At first glance, the uniface copper, 20.1-millimeter medalet is a
perplexing political piece bearing neither date nor name of its
country of origin. It shows a double-leaf border, a relatively high
relief facing head and the legend LAUREL FOR PRESIDENT. The reverse is
blank, as the piece was obviously made to be inserted in a larger
political badge (the piece is from the American Numismatic Society
Collection, gift from Mrs. Eleanor Perez Niles).
Collectors of Philippine coins and medals may recognize the
portrait as Dr. José Paciano Laurel (born 1891, died 1959), Philippine
jurist and politician, best remembered as president of the wartime
Republic of the Philippines, 1943 to 1945. Laurel appeared on three
44-millimeter medals struck for the wartime republic that have been
studied and published by this columnist in Numismatic Scrapbook
Magazine and the American Numismatic Association journal, The Numismatist.
A Supreme Court justice under the Americans and the Commonwealth
of the Philippines established in 1936, Laurel was among many
officials left behind after the Japanese invasion and the fall of
Bataan and Corregidor in 1941 and 1942.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur was evacuated with Commonwealth President
Manuel Luis Quezon, leaving a power vacuum quickly filled by the
Japanese occupiers bent on creating their “Greater East Asia
The new republic lasted less than three years. Quezon died in New
York state in 1944 and was succeeded by Sergio Osmeña.
After the American return, more than 5,000 Filipinos were charged
with collaboration with the enemy.
Only a handful of accused Filipinos were actually convicted. While
Laurel faced 132 counts, he was never brought to trial nor convicted.
Many supporters worked for his complete rehabilitation.
Independence came on July 4, 1946, after a split in the
long-ruling Nacionalista Party of Quezon and Osmeña.
The first president was Manuel Roxas of the new Liberal Party.
Roxas died in office and was succeeded by Elpidio Quirino, who ran on
his own in 1949.
The resurgent Nacionalistas nominated José Paciano Laurel, only
four years earlier reviled as a traitor and collaborator.
American-style steel-lithographed political buttons were issued
portraying both candidates, along with the uniface copper medalet
Quirino proclaimed victory, but Nacionalistas, independent
Filipinos and foreign observers agreed that this close election may
have been decided by electoral fraud on an unprecedented scale.
David T. Alexander, is a Senior Numismatist and researcher for
Heritage Auctions, firstname.lastname@example.org.
author of American Art Medals, 1909-1995.