Today, June 14, marks the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Bessang Pass, which led to the surrender of Tomiyuki Yamashita, known as the “Tiger of Malaya.” He was the commanding general of the Japanese imperial forces in the Philippines.
The battle led to the end of over three years of Japanese occupation.
This was a three-month uphill battle between the guerrilla forces under Col. Russell Volckman in the Cordilleras on the border of Ifugao and Mountain Province close to Cervantes town in Ilocos Sur ensued.
Three months after this event, Yamashita was executed in Laguna for crimes against humanity.
I was 17 years old when my two older brothers, Desi and Willie, fought in that battle. I was living with my parents in Bangar, La Union. Later on I found out that no less than 1,400 Ilocanos and Igorots died in the battle.
This was after the Rape of Manila was chronicled in history. In the annals of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the battle of Bessang Pass was poetically described as The Battle Among The Clouds.
I really don’t know what happened because years later, when the Americans continued to rule the country, this strategic battle has never been given commensurate celebration.
The irony of it all is that every year on April 9, we celebrate National Heroes Day, erstwhile known in history as the Fall of Bataan and the Fall of Corregidor. This shows our penchant for commemorating the bad over the good.
There were only two former presidents who marked the battle of Bessang Pass—Presidents Marcos and Ramos.
I am passionate about this because of the participation of my brothers, It was my brother Lt Desiderio Jurado, who later on became a justice of the Court of Appeals, who led the assault with some 30 me. Just 17 survived. Two Ilocano newsmen were with him—the late Amante Bigornia and Consorcio Borje.
For service beyond the call of duty, Desi was awarded a silver star. Willie got a purple heart medal for having been wounded.
I wonder whether our nation will ever truly remember Bessang Pass.
* * *
The PNP leadership, headed by Director-General Oscar Albayalde, deserves commendation for the swift action on the appeal of retired policemen that their pensions be spared from the automatic pension deduction scheme. They claimed that these deductions are being applied illegally to their pensions, supposedly to pay for loans they incurred from certain lending institutions long after they have left the service.
President Duterte instructed his special assistant Christopher “Bong” Go to coordinate with the PNP and the Department of the Interior and Local Government in finding a solution to the problem.
Reports said that upon the intervention of PNP authorities, some arrangements were made—for example, limited the number or remaining installments to 60 months for salary loans and 72 months for car loans. Some multi-purpose cooperatives were reported to have waived penalties on some of the loans.
But, my gulay, it appears that authorities focused only on the multi-purpose cooperatives and overlooked the equally abusive practices of savings and loans associations. This raises troubling questions on why SLAs were excluded.
The President’s directive to the PNP was issued on or before May 10, but I was informed that a formal written appeal was conveyed to Albayalde by a law firm last May 23.
The appeal was for the PNP to stop and eventually abolish the automatic deductions on the pensions of retirees. It asked for the revocation of PNP Memorandum Circular 2016-038, the Uniform Rules on Automatic Salary and Pension Deductions, and the PNO Standard Operating Procedure 2016-02 which serve as basis for the implementation of the APDs.
It is asserted that these deductions contravene a 2017 ruling of the Department of Justice which stated that the deductions violated Section 7 of R.A. 8367 of the Revised Non-Stock Savings and Loan Association Act of 1997. This provides that automatic pension deductions should not cover loans incurred after retirement.
In any event, government agencies such as the PNP should not act as collecting agents for private entities such as SLAs. This is questionable practice because it involves big amounts. It also raises questions on legality and propriety.
More than that, the lenders are said to be charging excessive interest rates. Some of them increased the monthly amortizations and the number of remaining installments without the knowledge and consent of borrowers.
Albayalde should really look into this.
* * *
This incident during President Duterte’s recent South Korea visit was not reported.
When President Duterte started distributing copies of the book detailing the sins of the Catholic Church, he called bishops and priests sons of whores.
He then told the crowd to not contribute to the Catholic Church. Under Iglesia ni Duterte, however, people will be happy.