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José Laurel

Born9 Mar 1891
Died6 Nov 1959

Contributor: C. Peter Chen

José Paciano Laurel y García was born in the town of Tanauan, Batangas, Philippines, to Sotero Laurel and Jacoba Garcia. He had three law degrees, one from the University of the Philippines (1915), another from Escuela de Derecho (1919), and the third from Yale University (1920). He was a member of the Philippines cabinet, but resigned in 1923 to protest American occupation. In 1925 he became a senator. When the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established he was appointed associate justice of the Supreme Court.

When the Philippines fell under Japanese control, he was left behind by Manuel Quezon to head up the Philippines government, but his close relationship with the Japanese led him to become the head of a pro-Japanese regime that later sided with the Japanese and declared war on the United States. His son was sent to Japan to study at the Imperial Military Academy in Tokyo, and Laurel himself received a honorary degree from Tokyo Imperial University, the only Filipino to receive such honor. Some 5,000 Filipinos joined his regime under the Makapili organization, and were issued rifles and trained to fight any future Allied landing. While many of the Makapili recruits were of lower social classes, many of them were sponsored by their upper class employers who were the same social and political elites of Manila under Quezon. Many of them maintained their mansions in exclusive Santa Mesa district, played tennis, attended parties, and dined at the Casino Español. They were accused by General Douglas MacArthur as Japanese collaborators who betrayed their own people, and the American general swore to punish all who collaborated with the Japanese. Quezon, on the other hand, was much reluctant with the accusations; he grew up and went to school with Laurel and many of Laurel's administration as children of Manila's aristocratic ruling class, and he was family by blood, marriage, or by compadre-ship. "They had no choice," Carlos Romulo remembered Quezon saying, "virtual prisoners of the enemy." In Sep 1943, Tokyo appointed Laurel as the President of the Independent Philippine Republic. Filippino guerilla loyal to Quezon and his American allies swore to remove him (and nearly assassinated him twice), but after the war Laurel maintained the position that his subjugation by the Japanese was to spare the Filippino people of Japanese atrocities. Before MacArthur's troops reclaimed the Philippines, Japanese general Tomoyuki Yamashita evacuated Laurel to Japan.

Upon Japanese surrender, MacArthur's subordinate Lt. Col. Turner arrested Laurel at the Japanese city of Nara. He was charged with 132 counts of treason in Jul 1946, but was granted amnesty by President Manuel Roxas in Apr 1948 before being tried at court. Laurel remained active in the political arena in the Philippines, including a failed run for presidency and time served as secretary of defense, until his retirement in 1957. He passed away in 1959 from a heart attack.

Many of his nine children became politicians, including former vice president Salvador P. Laurel, former senator Sotero Laurel and ex-speaker José Laurel, Jr.

Sources: American Caesar, Malacañang Museum, Wikipedia.

José Laurel Timeline

9 Mar 1891 José Laurel was born.
6 Nov 1959 José Laurel passed away.


Attendees of the Greater East Asia Conference, Tokyo, Japan, 5 Nov 1943, photo 1 of 2; left to right: Ba Maw, Zhang Jinghui, Wang Jingwei, Hideki Tojo, Wan Waithayakon, José Laurel, Subhas Chandra BoseAttendees of the Greater East Asia Conference, Tokyo, Japan, 5 Nov 1943, photo 2 of 2; left to right: Ba Maw, Zhang Jinghui, Wang Jingwei, Hideki Tojo, Wan Waithayakon, José Laurel, Subhas Chandra Bose

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Visitor Submitted Comments

  1. erica says:
    29 Aug 2007 07:54:45 PM

    was laurel third or second president of the phillipines republic?
  2. C. Peter Chen says:
    29 Aug 2007 09:18:39 PM

    He was the third. First was Emilio Aguinaldo, and second was Manuel Quezon.
  3. anne says:
    2 Sep 2007 12:07:28 AM

    is their a conflict in this biography?
  4. princess says:
    28 Sep 2007 02:42:23 AM

    i thought he was the fourth president?waah!!!
  5. Vesey says:
    27 Nov 2008 01:03:33 PM

    When considering all of the Philipinos and Americans that died and suffered under the Japanese occupation, it is tragic that a person like Laurel was able to get away with his shameless treason.................
  6. Anonymous says:
    21 Sep 2009 06:15:49 PM

    Laurel was the pres. during the Japanese occupation in phil. but Quezon is still at America as pres. of commonwealth right..?

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More on José Laurel
Event(s) Participated:
» Greater East Asia Conference

Related Books:
» American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964

José Laurel Photo Gallery
Attendees of the Greater East Asia Conference, Tokyo, Japan, 5 Nov 1943, photo 1 of 2; left to right: Ba Maw, Zhang Jinghui, Wang Jingwei, Hideki Tojo, Wan Waithayakon, José Laurel, Subhas Chandra Bose
See all 2 photographs of José Laurel

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