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MIND DA NEWS:  Renaming GenSan road as “Morrow Avenue” is not an issue; citing historical facts wrongly is

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 12 Nov) — That MindaNews  report,  DPWH names road in GenSan after WW2 herodatelined “General Santos City, November 6, 2017” cited sources whose claims abound with glaring inaccuracies  and “inventions” as in “fake news”.  But I will not label it as such.

Renaming the city’s Circuit Road as “Morrow Avenue” is not an issue.  That is within the prerogative of the City Council and of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)  to honor a historical person.

But citing historical facts wrongly and giving questionable attributes is a disservice to history and the memory of Albert Morrow.

As reported:

City Councilor Rosalita Nunez, a former city mayor (1988 to 1992), said the resolution she authored to effect the change of name was “to give due recognition to one of the city’s pioneer settlers and among the initial architects of the area’s development” and “to give justice to our local hero Albert Morrow.”

Vice Mayor Shirlyn Banas-Nograles cited the City Council Resolution in January 2016 that “conferred a posthumous recognition and honor to Engr. Albert Morrow ‘for selfless act of heroism as well as his historical contribution toward the growth and development of General Santos City’.”

Re- his selfless act of heroism, the vice mayor noted:

(1) According to historical accounts, Japanese forces based in the city had made a threat to kill 28 hostages and prisoners of war who were then suspected of aiding local anti-Japanese guerrillas.

(2) “In a selfless act of heroism, Engr. Albert Morrow, chose to commit hara kiri (suicide) through the barrel of a gun to stop the atrocities.”

(3) As a result of his “honorable death,” … Japanese Gen. Oishi ordered to halt the killing as a tribute to Morrow.

Re- his historical contribution toward the growth and development of General Santos City, the vice mayor noted:

(1) A civil engineer, Morrow designed and supervised the construction of the Siluay (now Silway) Irrigation System, the city’s biggest and most important irrigation facility.

(2) “(Morrow) supervised the settlement plan, including urban layout, of what would become General Santos City.”

The Vice Mayor said “During the Japanese occupation, Morrow succeeded Gen. Paulino Santos as administrator of the then National Land Settlement Administration.” This is inaccurate.

To clarify, Mr. Morrow was overtaken by World War II in Marbel (Koronadal) where he had been assigned much earlier. He cooperated with the Japanese. General Santos did not surrender but was later captured and hostaged until his death in the Mt. Province.

The Facts to the Contrary and Inaccuracies:

First, Albert Morrow was not a settler.  So far as I remember (We came on January 4, 1940), he came as assistant administrator of the Koronadal Valley and Allah Valley Settlement Projects of the NLSA (National Land Settlement Administration) around late 1940. (Gen. Paulino Santos was the administrator and NLSA general manager.)

Recognizing Mr. Morrow as “one of the city’s pioneer settlers” is ridiculous.  As stated above, he was not a settler.  Even if he was, he could not have been a ”pioneer settler”  “of the city” but of Lagao Settlement  District” – still a vast expanse of land to be cultivated. General Santos City was nowhere in the minds of the NLSA officials and settlers.

Second, Mr. Morrow cannot be “our local hero” (Nuñez); contrary to the “historical accounts” Bañas-Nograles cited, Morrow sacrificed his life in Marbel, about 80 kilometers from Lagao. (Note: Marbel and Lagao were then both “Settlement Districts” of Koronadal Valley Settlement Project.) At the time, about the middle of 1942, the “Japanese forces” referred to was the Japanese garrison in Marbel under Captain (not “Gen.”) Oishi; there was no Japanese garrison in Lagao.

What happened was not just a “threat” but real carnage. Some USAFFE soldiers who had been released by the Japanese attacked the Japanese garrison then fled leaving their families behind.  Captain Oishi had the families of the soldiers rounded up and publicly executed – women and children, including infants. Mr. Morrow must have interceded but failed to stop the juez de cuchillo; he committed suicide with a pistol, which was not hara-kiri. (Note: I’m just recalling the story as orally reported then; some old-timers in Marbel can give a more detailed narrative and point to the common grave of the victims.) 

That Mr. Morrow had an “honorable death” should not be disputed; only the families of the soldiers suffered the juez de cuchillo; but, it’s too naïve to grant that “Oishi ordered to halt the killing as a tribute to Morrow”.

Third, Mr. Morrow’s “historical contribution toward the growth and development of General Santos City” is imaginary and ridiculous. Weird is that citation in the posthumous award 72 years after his death!

Citing Mr. Morrow for “his historical contribution toward the growth and development of General Santos City” (Nuñez) and for “supervis[ing] the settlement plan, including urban layout, of what would become General Santos City” (Bañas-Nograles) is glorifying Mr. Morrow for what he could not have done or thought of while living.

Simple logic – General Santos City was non-existent in 1942 when Mr. Morrow died. How could he have done the feats for which he was honored in 2017?

More specifically to the point:

  • Lagao Settlement District composed of nine sub-units called “barrios” (Lagao Barrios 1, 2 and 3; Conel, Klinan 5, Klinan 6, Silway 7, Silway 8 and Upper Klinan) was not a political entity or LGU (Local Government Unit) but the first settlement of the NLSA, a corporation created by Republic Act No. 441.
  • Led by a five-man board of directors, NLSA officials did corporate functions according to the provisions of RA 441. Planning a settlement district to become a city was not among such functions under Section 2 (a) to (d) and Section 3 (a) to (k); Mr. Morrow could not have done more than what RA 441 provided and his job description specified.
  • While Section 3(b) provided for setting “aside such area or areas as may be deemed desirable for townsites, roads, provincial building sites, parks and other improvements”, this true to all settlement districts and their barrios was, we supposed, to anticipate the time when the settlement would become a political entity or LGU giving its regular government the space for its development plans. It did not give Mr. Morrow the option to draw urban planning General Santos City still non-existent.
  • In 1947, the municipal districts of Buayan and Glan were created into the Municipality of Buayan; Lagao Settlement District, being within the municipal district of Buayan, became part of the new municipality. When the municipality became a city in 1968, only Lagao Barrios 1, 2 and 3, Conel and Klinan 5 were included and now reconfigured into Barangays City Heights, Conel, Katangawan, Lagao and San Isidro – six of the city’s 26 barangays. Urban planning for General Santos started in 1968 — 26 years after Mr. Morrow had died.
  • How could Mr. Morrow have envisioned General Santos City and “supervised … [its] urban layout”? Dadiangas (not a part of the settlement district), not Lagao, was made the seat of the city government. Kagawad Nuñez should tell what in the development plans for the city during her many years as city mayor she owed to Mr. Morrow.

Renaming as Morrow Avenue the City Circuit Road is not an issue. Mr. Morrow as assistant NLSA administrator merited the honor. Many streets in the city have been named after pioneer settlers and officials of the settlement district. However, it is unfortunate that the inaccuracies, some amounting to “inventions”, to justify the change, grossly misinformed. [Author’s Note: Mind da News, the alternate of COMMENT, is a comment on current news. The author may be contacted at patponcediaz@yahoo.com.]

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