National / History

Hibiya Park plaque to honor late Filipino leader Quirino

Kyodo

The late former Philippine President Elpidio Quirino will next month receive a memorial marker at Tokyo’s Hibiya Park in honor of his contribution to bilateral ties, his family’s foundation said.

The Quirino Memorial Marker, the first of its kind in Japan for a Philippine leader, will be unveiled on June 18, with his living descendants, among others, expected to be present.

It comes four months after Quirino’s remains were reinterred at the Philippines’ Heroes’ Cemetery to mark the 60th anniversary of his death, and five months after the Imperial Couple personally acknowledged his contribution to Philippine-Japan relations in a meeting with the Quirino family during their state visit.

“The burial at the Heroes’ Cemetery in February and this historical event in the center of Tokyo in June proclaim to all, ‘We had such a leader. When will we find another?’ ” the President Elpidio Quirino Foundation said in a statement last week.

“It is the first time for a Philippine president to be so honored in Japan. Only our national hero, Jose Rizal, has been honored in this manner, along with Gen. Artemio Ricarte (of the Philippine revolution against Spain) in Yamashita Park in Yokohama,” it added. Ricarte lived in exile in Yokohama for 30 years or so before World War II.

It is a timely development as Manila and Tokyo this year mark the 60th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties.

Quirino is known for pardoning Japanese war criminals at the end of his term in 1953, paving the way for reconciliation with Japan after being on opposite sides during World War II.

“The pardon given by President Quirino is acknowledged as the start of the healing process between Japan and the Philippines,” the foundation said.

Despite losing his wife, three of his five children, and more than a dozen members of his wife’s family to rampaging Imperial Japanese soldiers during the Battle of Manila in 1945, Quirino, who rose to the presidency in 1948, made the unpopular decision of granting clemency in July 1953 to Japanese war criminals and Filipinos who were accused of collaborating. He ordered the war criminals repatriated in December that year.

In an undated draft letter seen by Kyodo News at a Philippine museum, Quirino wrote, “In extending the executive clemency, I had no other desire than to express not merely my humanitarian feelings but the nobility of character of the Filipino people.”

“I considered it essential for the preservation of peace and friendship between our two peoples as the cornerstone of our lasting relationship,” he added.

The foundation said the installation of the marker, in the form of a metal relief plaque, was initiated and backed by the Japan-Philippines Parliamentarians’ Friendship League, the Philippine Society of Japan, the Japan-Philippines Economic Cooperation Committee, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Japan, and the Philippine Embassy in Japan, in cooperation with the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo.