Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Presidents of the Postwar Republic: Garcia and Macapagal

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

17 March 1957 – 30 December 1961
Fourth President of the Third Republic

      Vice President Carlos P. Garcia was immediately sworn into office as president of the republic upon his return to Manila 18 March 1957. He successfully finished the term of President Magsaysay and in the subsequent elections of 12 November 1957, he won as the standard bearer of the Nacionalista Party in one of the most hotly contested presidential elections in Philippine politics.

      There were five contending candidates for the presidency and four for the vice presidency in 1957. The Nacionalista ticket had Carlos P. Garcia and Jose B. Laurel; the Liberal Party had Jose Yulo for president and Diosdado Macapagal for vice president; a newly formed Progressive Party had Manuel P. Manahan for president and Vicente Araneta for vice president; another Nationalist Citizens Party paired Claro M. Recto and Lorenzo Tañada; and Antonio Quirino, brother of the late President Quirino, ran as a rebel candidate of the Liberal Party without a running mate. Carlos P. Garcia won with a plurality of 600, 000 votes over Jose B. Laurel, Jr., lost the vice presidential post to Diosdado Macapagal, the running mate of Yulo.

Garcia and his rise to power
      Carlos P. Garcia came from the Central Visayas, born on 4 November 1896 in Talibon. Bohol, with a political spoon in his mouth. His father, Policronio Garcia, married to Ambrosia Polistico served for dour terms as town mayor. Carlos’ grandparents, though, had been migrants from Bangued, Abra but Policronio proved to be a popular local executive. Carlos would inherit the political genes of his father and he would go even farther than his father ever did, rising from being a high school teacher to congressman, governor, then to senator, vice president, and finally to the presidency of his country.

      Like all the presidents before him, Garcia acquired his schooling in the public schools of Bohol and Cebu. His college education was spent as Siliman University and his law studies at the Philippine Law School, now the Philippine College of Criminology. He got his law degree in 1923, graduating valedictorian of his class, passing the bar the same year, placing among the top ten bar examinees. Garcia was popular speaker. Called the “Prince of Visayan Poets” or “Bard from Bohol,” he excelled in poetry, oratory, and debate. These were talents that no doubt helped him become a successful politician.

      He entered politics in 1925 after a two-year teaching stint at the Bohol provincial high school. He ran for congressman in the third district of Bohol and won an impressive victory. He represented his district ably in Congress and served as congressman until 1931. In the Nacionalista split over the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act, he sided with the “antis” of Quezon and swept Bohol. In 1931 he ran for governor of Bohol and was reelected thrice. In 1940 he ran for the Senate and was one of the twenty-four elected to the Senate. But the outbreak of the war prevented him and other national officials from assuming office.

      When Corregidor fell on 7 May 1942, the Japanese invaded Bohol and ordered all government officials to surrender. Garcia refused to surrender preferring to take to the hills and engaging in guerilla activities. The Japanese set a price on his head but he managed to escape by boat to Leyte. He had three narrow escapes but he managed to organize a civil government in Bohol. His guerillas activities came to the attention of President Quezon in Washington and was commended for his work. He was appointed special adviser to all guerilla units in the Philippines, through a letter sent through Commander Chick Parsons, MacArthur’s liaison officer with the guerillas.

      When Congress was convened in 1945, Carlos P. Garcia was one of the senators who sponsored legislation on rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country. He went to Washington to press the U.S Congress to pass the Philippine Rehabilitation and War Damage Claims measures. He was also a delegate to the World Conference in San Francisco which drafted the United Nations Charter.

      When national elections were held on 23 April 1946, Garcia stuck to Osmeña, running for the Senate under the Nacionalista banner. He remained a Nacionalisathroughout his political career, serving as Senator until 1952.

      In the Nacionalista Party convention of 1952, he was picked as the party’s candidate for vice president, running mate of Ramon Magsaysay, formerly a Liberal Party man who became the Nacionalista guest candidate for president. The Nacionalista ticket won the ruling Liberals headed by Elpidio Quirino.

      In the Magsaysay administration, Vice President Garcia headed the Department of Foreign Affairs and in the capacity, represented the country at international conferences, such as the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference in Dublin, Ireland, 1950; Geneva Conference for Korean Unification, 1954; SEATO Conference in Manila, 1954, which produced the Manila Treaty and the Pacific Charter; and the SEATO Conference in Pakistan, 1956, and in Canberra, Australia, 1957. It was while attending the last conference that he received word of Magsaysay’s untimely demise.
      Garcia was a difference from Magsaysay as Magsaysay had been different from Quirino. He was already sixty years old when he succeeded the young, colorful, restless Magsaysay. While Magsaysay was a spontaneous theatrical political innocent, Garcia was a cautious, patient, veteran politician, slow, calm, and deliberate. While Magsaysay rose like a political meteor, Garcia’s rise was a step-by-step climb from congressman to governor to senator to vice president and finally the presidency.
      Garcia completed the remaining nine months of Magsaysay’s term of office and ran for his own four-year term as president in 12 November of that year. He won, but as already recounted, his running mate lost to Diosdado Macapagal. This was the first time a split ticket won, where the Filipinos elected a president and a vice president from opposing parties.
      The Garcia administration is remembered for his “Filipino First” policy, to give priority to Filipinos in the conduct of business. “Buy Filipino” was a popular slogan to encourage domestic production and trade. In an effort to conserve foreign exchange for capital goods to carry out the industrialization of the country, controls on the exchange of foreign currency was imposed. The policy was laudable in its aims but it led to charges of graft and corruption in the sale of foreign exchange. President Garcia himself was an honest and frugal person but some officials he appointed, particularly those of government corporations, were charged with milking their positions. The Liberal Party made capital out of these charges and President Garcia suffered his first political defeat when he ran for reelection for 1961.because his vice president belonged to another political party, Garcia did not appoint him to any cabinet portfolio. On hindsight, this proved counterproductive. Diosdado Macapagal was left free to campaign for the presidency all four years of his vice presidential term.
      It was Carlos P. Garcia’s boast that he had never accepted an appointive position in government, but had been elected to every position he held. Indeed, he won all his electoral contests, except the reelection to the presidency. His last elective position was that of delegate from Bohol’s first district to the 1971 Constitutional Convention. To cap his career, he was elected president on constitutional convention on 11 June 1971, he died for a heart attack. He was seventy-four years old. He was survived by his wife, Leonila (Inday) Dimataga Garcia, and an only daughter, Linda Garcia Campos. Garcia was continuously in politics for thirty-two years from 1925 to 1941 and from 1945 to 1961.
      Carlos P. Garcia was the first president to revive Philippine culture through the arts. He encouraged the Bayanihan Dance Troupe and other Philippine folk dance teams to popularize our native dances and costumes here and abroad. He encouraged historians to conduct researches here and abroad by awarding subsidies to deserving scholars. He fostered the true Christian spirit by protecting human rights, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and above all, he was fair-minded and non-vindictive in dealing with political opponents. He encouraged Filipino participation in business and world trade using the ”Filipino First” policy as a guideline. Finally, he spread international goodwill and friendship through his state visits to Japan, the United States, South Vietnam, and Malaysia.

30 December 1961 – 30 December 1965
Fifth President of the Third Republic

      Styling himself as the “Poor Boy from Lubao” to promote a man of the masses image. Diosdado P. Macapagal made capital of his humble origins during his campaign for the presidency in 1961. He was born on 28 September 1910 to Urbano Macapagal, a tenant farmer, and Romana Pangan, a farmer’s daughter. But his father had uncommon talents. He composed church music and wrote scripts for local dramatic performances in town fiestas. Unfortunately, this kind of talent hardly puts food on the table and Dadong, as he was called, knew the face of poverty. He had to help his mother support the family when his father abandoned them. But Dadong rose above his humble beginnings through determination and hard work. He graduated valedictorian from the Lubao Elementary School and salutatorian from the Pampanga High School. Entering the University of the Philippines as a scholar in 1929, he enrolled in a pre-law course and obtained his associate in arts in 1932. His English professor at U.P., impressed by his superior intelligence and determination to get an education, recommended him to her husband, Mauro Mendez, editor of the Tribune, to employ him as a cub reporter. By a strange twist of fate, Mendez later became Macapagal’s student at the University of Santo Tomas where Macapagal taught law.
      In 1930 Macapagal passed the civil service exams and this enabled him to work as a clerk at the Bureau of Lands. He began his law studies at the Philippine Law School (now the Philippine College of Criminology) on a scholarship and became known for his skills in debate and oratory. Two years later, he transferred to the University of Santo Tomas (U.S.T), where he finished his law course, on a scholarship financed by Honorio Ventura, former interior secretary and a U.S.T alumnus.
      In 1935 Diosdado took the bar examinations and emerged the topnotcher with a grade of 89.95 percent. He was the second Thomasian to top the bar in the history of the U.S.T College of Law. The first to cop the honor was Justice Roberto Concepcion in 1924. Diosdado Macapagal went on to obtain a master of laws (1941) and doctor of civil law (1947), and a doctorate in economics (1957) from the U.S.T. his doctoral thesis was entitled “Economic Development of the Philippines.” In 1937 he joined the law firm of Rose, Lawrence, Selph and Carrascoso, a leading law firm in Manila. During the Japanese Occupation, he joined the guerillas under Lt. Col. Edwin P. Ramsey, serving as a lieutenant in the East Central Luzon Guerilla Area (ECLGA).
      After the liberation in 1946, he opened the Macapagal-Eusebio Law Office which evolved into the Diosdado Macapagal & Associates, with offices at Escolta. Having known what it was to be poor, he provided tree legal services to indigents. He gained a reputation among his fellow lawyers and was elected the first president of the Philippine Lawyers Association in 1947. Despite a busy law practice, he taught law both at San Beda College and the U.S.T Beginning as law instructor in 1941, he became an assistant professor in 1947 and a full professor of law at U.S.T in 1952.
      Macapagal rejoined the government service in 1946 when he was employed at the Department of Foreign Affairs as chief of the legal division. When Quirino assumed the presidency, upon the death of Roxas in 1948, he appointed Macapagal as the chief negotiator with the British government on the subject of Philippine sovereignty over the Turtle Islands. He successfully negotiated the transfer of the Turtle Islands from Britain to the Philippines and gave a fiery speech when he accepted the islands in behalf of his county and raised the Philippine flag there.

      Macapagal formally entered politics in 1949 when he ran to represent the third district of Pampanga in Congress under the Liberal Party. He won over Amado Yuson, the Nacionalista candidate, with a majority of more than 20, 000 votes. He won re-election in 1953. As a congressman, he wrote and sponsored several laws all benefiting the rural areas and the poor. Among these were the Minimum Wage Law, Rural Bank Law, Rural Health Law, Law on Barrio Councils, Barrio Industrialization Law, the law creating the Agricultural Cooperative Credit Financing administration (ACCFA), and the law nationalizing the rice and the corn business. Because of the social legislation, he sponsored, he came to be known as the “Champion of the Masses” or “Champion of the Common Man.”
      In the Second Congress, 1950- 1953, Macapagal was chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and as such, represented the country in the SEATO Conference (1950), the United Nations (UN) General Assembly (1950), the UN Sixth General Assembly in Paris (1951), and the Japanese Peace Treaty in San Francisco (1951). He was also the member of the Laurel Economic Mission to the United States in 1954. During this period, he was consistently cited by the Congressional Press Club as among the ten outstanding congressmen. On his last term as Pampanga representative, he was chosen the best lawmaker.
      Because of his sterling record in Congress, he was chosen as the Liberal Party’s candidate for vice president in the 1957 national elections. He won but Jose Yulo, the party’s president candidate lost to the Nacionalista Carlos P. Garcia. The administration of Carlos P. Garcia chose not to give him any department to handle and Macapagal was left free to travel all over the archipelago, making himself known in all comers of the land while he pilloried the Garcia administration as a government of grafters. Not surprisingly, when he ran for president in 1961 challenging Carlos P. Garcia in his reelection bid, he won handily with a majority of 651, 626 votes.
      The Liberal Party nominating convention of 1961was a heated political contest that lasted a week. Candidates for the presidential nomination were Ferdinand Marcos, Diosdado Macapagal, and Emmanuel Pelaez. By teaming together for president and vice president, Macapagal and Pelaez won the nomination and went on to win the presidential and vice presidential contests.

The Macapagal Presidency

      Another constitutional transfer of power occurred on 30 December 1961. Diosdado Macapagal followed the precedent set by Magsaysay by going to the palace on the morning of 30 December to pick out the outgoing president who graciously offered the presidential chair for Macapagal to try on for size, and cameramen dutifully recorded the occasion. The two then proceeded to the Luneta but parted upon reaching the grandstand.

      Diosdado Macapagal took his oath of office as the fifth president of the Third Republic before Chief Justice Cesar Bengson. He followed in Magsaysay’s footsteps by wearing a barong and throwing open Malacañang palace to the public.
      Although the Liberal Party had captured the highest offices of the land, it did not have a majority in the House of Representatives. The Nacionalistas who had come back to power under Magsaysay and Garcia still dominated the Congress. Malacañang, however, is the source of pork barrel funds for no funds can be released without the approval of the president. Not surprisingly, many Nacionalista congressmen soon abandoned their party labels and switched over to the Liberal side. They were called “turncoats” by their critics but to Macapagal, they were patriots. This enabled the Liberal Party to regain full leadership of the government and for Macapagal to carry out his own p0rogram of government.

      President Macapagal launched a “New Era” program which included a five year socioeconomic program coupled with a moral regeneration policy. One of the first measures he took to stimulate the economy was to decontrol the sale of foreign exchange and to stabilize the peso against the American dollar. Under his administration, financing institutions such as the Philippine Veterans Bank was organized and the headquarters of the Asian Development Bank was established in Manila. To stimulate cottage industries, the National Cottage Industry Development Administration (NACIDA) was put in place.

      In the field of agriculture, the propagation of “miracle rice,” a variety developed by the International Rice Research Institute at Los Baños, was disseminated to increase rice production. The administration also tried to implement further a Land Reform Program to free the tenants from age-old bondage to the soil. For the urban poor in Manila, the administration initiated the instruction of tenement housing for the masses.

      In the field of foreign affairs, President Macapagal proposed the organization of the MAPHILINDO, an association promoting contacts between Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. This became the forerunner of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). He helped to promote the world peace by acting as mediator in setting the dispute between the United States and Cambodia, and between the Federation of Malaysia and Indonesia. A provocative step he took was to declare Philippine sovereignty over Sabah on 22 June 1962, on the grounds that ancients documents revealed that the sultanate of Sulu was the original owner of Sabah and that it had only been leased to a British company for an annual rental of five thousand dollars.

      President Macapagal promoted nationalism by supporting the propagation of Filipino as the national language and using it in our diplomatic credentials, passports, stamps, traffic signs, and names of typhoons. Another significant step he made that has since stimulated historical research and actively cultivated national feelings of patriotism and unity was instituting change in the date of the celebration of Philippine independence. The country had dutifully celebrated its independence day following the withdrawal of American sovereignty from the Philippines on 4 July 1946.

      On May 12 1962 President Macapagal signed a proclamation changing the independence celebration from 4 July to 12 June, the day in 1898 when Filipinos first declared their freedom from foreign rule. In doing so, Macapagal not only corrected a historical error but also did just to the known heroes and many nameless Filipinos who fought and died or suffered in the Revolution of 1896. President Macapagal hoped that the celebration of independence day on 12 June rather than 4 July “would be a greater inspiration to the youth who would consequently recall the heroes of the revolution against the Spain and their acts of sublime heroism and martyrdom, acts that compare favorably with the heroes of other nations.

      The first 12 June celebration of celebration of Independence Day was held in 1962. It was attended by almost a million people where previous independence day celebrations on 4 July had drawn only a few thousands. Congress passed Republic Act 4166 designating 12 June as Independence Day and 4 July as Republic Day. It was signed into law on 4 August 1964 in Malacañang witnessed by children of presidents including Carmen Melencio-Aguinaldo, Manuel Quezon, Jr., Maria Osmeña Charnley, Gerardo Roxas, Tomas Quirino, and Arturo and Diosdado Macapagal, Jr. since then, the country had celebrated its independence day on the twelfth of June.

              The Macapagal political career was, however, checked by the ascendancy of a more aggressive political personality in his own Liberal Party. Ferdinand Marcos who had lost the presidential nomination contest in 1961 wanted the presidential nomination in 1965. But since Macapagal was the incumbent president and therefore likely to run for reelection, Marcos managed to gain admittance into the Nacionalista Party and become its candidate for the presidency. Macapagal was defeated by Ferdinand Marcos in the elections of 1965.

      Macapagal retired to private life to write his memoirs and the other books. He was elected to the constitutional convention of 1971. When Carlos P. Garcia died, Macapagal was chosen to head the constitutional convention. During the martial law period, Macapagal actively opposed the regime and marched with cause-oriented groups to protest its abuses.

      Diosdado Macapagal died in 1997 and was survived by his wife, Evangelina Macaraeg Macapagal, two children, Gloria and Diosdado, Jr. and two other children by his first wife, Purita de la Rosa, Maria Cielo and Arturo.

      This chapter on the Third Republic ends with the Macapagal presidency although Ferdinand Marcos was the last president of the Third Republic.


      An associated cause of the growth of the presidency is the shattering series of emergencies, both foreign and domestic, that have been prevalent at the onset of the Third Republic. Under the mounting burdens of war and peace, the [presidents of the Third Republic became mighty weapons in the Philippines’ struggle for liberty.

      In what sort of times did Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, or Macapagal live? A man cannot possibly be judged a great president unless he holds office in great times. These presidents’ eminence arose from the granting of the country’s independence, from the upsurge of democracy, and from the events of World War II. These great men have indeed lived through these trying times and went on to preside over the nation in challenging years. This standard may work unfairly on presidents who live under peaceful skies, but that is the way that history is written.

      The presidents of the Third Republic did a great deal more than stand quiet and watch over history unfolding. Against the large backdrop of war, the presidents bravely bore the burden of responsibility and went on to become forceful leaders-of Congress, the administration, and the Filipino people. We are not likely to rate a president highly if he weakens the office through cowardice or neglect. A place at the top of a ladder is reserved only for those presidents who have set precedents for other presidents to follow.

      The Third Republic may well be judged to have been the most exciting and demanding period in the history of the Philippines, as uncertain and as hazardous perhaps as the first years of Aguinaldo.

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