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newspapers.
After the Spanish had been driven out of the Philippines in 1898 by a combined
action of the United States and the Filipinos, Spain agreed to "cede" (that is, sell) the
islands to the United States for $20 million. But the Filipinos, who had already
proclaimed their own independent republic, did not take kindly to being treated like a
plot of uninhabited real estate. Accordingly, an American force numbering at least
50,000 proceeded to instill in the population a proper appreciation of their status.
Thus did America's longest-lasting and most conspicuous colony ever come
into being.
Nearly half a century later, the US Army again landed in the Philippines to find
a nationalist movement fighting against a common enemy, this time the Japanese. While
combatting the Japanese during 1945, the American military took many measures aimed
at quashing this resistance army, the Huks (a shortening of Hukbalahap-"People's Army
Against Japan" in Tagalog). American forces disarmed many Huk units, removed the
local governments which the Huks had established, and arrested and imprisoned many
of their high-ranking members as well as leaders of the Philippine Communist Party.
Guerrilla forces, primarily organized and led by American officers and composed of US
and Filipino soldiers of the so-called US Army Forces in the Far East, undertook police-
type actions which resulted in a virtual reign of terror against the Huks and suspected
sympathizers; disparaging rumors were spread about the Huks to erode their support
amongst the peasants; and the Japanese were allowed to assault Huk forces unmolested.
This, while the Huks were engaged in a major effort against the Japanese
invaders and Filipino collaborators and frequently came to the aid of American
soldiers.2
In much of this anti-Huk campaign, the United Slates made use of Filipinos who
were collaborating with the Japanese, such as landlords, large estate owners, many
police constables, and other officials. In the post-war period, the US restored to power



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and position many of those tainted with collaboration, much to the distaste of other
Filipinos.3
The Huk guerrilla forces had been organized in 1942, largely at the initiative of
the Communist Party, in response to the Japanese occupation of the islands. Amongst
American policy makers, there were those who came to the routine conclusion that the
Huks were thus no more than a tool of the International Communist Conspiracy, to be
opposed as all such groups were to be opposed. Others in Washington and Manila,
whose reflexes were less knee-jerk, but mote cynical, recognized that the Huk
movement, if its growing influence was not checked, would lead to sweeping reforms of
Philippine society.
The centerpiece of the Huk political program was land reform, a crying need in
this largely agricultural society. (On occasion, US officials would pay lip-service to the
concept, but during SO years of American occupation, nothing of the sort had been
carried out.) The other side of the Huk coin was industrialization, which the United
States had long thwarted in order to provide American industries with a veritable
playground in the Philippines. From the Huks' point of view, such changes were but
prologue to raising the islanders from their state of backwardness, from illiteracy,
grinding poverty, and the diseases of poverty like tuberculosis and beri-beri. "The
Communist Hukbalahap rebellion," reported the New York Times, "is generally
regarded as an outgrowth of the misery and discontent among the peasants of Central
Luzon [the main island]."4
A study prepared years later for the US Army echoed this sentiment, stating that
the Huks' "main impetus was peasant grievances, not Leninist designs".5
Nevertheless, the Huk movement was unmistakably a threat to the neo-colonial
condition of the Philippines, the American sphere of influence, and those Philippine
interests which benefited from the status quo.
By the end of 1945, four months after the close of World War II, the United
States was training and equipping a force of 50,000 Filipino soldiers for the Cold War.6
In testimony before a congressional committee, Major General William Arnold of the
US Army candidly stated that this program was "essential for the maintenance of
internal order, not for external difficulties at all".7 None of the congressmen present
publicly expressed any reservation about the international propriety of such a foreign
policy.
At the same time, American soldiers were kept on in the Philippines, and in at
least one infantry division combat training was re-established. This led to vociferous
protests and demonstrations by the GIs who wanted only to go home. The inauguration
of combat training, the New York Times disclosed, was "interpreted by soldiers and
certain Filipino newspapers as the preparation for the repression of possible uprisings in
the Philippines by disgruntled farm tenant groups." The story added that the soldiers had
a lot to say "on the subject of American armed intervention in China and the
Netherlands Indies [Indonesia]," which was occurring at the same time.8
To what extent American military personnel participated directly in the
suppression of dissident groups in the Philippines after the war is not known.
The Huks, though not trusting Philippine and US authorities enough to
voluntarily surrender their arms, did test the good faith of the government by taking part
in the April 1946 national elections as part of a "Democratic Alliance" of liberal and
socialist peasant political groups. (Philippine independence was scheduled for three
months later”the Fourth of July to be exact.) As matters turned out, the commander-in-
chief of the Huks, Luis Taruc, and several other Alliance members and reform-minded
candidates who won election to Congress (three to the Senate and seven to the House]


39
were not allowed to take their seats under the transparent fiction that coercion had been
used to influence voters. No investigation or review of the cases had even been carried
out by the appropriate body, the Electoral Tribunal.9 (Two years later, Taruc was
temporarily allowed to take his seat when he came to Manila to discuss a ceasefire with
the government.)
The purpose of denying these candidates their seats was equally transparent: the
government was thus able to push through Congress the controversial Philippine-US
Trade Act”passed by two votes more than required in the House, and by nothing to
spare in the Senate”which yielded to the United States bountiful privileges and
concessions in the Philippine economy, including "equal rights ... in the development of
the nation's natural resources and the operation of its public utilities".10 This "parity"
provision was eventually extended to every sector of the Philippine economy.11
The debasement of the electoral process was followed by a wave of heavy
brutality against the peasants carried out by the military, the police, and landlord goon
squads. According to Luis Taruc, in the months following the election, peasant villages
were destroyed, more than 500 peasants and their leaders killed, and about three times
that number jailed, tortured, maimed or missing. The Huks and others felt they had little
alternative but to take up arms once again.12
Independence was not likely to change much of significance. American historian
George E.Taylor, of impeccable establishment credentials, in a book which bears the
indication of CIA sponsorship, was yet moved to state that independence "was marked
by lavish expressions of mutual good will, by partly fulfilled promises, and by a
restoration of the old relationship in almost everything except in name. ... Many
demands were made of the Filipinos for the commercial advantage of the United States,
but none for the social and political advantage of the Philippines."13
The American military was meanwhile assuring a home for itself in the
Philippines. A 1947 agreement provided sites for 23 US military bases in the country.
The agreement was to last for 99 years. It stipulated that American servicemen who
committed crimes outside the bases while on duty could be tried only by American
military tribunals inside the bases.
By the terms of a companion military assistance pact, the Philippine government
was prohibited from purchasing so much as a bullet from any arms source other than the
US, except with American approval. Such a state of affairs, necessarily involving
training, maintenance and spare parts, made the Philippine military extremely dependent
upon their American counterparts. Further, no foreigners other than Americans were
permitted to perform any function for or with the Philippine armed forces without the
approval of the United States.14
By early 1950, the United States had provided the Philippines with over $200
million of military equipment and supplies, a remarkable sum for that time, and was in
addition to the construction of various military facilities.15 The Joint US Military
Advisory Group (JUS-MAG) reorganized the Philippine intelligence capability and
defense department, put its chosen man, Ramon Magsaysay, at its head, and formed the
Philippine army into battalion combat teams trained for counter-insurgency warfare.16
The Philippines was to be a laboratory experiment for this unconventional type of
combat. The methods and the terminology, such as "search-and-destroy" and
"pacification", were later to become infamous in Vietnam.
By September, when Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale arrived in the Philippines, the
civil war had all the markings of a long, drawn-out affair, with victory not in sight for
either side. Ostensibly, Lansdale was just another American military adviser attached to
JUSMAG, but in actuality he was the head of CIA clandestine and paramilitary


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operations in the country. His apparent success in the Philippines was to make him a
recognized authority in counter-insurgency.
In his later reminiscences about this period in his life, Lansdale relates his
surprise at hearing from informed Filipino civilian friends about how repressive the
Quirino government was, that its atrocities matched those of (or attributed to) the Huks,
that the government was "rotten with corruption" (down to the policeman in the street,
Lansdale observed on his own), that Quirino himself had been elected the previous year
through "extensive fraud", and that "the Huks were right", they were the "wave of the
future", and violence was the only way for the people to get a government of their own.
(The police, wrote a correspondent for the Saturday Evening Post, were "bands of
uniformed thieves and rapists, more feared than bandits ... the army was little better.")17
Lansdale was undeterred. He had come to do a job. Accordingly, he told himself
that if the Huks took over there would only be another form of injustice by another
privileged few, backed by even crueller force. By the next chapter, he had convinced
himself that he was working on the side of those committed to "defend human liberty in
the Philippines".18
As a former advertising man, Lansdale was no stranger to the use of market
research, motivation techniques, media, and deception. In CIA parlance, such arts fall
under the heading of "psychological warfare". To this end, Lansdale fashioned a unit
called the Civil Affairs Office. Its activities were based on the premise”one both new
and suspect to most American military officers”that a popular guerrilla army cannot be
defeated by force alone.
Lansdale's team conducted a careful study of the superstitions of the Filipino
peasants living in Huk areas: their lore, taboos, and myths were examined for clues to
the appropriate appeals that could wean them from supporting the insurgents. In one
operation, Lansdale's men flew over these areas in a small plane hidden by a cloud
cover and broadcast in Tagalog mysterious curses on any villagers who dared to give the
Huks food or shelter. The tactic reportedly succeeded into starving some Huk units into
surrender.19
Another Lansdale-initiated "psywar" operation played on the superstitious dread
in the Philippine countryside of the asuang, a mythical vampire. A psywar squad
entered a town and planted rumors that an asuang lived in the neighboring hill where
the Huks were based, a location from which government forces were anxious to have
them out. Two nights later, after giving the rumors time to circulate among Huk
sympathizers in the town and make their way up the hill, the psywar squad laid an
ambush for the rebels along a trail used by them. When a Huk patrol passed, the
ambushers silently snatched the last man, punctured his neck vampire-fashion with two
holes, held his body by the heels until the blood drained out, and put the corpse back on
the trail. When the Huks, as superstitious as any other Filipinos, discovered the
bloodless comrade, they fled from the region.20
Lansdale regularly held "coffee klatsches" with Filipino officials and military
personnel in which new ideas were freely tossed back and forth, a la a Madison Avenue
brain session. Out of this came the Economic Development Corps to lure Huks with a
program of resettlement on their own patch of farm land, with tools, seeds, cash loans,
etc. It was an undertaking wholly inadequate to the land problem, and the number that
responded was very modest, but like other psywar techniques, a principal goal was to
steal from the enemy his most persuasive arguments.21 Among other tactics introduced
or refined by Lansdale were: production of films and radio broadcasts to explain and
justify government actions; infiltration of government agents into the ranks of the Huks
to provide information and sow dissension; attempts to modify the behavior of


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government soldiers so as to curtail their abuse of people in rural areas (for the Huks
had long followed an explicit code of proper conduct towards the peasants, with
punishment meted out to violators), but on other occasions, government soldiers were
allowed to run amok in villages”disguised as Huks.22
This last, revealed L. Fletcher Prouty, was a technique "developed to a high art
in the Philippines" in which soldiers were "set upon the unwary village in the grand
manner of a Cecil B. De Mille production".23 Prouty, a retired US Air Force colonel,
was for nine years the focal point officer for contacts between the Pentagon and the
CIA. He has described another type of scenario by which the Huks were tarred with the
terrorist brush, serving to obscure the political nature of their movement and mar their
credibility:
In the Philippines, lumbering interests and major sugar interests have forced tens
of thousands of simple, backward villagers to leave areas where they have lived
for centuries. When these poor people flee to other areas, it should be quite
obvious that they in turn then infringe upon the territorial rights of other villagers
or landowners. This creates violent rioting or at least sporadic outbreaks of
banditry, that last lowly recourse of dying and terrorized people. Then when the
distant government learns of the banditry and rioting, it must offer some safe
explanation. The last thing that regional government would want to do would be
to say that the huge lumbering or paper interests had driven the people out of their
ancestral homeland. In the Philippines it is customary for the local/regional
government to get a 10 percent rake-off on all such enterprise and for national
politicians to get another 10 percent. So the safe explanation becomes
"Communist-inspired subversive insurgency." The word for this in the Philippines
is Huk.24

The most insidious part of the CIA operation in the Philippines was the
fundamental manipulation of the nation's political life, featuring stage-managed
elections and disinformation campaigns. The high-point of this effort was the election to
the presidency, in 1953, of Ramon Magsaysay, the cooperative former defense
department head.
Lansdale, it was said, "invented" Magsaysay.25 His CIA front organizations”
such as the National Movement for Free Elections”ran the Filipino's campaign with all
the license, impunity, and money that one would expect from the Democratic or
Republican National Committees operating in the US, or perhaps more to the point,
Mayor Daley operating in Chicago. Yet the New York Times, in an editorial, was
moved to refer to the Philippines as "democracy's showcase in Asia."26
The CIA, on one occasion, drugged the drinks of Magsaysay's opponent,
incumbent president Elpido Quirino, before he gave a speech so that he would appear
incoherent. On another occasion, when Magsaysay insisted on delivering a speech
which had been written by a Filipino instead of one written by Lansdale's team,
Lansdale reacted in a rage, finally hitting the presidential candidate so hard that he
knocked him out.27
Magsaysay won the election, but not before the CIA had smuggled in guns for
use in a coup in case their man lost.28
Once Magsaysay was in office, the CIA wrote his speeches, carefully guided his
foreign policy, and used its press "assets" (paid editors and journalists) to provide him
with a constant claque of support for his domestic programs and his involvement in the
US-directed anti-communist crusade in southeast Asia, as well as to attack anti-US
newspaper columnists. So beholden was Magsaysay to the United States, disclosed
presidential assistant Sherman Adams, that he "sent word to Eisenhower that he would
do anything the United States wanted him to do”even though his own foreign minister
took the opposite view".29


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One inventive practice of the CIA on behalf of Magsaysay was later picked up
by Agency stations in a number of other Third World countries. This particular piece of
chicanery consisted of selecting articles written by CIA writer-agents for the provincial
press and republishing them in a monthly Digest of the Provincial Press. The Digest was
then sent to congressmen and other opinion makers in Manila to enlighten them as to
"what the provinces were thinking".30
Senator Claro M. Recto, Magsaysay's chief political opponent and a stern critic
of American policy in the Philippines, came in for special treatment. The CIA planted
stories that he was a Communist Chinese agent and it prepared packages of condoms
labeled "Courtesy of Claro M. Recto”the People's Friend". The condoms ail had holes
in them at the most inappropriate place.31
The Agency also planned to assassinate Recto, going so far as to prepare a
substance for poisoning him. The idea was abandoned "for pragmatic considerations
rather than moral scruples."32
After Magsaysay died in a plane crash in 1957, various other Filipino politicians
and parties were sought out by the CIA as clients, or offered themselves as such. One of
the latter was Diosdado Macapagal, who was to become president in 1961. Macapagal
provided the Agency with political information for several years and eventually asked
for, and received, what he felt he deserved: heavy financial support for his campaign.
{Reader's Digest called his election: "certainly a demonstration of democracy in
action".)33
Ironically, Macapagal had been the bitterest objector to American intervention in
the Magsaysay election in 1953, quoting time and again from the Philippine law that
"No foreigner shall aid any candidate directly or indirectly or take part in or influence in

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