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Osmeña: Man of the year

January 6, 1940

Osmeña: Man of the year

By James G. Wingo

Free Press Correspondent in Washington

From 1935 to 1938 Osmeña looked and acted like a disappointed, whipped man. Ambitious political upstarts pointed to him as a has-been who took an interest in life only through his dancing. Even Manuel Quezon, in picturesque language, expressed to Malacañan visitors his low opinion of the Osmeña ennui.

Something must have snapped in the Osmeña make-up in 1938, for in that year he emerged again as a strong man. While President Quezon kept completely silent on the fundamental issue presented by the religious instruction bill, Osmeña took a firm stand against it, defying powerful Catholic hierarchs and potent National Assemblymen. President Quezon later vigorously supported the recommendation made by Secretary of Public Instruction Osmeña. Today the old religious instruction issue is as dead as a dodo.

Soon after the fight over the religious instruction bill, President Quezon sent his Vice-President to Washington on a mission that would either make him the solution to the 1941 problem or break him. At 1939’s end it looked like his mission had made Sergio Osmeña the man most likely to become the second President of the Philippines. Probably even Strong Man Quezon admired the spunk shown by the reinvigorated Osmeña when at a recent Malacañang dinner in his honor he refused to be cajoled into accepting the President’s insidious explanation of the Osmeña “mistake” of not accompanying Quezon to Washington in 1933 to obtain a new independence act after Friend Quezon had summarily rejected the first one.

Strong Man Quezon (our Man of the Year for 1933 and 1937) recently confessed that he was come around to Osmeña’s unipersonalista as against his own colectivista idea of party system in the Philippines. That is a natural and expected development in Manuel Quezon, who now wants continued that system, which requires party harmony. After considering and testing various younger men, like Elpidio Quirino, Manuel Roxas, Rafael Alunan, Yulo and several others, he has apparently arrived at the conclusion that his old rival is the one person who can play the role of Strong Man required of the chief executive of a one-party country. Furthermore Osmeña is about the one politico whose word Quezon can take if he requires the man supports for President to promise to step down in 1945 to make way for him to become first President of the Philippine Republic.

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