UNDERMINING REVOLUTION: EDWARD GEARY LANSDALE,
COUNTERINSURGENCY AND THE HUKBALAHAP REBELLION
Kyle B. Mathews
B.A., Lewis and Clark College, 1993
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
This thesis for the Master of Arts
Kyle B. Mathews
has been approved
Mathews, Kyle B. (M.A., History)
Undermining Revolution: Edward Geary Lansdale, Counterinsurgency, and
the Hukbalahap Rebellion
Thesis directed by Associate Professor Adjunct James Whiteside
This thesis focuses on American counterinsurgency in the Philippines from
1946 to 1953 from the perspectives of the Central Intelligence Agency and
the leaders of the Hukbalahap (Huk) rebellion. After providing background
on the causes of the insurrection and the goals of the Huk insurgents, I
investigate the motivations for covert intervention in the Philippines. Under
the guidance of the CIA, Edward Geary Lansdale sought to undermine the
Huk rebellion and assist in the development of a more democratic
government. In addition to reforming the Philippine military, Lansdale
undertook psychological operations (psy-ops) to divide Filipino peasants
from Luis Tarucs Huk rebels and the Philippine Communist Party (PKP).
Working with Philippine Secretary of Defense, Ramon Magsaysay, Lansdale
offered crucial advice on how to reduce abuses of power in the government,
gain the trust of Central Luzons rural population, and help meet their basic
security needs. Magsaysays presidential election insured continued
cooperation between the Philippine government and the United States.
Furthermore, Lansdales successful strategy became a model for
counterinsurgency in the developing world, particularly Vietnam.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis,
recommend its publication.
My thanks to my advisor, James Whiteside, for his direction and
encouragement throughout the course of my graduate studies. I also wish to
thank my wife, Kimberly Gannett, for her patience; Craig Angus in the history
department at the Alexander Dawson School for his inspiration and
resourcefulness; the Alexander Dawson School for its financial support of
my course work; and the Richman Family Foundation for its generous grant
supporting my research at the Hoover Institute Library at Stanford University.
1. FOUNDATIONS OF PHILIPPINE INSURGENCY
Philippine Society Under United States Rule...7
2. LUIS TARUC AND THE HUK REBELLION
The Philippine Perspective, 1930-1945.........16
Rekindling the Flame: Huks in the Postwar Era.25
The Rise and Fall of the Huks, 1949-1953......39
3. EDWARD GEARY LANSDALE AND THE CENTRAL
Lansdales Formative Years....................54
The Debut of Covert Warfare...................71
The Lansdale-Magsaysay Partnership............76
4. A MODEL FOR COUNTERINSURGENCY?....................106
5. LESSONS AND CONCLUSIONS...........................113
This is a story of American covert operations and the founding of
modern counterinsurgency policy in the Philippines. It is also a description
of Filipinos struggling for economic, political and social reform; the rise of
labor and opposition organizations protesting oligarchic policy makers; and
Americas response to radical insurgents in the Far East. But, more
importantly, it is a narrative of a conflict which brought the Cold War to Asia
and foreshadowed American involvement in Vietnam. The lessons learned
in the Philippines defined an era of US foreign policy, directing the whys
and hows" of nearly a half-century of overseas intervention.
Like so many conflicts in the postwar era, the Hukbalahap rebellion,
which raged in the Philippines between 1946 and 1953, traces its roots
deep into the history of colonialism. The Spanish-American War (1898)
provided not even the first of many attempts by rural working and middle
class Filipinos to oust the foreign rule of their imperial governors. However,
the Philippine-American War (1899-1902), which grew out of that conflict,
showed that the United States was fundamentally committed to colonialism,
free trade, and political stability in the Far East. The ramifications of both
wars and US policy toward the Philippines shaped the islands into a
strategic site for military bases and an outlet for American goods.
Yet, what is less understood is how independence movements in the
developing world at the dawn of the Cold War spawned modern American
counterinsurgency policy. For the Philippines, freedom came with strings
attached-economic and political. These conditions gave the United States
a permanent role in the nation's development. Once committed to Manila,
Washington manipulated economic, political and military affairs to stifle
Filipino rebellion and insure status quo authority in the Pacific.
The price for achieving this equilibrium proved incredibly costly.
Engaging its agents in Philippine internal affairs, Washington responded to
what it interpreted as a popular Communist insurgency spreading from
China and directed by the Soviet Union. While the US supplied the Roxas,
Osmena and Quirino governments with much of the necessary funding to
maintain non-Communist governments, Washington looked upon growing
unrest in the Philippines as a destabilizing threat to its Pacific line of
defense. Given the nature of Cold War conflict in Europe, the Truman
administration felt it could not afford to allow guerrilla forces to undermine
US political authority in the region.
Starting in 1947, US military advisors made recommendations to
check unrest in the archipelago before the situation ballooned out of control.
These recommendations combined limited economic and military reforms
with unconventional warfare to defeat agrarian rebels. As a result of the
Central Intelligence Agencys experience on-the-ground with both the
peasants and the government of the archipelago, Washington rewrote its
textbook for combating guerrilla warfare. Having discovered a winning
strategy, the US planned to implement its counterinsurgent blueprint widely
against Stalins international forces.
However, it was the context of Cold War conflict in the postwar era,
not the Hukbalahap rebellion, which made the Philippines the symbol for
Washingtons ideological commitment to Asia and to other politically volatile
regions of the developing world. Washington held up the Philippines as
Americas earliest and most successful icon of covert intervention. Yet, it
also became a model which was painfully applied to Vietnam and other
nations developing their own sense of nationalism and independence. In
this sense, the Philippines became a prototype for insurgency which could
never be fully replicated, and a success that was ultimately very limited in
The aim of this analysis is threefold; first, to explain the historical roots
of the Hukbalahap rebellion; second, to critically outline Edward G.
Lansdales role in undermining the insurgency; and third, to examine how
Lansdales tactics defined US counterinsurgency as a model for the
developing world during the Cold War. Chapter one describes the dual
economic and political crises in the Philippines following the Spanish-
American War, and proceeds with a concise history of American colonialism
on the islands. Chapter two addresses the escalating conflict between
agrarian Filipinos and the colonial government in Manila from the
perspective of the Philippine working class and the rebellions military chief,
Luis Taruc. Chapter three reviews the conflict and the postwar political
environment in the Philippines, but through the eyes of CIA operative,
Edward Geary Lansdale. Chapter four explores the model of
counterinsurgency developed by Lansdale in the Philippines and its
application in Vietnam. Finally, chapter five addresses the implications of
Lansdales work vis-a-vis Washingtons Cold War priorities.
While the events and time frame of the insurgency described by Taruc
and Lansdale are essentially the same, their perspectives starkly contrast.
Both Taruc and Lansdale see a reality of events in the Philippines that is
truly their own. The resulting clash of perspectives facilitated the escalation
of unrest prior to, and following, World War II. By using these contrasting
perspectives, I hope to help the reader better understand how Tarucs efforts
for reform escalated into rebellion, and how Washington misinterpreted a
nations internal affairs as a threat to American national security.
This work supports arguments presented by historian H.W. Brands in
Bound to Empire: The United States and the Philippines. Like Brands, I
assert a more intentional role on the part of Filipino elites to shape the
course of Philippine affairs in order to secure their own ends. In a mastery of
the imperial game, ruling Filipinos drew in American assistance after the
Spanish-American War and World War II to help maintain their comfortable
position without fundamentally improving social and economic life in the
archipelago. However, I diverge significantly from Brands in the focus of my
research. Essentially, this work concentrates on the role of an American
agent who manipulated Philippine politics and undermined the ruling class
to inaugurate a new era of leadership in Manila. Moreover, I underscore the
selfless efforts of Filipino peasants and members of the working class,
particularly Luis Taruc and Ramon Magsaysay, who challenged the ruling
elite and sacrificed themselves in an effort to reform Philippine politics.
While supporting a number of Douglas Blaufarbs assertions in The
Counterinsurgency Era: US Doctrine and Performance, 1950 to the Present,
I disagree that nationalism and national consciousness failed to impact the
Huk rebellion.1 Luis Taruc clearly recognized Americas interest in
preserving its status in the newly independent Philippines in 1946. Like
Vietnamese nationalist, Ho Chi Minh, Taruc identified the connection
between the US government and emerging economic and political crises in
the Pacific. Furthermore, Tarucs attempts to force the Manila government to
negotiate broad economic and political reforms for all Filipinos threatened
American economic hegemony.2
1 also dispute D. Michael Shafers assertion in Deadly Paradigms:
The Failure of U.S. Counterinsurgency Policy, that successful
counterinsurgency policy has never been purposefully achieved. Although
counterinsurgency policy failed to evolve following its initial use in the
Philippines because US policy makers failed to understand insurgency
outside of a monolithic conception of communism, Edward Lansdales
'Doublas Blaufarb, The Counterinsurgency Era: US Doctrine and
Performance, 1950 to the Present (New York: The Free Press, 1977),37.
2 Blaufarb, The Counterinsurgency Era, 37.
development and execution of counterinsurgency programs clearly
contributed to the defeat of the Huk rebels in 1953. However, Washingtons
failure to recognize that such programs could not be applied in a blanket
policy to the developing world limited its successful replication.
Finally, I challenge Philippine historian, Raul S. Manglapus in
Philippines: The Silenced Democracy, who asserted that Americas tactics
in fighting the rebellion were largely successful because of the dynamic
character of Ramon Magsaysay. While Magsaysay indeed was a unique
nationalist who inspired military and governmental reform, I contend that
Lansdale stimulated these reforms first in his position as US Public
Information Officer in Manila, and later, as Magsaysays top advisor. With
Lansdales direction, Magsaysay delivered the peasants the representation
they demanded and the security they required to shift their allegiance away
from the Communist Party. When this happened, US counterinsurgency
policy effectively undermined Huk supremacy in Central Luzon.
This thesis is based upon research in primary materials written by
Luis Taruc, the military chief of the Huk rebellion, and other members of the
Hukbalahap-, Edward G. Lansdales published and unpublished documents;
and the papers of Charles T. R. Bohannan, housed in the archives at the
Hoover Institution at Stanford University. The findings are based largely on
reports and documents written during, and in the immediate aftermath of, the
Huk rebellion. The conclusions are mine alone.
THE FOUNDATIONS OF PHILIPPINE INSURGENCY
Philippine Society Under United States Rule
In the early phase of the Spanish-American War in 1898, United
States officials both in Washington and the Far East encouraged Filipino
guerrillas to combat Spanish imperialism.3 Backed by middle class Filipino
insurectos (radicals), Dr. Jose Rizal launched the Katipunan movement
which, in 1896, launched a full-scale rebellion. Under the military
leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, agrarian rebels forced the Spanish
to exchange land reform and political representation for peace. When Spain
reneged on these commitments, Aguinaldo revived the insurrection.
However, in 1898, the US went on the offensive against the Spanish fleet in
Manila Bay. Taking advantage of Aguinaldos assistance in capturing
Manila, US expeditionary forces excluded Filipino leaders in negotiations
with Spain for the islands takeover. Pushing aside Aguinaldo and seizing
the port, US Admiral George Dewey ignored the rebel leaders claims of
Aguinaldos rebels took up guerrilla struggle against US forces at the
3 Much of the research for this background history of the Philippine-American War the
author prepared in an unpublished document called "From Guerrilla to Freedom Fighter:
Shifting Perceptions of the Philippine War," December, 1999.
end of 1898, and in the three bloody years that followed, it took over 70,000
US soldiers to pacify insurgent forces. President William McKinleys order to
impose American sovereignty on the islands brought both positive and
negative incentives to isolate the rebels from their ilustrado leaders (upper-
middle class intellectuals) and abandon the cause of independence. While
Aguinaldos capture on Palanan in March, 1901, pushed the Filipino
rebellion underground, the event symbolized one of many colonial
trespasses in the archipelagos recent history. Filipinos suffered physically
and psychologically when the US took control of the civil and socio-cultural
affairs of the islands. Yet, the heart of the rebellion-the control of land-went
unaddressed, and thus, simmered in the memories of those peasants who
had sacrificed everything to overthrow foreign rule.
Both William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt claimed that the
United States had a moral obligation to oversee and protect those
unprepared for self-rule. To these leaders, it was Americas historic duty to
enlighten the uncivilized inhabitants of the archipelago. Yet, as
expansionists, economic and political control of the Pacific, along with
access to its untapped markets, meant prosperity for the United States.
While McKinley restored the estates of wealthy Spanish businessmen,
Washington completed Americas line of territorial acquisition from Hawaii to
the Philippines, putting the United States in a position to control trade along
what annexationists considered the great commercial highway of the world.
For the Philippines at the dawn of the twentieth century, security became
rooted in its economic link to the West.
Perhaps what was most significant about the Philippine-American
War, however, was that it taught the US military how to undercut revolution.
As Washington understood the conflict, the rebellion was held together by a
bond of allegiance between Aguinaldo and agrarian rebels across the
archipelago. By capturing the radical vanguard and tempting the Philippine
oligarchy away from Aguinaldos Malolos government, the US divided
allegiances among Filipinos. By offering peace, education and economic
development, America fractured Filipino commitment to the revolution.
Those Filipinos who refused to submit to American sovereignty in 1902
either were executed or paroled to become part of what Rudyard Kipling
termed the white mans burden. Consequently, in years following the
pacification of the islands, Washington highlighted the Philippines as a
showcase of democracy. Yet, power continued to concentrate in the hands
of the landed elite supported by a new mestizo oligarch, Manuel Quezon,
who became the archipelagos virtual dictator.4
During the war, Washington erroneously believed that US troops
could occupy the Philippines without resorting to violence; the Army simply
had to convince Filipinos to want American sovereignty, or at least tolerate a
US presence.5 Yet, it was not until US officers co-opted Filipinos from the
ilustrado class to run the islands civil administration that pacification really
4 David J. Steinberg, Philippine Collaboration in World War II (Ann Arbor: Univ. of
Michigan Press, 1967), 12, 15.
5 John Morgan Gates, Schoolbooks and Krags (Westport: Greenweed Press, 1973),
progressed. Public works projects implemented by the military were also
effectively used across US-occupied areas. Moreover, as historian Brian
McAllister Linn asserts, propaganda concerning the American benevolent
policy insured that the revolutionaries would be feared more than the
Americans.6 Meanwhile, the Armys ability to experiment with pacification
schemes, rather than adhere to rigid doctrines or theories, allowed American
forces to adapt and learn from the war as it evolved, quelling Philippine
nationalism.7 The United States effectively routed Filipino allegiance to end
The Philippine-American War drew to a close in 1902 precisely
because the US military crafted an effective mix of tactics which combined
just enough violent force and peaceful incentives to overwhelm insurgent
Filipinos struggling for their islands independence. What the generals of
the American Expeditionary Force to the Philippines understood in the early
1900s was that meeting some of the rebels symbolic demands allowed
them to reduce the popularity of the rebellion among rural Filipinos, isolating
the rebels from their support structure, and reducing the revolution to token
resistance. In essence, the US military learned how to steal the spirit of
insurgency. Succumbing to threats of further bloodshed, leaders of the
rebellion surrendered or were captured, allowing US occupation and civilian
rule. Overall, the war proved a powerful lesson in counterinsurgency.
6 Brian McAllister Linn, The U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War,
1899-1902 (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1989), 168.
7 Linn, The U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War, 169.
From 1902 to 1936, rebel leaders including Aguinaldo gave political
advice and assistance to radical factions who sought to renew the struggle
against foreign rule. By 1912, the call for independence had grown popular
enough to become the key issue in national elections. Seemingly, the
louder a Filipino candidate clamored for independence, the stronger were
his chances for election. Some political opportunists, like Manuel Quezon,
took advantage of this campaign maneuver to secure power, yet secretly
admitted not to support such calls for autonomy.6 8 Regardless, the political
tension around US rule and the supremacy of wealthy land holders spread
widely, particularly in Central Luzon. During the 1930s, President Franklin
Roosevelt, along with policy makers in the Philippines, prepared the
groundwork for political independence. Still, no date was set.
By 1937, US and Filipino politicians secured the right to duty free
exports, opening the Philippines to a flood of US commercial goods and
enterprises. On the political front, General Douglas MacArthur made major
contributions, training and organizing the Philippine government to take over
the responsibilities for independence. In 1939, however, the outbreak of
hostilities in Europe and the probable involvement of US and Japanese
forces prompted conscription and a general mobilization on the islands.
Washington recalled MacArthur to active duty as commander-in-chief of all
US and Philippine Commonwealth armed forces. According to Lieutenant
6 Question Outline of Significant Factors Affecting the US Advisory Role in Philippine
Actions Countering the Hukbalahap Insurgency, December, 12, 1964,1, Charles T. R.
Bohannan Papers, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, hereafter
referred to as Bohannan Papers.
Colonel Charles Bohannan, even the Communists joined in the
preparations for war, and volunteered in the formation of a laborers and
When war reached the Philippines, all but a minority of collaborators
seeking personal gain from their new Japanese conquerors remained in
solidarity with the United States. In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt
granted the Philippines self-rule when the Manila government was forced to
flee Japanese occupation. In response, Filipinos from across Central Luzon
set aside their differences and joined the Hukbong Bayan Laban Sa Hapon,
or Hukbalahap, the Peoples Army Against Japan. Led by Luis Taruc, Casto
Alejandrino, and other reform-minded leaders in Manila, the guerrillas spent
the war years pursuing hit-and-run tactics, cutting away at Japanese
By wars end, one of Americas top priorities was to disengage from
the Philippines and send troops home. However, by returning the
administration of the Philippines back to former bureaucrats in Manila,
MacArthur undercut the legitimacy of the Hukbalahap, and forced their
surrender to government troops. Accused by Quezons forces of
liquidating Filipino collaborators, military police jailed Taruc and his fellow
guerrillas, while Manuel Quezon, a known collaborator, resumed leadership
of the Philippine Commonwealth government.
Quezons Vice President, Sergio Osmena, replaced the ailing leader
9 "Question Outline of Significant Factors Affecting US Advisory Role in Philippine
Actions Countering the Hukbalahap Insurgency, 2, Bohannan Papers.
following his death in 1945. With the support of President Harry Truman,
Osmena bolstered the Philippine Army and cracked down on Huks who
refused to disarm. By 1946, most guerrilla soldiers had returned to their
families and fields, only to face brutal exploitation by wealthy landlords, and
abuse and extortion from the governments corrupt military. Life appeared to
have picked up where it left off before the war.
In response to Osmenas crackdown, the Hukbalahap organized and
trained soldiers in rural communities to protect peasants from abuse.
Furthermore, Tarucs socialists and fellow labor leaders united Filipino
tenant farmers in local and national unions to press their concerns on the
government. Their efforts, however, met brutal repression. It was no secret
that most political leaders in Manila had large land holdings in Central
Luzon and an economic stake in the exploitative relationship between
landlord and peasant. Violence became the most common method of
dealing with striking peasants. In this way, Osmena kept tight control of
protest, prevented organized displays against the landlord-government
partnership, and kept the archipelago in a general state of siege.
With Osmenas rise, the US helped reinstate the ruling status of the
Philippine oligarchy, outraging Filipino soldiers, farmers and workers who
sought improved political representation. Most pressing among Americas
priorities were to disengage from Philippine internal affairs, establish military
bases on the islands, and gain a favorable economic position in future
Philippine-American relations. Institution-building fell by the wayside, and
Washington ignored crimes committed by military personnel. Manila
responded by tightening its grip on the rural population. In the face of Cold
War competition with the Soviet Union, the US sponsored Manilas
leadership without dictating national policies or practices. What America
needed were loyal ties to foster regional security and counteract the
potential spread of communism.
Osmena cracked down violently on the peasants struggle to launch
economic and social reforms in 1945. In response, the National Peasants
Union (PKM), the Philippine Communist Party (PKP) and Hukbalahap
mobilized their members in protest. At marches and rallies, peasants faced
American and Filipino soldiers who sought to imprison all demonstrators. In
early 1946, the islands Military Police (MP) undertook an aggressive
campaign to execute radical peasant leaders in the barrios and villages
across Central Luzon in an attempt to solidify military rule and gain the favor
of the islands landlords.
Despite the fanfare and celebration of Philippine independence on
July 4, 1946, most peasants continued to feel poorly represented by the
landholding politicians in Manila. For the rural masses, liberty brought few
concrete improvements to their daily lives. Public displays of discontent
routinely exploded in physical violence as soldiers attacked unarmed
citizens. Suffering increasingly repressive working conditions and the most
severe political restraint to date, rebel peasants from across Central Luzon
turned to the leaders of the Peoples Army Against Japan. Reorganizing the
Hukbalahap, Luis Taruc and other Huk leaders joined forces with opposition
political parties, including the Philippine Communist Party, in a united
nationalist front against the Philippine government.
While Huk soldiers recruited new guerrillas, others campaigned to
represent their rural districts in Congress. Despite their overwhelming
election victories, however, newly elected President Manuel Roxas refused
to seat Huk politicians. Taruc and his associates were blocked from
influencing any congressional decisions. Essentially, Roxas, who replaced
Osmena, installed what historian Douglas Blaufarb called a type of political
organization for which issues were secondary and the spoils of power of first
importance.10 Quite simply, the holders of power manipulated the
constitutional system to insure their unchallenged authority. Thanks largely
to abundant US financial assistance which helped Manila purchase arms
instead of implement rural reform, the nations backward economic system
continued virtually unchanged from the days of Spanish rule.
10 Blaufarb, 24.
LUIS TARUC AND THE HUK REBELLION
The Philippine Perspective. 1930 to 1945
Luis Taruc, recognized by Philippine and American officials in the
1940s as one of the primary leaders of the Hukbalahap insurgency, was
born into poverty in Santa Monica, Pampanga on June 21, 1913. His
parents were tenants on lands owned by the Catholic Church and wealthy
land holders who controlled most of the arable soil in Central Luzon. In his
youth, Taruc learned to despise American policies which kept elite landlords
in economic and political control of the Philippines. By the time he reached
his teens, Taruc was determined to escape peasantry through higher
education and grassroots activism. He went to Manila to study pre-law at the
National University. To support his studies, Taruc worked for the
Department of Labor. He struggled to stay in school while his family suffered
from the repressive policies of landowners and their hired bosses.
Disgusted by petty politics, Taruc eventually quit his job and became a tailor
in his own shop. However, he did very little tailoring. Instead, the shop
became a center for peasant organization.11 Tempered by his lifes
11 Antoine de Joya, What After Amnesty? interview with Luis Taruc, 1948?, folder
424, Subject File, Philippines: Huk Movement, Lansdale Papers, Hoover Institution, Stanford
University, Palo Alto, California, hereafter referred to as Lansdale Papers.
experience, Taruc aimed to challenge the landowning-political ruling class
through the avenues of democratic change. Getting there, however,
depended on his ability to organize farmers, artisans and urban workers into
powerfully united labor unions.
Given the peasants struggle for basic welfare for all Filipinos, Taruc
understood that the working class had much to contribute to the islands
political reform. Landlords, however, owned the barrios and dictated
justice as they saw fit, usually to benefit their economic and political
interests. In this clash of classes, Taruc recognized the peasants as a force
with the potential to overcome the islands repressive dictators. To cure the
social ills of the Philippines, he advocated the confiscation of private
property. Using socialism as his doctrine, Taruc spoke against the history of
imperialism and efforts by Washington to solve" Philippine crises.
According to Taruc, When the Americans came they made boasts about
having brought democracy to the Philippines, but the feudal agrarian system
was preserved intact.12 In fact, democracy, as it appeared to most peasants,
had been sacrificed for profit-taking by the United States.
Taruc spoke not only against the great divide between landlord and
peasant, and against foreign landholders in a nation dependent on access
to soil for survival, but he also advocated socialism as the necessary fix for
the welfare of the laboring masses. Not surprisingly, the Commonwealth
government pegged Taruc as a Communist early in his career as a social
and political activist. Not only was this an attempt to stigmatize his name
12 Luis Taruc, Born of the People (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1953), 26.
and reputation, but it helped Manila explain to Washington why Filipino
peasants had taken to the streets in protest against their newly elected
Taruc based much of his understanding of the clash between the
peasants and the ruling class on the ideas of his mentor, Pedro Abad
Santos. The father of the Philippine Socialist Party, Santos founded the
organization in 1933, and rallied peasants to expose the crimes of
Philippine landlords and the corruption of government officials. Starting in
Pampanga, Santos helped create the Aguman ding Maldang Talapagobra
(AMT), or League of Poor Laborers, which held mass demonstrations
against the exploitation of workers. Taruc helped draft the AMT constitution,
and became the organizations general secretary. His commitment to return
to the people and lead by example kept the AMT a grassroots reform
movement, and kept Taruc popular among peasants. As for those who
resisted the AMT, Taruc urged that all non-participants be isolated in the
barrios in order to teach the importance of solidarity against the peoples
Discontent among peasants in Central Luzon escalated in the early
1930s, uniting tens of thousands of laborers in the vital rice and sugar
producing plain. As tenant farmers, these peasants worked for native
families, such as those who fought for the Filipino Revolutionary Army in
1898, as well as foreign nationals. Tenancy in the Philippines followed a
traditionally feudal relationship involving mutual obligation between tenant
and land owner. When loyal tenants could not afford things from one
season to the next, land owners typically provided loans which guaranteed
By the 1930s, however, such traditions were largely abandoned for
profits. In some cases, tenants demanding loans were driven off their lands
and out of their homes by armed guards. Those tenants who were lucky"
enough to keep their tenancy were often required to sign contracts which
limited the land owners responsibility to them, and which prevented their
participation in union activities. Courts increasingly interpreted land laws in
favor of wealthy land holders. In response, peasants burned fields and
refused to harvest crops until owners agreed to their demands for loans.
When peasants joined forces, they marched in provincial capitals to
demonstrate for new tenancy laws and government assistance. A series of
bad harvests for five successive years starting in 1935 brought severe
poverty to Central Luzon and unprecedented unrest in the provinces of
Nueva Ecija, Bulacan and Pampanga. As head of the AMT, Taruc
publicized the peasants moderate objectives and their commitment to
In May, 1935, however, more than 60,000 peasant rebels led a brief
but violent uprising outside of Manila.13 Led by Benigno Ramos, who
charged that Manuel Quezon had betrayed Filipinos by signing the Tydings
Act (which severely limited US economic assistance), the rebellion raged,
13 H.W. Brands, Bound to Empire: The United States and the Philippines (New York:
Oxford University Press, 1992), 166.
but was quickly overpowered by the Philippine Constabulary (PC). At issue
was not only the governments refusal to acknowledge peasant needs, but
also the widespread fear that severing economic ties with the US in
preparation for the islands independence might further jeopardize what little
stability remained in the Philippine economy.
By the late 1930s, Japan had built economic inroads into Philippine
markets which challenged US economic hegemony. In the summer of 1937,
Japan invaded China hoping to seize Manchuria. Washington, however,
refused to appropriate scarce funds to defend the islands from pending
invasion. Not until MacArthur resumed active duty as Americas military
commander for the Far East did equipment and munitions start rolling into
Manila. Even then, however, FDR refused to consider any separate peace
with the Japanese over the Philippines. Washington declined to take a
formal stance on the defense of the archipelago.
Meanwhile, rural tensions flared over the Quezon administrations
failure to respond to deteriorating economic conditions for farmers and
laborers in Central Luzon. Out of necessity, Filipinos converged on various
communities to defend themselves against land owners. According to
Taruc, the AMT followed the example of American labor in its use of sit-down
strikes and work stoppages to garner the most public attention to abuses
against the peasants. When the government responded violently with its
special police force, Taruc urged the strikers not to succumb to violence,
but submit to arrest in order to fill the prisons.14 Media attention eventually
forced the government to negotiate. As a result of his efforts, however, Taruc
was imprisoned four times between 1937 and 1941 for testing legal
boundaries and challenging the political authority of the heads of state.15
His position at the vanguard of the AMT earned Taruc an infamous
reputation in the halls of the Manila government, and an enduring legacy as
a true nationalist and patriot for the peasants.
In 1938, Mateo del Castillo and Juan Feleo, leaders of the
Kapisanang Pambansa ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (KPMP), or the National
Peasants Union from Nueva Ecija in southern Luzon, joined forces with
Tarucs AMT, and the PKP to form a unified, nationalist front against
President Quezon. Twice in 1938, Quezon ordered the PC to occupy
Bulacan and Pampanga. As a consequence, the Constabulary took control
of local police across Central Luzon in an effort to track down subversives.16
By 1940, however, peasants were much better organized. Labor groups
secured court support for loans from landlords and a higher proportion of
annual harvests (50-55%). Through vigorous campaigns in Central Luzons
largest barrios, socialists in the AMT and the KPMP won local posts as
mayors in 1940, and effectively chipped away at unjust practices of land-
,4 Taruc, Born of the People, 39.
15 Taruc, Born of the People, 42.
16 Benedict J. Kerkvliet, The Huk Rebellion (Berkeley: University of California Press,
Still, the PC hampered the peasant coalitions plans to upset
incumbent party bosses. Breaking up their gatherings and jailing organizers
to prevent rioting," the PC served primarily as protection for large private
land holders. Their charge not only included routine crackdowns on
peasant meetings and demonstrations, but also assassination attempts
against socialist leaders whom the Commonwealth government labeled
pro-Russian or pro-Japanese.17
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the
Japanese invasion at Talavera, socialists and labor leaders redirected their
organizations toward building a massive guerrilla network to combat the
Japanese Army. When, in March, 1942, MacArthur fled for Australia and
evacuated Quezon and his staff to safety, Filipino guerrillas stayed behind to
fight. Left to fend for themselves, however, numerous members of the
Philippine elite, including future President Manuel Roxas, abandoned the
guerrillas and assisted the Japanese military occupation of the archipelago.
Labeled Ganaps (middle and upper-class Filipino collaborators) by the
guerrillas, Roxas and a number of key government officials cooperated with
the Japanese in carrying out civil administration, meeting production quotas,
and supplying the Japanese Army with essential commodities. From his
position inside the Japanese government, Roxas was able to pass on secret
information to American forces working behind the scenes to sabotage
Japanese operations. However, most loyal Filipinos regarded his role with
utter contempt. Filipino guerrillas fighting to oust the Japanese from their
17 Taruc, Born of the People, 52.
homes considered Roxas a traitor.
In place of the AMT and the KPMP, which were disbanded to focus all
energies on destroying the Japanese, Filipino peasants formed the Bantay
Nayon, or home guard (also known as the Barrio United Defense Corps,
BUDC), for protection, intelligence, recruiting, and other necessities while
peasant military groups seized weapons caches from landlords. Filipinos
from a broad array of communities joined together, using hit-and-run
tactics, to fight a guerrilla war. Making do with the few weapons they had
confiscated or retrieved from Bataan, Taruc and his fellow guerrillas
solidified power among anti-Japanese groups, and organized training and
supply camps in the hills and lowlands of Central Luzon.
As the initial chaos of the invasion subsided, Filipino families
gradually moved back to their farms to plant crops under the occupation
administration. Primarily, their role was to cultivate enough rice to sustain
the Japanese Army. However, the return to normalcy also allowed those
Filipinos active in the labor movement and opposed to Japanese rule to
sabotage rice production and map out the movements counter-assault. On
March 29, 1942, at the intersection of Pampanga, Tarlac, and Nueva Ecija
provinces, Luis Taruc and a core of rebel leaders founded the Hukbalahap
(Huk) resistance. Those who joined the revolution committed themselves to
relentless struggle to unseat the imperialist Japanese.18
Representing the spirit and history of this resistance, Luis Taruc
became a military leader of the coalition forces against Japan. Hoping to
18 Taruc, Bom of the People, 67-69.
broaden the revolutions appeal and take advantage of the Communists
organizational structure, Taruc solicited the support and leadership of the
PKP. With the Communists directing the rebellion, Taruc became a de facto
ranking party chief in the Politburo, and commander-in-chief of the guerrilla
According to Taruc, integrating the Communists into the revolution
was a necessary first step. The Huks needed the PKPs depth of experience
and recruiting support to attract rebels from around Central Luzon.
Unfortunately for Taruc, however, it proved a decision he was to regret for
the rest of his life.19 At the time, Taruc saw the pillars of a nationalist front
(equality, friendship and unity) and the combined strength of the
Communists as essential ingredients for a new Philippine Republic.
Within a matter of months, however, Tarucs ties to the PKP marred all
attempts to work cooperatively with US officials fighting to oust the
Japanese. When MacArthurs forces returned to the islands and the war
ended, Roxas was invited to participate in negotiations to determine the
Philippines transition to independence. However, Washingtons refusal to
negotiate with Philippine Communists meant that Taruc and his Huk
associates were considered targets rather than allies. As a result, Taruc and
his agrarian partners fought tirelessly through World War II having sacrificed
themselves for an illusive independence.
19 Luis Taruc, He Who Rides the Tiger (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1967), 5.
Rekindling the Flame: Huks in the Postwar Era
General Douglas MacArthurs triumphant return to the Philippines not
only helped remove the Japanese from their strategic position in the
archipelago, but also returned the islands to American occupation. Despite
the Filipinos enormous sacrifice and commitment in the war against Japan,
the US military largely overlooked peasant guerrillas who helped liberate
the islands. Colonel Bernard L. Anderson, staff officer of the Far East Air
Force on Bataan, who escaped from the Japanese and took up guerrilla
operations for the US, experienced positive relations with the Huk rebels.20
Although Taruc, Feleo, Alejandrino, and Castillo refused to hand over
control of the Hukbalahap military organization to any US leader, they
cooperated with other guerrilla forces. Yet, to members of the United States
Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) who had endured Japanese
occupation in Central Luzon, the Huks refusal to surrender to US authority
made them enemies of the American government.
In 1945, alarmed by the rebel movements links to communism,
American authorities joined the transition government of Sergio Osmena in
alleging Huk participation in criminal acts during liberation. Once
American occupation forces arrived in Central Luzon, President Osmena
refused to recognize Huk leaders, whom he labeled Communists, as
20 Rand Corporation, Symposium on the Role of Air power in Counterinsurgency and
Unconventional Warfare: The Philippine Huk Campaign, A.H. Peterson and E.E. Conger,
eds., Santa Monica, CA, July, 1963, 2, Lansdale Papers.
provincial governors. Huk petitions to integrate Tarucs forces into the
Philippine Army were similarly ignored. Taking the offensive, Osmena
requested economic support from Washington to combat what he insisted
was a growing radical insurgency. By meeting Manilas petition for aid,
Trumans policy makers insured the status of the islands entrenched
landlords as well as the political power of collaborators in the Osmena
government. Without investigating the Huks or the history of social unrest in
the Philippines, Washington declared Tarucs guerrillas a threat to regional
peace and stability.21 President Osmena succeeded in making his enemies
the enemies of the United States.
In the ensuing power struggle which followed the war, thousands of
Huks were arrested by Filipino MPs while landlords and civilian guards
victimized villagers who participated in peasant organizations. Essentially,
the US occupation administration ignored the sacrifices and achievements
of Tarucs guerrillas. According to historian H.W. Brands, American forces
allowed the Huks to assist in rooting out the Japanese, but once Japan was
defeated, they ordered the guerrillas to put down their weapons.22 Hoping
to retain a foothold in Philippine political affairs, the Osmena administration
executed hundreds of rebels on trumped up charges of treason.23 Taruc was
jailed for plotting to liquidate Filipino enemies, but was released along with
other Huks following the formal proclamation of Philippine independence.
21 Kerkvliet, The Huk Rebellion, 117.
22 Brands, Bound to Empire: The United States and the Philippines, 238.
23 Taruc, Born of the People, 190-191.
According to Taruc in an interview with the Philippine Press, We fought the
Japs for three long years. We fought them when our so-called leaders
betrayed the people to the enemy. Throwing me and some of my
companions in jail was certainly a poor reward for our services.24
Between 1945 and 1946, violence ruled Philippine domestic life.
Juan Feleo joined Taruc in recruiting agrarian communities both in and
outside of Central Luzon to join the revolutionary movement. Concurrently,
the PKP campaigned from village to village, transforming anti-Japanese
resistance into a broad based political reform movement. Peasants who had
participated in the AMT and KPMP before the war and the Huk movement
during the war formed the Democratic Alliance. As a formal opposition party,
they renewed their demands for land distribution, political reform and
policies promoting peasant welfare. But, these peasants were not
necessarily Communists. As Douglas Blaufarb asserted, the peasants
seemed to be responding not to any external direction but to be reacting to
the efforts of the government, as they saw it, to rob them of the fruits of their
successes of the preceding four year.25 Upon closer investigation, it
seemed that the Huks and their peasant supporters actually used the
Communists to form the Democratic Alliance in an effort to achieve what they
saw as their most pressing social, economic and political goals.
In the election of 1946, Manuel Roxass Liberal Party defeated the
24 Arsenio H. Lacson, Star Reporter, The Civil War in Central Luzon, pt. 4, May 27,
1948, Lansdale papers.
25 Blaufarb, 25.
Democratic Alliance by a resounding (but highly questionable) margin.
Claims of ballot stuffing and coercion on the part of the Liberal Party
abounded. In one of his first presidential proclamations, Roxas enraged the
Huks by granting amnesty to all Filipinos who had collaborated with the
Japanese during World War II. Like Osmena, Roxas claimed that the Huks
conspired to topple democratic rule and build a Communist dictatorship on
the islands. Although blatantly self-serving, these assertions created just
enough suspicion in the Truman administration to necessitate sponsoring
Manilas reign of terror against Tarucs guerrillas.
Focusing his energies on eliminating the challenge of the peasant
insurgency, President Roxas hoped to crush the Huk movement and silence
the oppositions demand for political reform. Key to his short-term agenda
was passage of the Bell Trade Act of 1946. Touted by Washington as
essential to the successful transition of the Philippines from its protected
status in the US market to free trader, the act actually granted considerable
free trade rights to the United States in exchange for abundant financial and
military assistance, as well as a guarantee for US military bases on
Philippine soil.26 28
However, to pass the Bell Act, Roxas required a majority vote in the
Manila legislature which, as a result of recent elections, he clearly did not
have. Taruc and his associates won six seats with which they intended to
promote political reforms and check the governments discriminatory land
26 Arthur M. Schlesinger, The Dynamics of World Power: Documentary History of U.S.
Foreign Policy, 1945-1973 (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1973), 705.
policies. Roxas, however, blocked the six congressmen from taking their
seats. Having barred their participation and silenced dissenting
representatives, he rammed the Bell Trade Act through the Manila
legislature and cemented the Philippines economic and political connection
to the United States.
Yet, this single act did more to rejuvenate anti-government sentiments
and open hostilities among peasants toward the symbols of imperial rule
than any of the actions of the previous two years. When, in August, 1946,
Filipino MPs kidnapped Juan Feleo, decapitated him, and threw his body
into the Pampanga River, peasants took up armed revolt against the Roxas
administration.27 Meanwhile, MPs continued to arrest, murder, and rape
rural families in the name of fighting communism.
Rather than negotiate with Tarucs forces, Roxas ignored Huk
demands and sparked an internal crisis which threatened to destabilize the
new nation. As had been the case in the late 1930s, the countryside rose in
protest. As Taruc stated in a letter to the Philippine President on August 29,
You have your choice Mr. President--be a real liberal and a true
leader of Filipinos and rest assured of our cooperation. But be an
imperialist fascist agent and you will find that there are enough
Filipinos who have learned a lot in the last war and who will not give
up in peace or social gains acquired during that war... But [extremists]
should know that they can never bomb out the peoples new-found
hopes and convictions--that democracy, freedom and a lasting peace
are for all, including the common men who feed the nation when it is 27
27 Kerkvliet, 150.
starving and fight for it when it is in danger.28
President Roxas responded to such demands with deception as a tool
to manipulate popular opinion. While passing a new tenancy law requiring
a 70-30 distribution of crops favoring tenants, he neglected to reveal that this
law only went into effect in absence of contract, making it a law he never
intended to carry out. As for Tarucs claims that Roxas cooperated with the
enemy in his position in the Japanese occupation government, Roxas
responded, collaboration was a myth, everyone fought back.29 Once in
Malacanang Palace, Roxas disarmed all rebel groups in compliance with
the governments constitutional guarantee to halt all lawless elements
across Central Luzon. Within months of taking over the presidency, Roxas
publicly claimed, I can report to this Congress today that peace and order
have been largely restored.30 Denying that Taruc had in any way revived
the Hukbalahap to challenge the authority of the government, Roxas claimed
that the violence of the postwar era originated from a few, uncoordinated
groups of bandits-not an organized peoples army-content to murder and
steal on a local basis. Roxas told the media that these bandits seized the
arms provided for them in the war against Japan to terrorize the civilian
population, the police, and the Manila government.
Taruc used the PKPs media contacts in Manila to publicly deny the
29 Taruc, Born of the People, 238-240.
29 Lacson, The Civil War in Central Luzon, pt. 4, May 27,1948,1, Lansdale Papers.
30 Ibid., 3.
governments charges. In a letter to Roxas, Taruc addressed the
governments attacks by linking the struggle back to guerrilla efforts during
the war, and outlined how the Huks had grown and expanded their
campaign across Central Luzon. To Taruc, the Huks had more than
compromised with Roxas by laying down their arms to talk. However, MPs
jailed and killed Huk leaders. As for a government backed plan for reform,
the Presidents promises were hollow. Taruc asserted that Roxas failed to
follow through on any of his commitments to Filipinos. By blaming the Huks
for cutting short the prospect of improving the lives of the peasants, Roxas
tried to escape responsibility for his debts to the people. Moreover, the civil
guards and the MPs, not the Huks, had used terrorism as a political weapon
long before Roxas officially declared war on the guerrillas. For Taruc, the
governments approach to the crisis simply fanned the flames. Outlawing
the Huks and the PKM only made matters worse. Roxas had started a war,
and Taruc vowed to fight back.
In response, Taruc organized peasant demonstrations and
encouraged Huks to use guerrilla tactics against the Philippine Army and
other symbols of Manilas illegitimate rule. Speaking on behalf of the
Democratic Alliance, Taruc outlined the peoples demands for a democratic
peace which included
Immediate enforcement of the Bill of Rights, ending cruel and unusual
punishments; dismissal of all charges against the Huks, MPs and
civilian guards as a result of events of the past five months;
replacement of fascist-minded officials in government and military
commands; restoration of DA congressmen to their seats; and
implementation of Roxass land reform program to remedy crop
distribution and leading towards abolition of tenancy.31
The governments refusal to negotiate with Taruc meant that the
Hukbalahaps 12,000 soldiers confronted nearly 24,000 Philippine Army
troops, rural police and members of the Philippine Constabulary.32
However, the islands were also home to some 100,000 Communists based
primarily in Manila, where the political direction of the impending rebellion
was centered. Taruc depended on the PKPs recruiting efforts to
indoctrinate new guerrillas while he directed military efforts from the field. As
of 1948, however, the PKPs disorganized and fragmented leadership
focused strictly on legislative and legal avenues to reform. Although Jose
and Vincente Lava, as heads of the PKP, constructed a rudimentary
propaganda campaign against wealthy landlords, such efforts were limited
to those areas in Manilas immediate surroundings. Opting to join the Huks
on a very limited basis, the PKP hoped to avoid government reprisals and
crackdowns. The Communist Party itself was simply not convinced that a
defensive struggle against the Philippine government offered enough
incentive for the entire PKP administration to join armed resistance. Instead,
the Lavas kept their distance until the stage was set for full-scale revolution.
As a consequence, Taruc and his guerrillas were largely left on their own to
face government forces.
31 Taruc, Born of the People, 254.
32 Blaufarb, 26.
The governments anti-Huk program aimed to occupy trouble spots
across Luzon with a sizable military force in order to show the governments
commitment to destroying dissent. Yet, as the Huks realized, the Roxas
crackdown proved a jelling point for the opposition. Government soldiers
who abused village populations in their hunt for Huk targets actually pushed
villagers to the insurgent troops for support and protection. As the Army
increasingly relied on shelling villages and killing Filipinos as a means of
controlling the Huks, they created the need for insurgent forces where before
none had existed. The superior organization of the the Huk rebels, however,
responded with deadly attacks on stationary government troops.
Roxas, like other members of his administration, was more concerned
with his own reelection in 1948 than with ending the insurgency or
negotiating peace. Pursuing favors for influential constituents rather than
addressing the needs of the majority of poor peasants, Roxas jeopardized
the stability of the Philippine Republic. However, by declaring that he was
waging a war against communism, Roxas secured the military support of the
United States and all the benefits accorded to a central government in
defense against a Communist takeover. With Washington as one of his
primary targets for anti-Huk propaganda between 1945 and 1948, Roxas
profited handsomely from approximately $72.6 million in US military
assistance, hardware and technical advice to halt the spreading
By 1948, the Huks created a network of armed guerrillas to protect
33 Kerkvliet, 193.
farmers cultivating crops while the PC made its rounds in search of Huks.
The Hukbalahap also carried out what became known as Huk Justice,
whereby collaborators, civilian guards, PC and landlords were tried and
punished as criminals against the peasantry. Clearly, the Huks used brutal
methods, including execution, to establish their own reign of terror for those
who betrayed the peoples cause.
In response, Roxas assembled the largest anti-Huk operation to date.
In a well-coordinated surprise attack, PCs surrounded Mount Arayat and
trapped hundreds of Huk troops in deadly surrounding fire. Accounts of the
outcome, however, varied widely. While Taruc asserted that only four rebels
were lost (while the rest of his troops slipped through gaps in the firing line),
Roxas claimed 900 Huks were killed in the raid.34 In the government
controlled press, Roxas belittled Huk nationalism as a Communist plot and
lamented the violent effects of the rebellion.
Tarucs requests for meaningful negotiations fell on deaf ears. Taking
advantage of a brief government amnesty in early 1948, the rebel leader
traveled to Manila to meet with the press and explain Huk objectives.
According to Taruc,
The Hukbalahap is not a communist army and is not fighting for
Communist...(sic.) It is an army of national liberation imbued with
principles of nationalism, peace and real democracy. We are not
dictated by Moscow, as claimed by Red-baiters... the Socialist Party
retained its individuality and collaborated with Evangelista [of the
Communist Party of the Philippines] only on matters on which they
34 Taruc, Born of the People, 257-258.
saw eye to eye.35
Arsenio H. Lacson, journalist for the Star Reporter in Manila, backed
the Huk leader by asserting that the situation facing the Philippine
government was a historic tragedy-one in which Filipinos were killing
Filipinos without a clear understanding of the underlying causes of the crisis.
Essentially, Lacson argued in his column, sinister politicos with axes to grind
used propaganda to deliberately distort the revolt to serve their own
interests. Forces supporting the feudal social and economic structure
implemented by Spain felt threatened by Taruc, and pushed to preserve the
status quo. Peace, however, was not the governments goal. In the Huks
quest for equal rights, land ownership, and an end to exploitation, Taruc
armed the peasants to defend themselves and to instigate a peoples war.
For the Huks, the issues protested from 1945-1946 were the same ones so
often ignored in the past. In Lacsons opinion,
It is so easy to dismiss the peasant movement as communistic and
the peasants as communists so that the wealthy landowning class
that supports the administration can continue to exploit them. And
since the peasant refuses to be further exploited, call him a
communist and then shoot him-that justifies everything.36
To Lacson, the Huks were not Communists at all. They were simply
peasants fighting against institutionalized oppression. The bogey of
35 Antoine de Joya, What After Amnesty?, Lansdale Papers.
36 Lacson, Star Reporter, The Civil War in Central Luzon, pt. 1, May 24,1948,1,
communism proved a convenient clamor when serious reforms were at
stake. As for the revolutionaries demands, Taruc sought a broad list of
reforms including: an end to the Bell Trade Act, the sale of large
landholdings to peasants, reform of the present tenancy system, creation of
farmers loan agencies, introduction of modern agricultural implements,
equitable taxation, collective and cooperative farming, dissolution of the civil
guards, recognition of the guerrillas, the right to carry arms, and an end to
hostilities in Central Luzon.37 None of these demands seemed to clearly
define Taruc as a Communist.
Lacsons sharp criticism of the Roxas government drew both positive
and negative attention to his column.38 According to Lacsons calculations,
by the spring of 1948, 90 percent of all land in Pampanga was owned by a
mere 10 percent of the population. In the region of Central Luzon, Philippine
businesses owned 121,096 hectares of land, while Americans owned
106,473 hectares, and the Spanish owned 70, 081,39 Foreign ownership far
surpassed native land holdings. On these lands, two types of tenants
subsisted: inquilino (cash tenants who leased the land and provided free
labor to landlords), and kasama (share tenants who required frequent
advances from landlords, were provided palay rations when requested, and
struggled to stay out of debt). For the kasama, Lacson asserted that there
37 Ibid., 1.
38 In the fall of 1948, Lansdale suggested that President Quirino bring to a halt A. H.
Lacsons stinging commentaries in order to improve the Philippine Armys image with the
peasants. Roxas agreed, and Lacsons column was banned from publication.
39 Lacson, The Civil War in Central Luzon, pt. 2, May 25,1948,1, Lansdale Papers.
were still tenants paying off the inherited loans of their great-grandfathers.
Clearly, in Lacsons view, the peasants had a right to protest. They
continued to be exploited by an oppressive economic system geared to
benefit predominantly elite and foreign families. Contrary to the accusations
of the Manila government, doctrinaire communism had little to do with
peasant motivations. In fact, the ideological grasp of the Huk rank-and-file
was minimal at best. According to Philippine historian Eduardo Lachica,
There are no convincing arguments in support of the suspicion that
the Huk membership responds to doctrinaire communism. Huks are
commonly recruited from the barrios where the average educational
attainment is in the early grades. It takes a fairly sophisticated man to
comprehend the fundamental principles of Marxism-Leninism.40
In April, 1948, the Huks celebrated an unexpected victory. During a
trip to Clark Air Force Base in Pampanga, Manuel Roxas collapsed and
died. According to Taruc, Roxas had finally outlived his usefulness. Not
only had Roxas dangerously weakened the governments position vis-a-vis
the Huks, but his actions also compelled thousands of new peasant recruits
to join the Huk camp. In general, Roxass policies proved an incredible
failure, stirring up crises in the Philippines at a time of heightened
international tensions. Significantly, Taruc stated, many people believed
that he was poisoned by his masters once the full scope of his corruption
40 Eduardo Lachica, The Huks: Philippine Agrarian Society in Revolt (New York:
Praeger, 1971), 24-25.
and ineptitude was exposed.41 As Taruc surmised, Roxas ultimately proved
too great a liability to US security.
Yet, the leadership of President Elpidio Quirino, who replaced Roxas
following national elections in 1949, proved equally brutal and perhaps
more corrupt. Although Quirinos favoritism toward the US won some
Filipino votes, the election was wrought by violence: 24 Filipinos were killed
and 32 wounded on election day alone.42 Furthermore, witnesses testified
that Liberal Party bosses rigged the vote to insure that Quirino won a vast
majority against his widely popular Nacionalista opponent, Jose Laurel.
Overall, Quirinos victory proved even more fraudulent than preceding
elections.43 Having been cheated out of his assured victory, Laurel and the
Nacionalistas pledged to stage an armed uprising in coordination with the
armed struggle of the HMB.44 However, no such revolt materialized. After
just two months in office, Quirino revoked the governments amnesty
declaration and prosecuted those guerrillas who had given up peacefully. In
so doing, the President dashed all hope that the government might
exchange peace for concrete policy changes.
As a consequence, Taruc and his vice commander-in-chief, Casto
Alejandrino, abandoned negotiations with Quirino to resume defensive
41Taruc, Born of the People, 258.
42 Milton Walter Meyer, A Diplomatic History of the Philippine Republic (University of
Hawaii: Mission Press, 1965), 108; New York Times, November 9,1949,19:2.
43 Blaufarb, 27.
44 William J. Pomeroy, An American Made Tragedy (New York: International
Publishers, 1974), 79.
operations in the mountainous countryside. As had been the case in 1946,
the Huks stood by their commitment to bargain seriously with the Quirino
administration if the government put forth proposals backed in good faith.
According to Cenon Bungay, a Huk squadron leader interviewed in 1970,
the movements top priority was to stop repression rather than lead an
armed overthrow of the government.45 In fact, prior to 1949, Taruc saw the
Huks as more or less a defensive organization, advocating land reform and
spreading anti-Quirino propaganda in the barrios rather than instigating
military struggle against the government. More importantly, though, the
Huks were not prepared to launch an all-out guerrilla offensive. All
resources went toward recruiting peasants in the barrios of Pampanga and
other provinces of Central Luzon. If we were fighting back, Taruc asserted,
it was because we had been provoked and had felt compelled to take up
arms again to defend ourselves.46 The Huks believed that government-
backed violence effectively erased all prospects for reform and any chances
of lasting, positive change.
The Rise and Fall of the Huks, 1949-1953
Starting in 1949, government repression intensified under Quirinos
mailed fist policy. Focusing needed improvements on the Philippine
military, Quirino merged the Philippine Constabulary into the armed forces
45 Kerkvliet, 172.
46 Taruc, He Who Rides the Tiger, 45.
and created mobile Battalion Combat Teams (BCTs). By combining infantry
with heavy weapons forces and service units with engineers, Quirino
created a self-sufficient and independent combat force of approximately
1,000 soldiers which effectively tracked and pursued Huk guerrillas.
Quirinos policies and dictatorial powers, however, could not have
been possible without generous financial assistance from Washington.
According to Taruc, For over half a century the Philippines has become
largely the private landed estate of a handful of big businessmen who live
ten thousand miles away in the United States.47 To many Filipinos, the US
had an economic interest in smothering any challenge to Quirinos control.
According to Taruc, while what happened in 1945 was almost a duplication
of what had happened in 1898, leaders of the Democratic Alliance
acknowledged that this time, the revolutionary movement refused to sell
out.48 After 1948, Huks effectively organized Central Luzons barrios, spread
over 40,000 square kilometers in four provinces, to defend Filipinos from
governmental abuse.49 By late 1949, the Huks had started training schools
in the jungle to create a new kind of rebel with the intellectual capacity to
help Filipinos solve their own crises.
Early in 1950, the Lavas committed the leadership and support of the
PKP to the Huk rebellion. Taruc became military chief of the guerrillas and
member of the Communist Politburo while the Lavas directed the rebellion
47 Taruc, Born of the People, 265.
48 Ibid., 274-275.
49 Taruc, He Who Rides the Tiger, 43.
from inside Manila. For Taruc, combining forces with the PKP meant that the
Huk struggle had finally become a national liberation movement conducted
and fortified by agrarian and working class Filipinos. According to William J.
Pomeroy, an American member of the PKP and rebel participant,
At first calling for a democratic peace, the Communist-led movement
only gradually, as conditions in the country and the mood of the
people developed, changed to increasing emphasis on armed
struggle; a formal call for revolutionary overthrow of the regime was
not issued until the beginning of 1950.50
Quirino, however, remained steadfast. Hoping to show the
governments new firmness against guerrillas, he ordered the military to
spread its BCTs across trouble areas in Luzon, striking at convenient targets
such as villages in dissent-affected areas.51 The effect, however, hardly
proved beneficial to Quirino. As Taruc recalled the situation, the
governments actions against the peasants and the Armys use of bribery,
extortion, and the shelling of uncooperative barrios had the effect of turning
villagers toward Huks for support. As Taruc understood,
It would have been more intelligent and more humane if the
government had tried to neutralize the barrios by instituting long
overdue reforms. The lack of these, after all, had bred the discontent
that gave rise to the Huk rebellion.52
50 Pomeroy, An American Made Tragedy, 79.
51 Blaufarb, 26.
52 Taruc, He Who Rides the Tiger, 56.
Philippine politicians, desperate to gain the support of influential
constituents before upcoming elections, demanded emergency measures by
the Army to protect landowners from the Huks. In response, the PKP
(against Tarucs wishes) ordered terrorist assaults on random targets rather
than a program of well-coordinated guerrilla operations. As Taruc lamented,
battle arose because die-hard Stalinist internationalists in the PKP pushed
cruelty and violent revolution as "necessities to achieve their broad
campaign for national welfare. Attacks on political leaders, armed forces
units, and individuals the PKP branded as collaborators sparked reprisals by
the military in the barrios of Central Luzon. Despite their efforts to support
peasants, Huk rebels adopted armed terror to scare Filipinos into backing
their cause. While the havoc created by the Huks proved successful in the
short-term, PKP tactics increasingly alienated the peasant base upon which
the movement depended for its very survival.
In early 1950, the Manila Communist Politburo changed the Huks
name to the Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan, (HMB) or Peoples Army of
Liberation, in order to combat anti-Huk propaganda and appeal to a wider
Filipino audience. The HMB also stepped up raids on PC detachments,
Army camps, and government installations. By summer, waves of rebel
Filipino volunteers flooded the ranks of the HMB. In the short term, their
numbers overwhelmed the organizations capacity to feed, clothe and train
them all. Although Huk numbers nearly doubled in a matter of months, the
HMB struggled to maintain a cohesive fighting force.
Communication within the rebel organization also broke down.
Without consulting Taruc, PKP general secretary, Jose Lava, prematurely
announced the HMBs plan to launch its campaign for the peoples cause
starting in the spring of 1951. To a significant extent, however, there existed
no vanguard of revolution outside of Central Luzon, and relentless rebel
attacks on government forces only weakened the Huk call. Identified as
terrorists," Filipinos increasingly saw the rebels as hindering national
progress and pulled away from the revolution in favor of a more rational
program of reform promoted by the Quirino government and supported by
the United States. Moreover, the HMBs smaller successes in August,
1950, proved the movements undoing as the United States supplied
Quirino with financial and military assistance and enough technical and
political advisors to match any Communist offensive.53
Quirino responded to the wave of Huk attacks by promoting a
relatively unknown leader from Zambales to be Secretary of National
Defense to rehabilitate the Philippine Army into a more disciplined and
professional military service. Ramon Magsaysay, who entered politics as a
congressman and critic of the nations military performance after World War
II, quickly became President Quirinos most effective tool against insurgents.
As a former World War II resistance leader, Magsaysay had directed over
10,000 guerrilla soldiers against the Japanese.54 His untarnished reputation
and popularity among Filipinos made him an attractive candidate for a
53 Taruc, He Who Rides the Tiger, 90.
cabinet post. In 1950, the President mandated Magsaysay to manage the
islands military buildup. From his first day in office, Magsaysay approached
the Presidents mandate as his own personal mission. The Secretary
quickly came to embody the governments reform movement.
What was unique about Secretary Magsaysay was that he was one of
few in the government who understood the needs of those in the barrios and
sitios (villages or hamlets), and recognized the links between peasants
grievances and the support which kept the insurgency alive.55 Moreover, as
Taruc understood, Magsaysay taught the importance of befriending
peasants so as to build their trust in the government. By spending time in
needy communities, the Secretary and his Philippine Army troops generated
positive political impacts on the insurgent enemy. Within a matter of months,
rebel and non-rebel Filipinos claimed that the Secretary had cleaned up the
PC and Army so that they no longer stole from peasants. Moreover,
Magsaysay eliminated the civilian guard, delivered amnesty to those Huks
who gave up peacefully, and implemented a series of agrarian reforms
which allowed tenants to keep up to 70 percent of their harvested crops.56
Projects which impacted the Huks popularity included the construction of
school houses, funding teacher salaries, digging wells, providing rural
medical assistance, and repairing roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
One of Magsaysays more aggressive programs, patterned on British efforts
in Malaya, involved the integration of Huk rebels and agrarian peasants on
55 Ibid., 29.
58 Kerkvliet, 208.
cooperative farms. Through the Economic Development Corps (EDCOR),
Magsaysay settled former Huks on newly cleared lands to build self-
sustaining agrarian communities. More importantly, the propaganda
associated with EDCOR had a tremendous impact on insurgent morale and
motivation. In this fashion, Magsaysay made service to the community a vital
component of all of his military efforts to win the struggle against the Huks.
As Taruc understood, Magsaysays effectiveness came from his
appropriate mix of military force and popular reform at the grassroots level to
achieve overall victory. His approach, on both military and political fronts,
made deep inroads into Central Luzon. Almost overnight, Magsaysays
reforms made him a household figure. Fortunately for the Quirino
administration, his image came to represent the new Philippine government.
Unfortunately for Quirino, however, Magsaysay quickly became more
popular than the President himself. His ability to capture both the trust and
respect of rural and urban Filipinos fractured peasant support for the Huks
and the PKP.
On October 18, 1950, word arrived at Tarucs camp that the Philippine
Army had raided the Communist Secretariat in Manila. The Army arrested
Jose Lava and other top-ranking Communist party members, and seized the
organizations operational plans. The news dealt a death blow to the morale
and organizational capacity of the PKP. Taruc was devastated. Asa
consequence, the surviving heads of the PKP dictated tight control over the
partys Central Committee meetings and the ground-level direction of the
rebellion. This decision, however, only further alienated Taruc and the Huk
guerrillas from the PKP leadership. By the spring of 1951, dissent inside the
rebellion escalated, the reform drive broke down, and peasants defected en
masse to join the Magsaysay revolution.
The PKP leaderships decision to boycott the presidential election of
1951 proved fatal for the Huks. The event itself marked a downward spiral in
the rebellion and in the PKPs ability to lead its anti-imperialist war. In what
appears to have been a major disinformation campaign initiated by US
counter-intelligence through the dissemination of falsified PKP fliers, the
Communist Party (actually US and Philippine government agents) urged
Huks and other Filipino peasants supporting the revolution to stay at home
on election day rather than repeat the disastrous results which followed the
1949 vote. As a result, the Huks and the PKP squandered the opportunity to
regain congressional seats in Manila and directly influence governmental
policies.57 More importantly, the defeat symbolized the growing chasm
between the Communist Party leadership and the peasants who abandoned
the HMB. The PKP fractured relations with the people and failed to spread
the rebellion outside of Central Luzon.58 The aftermath resulted in fewer
new recruits for rebel operations. Huk guerrillas who were killed or captured
after 1951 were no longer replaced.
Meanwhile, Magsaysay took numerous precautions to insure that the
57 Taruc, He Who Rides the Tiger, 94. The boycott will be addressed in further detail
in the next chapter.
59 Kerkvliet, 235.
1951 election was seen as a fair representation of the new Philippine
government. By making sure that balloting was handled by an independent
Commission on Elections and the National Association for Free Elections
(NAMFREL), Magsaysay secured a victory for the government free of
accusations of vote fraud. According to Douglas Blaufarb, The upshot of
these preparations was not only an honest election but an upsurge of public
support for the governments cause, for the Army, and particularly, for
The Secretarys public efforts gave Filipinos hope and increasingly
drew peasants who saw rebellion as the last resort into the government
fold. In addition to paying for election reforms, US funds helped Magsaysay
open new agrarian courts and government sponsored credit facilities, hire
government paid lawyers to assist tenants, provide back pay for the
Philippine Army, reduce farmers rents, and cover civil relief and the
redemption of the guerrilla currency, all of which capitalized on the
deteriorating enthusiasm of Huks to keep fighting.60 Peasants recognized
how Magsaysay protected civil liberties while punishing corruption and
disorder in the military, and understood that the Secretary had committed
himself to preventing further abuses of power by the Constabulary.
59 Blaufarb, 34-35.
60 Kerkvliet, 244; Schlesinger, The Dynamics of World Power, 715. From 1946-1950,
official US economic and military assistance to the Philippines totaled $700 million. Under
Washingtons mutual security program from 1951-1956, the US sent an additional $500
million in economic and military aid which provided funds for agrarian projects as well as a psy-
war campaign against the Huks. Clearly, this was but a portion of US aid to the islands during
the Huk insurgency. By the mid-1950s, US aid had surpassed $2 billion.
Despite efforts by the PKP to denounce Magsaysays projects as well-
publicized experiments to buy the peoples support, the hard reality was that
the government had the funds to out-propagandize both the PKP and the
HMB. Communist claims labeling Magsaysay a tool of American
government and business interests fell on deaf ears.61 With repression and
landlord lawlessness on the wane in the Central Luzon, Huk guerrillas
rapidly lost their ideological commitment to staying in the rebellion. As for
President Quirino, his reelection kept him in the presidential palace, but his
days in office clearly were numbered.
The PKP made other significant errors as well which led to the
organizations downfall and the failure of the rebellion. Party officials
isolated in Manila made little effort to recognize the hardships faced by the
HMB or the genuine progress toward reform under Magsaysay. Jesus Lava,
who replaced his brother as secretary general of the PKP following the
governments raid of the Partys Manila headquarters, lost touch with the
Huks fighting in the mountains and jungles, and with the peasant farmers
who faced increasing pressures to feed and support the liberation army. As
a consequence, the Communists alienated their own fighting force and
sacrificed the support of a growing number of peasants while clinging to
power and top-down ideological authority.
Meanwhile, the Manila government took further action to attract rural
support. According to Taruc,
61 Kerkvliet, 243.
Magsaysay, the new Secretary of National Defense, launched an
intelligently conducted all-out psychological and military offensive.
The new discipline he imposed within the army, his good public
relations, and his treatment of Huks who had surrendered or had
been captured and who were willing to turn over a new leaf, seriously
threatened the morale of our rank and file, which had, incidentally,
been at it peak during the period of the mailed fist and terrorist
In a series of government attacks on Huk mountain camps in 1951,
Magsaysays forces killed Tarucs wife, Liza, and forced the leader to flee to
the Sierra Madre range in southeastern Luzon to regroup what remained of
his guerrilla army. Seeking to negotiate with the Philippine Army to end the
fighting, Taruc was denounced by the PKP as a traitor and ousted from the
Politburo. Meanwhile, in Manila, the Nacionalista Party nominated
Magsaysay to run against Quirinos Liberal Party for the presidency in 1953.
Relying on the support and advice of the Joint US Military Aid Group,
(JUSMAG), Magsaysay overwhelmingly defeated Quirino to become the
Even before the election, however, the umbrella organization of the
HMB had fractured, and PKP leadership of the rebellion scattered in total
disarray. For Taruc and the Huks, the following year proved a starving time
as they moved to organize new areas, such as Negritos and Zambales
provinces, while standing by their commitment to challenge Manilas political
authority. By early 1954, however, Taruc recognized that the peasants were
62 Taruc,He Who Rides the Tiger, 97.
committed to peace. The rebellion was over.
Through the help of an intermediary with contacts to Tarucs family
and to Magsaysay, the Huk leader pursued negotiations to end the fighting.
Taruc, Philippine congressman Manny Manahan, Benigno Aquino, Jr., who
was a member of the editorial staff of the Manila Times, and Mr. D. Arellano,
a photographer, met on February 15 during a lull in the fighting.63
Disillusioned, frustrated, and exhausted from the sacrifices and hardships of
the protracted struggle, Taruc presented Manahan with an outline of his
Proposals for Presidential Support. Rather than coming to a formal
agreement, however, the government used the meeting with Taruc to
advertise his truce, and wallpapered the barrios with Tarucs photos.
Although he refused to give up, Tarucs efforts to establish a just peace led
to numerous voluntary Huk surrenders.
Fighting continued into March, when Taruc appealed to
Congressman Emilio Cortez to share his terms of agreement for a cease-fire
with the Magsaysay government. For unknown reasons, Cortez never aired
Tarucs terms with Congress, but indicated the favorable sentiment of
Congress toward Tarucs proposed amnesty and cease-fire. Using radio
broadcasts from Tarucs mother, Ruperta Manglapus, and his son, Romeo,
the government appealed to the Huk leaders sentiments to turn himself in.
Talks, however, broke down until May 16, when a group of negotiators
including Luiss half-brother, Meliton Taruc, set a rendezvous in barrio Santa
63 Operation Luksang Tapyaw, Vietnam Correspondence file, 1954-1956, 3,
Maria, Pampanga, to bring the leader in for talks. Finding him unarmed
and on the side of the road as promised, the negotiating team transported
Taruc to Manila and into Magsaysays custody, officially ending his role in
the armed struggle against the Philippine government.
Hoping to meet with President Magsaysay to negotiate an end to the
fighting and clemency for the Huks, Taruc agreed to stand trial for crimes
committed while leading insurgents against the state. Awaiting his court
hearing, Magsaysay transferred Taruc to Camp Murphy as a maximum
security risk. Visiting Taruc in jail, Magsaysay praised his land for the
landless campaign and discussed creating a position for Taruc in the
administration to organize peasants for community development after he
was freed.64 By late 1954, however, Taruc had little hope of being released.
Furthermore, the genuine improvements initiated by the President swept the
tide of popular support away from the HMB. By 1956, with political choice
back in the hands of the people, most Huks returned to tenant farming,
confident in continued progress and expanded economic opportunities.
Yet, while life improved for the average Filipino under Magsaysays
authority, the spirit of reform lasted only as long as the dynamic leader
himself. His death in 1957 cut short what progress was made toward
improving the standard of living for agrarian peasants and the urban working
class. For all practical purposes, Magsaysays government had effectively
eliminated any further threat from the Huks. But, by the end of 1957, the era
of revolutionary reform was over. Magsaysays short-term fixes to
84 Taruc, He Who Rides the Tiger, 141.
Philippine political life quickly faded. President Carlos Garcia failed to follow
through with the package of social, economic and political reforms launched
by the Magsaysay administration.
In June, 1958, Luis Taruc finally stood trial after nearly four years in
prison. He was found guilty on charges of rebellion, kidnapping, robbery
and murder, for which he received four life sentences. In jail, Taruc publicly
renounced his affiliation with the PKP and denounced the Partys inhumanity
for having sacrificed peasants to achieve political goals. Ultimately, Taruc
lamented the fact that the PKP had demented the original intentions of the
Huk rebellion. Yet, despite his own incapacity in prison, Taruc asserted that
the spirit of the rebellion survived because there was no separating the
problem of rebellion from that of the peasantry.65 The rebellion continued
underground and in the barrios where exploitation continued to strike the
deepest. For, as Taruc firmly believed, the Huks demands were the
peoples demands. Filipinos, not foreign radicals, had come together with
no other choice but rebellion. Their efforts at peaceful collective action
denied, the peasants protested, then rebelled against repression. But even
in the aftermath of the rebellion, when peasants earned the right to unionize
and demonstrate, living conditions for the average farmer improved very
little. Over the next two decades, facing increased mechanization and
modern labor saving inventions, peasant farmers found themselves pushed
off their traditional lands. And much like the Huks of the previous decade--
Tarucs Huks-the next generation of peasants endured similar hardships
65 Taruc, He Who Rides the Tiger, 188.
across Central Luzon, affirming peasants rights via the ballot and the gun.
Although the Huk rebellion was over, the Huk spirit persevered.
For the United States, however, the rebellion was successfully
extinguished. The combined efforts of US advisors and Filipino officers to
turn the tide of the insurgency away from the Huks cemented broad support
behind Magsaysay and the Manila government. Perhaps more than Taruc
understood, the efforts of a single agent working through the auspices of the
Central Intelligence Agency, Edward G. Lansdale, helped to shape the
economic and political future of the Philippines. As the following chapters
indicate, well before Magsaysay became a political powerhouse, Lansdale
was surveying the provincial countryside in search of Huks, and making the
necessary media contacts to wage a war of propaganda against the
Communists. Clearly, without Lansdale, Magsaysays victory must be
tempered. More importantly, based on his achievements in the Philippines,
Lansdale prompted Washingtons emerging role in Indochina and
engineered its covert war against the Communist forces of North Vietnam.
EDWARD GEARY LANSDALE AND THE
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
Lansdales Formative Years
You should know one thing at the beginning: I took my American
beliefs with me into these Asian struggles, as Tom Paine would have
Edward Geary Lansdale earned his reputation as a specialist in
covert, counterinsurgent operations from a lifetime of non-conventional
training. As a founder of counterinsurgent techniques for the US
government, Lansdale owed more to his diverse background in advertising
and business than to strict military training. In fact, throughout his life,
Lansdale seemed to throw convention out the window in order to develop
genuinely effective anti-Communist propaganda and anti-guerrilla
strategies. Looking back on his lifes work, much of what made Lansdale
successful resulted from his creative ways of addressing crises, his
fundamental understanding of the people with whom he worked and who
were his targets, and sheer determination to undermine Communist
expansion in the Pacific. Consequently, he became one of the US
governments leading agents when the Cold War spread to Asia.
Edward G. Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), ix.
Lansdale grew up in a middle class family, went through his high
school ROTC program, and graduated from high school in 1926.67 68
Interested in writing, he entered UCLAs program for journalism. From his
courses in Los Angeles where he studied the American Revolution,
Lansdale learned the tenets of democracy. An avid reader of Thomas
Paine, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, Lansdale built a faith around
freedom. In his own memoirs, he stated that The ideas of the American
Revolution are too close to the truths men seek universally to be penned in
by the shores of the United States.60 Lansdale took these beliefs as
fundamental truths, guiding the human experience regardless of race,
religion or nationality. In years to come, facing Lenins doctrines and Maos
tactics on the revolutionary battlefield, Lansdale proclaimed his commitment
to support the principles of mans individual liberty.69 These were the
beliefs which defined his perspective, both personally and professionally, at
home and overseas.
At UCLA, however, Lansdale faced a graduation hurdle which
dogged him throughout his education-mastering a foreign language.
Instead of tackling his deficiency, however, Lansdale drew cartoons and
wrote for a campus newspaper. Resistant to the end, Lansdale dropped out
of college and moved to New York City in 1931 as the Great Depression
67 Cecil B. Currey, Edward Lansdale: The Unquiet American (Boston: Houghton
Mifflin Company, 1988), 3.
68 Edward G. Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars, 6,1972 draft, chapters covering the
experiences in the Philippines, folder 272, Speeches and Writings, Lansdale Papers.
enveloped the nation.
Lansdale took a number of jobs, but was never satisfied with
repetitious work. His creative energy prevented him from settling down or
holding employment for more than a year at a time. Out of work, he joined
the Army Reserve where he encountered even more frustration with the
organizations use of outdated military tactics. Even in the 1930s, the Army
continued to train troops for wars on horseback using strategies long since
exhausted by the First World War. Lansdale believed that somehow, the
military had to build an active intelligence service to gather information
about enemy forces, and use this knowledge to better develop strategies of
attack. In the early 1930s, however, few were prepared to give his ideas an
Attracted to opportunities in advertising, Lansdale relocated to San
Francisco in the late 1930s, where he developed his critical mind into a tool
for propaganda. As a copywriter, idea man, and account executive working
on campaigns for Nescafe, Levis, and numerous banks and trust companies,
Lansdale gained insight into how to manipulate images and shape popular
opinion.70 Moreover, he learned vital skills in researching and networking
with specialists in a number of fields. He grew hungry for information.
Traveling up and down the Pacific coast pursuing accounts, Lansdale came
in contact with an array of personalities with whom he kept cordial business
and personal relations. Over time, these individuals proved highly valuable
70 Edward G. Lansdale, Letter to Cadet Leo D. Kowatch, Jr., March 13,1978,
Memoranda folder, box 70, Lansdale Papers.
contacts. Lansdale exchanged favors with these men who became his
closest allies throughout his years in the military.
By 1941, however, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor convinced
Lansdale that he had talents which could benefit the governments efforts in
World War II. Focusing his energies on military intelligence, Lansdale
entered the Army through the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) and the
Office of Strategic Services (OSS) as a civilian official under a covered
identity. Ironically, the Army recognized Lansdales adept reconnaissance
skills and assigned him to an OSS classroom training program far from the
action. Needless to say, it proved a job the energetic intelligence specialist
felt wasted his skills precisely when they were needed most in the war.71
Nevertheless, Lansdale established himself as a valuable
intelligence officer who had the combined energy and ingenuity to help
piece together detailed intelligence reports behind American military
missions in the war. Although relegated to a desk, Lansdales work put him
in contact with foreign governments with whom the US partnered against the
Japanese. Following Japans surrender in 1945, Lansdale, who had been
promoted to major, was assigned to the Philippines as Chief, Analysis
Branch, Intelligence Division, at the headquarters of Armed Forces in the
Western Pacific (AFWESPAC). Sent to sort out identity claims of Japanese,
Chinese, German and Filipino ancestry on the archipelago, Lansdale came
71 Currey, Edward Lansdale, 22.
to understand Filipinos and their culture, customs and history.72 His
negotiating skills earned him a mission to the Ryukyu Islands off the coast of
Japan to oversee the installation of US military government and the trial of
collaborators and black marketeers who had undermined the authority of
American occupation officials. Despite his language deficiencies, Lansdale
met with the islands inhabitants to resolve the most pressing crises. As a
result, he became a renowned negotiator in the Pacific islands, recognized
by the US Army as someone who understood how to deal with the Asians.
Lansdale applied for transfer from the Reserve to regular Army in the
fall of 1946. After a short break, he returned to Manila in October and
became Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G-2), in the newly created Philippines-
Ryukyus Command (PHILRYCOM) in January, 1947.73 Lansdales family
joined him in Manila for the next two years, surviving among other
expatriates in the remains of the bombed out city center. Lansdales task
was to improve the popular image of the US Army in the Manila press.74
Breaking tradition, he opened his office in the heart of Manila, away from
military officials and soldiers, in order to be more accessible to the everyday
people and affairs of the islands. For Lansdale, this assignment marked the
beginning of his love affair with the Philippines. Whenever possible,
Lansdale engaged Filipinos in conversation about life before and during the
72 William Manchester in Cecil B. Currey, Edward Lansdale: The Unquiet American
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1988), 33.
73 Currey, 33.
74 Lansdale, Letter to Cadet Leo D. Kowatch, Jr., March 13,1978, Lansdale Papers.
war, about their hopes and beliefs, and about the fabric which held
Philippine society together. He picked up cultural practices and taboos,
studied how rural and urban Filipinos survived, and grasped Filipino
perceptions of the outside world, all of which aided his work in intelligence.
In this manner, Lansdale not only shared his underlying beliefs about
freedom, democracy, and human rights, but he also came to terms with
deep-seated feelings among Filipinos toward those who had collaborated
with the Japanese during the war years. Essentially, these individuals
violated the cultural allegiance of the people and had lost their place in
Filipino society. General MacArthur, however, bypassed Filipino sentiments
when he boosted his friend, the collaborator, Manuel Roxas, to the
presidency of the newly independent Philippine republic. Under Japanese
rule, Roxas had served as minister and chairman of the Economic Planning
Board of the puppet government, but was freed by MacArthur and ranked as
a general under the G-2 section of the US Armed Forces Far East
(USAFFE).75 Moreover, Roxas had extensive land holdings in Central
Luzon, close ties to business and landed interests, and maintained relations
with the US high commissioner for the Philippines, Paul V. McNutt. Roxas
secured the presidency in April, 1946 and immediately pushed through a
wave of legislation linking the Philippine economy and government to
Washington and the US presence on the islands. To many Filipinos, he
appeared more of a puppet to Washingtons wishes than a genuinely
75 Currey, 35.
Two volatile acts symbolized the new nations connection to the
legacy of American colonialism. According to the Bell Act, ratified by the US
Congress in 1946, Washington required the Philippines to restrict trade to a
limited number of non-competitive agricultural export crops sold on the US
market, with no reciprocal quotas on US goods in the Philippines. Through
the acts parity clause, US businessmen were treated like Philippine citizens
in regard to trade and economic matters, and US businesses were permitted
to run Philippine utilities and exploit the islands natural resources without
restriction. Finally, the act pegged the Philippine peso to the US dollar. In
exchange, Washington committed millions of dollars of economic assistance
to rebuild the war ravaged country. To pass the Bell Act, President Roxas
orchestrated the ouster of six Democratic Alliance and Nacionalista Party
congressmen to secure the necessary three-fourths approval of the Manila
Congress to amend the Philippine constitution.
Similarly, Roxas touted the Tydings Rehabilitation Act, which linked
the payment of $620 million in war damages to trade relations between
Manila and Washington. Roxas, who already had US approval of the act,
courted the Philippine press with bribes and other financial incentives to
support its passage. Free of dissenting voices in Congress, Roxas was able
to sign both acts and open the fledgling governments doors to major US
economic and military assistance in the postwar era.
Fearing a complete withdrawal of all US troops by the end of 1946,
Roxas secured a strong US presence to help protect the islands and support
the new government. On March 14, 1947, Roxas sealed a deal with
Ambassador McNutt for a 99 year lease on land for US military bases. The
Military Bases Agreement secured a long future for Americas Clark Field
and Subic Naval Station, while the Military Assistance Pact created the Joint
US Military Aid Group (JUSMAG) and allowed for the training and supplying
of Filipino troops with modern strategic tactics and weaponry.76
For the Philippine government, JUSMAG proved highly useful. Roxas
took office in the midst of a nationwide revolt among sharecroppers in the
Central Luzon plain. Blaming Communists for the uprising, he requested
US advisory assistance. In conjunction with military and financial
assistance, the Truman administration warned the Philippine President that
he could not be allowed to bring out anti-American feelings or strong
nationalism among Filipinos with his soft stance on collaborators. The
leader required a clear and decisive program of action which prevented any
insurgency from threatening Americas strategic position in Asia.
As Lansdale understood, the Peoples Anti-Japanese Army, the
Hukbalahap, had actively seized Central Luzons largest estates during the
war and built a regional government to assist in the ouster of the Japanese
puppet regime. After 1944, however, returning US servicemen suspected
the Huks because of their connections to the Communist Party. To
Lansdale, the Huks had been tainted by association with the Communists,
and could not be trusted. In his mind, the Huks had made the decision
during the war to fight for revolution instead of evolution, launching a reign
76 Currey, 37.
of terror across the provinces of Central Luzon to achieve their objectives.77
So ironclad is their grip and so feared is their power, he continued, that
the peasants dare not oppose them in many localities.78 Huk refusals in
1946 to give up their hard-won rifle and ammunition stocks to a government
suspected of collaboration and corruption only further divided the guerrilla
fighters from the Manila regime. Roxas responded with a commitment to
crush the rebels.
Lansdale learned firsthand how the Huks maneuvered so easily
through the barrios and back country by taking frequent trips to the
mountainous regions surrounding Manila, and by accompanying Philippine
Army patrols on their operations against the rebels. Quite purposefully, he
chose to study the conflict from the inside, from the rebel standpoint, so as
to better combat Huk bands in the field.79 Using Philippine Army operation
plans and maps, Lansdale pinpointed likely escape routes the guerrillas
used to avoid government troops, and then simply waited for them to show
up. He wanted to confront the Huks directly, learn about their efforts up
close, and see where they were coming from and what their weaknesses
When combined with information from local contacts he made in the
barrios of Central Luzon and the Manila press corps, Lansdale quickly
became the US Armys foremost intelligence source on the Huks. Through
77 Ibid., 38.
76 Ibid., 38.
79 Ibid., 39.
his contacts, he came to know Luis Taruc, El Supremo of the Hukbalahap,
and traced his movements through the provinces of Bataan, Nueva Ecija,
Tarlac and Zambales. Despite his inability to speak local languages,
Lansdale drew pictures and utilized other unspoken forms of communication
to engage the peasant population one-on-one. He befriended all those he
met, and profited from his skills as a quiet listener. Rather than assume he
knew more than those around him, Lansdale kept to the periphery, knowing
how to disappear in a room or conversation.80 While his office became the
hub for news throughout Manila, Lansdale became Washingtons eyes
watching over the expanding guerrilla insurgency.
From his reconnaissance, Lansdale understood that the Huks
commanded the support of a million or so peasants (called tao in Tagalog,
but which Lansdale nicknamed Juan de la Cruz).81 Using the Juans for
cover and economic support, the Huks passed almost unnoticed through
friendly barrios, generally at night, and counted on food left on porches to
sustain them on guerrilla missions. When they completed a particular
campaign recruiting rebels in outlying areas, or a hit on a PA patrol,
guerrillas returned to their field headquarters to rest, train, and prepare for
their next assignment.
Huk organization was very complex, spreading across more than four
provinces of Central Luzon. As an intelligence officer, Lansdale was
fascinated by the Huks, spending most of his time out of the office acquiring
80 Ibid., 46.
81 Edward G. Lansdale, folder #699, box 32, Lansdale Papers.
information from what still remained of the PAs intelligence force. In
particular, Lansdale hoped to gain access to Luis Taruc. On several
occasions, in fact, Lansdale barely missed encountering Taruc in the field.
On one chance occasion, Lansdale traveled deep into Central Luzon in Huk
territory (Huklandia), to visit the home of Tarucs sister and congratulate her
on the delivery of her newborn child. Lansdale believed that such a visit
might prove an opportunity to cross paths with Taruc. When Lansdale
arrived at the house, he discovered that Taruc was already inside.
Fortunately for Lansdale, however, Tarucs bodyguards managed to occupy
the intelligence officer while the Huk leader slipped out of a window. A
chance meeting such as that, Lansdale later learned, could have easily cost
him his life.
While such risks largely failed to dissuade Lansdale from his
surveillance, General MacArthur, however, had other ideas. Concerned with
recurring negative comments on Americas presence in the Philippine press,
MacArthur ordered Major General Paul J. Mueller to generate more positive
press toward both the Philippine Army and the United States Armed Forces
in Manila.82 Mueller promoted Lansdale to lieutenant colonel in June, 1947,
and made him the new Public Information Officer for PHILRYCOM.
As PIO, Lansdales first task was to get to the heart of guerrilla
recognition claims from the war. Specifically, his task was to investigate the
claims of all Filipino guerrillas who assisted US operations in the defeat of
the Japanese in the war. Lansdale faced a daunting task--nearly 1.3 million
62 Currey, 47.
Filipinos had applied for guerrilla recognition in an effort to receive back pay.
Lansdale treaded through paper work and bureaucratic red tape to make
sure that those with legitimate claims received their money. Still, for reasons
unknown to Lansdale, hundreds of thousands of his claimants were denied
guerrilla status. Fewer than a quarter of all guerrilla claims were actually
approved, primarily because of the incredible expense to the US Army for
approving such claims. Lansdale, however, attacked the Army bureaucracy
and through considerable effort and a substantial amount of negative
publicity, pushed the Army to pay the Republic of the Philippines
approximately 94 million pesos to accommodate all remaining claims.83
Lansdale became a local hero, and established himself as a very talented
middle-man for the US military.
Lansdales role in propaganda for the Army put him in close contact
with a larger group of Philippine officials, journalists and businessmen at the
nucleus of government affairs and within walking distance of all of the major
media groups. As a result of his commitment to building positive
connections between US and Philippine forces and the civilian population,
Lansdale made his way into prestigious circles around the capital. He
remained in close, frequent contact with Thomas H. Lockett, Charge
dAffaires at the US Embassy, as well as with Philippine congressmen and
assistants to the President. Within months of his assignment, Lansdale had
literally established thousands of contacts and gained his own local
following. Before the end of his first year on the job, the Philippine media
83 Lansdale, folder 733, Philippine file, Lansdale Papers.
came to him for the news. In fact, the US Air Force even sent its information
specialists to Lansdale for training. Evidently, his media campaign,
reporting only the positive contributions of the US presence on the islands,
more than satisfied MacArthur.
By mid-1947, however, Lansdale tired of public relations and decided
to transfer from the Army to the infant US Air Force which had already
gained a reputation as being on the cutting edge of military tactics, and for
supporting new, non-traditional operations. Ranking only a major in the Air
Force in November, 1948, Lansdale was ordered to carry on with his PIO
duties in Manila.
During his frequent trips away from the office, Lansdale carefully
watched social and political affairs deteriorate as a result of poor leadership
from the capital. Roxass corrupt administration, and particularly his decision
to outlaw the largest Huk-supported peasant organization, the Pambansang
Kaisahan ng mga Magbubukid (PKM), initiated a violent response from
guerrillas. On the morning of April 24, 1948, however, Roxas died from a
heart attack while delivering a speech at Clark Air Force Base. His death
brought joy to the Huks, and revived folklore from the Presidents 1946
fraudulent election in which the tao believed Roxas would meet sudden
death if ever he visited Central Luzon. It was the Presidents first trip to the
Vice President Elpidio Quirino, who replaced Roxas as President,
hoped that a declaration of a general amnesty for all Huks would ameliorate
the governments relations with the peasants. Furthermore, in what
Lansdale interpreted as a very wise political move, the new President spent
his earliest days in office making frequent trips to the countryside, visiting the
tao in their homes and barrios. Quirino promised agricultural assistance and
improved tenancy laws, neither of which he fully delivered. When
negotiations between Luis Taruc and Quirino broke down, the Philippine
government requested direct assistance from JUSMAG to launch an all-out
offensive against the Huks.
As a PIO, Lansdale gathered intelligence for the Air Force and for
President Quirino as a government advisor on the Huk insurgency. He
managed to spend a considerable portion of his time in the field, collecting
and processing information on the Huks as well as on the Philippine Army.84
He discovered that Philippine Communists had created a clandestine civil
administration linking towns and barrios of provinces where their rebel
forces operated. The Barrio United Defense Corps formed the base
structure of the Huk rebellion, dependent on five to twelve peasants in each
barrio who carried out recruiting, supply, intelligence gathering, and even
civil justice. On the military end, Lansdale alleged that the Chinese had
infiltrated the islands, set up business fronts behind the Chinese Chamber of
Commerce, and organized training camps for guerrillas in what were known
as Stalin Universities.85 Whether the Chinese connection was another one
of the PIOs propaganda tactics or a legitimate discovery remains uncertain.
84 Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars, 14.
05 Ibid., 7.
Regardless, Lansdale realized that any successful strategy against the Huks
required a healthy campaign of propaganda to offset the negative
impressions of both the US and Philippine governments in Central Luzon.
From his office at PHILRYCOM, Lansdale undertook a public relations
offensive to keep local journalists so busy with favorable news that any bad
breaks for the US Army were seen as merely incidental.86 He also combated
misinformation and government propaganda which alienated the tao. Only
then, Lansdale believed, could the Philippine government undertake sound
political and economic reforms as well as modified military operations
against the Huk.
Invited by President Quirino to participate in executive cabinet
meetings to share his intelligence findings, Lansdale expressed dismay that
the Philippine government focused its limited resources on ineffective
military initiatives and neglected social and political factors which sustained
the rebellion. As he understood, a traditional, aggressive military assault on
the guerrillas would not only prove unproductive, but would also rally the tao
behind Communist soldiers for protection. He also discussed the
ridiculousness of battles between Huks and the Philippine Army in which
government soldiers engaged in fire fights by firing blindly into the air
without even seeing the enemy. As Lansdale attested, They are well
equipped in US uniforms, but frequently run out of ammunition."87 Even
worse, he stated, Army troops bullied the peasants as much, if not more,
00 Lansdale, folder 733, July 10, 1947, Lansdale Papers.
07 Lansdale, Diaries folder, entry #7, February 4,1947, Lansdale Papers.
than the Huks. They clearly were a liability in the war.
What the Philippine government needed, Lansdale asserted, was to
regain the trust and confidence of the rural population, thereby depriving the
rebels of their vital support base. Lansdale conveyed the need to design a
multi-faceted approach combining economic, social and military elements to
completely undermine the Huks. Quirino, however, failed to implement any
lasting reforms. As a result, his efforts fell short of winning the propaganda
war with the Philippine Communist Party, and the war for the loyalty of the
Despite former President Roxass attempts to revive the Philippine
economy by opening the nations doors to free market investment, industrial
rehabilitation and development, the nation remained on the verge of
insolvency.08 The economic crises resulting from the Japanese occupation,
and the subsequent flood of US aid to the islands which brought increased
costs of living and no duties or import restrictions, led to the purchase of
cheap foreign, rather than domestic, goods. Filipino producers, facing such
overwhelming competition, had no incentive to invest or produce. Capital
flew from the Philippines to the US. Meanwhile, foreign producers set up
shop around Manila and dominated the market without contributing to their
local communities or the national economy. Essentially, Roxass economic
negotiations with the US prior to independence kept the Philippines
financially subservient to its former colonial ruler. As Lansdale understood,
this unequal relationship only worsened chances that the the people could
" Lansdale, folder #709, The Beyster Report, October 27, 1947, Lansdale Papers.
be drawn away from the Huks.
While President Quirino stepped up the attack on Huk guerrillas with
expanded PA operations (largely ineffectual) into Central Luzon, Huk
leaders chose to bide their time in isolated hide-outs. As for Lansdale, his
service to the PIO wrapped up in November, 1948. The major closed his
office in Manila, made the rounds to say goodbye to all of his friends and
associates in Manila, and departed for the US. His return, however, was not
a happy one. Relations with his wife had deteriorated to the point of a trial
separation. To make matters worse, after a brief stay in California, Lansdale
was ordered to report for intelligence instruction duty at Lowry Air Force
Base in Denver in February, 1949.89 To Lansdale, few assignments were
more painful than being sentenced to the classroom. He felt exiled in
administrative duty, and longed to utilize the knowledge and skills he had
obtained from his field time for more practical purposes.
While in Washington prior to shipping off to Lowry, Lansdale had the
opportunity to meet Philippine congressman and Chairman of the National
Defense Committee in the Philippine House of Representatives, Ramon
Magsaysay.90 The two shared their perspectives on the Huk insurgency,
and Lansdale found that he shared a number of common views with the
Filipino congressman concerning the future of the Philippines. Their
meeting proved highly fortuitous. Magsaysay soon became one of
Lansdales most important contacts in the Philippines. Only a year later,
69 Currey, 51.
90 Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars, 10.
Lansdale found himself on yet another extended mission to the islands.
With Magsaysays help, Lansdale discovered his true potential as a
At Lowry, however, Lansdale found himself at first criticized, and then
celebrated, by Air Force officials for teaching students how to look at
problems in different ways and find effective solutions. Rather than follow a
manual for instruction, Lansdale did not pretend to know what situations the
students might face, but instead, showed them methods of tackling crises
creatively. Still, the classroom was the last place Lansdale wanted to be.
After a visit to Washington in search of a new assignment, the Pentagon
broke the tedium of Lansdales stateside routine by ordering him to return to
the Philippines for a covert mission.
The Debut of Covert Warfare
In Washington, passage of the National Security Act in 1947 gave
President Truman the opportunity to convert the Office of Strategic Services
(OSS) from the World War II years into the Central Intelligence Group (CIG).
The CIGs primary directive was to coordinate espionage and intelligence
activities among competing US agencies focused on the growing threat of
Communist expansion in Europe and the Far East. Given the authorization
to perform various duties related to intelligence as directed by the National
Security Council, the CIG found adequate legal grounds to expand into
covert operations. In 1949, the CIGs transformation into the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA) created two organizations: one a coordinating
and analysis unit, the other a clandestine service which provided the
Truman administration with a direct means of investing in covert operations
across the developing world.
As a coordinating body, however, the CIA lacked authority. As a
consequence, the agency specialized its intelligence gathering operations
to become the governments nucleus for secret foreign policy at a time
when Cold War combat made these attributes more desirable than ever
before.91 By the late 1940s, while Congress sat on the sidelines, CIA field
personnel developed their own perspectives on suitable operations and
assumed a greater share of the initiative in covert project design. Prior to
1950, however, General Douglas MacArthur excluded the CIA from
operations in the Far East, refusing to concede any jurisdiction to civilian
intelligence operatives in the Pacific.92
Then, in August, 1949, came one of the most defining factors in
Americas approach to the Huk insurgency. The US State Department
formally admitted in its China White Paper that it had inadequately assessed
US-Chinese relations up to that point, resulting in the historic loss of China
to the Communists.93 Hoping to understand what went wrong, Washington
91 Amy B. Zegart, Flawed by Design: The Evolution of the CIA, JCS and NSC
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999), 221.
92 William M. Leary, ed. The Central Intelligence Agency: History and Documents
(University of Alabama Press, 1984), 47.
93 Richard H. Miller, ed., American Imperialism in 1898 (New York: John Wiley and
Sons, 1970), 4.
effectively cleared a path for a more meticulous investigation of Far Eastern
politics, including the use of covert means. Not surprisingly, the CIA seized
the reins for reconnaissance in the Pacific and the directive to uncover signs
of insurgency before the development of full-fledged revolutions. Clearly,
Washington put top priority on avoiding the loss of any more "Chinas" in the
future. In this heated atmosphere, the State and Defense Departments
joined the CIA in building national anti-Communist campaigns across
strategic regions of the developing world, particularly in the Far East, Middle
East and Latin America.
As of April 14, 1950, National Security Council Directive (NSC) 68
overrode MacArthurs orders by establishing a global protocol against
communism. Specifically, NSC 68 called for a non-military counter-
offensive against the USSR including covert economic, political and
psychological warfare to stir unrest in satellite nations.94 This plan fell right
into the CIAs jurisdiction. Given the hostile nature of the Cold War rivalry,
President Truman and Secretary of State Dean Acheson urged the CIA to
use non-conventional methods to solidify control of the Pacific and pacify
those nations within Americas sphere of influence which appeared at risk of
falling to communism.
Fortunately for Lansdale, the birth of the CIA in September, 1947,
came at at an opportune time. George Kennans recommendations proved
pivotal in creating a permanent, covert, political action capability under the
State Department. The National Security Council authorized NSC Directive
94 Leary, The Central Intelligence Agency, 44.
10/2 on June 18, 1948, officially launching the Office of Policy Coordination
(OPC) under the jurisdiction of the State and Defense Departments.95 As the
US governments dirty tricks group, the OPC directed covert operations
and became the nations most secret organization. With a background and
reputation of his own, Lieutenant Colonel Lansdale earned an intelligence
position in the OPC and escaped what he saw as a terminal future behind
Securing a transfer to the OPCs Far East division, Lansdale
proceeded to build both psychological and political operations programs
where nothing had previously existed. Lansdale aimed to show those in the
OPC that the proper place for an intelligence operative is with the people-
sharing their dreams and fears, pleasures and sorrow.96 Although
Washington was slow to recognize that the future of Cold War conflict would
take place in Third World proxies, Lansdale focused his attention on the
Pacific and set the fight against the Communists in the Philippines as [his]
number one task.97
With Ramon Magsaysay a part of Quirinos government and working
for military reform, Lansdale made contact with his former acquaintance and
the two discussed methods of countering the rebellion. Magsaysay,
previously a member of the Filipino working class who pursued higher
education, became a socially conscious idealist and participated in the war
95 Currey, 60.
96 Ibid., 54.
97 Ibid., 68.
against the Japanese. As a congressman, he promised to make the
Philippines a better place to live by carrying the war to the Huks. Clearly,
Lansdale saw the Secretary of National Defense as the key to undermining
the Huk campaign. While pushing Quirino to adopt a more aggressive
counterinsurgency program, Magsaysay also maintained a close bond to
Filipinos and grasped the underlying causes of the insurgency. Quietly,
Lansdale tunneled counsel and financial support via the OPC to the
Secretary in hopes of elevating him to a position where he could truly attack
the foundations of the Huk rebellion.
Given the strategic value of the Philippines to American security in the
Pacific, the CIA established a base of operations at Clark Air Force Base
from which to study the growing crisis of the Communist Huk uprising. The
OPC, however, was given the most covert of orders in the CIA when
commanded to undertake the dual task of crippling the radical Communist
insurgency and protecting US interests on the islands. As a PIO employee
working under the cover of JUSMAG, Washington expected Lieutenant
Colonel Lansdale to proceed to the islands and give all help feasible to the
Philippines government in stopping the attempt by the Communist-led Huks
to overthrow that government by force of arms.98
Lansdale advised Magsaysay on the necessities for reforming the
Philippine military, and on broader measures required to undermine the
Hukbalahap insurgency. Of prime import was the need to remove
challenges to the islands political authority, and rebuild confidence among
88 Lansdale, In The Midst of Wars, 1972 draft, 24, Lansdale Papers.
Filipinos in their democratically elected government. Working from a strong
base of experience among Filipinos and taking advantage of contacts made
in Manila, Lansdale was given three months to set his plans into motion.
After three years of tireless effort invested into his counterinsurgent
operations, neither the corrupt Philippine government, nor the Huk
insurgency, survived intact.
The Lansdale-Maasaysav Partnership
In the spring of 1950, facing the threat of Huk guerrillas toppling the
Manila government, President Quirino made the Philippine Constabulary an
official part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the authority of the
Department of National Defense." With a troop strength of over 50,000 and
a supply of modern weapons from the United States, Quirinos military
appeared impressive enough to overpower any guerrilla attack. Yet,
beneath its polished surface, the Philippine Army was rotten with corruption,
and fraught with abusive leaders who threatened and extorted funds from
Within a matter of months, the political climate in the Philippines had
deteriorated. Similarly, Lansdale also found his situation different than
when he departed late in 1948. Unlike his previous intelligence mission,
Lansdale had to maintain a very low profile around Manila to avoid drawing
attention to Washingtons covert operations-even among other CIA 99
99 Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars, 20.
operatives. Quirino could not be allowed any concrete evidence of
American interference in sovereign Philippine affairs. As a result of
negotiations with Quirino in August, 1949, the US government committed to
strict neutrality and non-interference in the internal affairs of the
Philippines.100 To avoid a falling out with Quirino, Lansdale had to steer
clear of the spotlight. His work for the OPC had to remain covert to prevent
Quirino from blaming Washington for any developments which might
threaten the incumbent leaders power.
More importantly, however, all of Lansdales initiatives had to appear
to have been developed out of the existing government bureaucracy, or
short of that, as a consequence of poor choices by the Philippine
Communists. To be effective, Lansdale had to make sure the Communist
Party organization believed that the Philippine government, particularly
Ramon Magsaysay, was at the heart of all reform initiatives begun as of
After arriving in the Philippines, Lansdale met with Magsaysay and
immediately set about indoctrinating the leader in the essentials of
democratic rule. Spending as much as 20 hours a day with the Secretary,
Lansdale made sure he was personally committed to a radical departure
from traditional Philippine politics. Moreover, he came to understand the
leaders frustration with developments in the Philippines, particularly the
need for land reform and the change of attitudes in the armed forces.
Magsaysay also noted how the Huks used propaganda to portray
100 Meyer, A Diplomatic History of The Philippine Republic ,110.
themselves as Robin Hood characters and farm boys out to champion the
cause of other farmers by toppling the social structure for the benefit of the
have-nots.101 He also lamented the ambush and assassination of former
first lady Aurora Quezon, the rise in train robberies, the destruction of
barrios, and the brutal business of Maos peoples warfare in the
countryside. Even though Quirino had finally recognized the insurgency as
a significant threat to his government, Magsaysay felt the administration
simply had no means to compete with the Huks on a psychological basis.
There seemed to be too many things which needed to be done at once.
These meetings prioritized Lansdales objectives. In general,
Lansdale and Magsaysay agreed that improving the governments image
and reputation were paramount. Defeating the Huks in the field was
essential, but only one of several interconnected tasks en route to resolving
the nations crises. By using the Huk insurgency as a legitimate cover,
Lansdale and Magsaysay energetically attacked an array of economic,
social and political inconsistencies in the Philippines. From behind the
armed forces, the Secretary invaded the fields of responsibility of every
member of the cabinet, sparing no incumbent from the threat of reform.102
Magsaysays first objective was to rebuild the Philippine Army, and
help the military put into action tactics and strategies which would move the
government closer to military victory over the Huks. However, Lansdale
101 Lansdale, In The Midst of Wars, 1972 draft, 28, Lansdale Papers.
102 Bohannan, Question Outline of Significant Factors Affecting the US Advisory
Role in Philippine Actions Countering the Hukbalahap Insurgency, December 16,1964, 6,
knew that the Huks could not be defeated using traditional military tactics.
Instead, the Philippine Army required training in psy-war, the use of
propaganda, and guerrilla warfare in order to match the Huks. From
Lansdales perspective, they had to become the sons and brothers of the
people, as well as their protectors. By implementing a rigorous training
program for the PA, Lansdale hoped to encourage Filipinos to help
themselves, and to gain experience resolving their own problems.
Consequently, the Pentagon became a school room for the Philippine Army
to study unconventional warfare, teaching PA officers to become more
responsive to local needs while keeping Huk rebels on the run.
To pay for training, Lansdale helped Magsaysay start a discretionary
fund in the office of the Secretary for National Defense-a reward program
for information about guerrillas, and other contingencies of the anti-Huk
campaign. In 1950 alone, anonymous sources (most likely CIA) channeled
two million pesos into the fund, amounting to approximately one million US
dollars. As Lansdale recalled in his memoirs, these funds came from
Philippine contributions and fund-raising by Vice President Fernando Lopez
to cover expenses not bankrolled by the Defense budget. Investigation of
Lansdales own personal records, however, shows that the US government
also contributed significantly to this fund to kick start Lansdales programs.
Still, Lansdale and Magsaysay faced numerous obstacles.
Soliciting input from journalists and media contacts about conditions in the
country, they all pointed to governmental corruption and Quirinos fraudulent
election in 1949. On a more immediate level, however, fear ruled the
peoples everyday interactions with the government. The Presidents goon
squad, led by his brother Tony, eliminated all challengers and potential
opposition to the Presidents authority, while the Huks assassinated those
who refused to join their struggle.103 The tao were caught in the middle.
Security was a joke.
Furthermore, not only were Philippine officials poorly informed of Huk
strategies and tactics in the rebellion, but the Philippine Army frequently
ignored the findings of its own intelligence service concerning the state of
affairs in rural Central Luzon. PA sources quickly confirmed what Lansdale
had long suspected. Since 1948, Fil-American intelligence led by Colonel
Augustin Marking, had been tracking Chinese Communists in the
Philippines operating behind fake names and businesses.104 According to a
Spot Intelligence Report by the 229th Counter Intelligence Corps
Detachment of the Philippines Command, remnants from the Chinese
Communist Party in the Philippines, Kong Fan, and the Philippine Chinese
48th detachment, Wha Chi, joined the Huks after the anti-Japanese
campaign to help organize guerrilla camps at Mt. Arayat.105 After the war,
Chinese Communists traveled from the Malay Peninsula and Dutch East
Indies, particularly Borneo, to infiltrate the Turtle Islands. From there, they
103 Lansdale, In The Midst of Wars, 1972 draft, 44, Lansdale Papers.
104 Bohannan, "Survey of the Chinese Communist Party in the Philippines,"box 20,
file on Philippines, Bohannan Papers.
105 Captain Paul R. Lutjens, Spot Intelligence Report: Subject-Chinese
Communists, June 25, 1949, Bohannan Papers.
paid Moro fisherman to take them to Mindanao or the Visayan Islands,
where Chinese merchants controlled business. These Chinese advisors,
PA intelligence asserted, supplied and trained the Huks with the essentials
for guerrilla warfare.
But the Philippine Army was out of touch with what it already knew, as
well as with what agrarians tending the fields in Huk occupied territory
believed. With Magsaysay's help, Lansdale focused attention on PA reform
as the next step to winning back the countryside. So long as the military
alienated peasant farmers, the government limited any chances of gaining
strategically located allies to oppose the Huks. Dealing with a total
population of nearly 22 million Filipinos, Lansdale and Magsaysay decided
to wage a war to win over the approximately one million rural supporters of
the rebellion in order to undermine the support base of the Huk movement.106
Magsaysay proved the vital bridge to attaining this goal.
Working out of Lansdales house at JUSMAG headquarters,
Magsaysay focused on his reform goals. To Lansdale, the first priority was
for Magsaysay to convince the chief of the Philippine Army, General Jorge
Castaneda, and the General Staff to overhaul the entire system of military
activities into a more dynamic and progressive force for the Philippines.107
Following Lansdales suggestion, Magsaysay personally implemented
surprise inspections and mock hold-ups of military installations around
Central Luzon to inspect the militarys morale and preparedness. Not only
109 Currey, 78.
107 Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars, 37.
did he discipline Army sloppiness, but he also criticized the general lack of
professionalism. Soldiers spent all of their free time gambling mah jongg.
As a consequence of Magsaysays visits and holding soldiers
accountable for their performance, word spread quickly over the bamboo
telegraph that the Secretary of National Defense was out to discipline or
promote military officials to achieve needed reforms. Moreover, no one
knew where he would show up next. Officers feared the volatile and
powerful Secretary of Defense, preparing themselves for his visits, or opting
for early retirement. As a consequence, Magsaysay built the Army into the
central liaison between a more responsive government and rural agrarians
disaffected by anti-Huk policies.
Cleaning house had a widely positive impact on the morale of
Philippine soldiers and on the perception of the military in the eyes of the
public. Part of Magsaysays efforts to make inroads into hostile rural barrios
was to promote an improved standing of living through infrastructure and
development projects which directly benefited agrarian society. Lansdale
suggested creating an entire Civil Affairs department in the Philippine Army
whose sole purpose was to earn peasant loyalty through rural aid projects.
Civic action associated with the department ranged from teaching basic
military courtesy and discipline to large-scale, formal aid projects. As
Lansdale stated, It can be a simple act of politeness to civilians by troops
manning a roadblock; it can be a job of construction too large for the local
people themselves to undertake.108 Fundamentally, though, civic action had
to teach Army forces to work with the people and gain their respect and
friendship. Only then, Lansdale asserted, could counterinsurgency
operations effectively beat the enemy at his own game-the winning of
mens minds, emotions and loyalty to the concept of freedom, justice,
individual human rights, equality of opportunity and a higher standard of
Within a matter of months, Magsaysay began seeing the fruits of
Lansdales programs from peasants who simply wanted a better life for
themselves and their families. By making the investment to build better
irrigation systems and clearing new lands for farming, the PA fostered a
lasting bond between the government and the tao while countering Huk
promises and propaganda. It proved a vital step in Lansdale's
Next, Lansdale had to convince the government to adopt an
alternative to its capture and kill strategy, which had proved ineffective (if
not counterproductive), against Huk guerrillas. First, he advised Magsaysay
to temporarily suspend the writ of habeas corpus in Huklandia in order to
bring in all suspected Huks. In jail, PA intelligence worked the detainees for
information, which was then utilized in the field. Having revived the highly
mobile Scout Rangers (first utilized in the Philippine-American War), soldiers
108 Lansdale, Insurgency and Counterinsurgency, the Industrial College of the
Armed Forces, Washington, DC, October, 1962, 315, box 13, folder 392, Lansdale Papers.
109 Ibid., 323.
checked out leads and passed on their findings to the BCTs. In so doing,
Lansdale combined intelligence and combat teams to assault enemy
operations in the field. Working with smaller, better trained teams not only
addressed the PAs fear of traveling through unknown jungle and mountain
territories, but also provided valuable information to Magsaysays tactical
planners and kept the Huks on the move.
One tactic, called the Eye of God, which Lansdale learned from a
psy-ops course, used Navy loudspeakers out of light aircraft flying overhead
of Huk territory.110 When combined with detailed intelligence on Huk
guerrillas in a given area, Army planes buzzed Huk camps, announced that
they were surrounded, demanded their surrender, and even named
guerrillas in the camp. Huk rebels surrendered to waiting BCTs en masse. If
that was not sufficient, hailers thanked inside sources in the gang for the
information, raising suspicion and turmoil in Huk ranks for months after the
attack. In a few reported cases, suspected traitors were tried and executed
by their fellow guerrillas.
Magsaysay quickly became an adept practitioner of psy-war. His
Civil Affairs Office spread considerable mischief among active rebel groups.
By preying on traditional fears of vampire (asuang) attacks in the field
(complete with bloodless Huk bodies with punctured necks), rebels felt less
inclined to travel at night when most of their operations took place. Lansdale
also trained PA volunteers to infiltrate Huk ranks and persuade guerrillas to
surrender or divulge important tactical information. With the assistance of
110 Lansdale, In The Midst of Wars,1972 draft, 110, Lansdale Papers.
Lieutenant Colonel Charles T. R. Bohannan, Lansdale utilized Army
intelligence to locate and capture Huk leaders for information.
Training a covert group of select PA soldiers (called Force X) to
perform large-scale infiltrations into Huk units, Lansdale, Bohannan and PA
Colonel Napoleon D. Valeriano generated cover stories to facilitate the
passage of their soldiers into nearby barrios and rural camps.111 Recruiting
wounded troops to enhance their reliability, Force X traveled into Huk
territory, encountered guerrilla units around Candaba Swamp, and traveled
to Huk camps. Working from the inside, Force X mimicked Huk habits and
integrated into daily life among the rebels. Not only did the soldiers gain
incredibly valuable information on Huk informants and installations, but they
also used a hidden radio to communicate with nearby Constabulary troops
to strike unsuspecting squadrons. At an agreed upon time, Force X
segregated itself from the guerrillas, lobbed grenades and exploded mortars
in the camp, and with the help of the PC, ambushed guerrilla soldiers. At the
end of its first engagement, Force X counted 82 dead guerrillas.112 Those
who escaped spread word that members of their group had betrayed them,
raising fears of other saboteurs. Force X raised suspicion in Huk units even
in areas where it was not deployed. As Lansdale understood, the
psychological effects of PA infiltrations impacted the Huks for months after
'1" Colonel Israel D. Laps, Armed Forces Philippines, The Communist Huk Enemy,
presented at the Seminar on the Huk Campaign at Fort Bragg, NC, June 15, 1961,36,
112 Napoleon D. Valeriano, Counter-Guerrilla Operations in the Philippines, 1946-
1953, Seminar on the Huk Campaign, Ft. Bragg, NC, June 15,1961, 38, Lansdale Papers.
Tackling entire barrios in Central Luzon at once, the Army used its
own brand of scare tactics to counter Huk terror. Bringing in blindfolded
individuals whom they claimed were Huks captured in the area (actually,
disguised soldiers), the military paraded the guerrillas far enough away for
all of the local inhabitants to see, but not identify. Using chicken and pigs
blood, the PA faked bayoneting and killing the captives. As each victim
was stuck, he screamed out the name of the mayor or other member of the
barrio who supported the Huks.113 At the end of the show, the Army asserted
that it knew everything about the members of the town. PA leaders
demanded confessions from the barrio dwellers to prevent their names from
being put on the Armys death lists. Naturally, the peasants cooperated.
Hoping to halt guerrilla access to government weapons, Lansdale
spearheaded the crackdown on illegal sales of ammunition. Rooting out the
source of all sales to the enemy, Lansdale sabotaged government bullets by
rigging them to explode in rebel hands.114 When Huk guns blew up in the
field, the guerrillas halted further purchases from their secret government
sources. Illegal sales dropped immediately; the rebels preferred to look
elsewhere rather than risk being killed or wounded every time they fired their
Furthermore, Lansdale developed simple fixes to improve the
3 Valeriano, "Counter-Guerrilla Operations in the Philippines, 1946-1953, 48,
1,4 Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars, 75.
militarys image in predominantly agrarian areas. In an effort to combat the
practice by PA officers who too frequently exaggerated the number of
guerrillas killed in the field, Lansdale orchestrated an elementary system of
documentation which removed any chance for Huks to refute Army casualty
counts. Lansdale bought cheap Japanese cameras for all officers in the
field to record their casualty reports.115 The Army was then able to support
what it published to the public. Similarly, Lansdale crafted an informal policy
to address brutalities by the PA against the tao. Abusing the peasants
rather than active guerrillas insured that barrio-dwellers remained firmly in
the Huk camp. However, Lansdale suggested that PA leaders start passing
out candy to peasant children and lending a hand in barrio projects during
their rounds prior to asking any questions about Huk activities in the area.
These measures alone proved invaluable in improving the Armys image.
Lansdale had to shift popular perception of the government, but this
required a longer-term program to build a political-psychological base for
the military. Using media contacts in Manila, Lansdale publicized Huk
atrocities and began remaking the Armys image through contacts from his
stint as PIO in 1948. The Makabulos massacre proved a model occasion to
show Huk butchery and gain propaganda points for Magsaysay. On August
26, 1950, the Huks celebrated the Cry of Balintawak Day by attacking
eleven towns and camps, including the military Camp Makabulos and the
11th Station Hospital on the outskirts of Tarlac town. Two hundred Huks
115 Lansdale, A Case History of lnsurgency--The Philippines, speech presented at
the National War College, March 26,1964, Lansdale Papers.
killed 23 soldiers and seven civilians who were visiting the hospital. Rebels
then set the camp on fire and looted money and medical supplies. Doctors,
nurses, patients and administrators had been hacked apart with machetes
and bayonets. The Huks hoped such savagery would strike fear into those
who betrayed their revolutionary cause. Lansdale thought otherwise.
While interviewing peasants around Tarlac town immediately after the
massacre, Lansdale was shocked to hear that the Huks had warned the
peasants of the coming attack, and advised them to remain safely inside
their homes on the night of the assault; the soldiers were their targets, not
the peasants. Consequently, the tao maintained their loyalty to the
guerrillas. According to one tenant farmer, The people had been cheated
out of the 1949 election--the Huks were right. They deserved the peoples
support. Government for the privileged few backed by cruel force had to be
overturned.116 Lansdale, however, manipulated the findings from his
interviews in the Manila press. Knowing that he faced an uphill battle on the
propaganda front, he used the incident to express a strong tide of popular
revulsion against the Huks.117
In an even more defining incident just months later, Lansdale recalled
a raid on Magsaysays home town of barrio Aglao in San Marcelino,
Zambales Province. Magsaysay had grown up in the rice paddies
surrounding the barrio, and returned there frequently to escape Manila for
the peace and quiet of the countryside. Evidently, he knew everyone in the
116 Lansdale, In The Midst of Wars, 1972 draft, 48-49, Lansdale Papers.
117 Currey, 81.
barrio. On the night of November 25,1950, approximately 100 armed Huks
killed 22 residents, including women and children, kidnapped ten others,
and burned down 34 houses. Magsaysay took Lansdale there early the next
morning by plane to see the full extent of the carnage. For the Secretary,
memory of the loss stayed with him throughout the rebellion. According to
At Aglao, the ugliest face of war was showing. Smoke was rising,
timbers still aglow from the burned houses. Bodies were strewn over
the ground. Most seemed to have been hacked to pieces by bolo
knives. Survivors knelt, dazed or weeping, by the scattered heads,
arms, hands, feet, and torsos of what had once been humans they
The violent force of these attacks portrayed by Lansdale, including the
assassination of Madam Quezon, impacted sentiments extending well
beyond the immediate families, and influenced media reports both in Manila
and Washington. Labeling Huks as the aggressors in the conflict, Lansdale
gained international support for the Philippine Army and Secretary
Magsaysay. Once in the spotlight, President Quirino was forced to give the
Secretary his reluctant support to purge the military of corrupt officials, most
of whom had been bribed by wealthy landowners to keep peasant labor in
check. As a result, Lansdale and Magsaysay removed the impediments to
closer connections between the tao and the military. With the Army as a
force protecting Filipinos from abuse, Magsaysay earned the taos trust.
Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars, 1972 draft, 87, Lansdale Papers.
The Huk, on the other hand, lost their primary basis for support in rural
With the remaking of the military, JUSMAG became the office where
the Secretary shared ideas and fielded concerns from Filipino officers and
rural dwellers. Having instituted effective policies, Magsaysay gained both
the respect and attention of the people and committed officers. Lansdale
took further advantage of Magsaysays growing popularity by developing
what he called coffee klatsch gatherings at JUSMAG, which provided an
open forum for ideas on how to renew faith in the Manila government.119
These meetings became the Armys most effective and flexible tool for
responding to Huk strategies in the course of the conflict.
EDCOR was among the first and most effective propaganda tools
developed out of these meetings. By helping Huks who had surrendered to
the military realize their dreams of land ownership on government
sponsored community farms, Magsaysay provided guerrillas with yet
another inducement to abandon the rebellion. Moreover, providing land for
sharecropping families and start-up funds to help them build a livelihood
undercut the Huk slogan of land for the landless. According to Lansdale,
EDCOR helped stabilize outlying areas where the farms were located while
also drawing Huks away from the resistance. Despite attracting nation-wide
attention, EDCOR farms relocated very few Huks--only 56 in 1951. But, as
Magsaysay stated, everyone talks about it, there must be more!120 As
Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars, 47.
1!0 Lansdale, In The Midst of Wars, 1972 draft, 130, Lansdale Papers.
propaganda, EDCOR helped Magsaysay shift the initiative for reform (or the
appearance of reform) out of the hands of the PKP and the Hukbalahap, and
into the lap of the Philippine government.
To make the EDCOR alternative even more attractive, Magsaysay
initiated a guns-for-money swap which paid Huks to turn in their arms and
start a new life. This campaign put much needed funds into the hands of
former guerrillas and their families right at the height of the resistance, when
Huk leadership demanded everything from peasant households to keep the
insurgency afloat. Then, by providing cheap telegram access to
Magsaysays office at JUSMAG, the Secretary opened lines of
communication to allow peasants to make anonymous reports concerning
Huk operations and abuse by the Philippine Army. Mistreated peasants
finally had an avenue to voice their complaints, and Magsaysay committed
the government to respond to every grievance. Finally, by providing Judge
Advocate lawyers for peasants involved in land court cases, the Secretary
made headway toward eliminating the justification for rural support of the
Hukbalahap. According to Lansdale, Given back their dignity as men, the
farmers lost the temptation to help the Huks pull down the whole system.121
As a result, the Communists found themselves isolated, like fish out of
water, from those willing to give reforms a chance.
Of course, none of Magsaysays reforms would have been possible
without generous economic and military support from the United States. As
a Truman representative in Washington interpreted events around Manila,
,2' Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars, 48.
With American military assistance, the rejuvenated Philippine armed
forces are now making significant inroads on the strength and
capabilities of the Communist-dominated Huk movement. The
presence of the Seventh Fleet in Philippine waters has contributed
significantly to Philippine morale. American naval and air bases are
being expanded. These specific measures are giving the Philippines
confidence that President Truman and the Secretary of State have
meant exactly what they said when they categorically stated publicly
that the United States would never tolerate aggression against the
On August 30, 1951, Presidents Truman and Quirino signed the
Mutual Defense Treaty and declared their unity against imperialist
aggression and external armed attack in the Pacific. As a consequence,
Washington committed to aggressively checking the spread of communism
in the Philippines and destroying all challenges to the Philippine
government in order to protect the tenuous balance of power in the region.
The success of this struggle depended on the Philippine
governments ability to simultaneously combat the two arms of the
insurgency. The Philippine Communist Politburo, or PB-ln," as it was
called, directed the rebellions political-psychological-economic operations
through a brain-trust led by Jose Lava and other top PKP members. The PB-
ln spent much of 1950 developing plans to increase the number of armed
Huks to 56,000, raise Party membership from 10,800 to 172,000, and boost
the number of organized peasants to 2.4 million by mid-1951. By achieving
these numbers, the PKP believed conditions would be ripe for a general
uprising by May Day, 1952.123 Meanwhile, Jesus Lava, Taruc, Castillo and
Alejandrino directed the PB-Out from their headquarters in the provincial
countryside. As Lansdale learned, the PB-Out followed orders from the
Politburo to direct and implement the partys military operations. Yet, both
branches depended on one another to carry out the insurgency.
Putting US assistance to work and actively pursuing rebels in the
field, Magsaysays reforms took a toll on the staying power of the Huks.
Members of the resistance, including Taciano Rizal, grandnephew of Dr.
Jose Rizal (Filipino author, ilustrado leader, and martyr for Philippine
nationalists rising against Spain prior to the Spanish-American War),
surrendered to Secretary Magsaysay. Rizal accompanied hundreds of Huks
who quietly gave up their arms for the chance to return to their farms and
some sense of normalcy. Although the Huk campaign continued to attract
more recruits than were lost to the government, disillusion spread among
longtime Huks who were concerned about the direction of the resistance.
Having agreed to cooperate with Magsaysay, Rizal provided clues as
to the exact location of the PB-ln, the rebellions nerve center in Manila.
With this information, the Secretary organized a raid, surrounded the
organizations offices, and arrested 105 members of the Politburo and
charged them with sedition, treason and rebellion.124 The raid turned up
nearly five tons of documents outlining the PKPs objectives for a complete
123 Lansdale, In The Midst of Wars, 1972 draft, 50, Lansdale Papers.
Lansdale, In the Midst of Wars, 63.
Still, the governments victory failed to uproot Taruc. In fact, as
Lansdale was surprised to discover, the Huk leader had maintained his
center of operations just outside the perimeter of Clark Air Force Base, right
under the Armys nose. When the headquarters was finally uncovered,
Lansdale found that Taruc had a complete law library of books and
documents to help him conduct his legal battles with the government while
the Army was out searching for him.125 Tarucs forces had mastered the art
of covert movements. The PA had considerable work to do to compete with
the Huks and beat them at their own game.
In early 1951, upon recommendation from CIA director Walter Bedell
Smith, Major General Leland Hobbs (JUSMAG commander) extended
Lansdales tour of duty to a year.126 Concurrently, Lansdale went about
grooming Secretary Magsaysay for the presidency. He developed the
Filipino leaders reputation as an energetic leader with the peopled interests
at heart. Advertising his achievements and emphasizing his compassion for
the common Filipino, Lansdale popularized Magsaysay as a one-man
reform show. Yet, Lansdale also had to be extremely cautious about
revealing his role and his OPC connection to anyone in the Philippines. CIA
operatives in Manila worked in competition with Lansdale. Not until 1952,
when Walter Bedell Smith merged the CIA and OPC, was all covert work on
the islands officially brought under one roof. By that time, Lansdale was well
on his way to putting Magsaysay in the presidential palace at Malacanang.
,2S Lansdale, A Case History of lnsurgency--The Philippines," 8, Lansdale Papers.
126 Currey, 96.
Huk leadership scrambled to regain momentum after the Manila raid.
1951 marked a profound change in the attitude of the Philippine people
toward the war against the Huks. It proved a year of military confrontation
and declining strength of the rebels. Terror tactics against government
forces and peasants loyal to Magsaysay worked against the guerrillas.
Whereas just one year earlier, the Huks ruled the barrios of Central Luzon,
Magsaysays forces increasingly unseated the insurgencys Communist
leaders and championed the struggle for peasant rights.
President Quirino and his incumbent supporters, however, suspected
Magsaysays political objectives. The Secretarys growing popularity,
commitment to reform, and endorsement by a growing portion of the rural
electorate threatened Quirinos authority and the status of the islands
landed elite. According to Lansdale,
[Magsaysay] wasnt aware of it at the time, but he was starting to
reflect the needs and feelings of the people and the troops when he
attended the cabinet meetings, subconsciously becoming their
spokesman. It set him apart from the other executives and made them
increasingly uneasy about him. His anger at the status quo was
By the fall of 1951, the Lansdale-Magsaysay partnership effectively
shut down new opportunities for Communist expansion. The real test,
however, loomed ahead in the 1951 election. Magsaysays policy of all out
friendship or all out force too closely resembled Quirinos early policies. But
,27 Lansdale, In The Midst of Wars, 1972 draft, 75, Lansdale Papers.