacy of years of ass kissing, coupled with the arrogant self-righteousness some MDs develop, and you have someone who is primed to do what’s expedient while thinking that he’s right with God.

        I get the point that doctors can’t arrest you, or shoot you without justification and (likely) get away with it, while cops can, but the principle is the same. Think the medical profession won’t jump to turn over your medical records if they have a plausible excuse? And why the push to get healthcare providers to ask about firearms, and document your answers? I attended a Massachusetts Medical Society webinar on “How to talk to your patients about gun safety” to see what that was about. I was (naively) expecting stuff like Cooper’s “four rules”, storage requirements consistent with Mass law, and stuff like that. (Sorta intro to Gun Culture 101 since many/most academic physicians — which we have a plethora of out here in Bostonland — find gun culture as foreign as [and more abhorrent than], say Yanomami culture from the Amazon.) Boy was I wrong. The entire 60 (or was it 90) minute presentation was flat out propaganda from leftist progs, with a final five minutes from a Mass State Trooper who, while not saying anything flat out unConstitutional, was very clear that he felt lowly civilians should not have firearms because they didn’t have training and couldn’t be trusted.

      3. James

        Been watching a French wartime mini-series that shows how deeply personal that struggle was for those trying to strike that balance between just being a “good cop” serving the occupied-French citizenry, trying to keep your family fed, while carrying out gut-wrenching orders from their Nazi taskmasters. It’s fiction but based on interviews from survivors of the era. Would recommend it. It’s called “Un Village Francais”. One place it’s available (with English subtitles) is http://www.mhznetworks.org/series/french-village

  3. W. Fleetwood

    I am sure that the following scene took place in the Philippines just as it has taken place in countries around the world.

    Patriarch; “Okay, No. 1 Son, you’re going to join the Federales. Try not to get killed, and make lots of friends. No. 2 Son, you’re going to join the Insurrectos. Try not to get killed, and make lots of friends. No. 3 Son, you’re going to go visit your cousins out in the boonies. Keep your head down and your mouth shut. This way, no matter what happens, The Family will be connected to the winners and there will be someone to carry on The Name and ensure that The Family survives.”

    And so they did, and so it did.

    Wafa Wafa, Wasara, Wasara.

    1. Boat Guy

      Yeah … But. The Japanese conquest and occupation of the Philippines was particularly brutal; and while Roxas was the most senior “asset” there were others, but precious few. The support and loyalty of the Filipinos in the countryside was counted upon by the guerillas, but I’d suggest that betrayal was the rule rather than the exception in the cities. By those who had “something to lose”.

  4. Tom Stone

    Hognose, I am all too aware of what’s happening in California.
    It’s a totally corrupt one party state and I have no doubt that 95% of police officers will follow whatever orders they are given.
    We live in the most effective surveillance society in history with a heavily militarized police and a Government that has abandoned the Rule of Law.
    It will not end well.

    1. Hognose Post author

      The point is to find those 5% who are inclined to resist, and from among them recruit your assets. We may not be going the way of Kurt Schlichter’s book, but we may; and secret agents in the enemy’s camp are priceless.

  5. robroysimmons

    Gun control in Illinois is totally political, if a Democratic voter in Chicago is busted for some action the gun charges are dropped by the states attorney, if a D governor is in trouble you cannot count to ten before the usual blather about gun control is broadcast by the propaganda ministers of the media.

    The very legitimacy of gun control IMO is teetering but the gun controllers can thank the Lord they have conservatives for opposition and the role of conservatives is to legitimize the Left, I think of them as the circus parade pooper scoopers.

  6. Cap'n Mike

    I think this is very true and is inevitable as part of human nature.
    Most of my fellow officers just want to get through their shift as easily as possible.
    Most of them would not be enthusiastic to kick citizens doors in and seize their guns, but some would be, and many others would do it because they were told to.

    I could probably write a Kirk like opus on this subject, but Im piss poor at taking my thoughts and transferring them to the written word.

    Many cops develop an “us vs them” mindset that alienates them from the community. I personally have always ascribed to the Peelian Principals Sir Robert Peel came up with when he helped established Londons Metropolitan Police Force in 1822.

    The one of the nine that has always resonated most to me;
    “The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

    This has always helped me avoid the “us vs them” mindset.

    I will say this as a bit of hope for you my fellow citizens behind the lines in Democratic controlled states.
    Liberals that become cops mostly don’t stay liberal for long. I know former Union tradespeople that I went to the Academy with (that supported Gore in 2000) who wouldn’t have voted for HRC last year if you had a gun to their heads.
    Most Cops see too much to believe the Liberal fairy tails.
    If the cattle cars start to fill up again, it probably wont be with conservatives.

  7. staghounds

    Because it went over, more or less in toto, to the Japanese liberation authorities and served them, against its own colonial occupiers.

    That may be more the way a lot of Filipinos saw it, at least at the start. And I don’t know that the 60 year old Filipino saw a huge difference between the Japanese occupation and the American one of his youth.

    1. Haxo Angmark

      there was a large regional difference. The little brown tagalogs in the northern islands got on with the Americans fairly well. The Muslims in the southern islands, not so well. I’m not sure how the Muslims in the south got along with the Japs during 1942-45. No doubt the friction was considerable. Considering, if nothing else, the frictiveness of Muslims.

  8. Looserounds.com

    This is a lesson that so many people just will not accept. The police will police who ever they are told to police.
    I know a large amount of cops, worked with them, helped teach a bunch to shoot. but the fact is to a lot of cops everyone not a cop is a “shitbag or sanky( to use the local cop term for shit bags) or shit birds or some other term for not a cop.

    After all. they have great dental plans. Don’t want to lose that

  9. Blackshoe

    The weird thing about the widespread collaboration at the elite levels of society was that it avoided the French example of national hunting down collaborateurs and instead everyone just wrote it off as “all the fault of the Japanese”. Better? Not sure, but different.

    It’s weird to look back at records from the pre-war days and see guys who were commissioned from the Academy and served directly into PC (and Philippine Scouts). Curious, Hognose, has anyone ever looked at that organization as a forerunner of SF’s FID mission (granting it wasn’t “F” at the time)?


    The pre-war US Army in the Philippines (like its naval cousin, but moreso IMHO) is an odd duck to look at today, especially keeping in mind what we like to think of our force as (a reflection of the “best of America”) rather than what it usually is (a collection of professionals, often measurably the dregs of America sent to far away places because that’s their job and that’s all there is about it).

    Of course, those “dregs” made good soldiers (and sailors) holding distant outposts like China Station, the Canal Zone, and the Philippines down.

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