On March 9, 1891, Jose P. Laurel, president of the Japanese-sponsored Republic of the Philippines during World War II, from 1943 to 1945, was born in Tanauan, Batangas.
Laurel was instructed to remain in Manila by President Manuel L. Quezon, who were to leave together with his family and key officials, including Vice President Sergio Osmena, to Corregidor and later left for Australia then to the United States to establish a government-in-exile there.
Accordingly, Japan launched a surprise attack on the Philippines on December 8, 1941 and battles continued until the final surrender of US-Philippine forces on May 1942.
Laurel, then acting Chief Justice, wanted to go with Quezon to leave the country, but the latter restrained him and told him “that someone will have to meet the Japanese”.
His prewar, close relationship with Japanese officials (a son had been sent to study at the Imperial Military Academy in Tokyo and Laurel had received an honorary doctorate from Tokyo University), placed him in a good position to interact with the Japanese occupation forces.
The idea was to assist the Japanese in an attempt to make the occupation less severe.
Subsequently, the Japanese-sponsored Republic was proclaimed on October 14, 1943 with Laurel inducted into office as President.
Throughout his stint as president, Laurel tried to solve the problems of the Philippines to alleviate the people’s sufferings. When Japanese surrendered to America on August 15, 1945, Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered his arrest for collaborating with the Japanese.
In 1946, he was charged with 132 counts of treason, but was never brought to trial due to the general amnesty granted by President Manuel Roxas in 1948.
In later years, Laurel ran and lost for presidential elections against Elpidio Quirino in 1949. He was elected to the Senate in 1951.
During President Ramon Magsaysay’s term, he became head of a mission tasked with negotiating trade and other issues with United States officials, the result of which known as the Laurel-Langley Agreement.
He retired from public life, concentrating on the development of the Lyceum of the Philippines established by his family.
Laurel died on November 6, 1959 at the age of 68.