Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Presidents of the Postwar Republic: Roxas, Quirino and Magsaysay



The Presidents of the Postwar Republic, 1946 – 1965
(By: Gloria Martinez Santos)

Philippine Presidents 100 years

      The Third Republic, inaugurated on 4 July 1946, marked the withdrawal of the sovereignty of the United States and her recognition of the independence of the Philippines, forty-eight years late, Philippine independence from foreign rule had been declared at Kawit, Cavite on 12 June 1898 by Emilio F, Aguinaldo, but the United States not only disdained to recognize the new nation’s independence, it went further by conquering the infant republic and imposing its own rule.

      The Americans, however, tried to ameliorate the Filipino bitterness of defeat by offering a policy of benevolent assimilation that would eventually bring them to an independent existence. The Americans explained to the antiimperialists back home that the Filipinos were not ready for independence but the United States would prepare them for independence. Thus, a policy of political tutelage was pursued wherein the Filipinos with inculcated in the art of democratic self-government. That tutelage culminated in the writing of a constitution for a Commonwealth government providing for full autonomy for ten years, to be followed by the final grant of independence ten years after the inauguration of the Commonwealth. Manuel Luis Quezon was inaugurated first president of Commonwealth and second President of the Philippines.

      The Japanese invasion that brought World War II to the Philippines interrupted the ten year preparatory period and the government had to go into exile in Washington, D.C. to avoid capture by the Japanese.  The Japanese Occupation started on New Year’s Day, 1942 and lasted more than three years. To win the loyalty of the Filipinos, the Japanese made a show of granting the Philippine independence and the Second Republic was born under the presidency of Jose P. Laurel, third president of the Philippines.  Eventually, the American liberation on 20 October 1944. In the United States, Manuel L. Quezon has died and was succeeded by Sergio Osmeña, fourth president of the Philippines. It was Osmeña who brought back to the Philippines the Commonwealth government and restored Commonwealth rule over the country.

      The tenth anniversary of the inauguration of the Commonwealth came on 15 November 1945 and according to the timetable under the Tydings-McDuffie Independence Act, the Philippines was to be granted independence on July 4 1946.elections were held on 23 April 1946 for a new president and vice president who would then become the first officials of the new republic that would be inaugurated.  Manuel L. Roxas won the election for president together with Elpidio Quirino, as vice president. Thus, Manuel A. Roxas became the third and last president of the Commonwealth, the first of the Third Republic and the fifth president of the Philippines.

The Presidency under the Constitution of 1935

      The Constitution of 1935, amended in 1940, provided for a presidential system of government copied from the United States constitution where the president is both the head of state and the head of government. Under this system, there are three separate equal branches of government-executive, legislative and judicial. The executive branch is headed by the president, the legislative by the Senate president and Speaker of the House, and the judiciary by the chief justice by the Supreme Court. Each branch is equal to the other and the constitution provides a system of checks and balances. The president has a four-year term and is eligible for reelection but cannot serve more than eight years.

      The president appoints all high officials but his appointments have to be approved by the Commission of Appointments composed of senators and representatives. the officials subject to confirmation by the Commission on Appointments include members of the cabinet, all diplomatic officials from the rank of consul and up, and all officials of the armed forces from the rank of colonel and up. He also approves all bills passed by the Congress before these can become law but the Congress can overcome a presidential veto by a two-thirds vote. On the other hand, all laws passed by Congress and approved by the president are subject to interpretation by’ the Supreme Court.

      The president is Commander-in-chief of all the armed forces, the army, the navy, and the air force; and the chief formulator of the policies and directions of the government, including its foreign relations.

MANUEL ACUNA ROXAS
28 May 1946 – 15 April 1948
First President of the Third Republic

      Manuel A. Roxas was born on New Year’s Day, 1892 in Capiz, Capiz (renamed Roxas City, in his honor), to Gerardo Roxas and Rosario Acuña, both belonging to prominent Visayan families. Manuel was the youngest of the two sons. His father, a brave man of liberal ideas, was killed brutally by the Guardia Civil, while Manuel was still in his mother’s womb. It was his maternal grandfather who helped his mother Rosario to raise him.

      The young Manuel was among the children of the revolutionary period who would start their education under the American regime and be indoctrinated in the American system of education. In fact, he learned his first ABC’s on the lap of a friendly American soldier, Private First Class George Shoena, the first American teacher in Capiz public school. Manuel finished his primary education at Capiz Elementary School in 1904. His grandfather then sent him to Hong Kong for a year of study at St. Joseph’s College, returning home in 1905. He then enrolled at the Manila High School (now Araullo High School), graduating with highest honors in 1909.

      In 1910 Roxas began his law studies at a private school started by the assistant solicitor general, Dr. George A. Malcolm, at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), which later became the College of Law of the University of the Philippines (D.P). at that time there were only two law schools, the University of Santo Tomas College of Law and the Escuela de Derecho de Manila, which were sectarian schools. The YMCA law school became the third law school, a nonsectarian school.

      In 1911 Roxas transferred to the newly organized D.P College of Law, got his law degree in 1913, graduating as valedictorian of his class. The same year, he passed the bar examinations, topping it with a grade of 92 percent.

      Impressed by his brilliant scholastic record, Chief Justice Cayetano Arellano recruited him to be his private secretary. This was Roxas’ first experience in government service. He taught law at the Philippine Law School and the National University from 1915 to 1916. After a year, he left the office of the chief justice to do private practice and joined the law firm of Juan Sumulong, one of the biggest law firms in the country. Sumulong was one of the best lawyers of the Philippines.

      Roxas returned to Capiz in 1917 when his maternal grandfather died. He accepted an appointment as municipal councilor in his hometown to fill the unexpired term of one who had died. This started him on a political career. The experience he gained in the Sumulong law firm made him one of the best lawyers in Capiz. Two years later, he won handily when he ran for governor of Capiz against an uncle, a powerful and seasoned political veteran. Roxas was only twenty-seven years old then. He gained national prominence when he was elected presiding officer of the provincial governors’ convention, then the youngest among thirty-nine provincial governors elected two years before. The convention, held in Manila, coincided with the Manila Carnival, a big annual social event. It was there where he met his future wife, the former Trinidad de Leon, the 1920 Carnival Queen and daughter of the wealth Sen. Ceferino de Leon of Bulacan.

      In 1922, when the Nacionalista Party was divided between the Quezon-led Colectivistas and the Osmeña-led Unipersonalistas, Roxas sided with Quezon. He ran as the Colectivista candidate congressman in Capiz’s first district and easily won by a large majority. He caught the attention of Quezon who helped him win the leadership of the House of Representatives as Speaker. At the same time, Quezon effectively displaced his rival, Sergio Osmeña, who had been Speaker from 1907 to 1922. Roxas was Speaker of the House from 1922 to 1933, when he himself would cross swords with Quezon on the issue of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act.

      As Speaker of the House, Roxas would lead or join several independence missions to America. His first mission as Speaker was 1923, which was dubbed the Special Mission of Speaker Roxas. During this trip, Roxas presented to Pres. Calvin Coolidge a resolution of the Philippine legislature asking for the recall of Gov.-Gen. Leonard Wood for the latter’s “reactionary and militaristic rule.” There were other Roxas-led missions in 1929, 1930, and 1931, the last one he co-chaired with Senate President Protempore Osmeña, and named the Os-Rox mission.” Yhe the 1929mission Roxas fought the Timberlake Bill which proposed to limit the amount of duty-free goods that the Philippines could export to the United States. This proposed law threatened the free entry of Philippine products into the U.S.

      The independence missions continued to press for immediate independence in public, but in private, some of the Filipino leaders expressed their reservations in view of the uncertain economic condition at the time. The Os-Rox independence mission of 1931-1933 finally secured the passage of an independence measure, the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act, from the U.S Congress on 17 January 1933. I provided for the recognition of Philippine independence after a preparatory period of ten years. Roxas and Osmeña were accorded a hero’s welcome upon their return to the Philippines.

      But Senate president Manuel L. Quezon opposed the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act when it was submitted to the Philippine legislature for approval on the grounds that it had several defects which would impair Philippine sovereignty. The measure gave the high commissioner broad powers, and the provision for military, naval, and for other reservations was unconstitutional. Moreover, it had an objectionable and offensive immigration clause and the provisions on RP-U.S trade relations would be disadvantageous to the Philippines. Some doubted the basis for Quezon’s objection, believing that Quezon was merely afraid for the loss of his national leadership since approval of the measure would confer on Osmeña, his long-time rival, prestige and fame for finally achieving what they had long worked for, namely, the passage of an independence law.

      The Philippine Legislature rejected the H-H-C Act on 17 October 1933.it was submitted to the Filipino electorate in a plebiscite that divided the Nacionalista Party and the people into the “Pros” who favored it, and the “Antis” who opposed it Osmeña and Roxas parted ways with Quezon. The “Antis” led by Quezon won. This was the first setback in Roxas’ Political career. Quezon proceeded to deprive Roxas of the leadership of the House, and Quintin Paredes replaced him as the Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1933. Quezon had to go back to the United States to work for a supposedly better independence law. He brought back the Tydings-McDuffie Act, which was hardly any better than the H-H-C Act. It had exactly the same provisions, except that it provided for the negotiation of the military and naval bases after the grant of independence.

      Roxas’ political star, however, could not be easily dimmed. In 1934, when the Constitutional Convention was convened to draft the 1935 Constitution, Roxas was elected delegate of Capiz. He played a significant role in the drafting of the constitution. He was a member of the Committee on Sponsorship and Legislative Power and Mandatory Provisions. He was also chosen one of the seven members of the Special Committee on Style by Claro M. Recto, president of the convention.

      In 1939 Roxas was appointed secretary of finance of the Commonwealth government. It was in this capacity that Roxas first demonstrated his exceptional ability in economics. He formulated a program of measures aimed to strengthen the “Philippine economy had not World War II interrupted its implementation. Among these measures were the organization of the National Economic Council, the National Rice and Corn Corporation. The Mindanao Land Resettlement Project, and the National Relief Board chaired by himself.

      In 1941 he resigned to run for the Senate and won in the second national elections held 18 November 1941. But the outbreak of the Second World War did not allow him to assume office. With the war in progress, Roxas joined the Philippine army with the rank of major. He was assigned liaison officer between Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the Philippine Army Forces. In 1942 he succeeded in delivering food to the beleaguered soldiers in Bataan and Corregidor. For this feat, General MacArthur promoted him to the rank of colonel.

      Roxas was then assigned to the staff of General MacArthur in Corregidor. When President Quezon, his family, and his war cabinet left Corregidor for the United States, via the Visayan, Roxas remained in Corregidor to assist Gen. Jonathan Wainwright.

      General Wainwright deployed him to the South where he took charge of the military forces in Visayas and Mindanao and was promoted to the rank of brigadier general by Wainwright. After the fall of Corregidor in May 1942, Roxas and Staff were captured by the Japanese in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. The Japanese military authorities tried but failed to get Roxas to collaborate with them. Gen. Yoshido Hayashi, director of the Japanese Military Administration, ordered Roxas to be shot. But Col. Nobuhiko Jimbo, chief of staff of the Mindanao Command, ignored Hayashi’s order, flew to Manila, and persuaded Gen. Masaharu Homma, commander-in-chief of the Japanese Imperial Forces, and Gen. Takasi Wachi, right-hand man of General Homma, to rescind the order of execution. Roxas’ life was thus spared. On 22 November 1942 Roxas arrived in Manila from Malaybalay. Colonel Jimbo brought him to his house on Taft Avenue, Manila where he was tearfully welcomed by his family. Roxas was in extremely poor physical shape, suffering from incipient tuberculosis and an enlargement of the aorta.
     
      When the Japanese government offered the Philippines its independence, Jose P. Laurel who headed the Preparatory Commission for the Philippine Independence conscripted Roxas to join the commission and help draft the constitution of the Second Philippine Republic. Roxas tried to avoid serving formally in the Japanese-sponsored puppet government by not accepting any cabinet appointment. However, in April 1944, he became chairman of the Economic Planning Board and later, secretary without portfolio in Laurel’s cabinet. He was placed in charge of the Bigasang Bayan (BIBA) which took charge of procuring and distributing rice in the country. This position enabled Roxas to communicate secretly with guerillas all over the country.
     
      On 22 December 1944 the Japanese military evacuated from Manila to Baguio all the officials of the Laurel cabinet of the Second Philippine Republic. As American forces proceeded to liberate Luzon these officials were taken to Tokyo, via Formosa. Roxas managed to escape being taken to Tokyo, with help of the Northern Luzon guerillas who succeeded in bringing him to La Union to the headquarters of General Clarkson, later transferred to Gen. Walter Krueger’s headquarters in San Fernando, Pampanga. Upon arrival there, Roxas placed a phone call to the headquarters f General MacArthur in Manila. MacArthur cleared him of collaboration charges, and ordered Roxas’ release upon his personal guaranty, on the ground that Roxas had been in touch with him during the war through guerilla communications. MacArthur also restored Roxas’ rank of brigadier general.
     
      When the commonwealth government was restored, President Osmeña reconvened Congress in June 1945, whose members had been elected in November 1941. At its inaugural session on June 1945, Roxas was elected Senate president and Jose Zulueta Speaker of the House.
     
      The last Commonwealth elections were held on 23 April 1946. Roxas broke away from the Nacionalista Party and together with other young politicians formed the Liberal Parry. He ran for president with Sen. Elpidio Quirino as vice president against reelectionist Pres. Sergio Osmeña and Sen. Eulogio B. Rodriguez. Roxas won with a small lead of some 200,000 votes. On 28 May 1946 Roxas was sworn in as the last president of the commonwealth government.
     
      Five weeks later, on the morning of 4 July 1946, Philippine independence was finally recognized by the United States in a moving ceremony at the Luneta. After an invocation delivered by the Rt. Revd. Robert F. Wilmer and congratulatory messages by Sen. Milliard E. Tydings and Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the Proclamation of the Recognition of the Philippine Independence of Pres. Harry S. Truman was read by the Honorable Paul V. McNutt, the last American High Commissioner and first American ambassador to the Philippines. Church bells were rung and salvos of guns reverberated in the air, as the American flag was lowered at past nine in the morning to the tune of the American national hymn, while the Philippine flag was raised accompanied by the Philippine national anthem to fly alone at last for the for the first time in many years. Midway, the two flags met and touched each other as in a salute. On hand to witness the occasion was a delegation from Congress headed by Sen. Milliard E. Tydings, author of the independence act, and Rep. Jasper Bell, author of the Philippine Trade Act, together with former Gov.-Gen. Francis Burton Harrison, who had championed the Filipinization of the government during the American regime. The oaths of office were then administered, first to Vice Pres. Elpidio Quirino then to Pres. Manuel A. Roxas by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Manuel Moran.
     
      Recognition of Philippine independence by the United States was immediately followed by President Roxas’ signing of a treaty of peace and friendship with the United States, and recognition from all states of the free world and members of the United Nations.
     
      As the first president of the new republic, it was the monumental task of President Roxas to set out the guidelines and directions the country would follow both in its domestic and external affairs not only for the present but also for the future.
     
      A very young nation just born out of the ashes of war, the country was indeed faced with many problems. Rehabilitation of the country from World War II had to be the priority. An almost empty treasury, ruined farms and industries, a capital city almost totally razed to the ground, were among its many problems. Recovery and rehabilitation of agriculture, trade, and industry had to be accomplished before taxes could be collected. The basic needs of the people had to met, schools reopened, health centers reestablished, and homes rebuilt.
     
      One of the concrete steps Roxas took to rehabilitate the economy was the establishment of the Rehabilitation Finance Corporation capitalized at 300 million pesos to jumpstart the economy. The United States passed the War Damage Act which compensated the Philippine government for public buildings destroyed and private corporations which had suffered losses in the war. Individual claims of less than 500 dollars were also honored and recognized guerillas were compensated. To help rehabilitate the economy, the United States left behind in the Philippines all its war surplus material which amounted to two billion dollars. Unfortunately, much of this was lost to graft and corruption, enriching the pockets of a few enterprising but unscrupulous individuals.
       An important economic blueprint for the economy was a five-year plan which envisioned the establishment of at least five industrial centers all over the country, one in Northern Luzon, two in the Visayas, and two in Mindanao. But Roxas died too soon to carry out this plan.
     
      Conscious of the problem of national security, the Philippine entered into negotiations with the United States. The Roxas administration started the so-called special relations with the United States, which covered among other things, the grant of a number of military and naval bases, notably Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base, in exchange for military aid; the Bell Trade Act which allowed Philippine exports to the United States duty-free over a certain period, particularly, sugar, coconut products, abaca and tobacco, and certain handicraft products: and panty rights which granted equal rights to American citizens in the exploitation of Philippine natural resources. The last one needed an amendment to the Philippine constitution, to accomplish. The Philippine Congress, dominated by the Liberal Party, however, prevented the seating of highly nationalistic congressmen who could have prevented its passage.  This had unfortunate consequences. The unseated congressmen, among them Luis Taruc and Jesus Lava, went underground and started the long running communist-inspired rebellion that has administration’s special relations policy which made the country dependent on the United States until another generation of leaders threw out the American bases.
     
      In the field of agrarian reform, Roxas initiated the Tenancy Act, passed by the Congress which gave tenants access to justice through the Philippine courts while it did not emancipate the tenants from their bondage to the soil, it was a beginning in social reform.
     
      In the field of foreign relations. President Roxas enunciated the country’s foreign policy as one of firm adherence to the ideals of the United Nations, solid support for collective security, world guarantees of noninterference in the internal affairs of free peoples, world cooperation for the protection and promotion of all the individual freedoms, including freedom of expression and freedom from want, and of world cooperation to abolish trade barriers and discriminatory trade practices.
     
      Roxas was branded by his enemies as an American puppet because he followed the American line in dealing with world issues. One of these instances was when the Palestine issue came up in the United Nations. At first the Philippines was for voting against the division of Palestine to give way for the creation of the State of Israel. The Philippines has to reverse its stand for the sake of national interest. Philippine Ambassador Miguel Elizalde reported that the U.S Congress threatened to cut off aid to the Philippines if it did not follow the American position.      Roxas was also known as the nemesis of the communists in the Philippines. Early in his administration, the Communist Party was outlawed as a legitimate political party.
     
      Just as important as political freedom is economic independence. President Roxas had an economic blueprint to follow but he did not live to carry it through. On a visit to Clark Air Base on 15 April 1948, he succumbed to a heart attack. He left behind his wife, Trinidad de Leon Roxas, and two children, Gerardo, who later became a senator, and Rosario (Ruby). He was fifty-six years old.


ELPIDIO RIVERA QUIRINO
15 April 1948 – 30 December 1953
Second President of the Third Republic

      The death of Pres. Manuel A. Roxas brought the vice president, Elpidio Quirino, to the helm of the ship of state. Coming from Ilocos Sur, in the North, Quirino was chosen as Roxas’ running mate in the April 1946 elections to give the ticket balance as Roxas came from Capiz in the Visayas. It was the conventional wisdom at the time that the presidential and vice presidential candidates must come from the North and the South.

      On his ascent to the presidency, Quirino brought with him a wealth of experience in public service, having been a cabinet member, a senator, and a representative from his district during the previous regimes.

The Life and Times of Elpidio Quirino

      The first president of the Third Republic had been a Visayan; the second president was an Ilocano born in the last decade of the nineteenth century, on 16 November 1890, in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. The second son of the three children, his father, Mariano Quirino, was the provincial jail warden, and his mother, Gregoria Rivera, a barrio school teacher. His father, a native of Cagayan, Ilocos Sur, had been a sergeant in the Spanish army. His mother, a native of Agoo, LA Union, was a pretty Colegiala at the Colegio de Santa Rosa of Manila when she met Mariano.

      Young Elpidio first learned the alphabet from his parents. Early in his childhood, the family moved to LA Union, his mother’s home province, and he was enrolled in a private school to study Spanish grammar. He began his primary schooling at the Aringay Elementary School and completed it at the capital, San Fernando. In 1904 the family returned to Vigan and Elpidio started his secondary schooling at the Ilocos Sur High School. While still a high school student, Elpidio became a barrio schoolmaster in Caoayan, Ilocos Sur and earned the princely sum of twelve pesos. Elpidio displayed an artistic bent in high school, making sketches of Filipino heroes and winning prizes for them, one of Juan Luna and another of Jose Rizal during a Rizal Day celebration. This talent, honored further after studying painting during his spare time at a Vigan private school, would prove useful to him later in his struggle in the big city.

      Realizing there were more opportunities in the nation’s capital, he went to Manila in 1908. He finished his secondary education at the Manila High School, whose campus then was in Intramuros, graduating in 1911 at the age of twenty. To meet his school expenses, he did sketches and illustrations for some publications and worked as a clerk at the Manila Police Department.  While still a working student, he took the first grade civil service examinations, passed it, became a civil service eligible, and was appointed property clerk at the Manila Police Department. At the Manila High School, he distinguished himself as captain of the debating team which rivaled another debating club led by Jose P. Laurel.

      At the University of the Philippines College of Law, he again excelled as an orator, winning second prize for his oration on “The Advent of an Island Nation.” In March 1915 he finished his law course and passed the bar examinations the same year. He then worked as a legal clerk in the Philippine Commission until 1916, when that body was abolished to give way to the bicameral Philippine legislature. Quirino move to the Senate, and became the private secretary of Senate President Manuel L. Quezon. In that capacity, he accompanied Quezon in the latter’s independence missions to the United States.

      In 1919 Quirino ran for a seat in his congressional district of Ilocos Sur, staging a political upset over a wealthy and veteran politician. This started his political career. Senate President Quezon was among the first to congratulate him, and the one who chose him to represent the Philippines in the International Bar Conference held in Peking (now Beijing) in 1921.

      On 16 January 1921 Quirino married Alicia Syquia, a scion of the wealthy Syquia clan of Vigan, The marriage was blessed with five children: Tommy, Armando, Norma, Victoria and Fe Angela.

      Quirino’s political career had a series of ups and downs. In the Nacionalista Party split of 1922, he ran for the Senate under the banner of the Quezon Colectivista faction and lost to Isabelo de los Reyes. However, in 1925, he ran for the same position and won, becoming a senator at the young age of thirty-five. In 1931 he was reelected for another term of six years. When the constitutional convention was called in 1934, he ran as delegate to represent his district of Ilocos Sur and won.  He joined Jose P. Laurel, Manuel Roxas, Norberto Romualdez, Conrado Benitez, Miguel Cuademo, and other distinguished members of the convention. Despite this feat, he was defeated by Benito Soliven, a political unknown, in the congressional elections of 1938 when Quezon backed Quirino’s opponent. Quezon had suspected him of seeking the congressional seat with a view of running for speakership of the lower house in order to contest his leadership. Quirino was humiliated by this defeat and the lesson was not lost on others who might challenge Quezon.

      Quezon, however, recognized Quirino’s exceptional ability as an economist and appointed him as secretary of finance in the Commonwealth government. Later, when Manuel L. Roxas was appointed finance secretary, Quirino was appointed interior secretary. During his term as interior secretary, thickly populated and progressive towns like Cebu, Davao, Zamboanga, Bacolod, and Iloilo were converted into chartered cities. This increased Quezon’s direct control over local politics whose mayors and councilors became executive appointees.

      In the elections of 1941 Quirino, like Roxas, was one of the twenty-four senators elected, winning him a third term but the outbreak of the Second World War prevented him and the others from assuming office. When Congress was reconvened by President Osmeña in June 1945, Quirino assumed his seat and was elected Senate president pro-tempore.

      During the Japanese Occupation, Quirino was imprisoned for two weeks at Fort Santiago. He was one of the few national politicians not drafted to serve the Japanese government in the Philippines. In 1945 he suffered a great personal loss, losing almost his whole family during the Battle for Manila on 9 February 1945. The family lived in Ermita, Manila, scene of one of the fiercest battles of the war. Caught between American shells and Japanese machine guns, he lost his wife, three of his five children, his mother-in-law, and a brother. Quirino personally carried the dead bodies of his family across the Estero de Paco, back and forth to the cemetery, where he single-handedly dug a grave for each of them. 15 After this tragedy, he never spoke of it to anyone. He never remarried. When he became president, his only surviving daughter, Victoria (Vicky) served as his official hostess.

      Quirino joined the Liberia Party formed by Roxas for the national elections of April 1946. His being Senate president pro-tempore and coming from the North, made him the logical choice as the running mate of Manuel A. Roxas. The Liberal Party ticket of Roxas and Quirino won over the Osmeña and Rodriguez Nacionalista pair. On 28 May 1946 he was inducted as last Vice president of the Commonwealth. Roxas appointed him secretary of finance. When the Third Philippine Republic was inaugurated on 4 July 1946, Vice President Quirino was appointed to the premier post of secretary of foreign affairs. It was Quirino who organized the new Department of Foreign Affairs and established the requisite embassies and consulates abroad.

      Quirino assumed the presidency upon the death of Pres. Manuel A. Roxas on 15 April 1948 to finish the term of Roxas. In November 1949 he ran for the presidency against Jose P. Laurel, the Nacionalista candidate, and was elected president his own right. The election was marked by charges of fraud and terrorism, and Laurel refused to concede his victory. However, Quirino was inaugurated on 30 December 1949, without incident, as the second president of the Third Republic.

      Quirino made it a precedent for new presidents to be inaugurated at high noon and at the grandstand directly facing the Rizal Monument. The grandstand has seen been named the Quirino Grandstand. Some 150,000 Filipinos attended the ceremonies. After taking his oath of office before Chief Justice Manuel Moran, Quirino delivered his inaugural address.
      Ever the gentleman, Quirino had a reserved personality who remained humble, but well dressed and dignified all the time. In 1953 he ran for a second term but was defeated by the highly charismatic Ramon Magsaysay, his own secretary of national defense, who had been recruited by the Nacionalistas to defeat the Liberal Party ticket. As a result, the Nacionalistas came back to power.

      Elpidio Quirino retired to his country home in Novaliches, Quezon City. In May 1955 he visited Japan to convalesce and was warmly received by the Japanese wherever he went. The Japanese were grateful for his magnanimity. Although he had lost his family during the war, he granted amnesty to the Japanese prisoners of war who had been convicted of war crimes and imprisoned at Muntinlupa. On 28 February 1956, three years after he left Malacañang, he died for a heart attack at the age of sixty-five. He was survived by his son. Tommy, daughter Victoria, and his brothers Eliseo and Antonio.

The Quirino Presidency

      As the second president of barely two-year old republic, it was Quirino’s task to continue rebuilding the country devastated by war, guiding its development to become an economically strong nation. Like Roxas, he firmly believed that political independence was meaningless unless economic stability was achieved. Quirino’s economic program included the stabilization of the agricultural sector and the industrialization of the country. He launched an Economic Mobilization Program and started the drive to industrialize the Philippines. Several industries were established in the countryside which created job opportunities for Filipinos.

      An important step was setting up the Central Bank of the Philippines on 15 June 1949 to stabilize Philippine currency. In the field of agriculture, Quirino developed and expanded irrigation systems to help farmers increase production, and built farm-to-market roads to help farmers bring their product to market. In the field of labor relations, he signed the Magna Carta of Labor and the Minimum Wage Law.

      Quirino is regarded as the Father of the Foreign Service for as the first secretary of foreign affairs, he was responsible for the establishment, development, and growth of the foreign service. Negotiations between the United States and the Philippines on a mutual defense treaty were concluded and signed during his tenure. The first successful regional conference of Asian countries was held in Manila, participated in by Thailand, South Korea, Nationalist China, India, Indonesia, and Australia, to discuss a united effort to stem the growing tide of communism in Asia. He proposed a Pacific Charter similar to the Atlantic Charter but this was not to prosper until a later period.

      Unfortunately, the Hukbalahap rebellion in Central Luzon grew to such proportions that the Huks succeeded in killing President Quezon’s widow and her daughter Maria Aurora in an ambush staged in Baler, Tayabas on 28 April 1949.

      The rebels threatened to overrun Manila. To Quirino’s credit, he chose to appoint Ramon Magsaysay as his national secretary who was able to lick the rebellion.

      Quirino was much maligned in his lifetime by his political enemies because of the graft and corruption allegedly committed by his friends. The bitter political rivalry between the Liberal and Nacionalista Parties was fed by the war surplus scandals that enriched a few whose proceeds should have gone to the coffers of government. His reserved and aloof personality may also have contributed to his unpopularity. He did not possess the dynamism and charismatic personality of Roxas or of Magsaysay which made people think he was aristocratic, a characteristic that does not sit well with the masses. Today after the passage of several decades, a reassessment of his administration shows that the country did gain and strengthen its economy during his watch and he is now adjudged one of the best presidents the country has ever had.
RAMON DEL FIERRO MAGSAYSAY
30 December 1953 – 17 March 1957
Third President of the Third Republic

      The best loved and most popular of the presidents was Ramon Magsaysay. The man who defeated Elpidio Quirino in the November 1953 national elections was the very opposite of his opponent. While Quirino epitomized the gentleman of the old school, of breeding and culture, Ramon Magsaysay was burly blunt young man who preferred action to words. Probably this explains why the masses identified with him. He was given such appellations as Champion of the Masses, Champion of Democracy, and the People’s President. Tall and athletic, with a commanding personality, Magsaysay exuded charisma. He was also known simply as the “Guy” and a popular slogan during his term was “Magsaysay is my guy.” His administration was identified with the credo that “those who have less in life should have more in law.”

Magsaysay, the Man

      Ramon Magsaysay may have been called a “Man of the Masses” but he was not born of the masses. He belonged more properly to a middle class family. Born in Iba, Zambales on 31 August 1907 to Perfecta del Fierro and Exequiel Magsaysay, both propertied families in Castillejos, Zambales, Ramon Magsaysay was one of eight children. When he was ten years old, the family moved to Castillejos, a nearby town, after his father, a teacher in trade school, has a disagreement with his superintendent. His father built a blacksmith shop while his mother opened a small grocery store to provide the family an honest and stable means of livelihood. All the children helped in running the store and the blacksmith shop, and were imbued with the virtues of honesty and hard work. Ramon finished his secondary schooling at the Zambales Academy, graduating salutatorian interested in technology, he enrolled at the University of the Philippines College of Engineering. But being a working student in an engineering course at U.P was rather difficult. He transferred to Jose Rizal College where he acquired a bachelor’s degree in commerce in 1932.

      After graduation, he was promoted to a supervisory position at the Try-Tran Company, a transportation enterprise owned by Teodoro R. Yangco, a well-known Filipino philanthropist. Later he became the branch manager of the company’s office in Zambales. His skill in business management coupled with his industry saved the Try-Tran branch from bankruptcy, turning it around into one of the most flourishing transportation companies in the region.

      It was as branch manager of the Try-Tran Company that he met the winsome colegiala, Luz Banzon, who dropped in one day to collect the payment for the sale of her family’s transportation business to Try-Tran. Luz belonged to the prominent Banzon family of Bataan, a nearby province of Zambales. After a whirlwind courtship, Luz and Ramon were married on 11 July 1933. She was only eighteen years old while Ramon was twenty-six, but already, they were able to start a financially stable family life in their own home in Singalong, Manila.

      When the war broke out in 1941, Magsaysay immediately volunteered to serve in the Philippine army, after turning over the company’s buses to the United States army to help in the war effort. When Bataan and Corregidor surrendered to the Japanese in 1942, Magsaysay joined the guerilla forces organized by American soldiers under the command of Col. Gyles Merill. His first assignment was to act as supply officer in charge of food and other personal needs of the soldiers who continued in fighting the Japanese. He was soon promoted to the rank of major because of his exemplary services. When General MacArthur landed at Zambales 1944, Major Magsaysay was assigned as his personal security officer. Because of his impressive service, MacArthur appointed him military governor of Zambales.

      When civilian government was restored, and elections held in 1946, Magsaysay was urges by his provincemates to run for Congress. He was elected by a landslide margin and that political victory started his brilliant career in politics. From 1948 to 1951, Magsaysay was consistently voted as one of the ten most outstanding legislators of the year by the Congressional Press Club. As a member of the Philippine Congress, he dedicated himself to helping the masses, especially the war veterans, in securing not only their hospitalization and burial benefits but also their monthly pensions. Impressed by Magsaysay’s record in Congress, President Roxas sent his personal envoy, Magsaysay, to follow up on the Roger’s Veterans Bill in the U.S Congress which provided for the free hospitalization and burial expenses of the veterans of World War II. His success resulted in the construction of the Veterans Memorial Hospital in Quezon City, and the granting of financial assistance to thousands of Filipino veterans of World War II.

      In 1950 Quirino plucked Magsaysay from Congress to be his secretary of national defense. He demonstrated his exceptional ability in running the military. Having been a guerilla fighter himself during the Japanese Occupation, he knew exactly the kind of tactics guerillas used and so defeated them at their own game. His motto was, “locate them, finish them.” His success in putting down the Huk rebellion, securing the surrender of many of the Huk leaders, including Luis Taruc, made him well known and very popular. He saw to the conduct of the 1951 by-elections which was kept clean and orderly in contrast to the 1949 elections, which was reportedly characterized by the use of guns, goons, and gold.

      The Nacionalista leaders saw a chance of getting back to power by capitalizing on Magsaysay’s popularity. They decided to invite him into the Nacionalista Party and offered him the Nacionalista nomination for president in the elections of 1953. Chosen as his running mate was Sen. Carlos P. Garcia from Bohol, Magsaysay ran a novel campaign. Heretofore, candidates for president spoke only at political rallies conducted in certain large centers of population, and largely depended on their political leaders in the provinces to conduct the campaign and bring in the vote. But Magsaysay did not depend on the Nacionalista leaders in the provinces. He saw to the campaign himself, visiting almost every nook and cranny of the land by jeep, banca or whatever transport available, meeting as many people as he could, shaking hands, eating with the barrio folk, sleeping wherever night found him, thus endearing him more to the people. Raul Manglapus composed a catchy campaign tune, “Mambo, mambo Magsaysay” that further popularized him. The conduct of politics was revolutionized and hereafter, candidates would have to barnstorm throughout the land, meet the people personally in order to win. Quirino who rarely left Malacañang because he was ailing with gout, was badly defeated. Magsaysay obtained a vote of 2,912,992 over Quirino’s vote 1,315,991 or a majority of over a million and a half votes.

The Magsaysay presidency

      Ramon F. Magsaysay was inaugurated the third president of the Third Republic on 30 December 1953. This was the first constitutional transfer of power from one administration to another and it set some precedents. That morning, the president elect went to Malacañang to pick up Pres. Elpidio Quirino who escorted him to the Luneta Grandstand. The two presidents parted at the grandstand. Quirino did not stay for the inaugural ceremony and immediately left for his home in the suburbs.

      Magsaysay set a new trend in presidential inaugural affairs. He came in an embroidered jusi barong tagalog and gray striped pants, instead of the formal cutaway western suit favored by Manuel L. Quezon and his successors. Mrs. Luz Banzon Magsaysay wore a jusi Filipina dress with embroidered patters. Ramon Magsaysay, then forty-six, took his oath to office before Chief Justice Ricardo Paras, his left hand resting on two red Bibles on the rostrum. He delivered a brief eight-page speech, after which he proceeded to Malacañang, which he literally opened to the people in fulfillment of a campaign pledge. At the reception which followed in Malacañang, native basi (Ilocano wine) was served instead of western wines. There were fireworks and an inaugural concert at the Luneta where the young Sylvia de la Torre performed as soloist. Magsaysay canceled the traditional ball at Malacañang to which only the elite were invited. Instead, a popular dance was held at Plaza Santa Cruz and at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.

      Magsaysay promoted positive nationalism. Top officials emulated his example of using the native attire for informal as well as formal affairs-the barong tagalog for men and the balintawak or mestiza dress for women. Basi was used at ceremonial occasions in Malacañang and the Filipino language used in state occasions. Magsaysay was conscious of making a place in history. He promoted historical research and became the first honorary president of the Philippine Historical Association, founded in September 1955.

      In 1954  a conference of Pacific powers was held in Manila to forge an agreement to stop the spread of communism in Asia. At that time, Vietnam was fighting for its independence and it was feared the countries of Southeast Asia would fall to communism like dominoes is dominoes if communist North Vietnam won over South Vietnam. The result was the organization of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) composed of eight nations: the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, France, Thailand, Pakistan, and the Philippines. With headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, the Philippines participated actively in SEATO activities.
     
      During the Magsaysay administration, the Reparations Agreement with Japan was signed on 9 May 1956. Under this agreement, which took several years of negotiation, Japan would pay reparations for the destruction she committed in the Philippines during the Second World War. Japan agreed to pay $550 million to be paid at the rate of $25 million a year for a period of ten years; the balance of $300 million to be paid in the following ten years.

      Cash payments up to $20 million for Filipino war widows and orphans were to be deducted from the total value of the Japanese goods exported to the Philippines In the course of normal trade. An exchange of notes called for $250 million in private Japanese loans to be extended for Philippine economic development.

      This settlement with their World War II enemies satisfied the Filipinos. It was a brilliant achievement for the Magsaysay administration but one for which it got very little recognition. It paved the way for a new and happier era in RP-Japan relations. The agreement was also meant to contribute to Philippine reconstruction.
     
      True’ to his promise of being a man of the masses, the people were invited to come to Malacañang freely without need an appointment. An action center was inaugurated, to which anyone could send a telegram free to the president with any complaint.
     
      The Magsaysay administration is remembered for checking the growth of the communist-inspired rebellion.
     
      On 17 May 1954 Luis Taruc, Hukbalahap supremo, surrendered to the government. The president had commissioned a young journalist to the Manila Times. Benigno Aquino, Jr., to negotiate for Taruc’s surrender. Ninoy “had promised Taruc that he would not have to surrender to the military, but to Magsaysay.” But the military seized Taruc from Aquino, his escort, on orders from President Magsaysay. The credit of Taruc’s capture went to the military rather than to Ninoy. Contrary to their agreement (Magsaysay and Aquino’s), the president made it appear that Taruc surrendered to the army. He doublecrossed Aquino on Taruc. Ninoy recalled to the Journalist Nick Joaquin: “He[Magsaysay] had violated all the terms of the agreement. He had agreed that the word surrender was not to be used but every goddam press release was using the word surrender. Only the Times headlined it as a ‘return to the government.”
      President Magsaysay apologized to Aquino for breaking their agreement on Taruc. He claimed that as a president, “he had higher obligations.” Taruc was taken to Camp Murphy, the army headquarters, and was interrogated intensively. He and President Magsaysay did not meet at all. In so doing, the president had placated the army and prevented Taruc from preaching his political views through the media. Meanwhile, Col. Manuel Cabal, brother-in-law of the First Lady, was promoted to the rank of general because he commanded the first military area (South of Mt. Arayat), the area where they snatched Taruc from Aquino.

      Taruc was brought to trial for rebellion complexed with murder, arson, robbery, and kidnapping. He was sentenced to twelve years in prison with a fine of P20, 000.00.

      Magsaysay was not only defeated the Huks but also provided those who surrendered to the government peacefully with farm lots and means of livelihood. A “Land for the Landless” policy was announced which aimed to resettle tenants in selected areas in Mindanao. They were resettled in Koronadal Valley, Cotabato and provided with initial capital. Magsaysay recognized that the roots of discontent lay in economic causes, hence his credo, “those who have less in life should have more in law.”

      Among the measures to ameliorate conditions in the rural areas, where the poor abound, was to provide health services where there were none, thus, the establishment of rural health centers in towns that had never seen a doctor. These rural health centers were staffed by a doctor of medicine, a nurse, a midwife and provided with a jeep and a driver. To attract young doctors to the rural areas, the doctors and nurses were paid better salaries than heretofore provided. Also set up were the following entities: The Agricultural Tenancy Commission, to look after tenancy-related disputes; the National Resettlement an Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA), a corporation to promote land settlement which replaced LASEDECO (discredited by corruption); the Community Development Planning Council, to improve rural living conditions; and the Agricultural Credit and Cooperative Financing Administration (ACCFA), a government agency (precursor to the Agricultural Credit Administration) whose function was to give loans to farmers; it helped them to market  their products and gave them warehousing facilities through their cooperatives.

      To oversee the development of the rural areas, a Presidential Assistance on Community Development (PACD) was created. Additional irrigation systems were constructed, modem agricultural methods were introduced, such as the Margate and Masagana systems which resulted in higher production of rice with new varieties. The Magsaysay administration also tried to carry out agrarian reforms with the passage of the Agricultural Tenancy Act which mandated the 70-30 sharing system of the produced. Although this did not eliminate tenancy, it at least increased the share of the tenant from the produce.

      Magsaysay announced a policy of honest government where no friends nor relatives could benefit from his connections with government. He promised he would send his own brother to jail if found committing graft. And Magsaysay was true to his pledge.

      Magsaysay was probably the only president who did not make a state visit to the United States. Unlike his predecessors, he postponed making an official or state visit to the United States, saying he had work to do at home. He would most probably have been easily reelected had he lived longer. Unfortunately, tragedy struck on 17 March 1957 when his plane, Mt. Pinatubo, crashed on a lonely hillside, Mt. Manungal, in Cebu. The plane, ironically piloted by the chief of the air force, himself, General Ebuen, failed to gain altitude and crashed, killing almost everyone on board, except one newspaper man, Nestor Mata. The country was plunged into grief. Vice President Garcia, who was in Australia attending a SEATO Conference as concurrent secretary of foreign affairs, had to return immediately.

      Magsaysay died a few months short of his fiftieth birthday. He left his wife, Luz Banzo Magsaysay, and three children; Ramon, Jr., Teresita, and Milagros. He was so scrupulously honest, even their meals in Malacañang were paid for out of his pocket. When he suddenly died, his family was left almost in dire straits. His record of sincere public service was recognized and admired by even foreign countries. To perpetuate his memory as an exemplary public servants, the Ford Foundation established a Magsaysay Awards Foundation which gives annual cash awards to individuals in Asia who have distinguished themselves in serving their respective communities, in their particular fields of expertise. The United States Post Office issued a commemorative stamp bearing Magsaysay’s picture with the words, “Freedom Fighter” for international usage.


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