(1891-1959; President 1943-1945)
3rd President of the Philippines
Patriotic President; Puppet Republic President
“When I took my oath as President, my primary aim is for the citizen’s welfare…And I won’t hesitate to declare war against any other countries, if those actions I made would mean the safety of our countrymen.”
Jose P. Laurel, the President of the Philippines during the Japanese Occupation, is named as the Patriotic President. The trust of Filipinos to President Laurel has been endangered due to wrong beliefs. His enemies thought that his presidency during the Japanese Occupation will make him an ally of the Japanese. But soon, he proved through his service to the country his loyalty and true patriotism to the Philippines.
The patriotic president was born in Tanauan, Batangas on March 9, 1891. His parents were Sotero Laurel and Jacoba Garcia. Laurel’s father was a former secretary of the interior during the administration of President Aguinaldo.
Laurel was taught alphabet by his parents. When he reached the right age for formal education, he studied at San Juan de Letran College. Peping is fond of playing guitar and violin. He always missed school just to join and play with the orchestra to which he is a member. He decided to go to Manila in 1908. He studied at Manila High School. So he can earn a meager income, he worked as a chorister. Soon, he worked as an employee of the Bureau of Forestry and he earns 40 cents per day. After studying at Manila High School, Jose served at the office of Justice Thomas Atkins Street. He continued his studies in the College of Law at the University of the Philippines. He also studied Spanish at Escuela de Derecho.
He finished law in 1915 and passed the bar exam that year. In 1918, Laurel became a government pensioner at Yale University in United States. While studying at Yale University, he studied how to cut his own hair. He bought two mirrors in which one he put at his back, the other at his front. For this, he learned how to cut his own hair and save a lot of money.
When he returned to the Philippines, Laurel was appointed as the Chief of Executive Bureau. In 1922, Laurel was appointed undersecretary of the Department of Interior under the administration of Governor General Leonard Wood. After 10 months, he became the secretary of the Interior Department. On July 17, 1923, Laurel resigned from his position in the department. He doesn’t like the interfering of Governor Wood even in the smallest matters in the department. Instead, he established his own law office with del Rosario and Lualhati of Manila.
Laurel was elected senator in 1925. He was also a delegate to the Constitution Convention that created the 1935 Constitution. He was appointed by President Quezon to the Supreme Court in 1935. He remained in that position until he was appointed as secretary of the Department of Justice by President Quezon.
When the Japanese occupied Manila, some of the Filipino officials including President Quezon escaped to America. But Laurel stayed in the Philippines and took responsibilities of the welfare of the Filipinos. He refused to swear allegiance to Japan. Laurel did all he could to avert the unjust arrest of the Filipinos by the Japanese. But usually he failed to stop the cruelty of the Japanese. When Kapisanan sa Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas o ang KALIBAPI (Organization of Service to the New Philippines) was established, Laurel was appointed Commissioner of the Interior. The responsibility of keeping the peace was vested on him however severe cruelties were done by the Japanese police to Filipinos. Laurel advised the provincial chief to cooperate with the Japanese to avoid harsh treatment to the Filipinos. With this manner, Laurel was thought to be a Filipino siding with Japan.
Because of what he did, someone plan to assassinate him. While playing golf at Wack Wack Golf and Country Club in Mandaluyong ( a part of the Rizal province at that time) on July 5, 1943, he was treacherously shot. Throughout his time of confinement at the hospital, he never waivered his faith in God. On July 16, 1943, Emperor Hideki Tojo of Japan convinced the Filipinos that he will set free the Philippines in a year. In accordance with the law that was adopted by KALIBAPI, Laurel unanimously elected as President of the Republic of the Philippines under the Japanese regime on September 25, 1943. He swore as President on October 13, 1943 in front of many people in the front lawn of the Congress building. General Emilio Aguinaldo raised the Philippine flag. Filipinos realized the betrayal of Japan when the Americans tried to invade the Philippines. Japan forced the Philippines to declare war against the United States, Burundi & Great Britain. President Laurel cannot do anything because he has no choice. The only thing he asked is not to get any Filipinos to bear arms and fight as soldiers. When peace finally returns, Laurel was accused of making alliance with Japan during the war. He asserts that he is not pro-Japanese nor pro-American but pro-Filipino. The truth is, during the dangerous years of occupation, President Laurel tried to lessen the cruelty of the Japanese soldiers.
The court hearing for President Laurel was discontinued because on January 27, 1948, President Roxas declared the revocations as significant all the accusations considered as crimes during the Japanese occupation. In a speech with a regrettable tone, President Laurel said:
“Look at the Filipinos who despite being educated doesn’t learn anything or maleducated, who earned distinction and title but without honor and character, modern youth but with undesirable traits, Filipinos who are ashamed of the honorable values of our nation since birth, Filipinos who measures everything with foreign standards and doesn’t consider desirable things other than foreign objects.”
Laurel is the candidate of the Nacionalista party in the presidential election of 1949 but he lost to Elpidio Quirino.
President Laurel’s other half is Paciencia Hidalgo of Tanauan, Batangas. They have nine children namely Jose Bayani, Jose Sotero, Natividad, Sotero, Nita, Mariano, Rosenda, Salvador and Arsenio. President Laurel died on November 6, 1959 in Manila.