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It’s Up to You Now!, November 7, 1953

It’s Up to You Now!

 By Leon O. Ty

Many say that Quirino and his allies have been given enough time—eight years—to prove what they can do. Eights years is a long time for one administration to govern a country.

November 7, 1953—One evening, while Ramon Magsaysay was still a member of President Quirino’s Cabinet, he called up a newspaperman on the telephone.

“Can I have a talk with you some place tonight?” he said, with a note of anxiety in his voice. “It’s something important.”

“Sure,” replied the newsman. “Where shall we meet?”

“Suppose we take supper together?”

“Okay,” said the reporter.

Magsaysay mentioned the name of the restaurant where he and the reporter were to meet. After about an hour, the then secretary of national defense and the newsman were seated together at a table.

“I called you up because I have a problem,” Magsaysay began the intimate conversation.

“What problem?” inquired the newspaperman curiously.

“I guess you know something about it already,” he said. “It’s the way the Apo (referring to President Quirino) is doing things these days. It’ that ‘C’ sugar which he wants to ship to Japan at any cost, regardless of what the law and public opinion say. You know who owns that sugar.”

“Yes, I know, the President’s compadre,” the newspaperman cut in.

“That’s what makes it scandalous. I’m against it and because the Apo knows my stand on the ‘C’ sugar issue, he has become indifferent to me. I don’t think I still enjoy his confidence.”

The newspaperman told Magsaysay that there was nothing he could do. Could he possibly defy the man who had made him a member of his official family?

“Take it easy, Monching,” the reporter suggested. “After a week or so, the Apo will have forgotten the matter and you two will again be the best of friends, as you have always been.”

“I have my doubts,” Magsaysay answered rather gloomily. “The Apo seems to dislike me now.”

“But why should he dislike you?” the newsman queried. “Didn’t you restore peace and order for him? You gave him prestige when you kept the 1951 elections clean. The President has repeatedly said he is proud of you.”

Magsaysay said Quirino began to be indifferent to him when articles about his success in combating the Huks were published in leading American magazines like Time, Life, Saturday Evening Post, Newsweek and Collier’s.

“What do you plan to do now?” Magsaysay was asked toward the end of the conversation.

“Resign from the Cabinet and join a third party. I can’t join the Opposition. I don’t think the Nacionalistas will accept me, knowing I’m a Liberal.”

“But what will you do in a third party?” inquired the newsman.

“I’ll run for senator,” he said.

“Useless for you to join a third party and run for a Senate post. You can’t win. Not as a third party candidate. Even Tañada, with all his popularity and outstanding achievements as a lawmaker, is not taking any chances. I think Tani will run on the Nacionalista Party ticket because he knows he cannot hope to win as a Citizen’s Party candidate.”

“Suppose you tell Tañada that I’ll join the Citizen’s Party and he and I will run for senator under that party’s banner?” Monching suggested.

“It’s a good idea but you can’t win. Third party candidates in this country never win.”

The conversation ended with Magsaysay saying he had made up his mind, he would quit President Quirino’s Cabinet and join a third party or get a job in some commercial firm.

“I’m fed up with the way things are being done in Malacañan, in the Cabinet, and in other offices. There’s so much graft, so much corruption. Pressure is being exerted upon me. The Huk problem is almost solved but the rehabilitation of the surrendered dissidents is another problem. I’m doing my best to restore them to normal living through the EDCOR. But you know that some Liberals, like Speaker Perez and a few others, have been criticizing it and calling it a waste of public funds. I have no alternative but to quit.”

And Magsaysay did quit his Cabinet position.

The foregoing story is related to show that Ramon Magsaysay at that time never dreamed of becoming a candidate for president of the Liberal Party, much less of the Opposition. He knew he couldn’t hope to win his party’s nomination, unless Quirino gave him the necessary backing. With such LP bigwigs as Eugenio Perez, Quintin Paredes, Fernando Lopez (who was still a Liberal at that time) and several other LP stalwarts in the Senate, how could Magsaysay possibly come out on top at an LP convention? In those days, the presidential hopefuls were Lopez, Paredes and Perez. Magsaysay was never considered a presidential possibility. For although he was one of the best influences in the Quirino regime, as a matter of fact one of its few redeeming features, he was not in the good graces of the top Liberals.

Magsaysay’s case is unique in the political history of this country.

At no other time was a member of one party invited to join another and be that group’s leading candidate in a presidential election. When rumors began to circulate, sometime last year, that the leading political figures in the Opposition were seriously considering the idea of inviting Magsaysay to join them and later drafting him for the presidency to fight Quirino, some people exclaimed:

“That’s fantastic! Why would the Nacionalistas get a Liberal to be their presidential candidate? No, it can’t happen. It has never been done before. The Opposition is not in dire need of presidential material. It has Laurel, Recto, Osias and Rodriguez. Why would the Nacionalistas pick a Liberal of all people?”

But it did happen.

After a series of negotiations, on the initiative of Senator Tañada, Monching was finally persuaded to quit his Cabinet position, resign from the Liberal Party and join the Nacionalistas.

The Filipino people know that the presidential nomination was not handed to Magsaysay on a silver platter. He had to go to the provinces, campaign among the NP delegates. For one who had just joined the party, it was not an easy task to enlist the support of the men and women who were to pick the Opposition standard-bearer at the coming national convention. Magsaysay’s task became harder because he was to face a man who had done much for the party—Camilo Osias.

There was talk that Laurel, Recto and Rodriguez would double-cross Magsaysay at the convention; that certain arrangements would be made in order to create a deadlock between Osias and Magsaysay; and that once this deadlock existed, Laurel would then be railroaded by the conventionists, thereby making him the party candidate for president.

Magsaysay would then be drafted for the Senate under the NP banner. Thus, the Opposition senatorial slate would be stronger with Monching heading the list. Left no other choice, the best Cabinet member Quirino ever had would accept the senatorial nomination, whether he liked it or not.

The prophets of gloom were all wrong. Laurel, Recto, Rodriguez and Tañada had no such plans; they were motivated by good faith and the best of intentions when they invited Magsaysay to join them in a crusade for a clean and honest government under a new regime—an NP regime.

Laurel declared that Magsaysay was, to him, the ideal candidate for president because of his youth, his energy, his patriotism, and unimpeachable integrity. Laurel compared the Zambaleño to Bonifacio—a hero who sprang from the masses.

By inviting Magsaysay to join the Nacionalistas and then supporting him as the NP presidential nominee, Opposition leaders, especially Laurel, exhibited a spirit of patriotism never before seen among politicians in this country. Laurel would have won the NP nomination last April unanimously had he but expressed the slightest desire to run. But he had made up his mind to boost Magsaysay and at the convention made good his promise to give the latter his whole-hearted backing.

Many people are still wondering why Dr. Laurel was willing to sacrifice his personal ambition in favor of the former LP defense secretary. They still believe that in a clean election, Laurel could win against any Liberal as shown in 1951. With victory practically in sight, why did Dr. Laurel decide to invite Magsaysay to be the NP standard-bearer?

Senator Laurel had his reasons for this action.

“If I run and lose through frauds and violence as in 1949,” he is said to have told close friends, “I will surely be driven to desperation. I may even have to resort to drastic measures. In which case, I might have to go to the mountains and lead a band of rebels, guerrillas. That I cannot do now on account of my age. I’m tired.

“And if I win, could I get as much aid from the United States as Magsaysay could? I don’t think so. I know pretty well how I stand in the eyes of the American people. Because of my collaboration record during the Occupation, many Americans who still don’t know what actually happened here during the war will stand in the way of material aid to our country. I have no choice. The welfare of our people is more important to me than my personal ambition. But if Magsaysay wins, I think America will go out of her way to help us because he is a friend, a great friend. To the American people, and for that matter, to the people of the world, Magsaysay is the physical embodiment of Democracy’s courageous stand against Communism in the Far East….”

The Nacionalistas knew that if they succeeded in winning Magsaysay to their side, the Liberals would be demoralized. Magsaysay easily stood out as the strongest pillar in the LP edifice, so to say. He was “the great exception,” in an administration that had earned notoriety mainly due to the dishonesty and inefficiency of many of its important constituents.

Magsaysay did not belong to the Liberal Party, but to the Filipino nation, the Nacionalistas believed. And they had proof to support this belief. Didn’t Magsaysay give the Filipino people the cleanest election held during the Liberal Party regime? He had thereby earned the hatred of many of his fellow Liberals who blamed him for their humiliating defeat at the polls. Some Liberals who have never been genuinely in favor of a democratic election in this country went to the extent of suggesting his ouster from the Cabinet but that plan was not carried out for fear that it would boomerang on them.

Didn’t Magsaysay upset the Huk timetable? The dissidents had definitely set 1951 as the year when they would stage a nationwide revolt and seize the government, but the “man of action” from Zambales upset their plans as soon as he took over the affairs of the defense department in September, 1950. Hardly one month after his assumption of office, Magsaysay struck a mortal blow against the local Reds which dazed them and sent them running for cover. He smashed the Politburo, rounded up its members, had them indicted in court, prosecuted and sent to jail. Thus was the back of local Communism broken.

The Nacionalistas also saw the excellent results of Magsaysay’s experiment in human rehabilitation in Kapatagan Valley (Lanao) where the EDCOR, the army agricultural colony for surrendered Huks, was opened.

Here, therefore, was a man who seemed to possess the magic touch, as it were. Everything he undertook was a success, in sharp contrast to other Liberals who made a sorry mess of the Quirino administration. Here was a young man who had a brilliant record as a guerrilla chieftain during the war; a former governor of his province who allowed no one under him to pollute his administration; an ex-member of Congress who obtained more benefits for Filipino war veterans and guerrillas than any other lawmaker who made official representations in Washington.

After Magsaysay resigned, some Liberals who appreciated what the man meant to the party were reportedly panicked. Desperate efforts were made by friends of Magsaysay to get him to change his mind and return to the LP fold. “All will be forgotten and forgiven,” said they. But Magsaysay had seen too much of the LP to modify or alter his decision.

On one occasion, while still a Cabinet member, he confided his fears to a newspaperman.

“If nothing is done to stop certain men from influencing the Apo, I’m afraid this country will eventually fall into the hands of a few scheming, unscrupulous businessmen,” he said in a dejected tone. “I don’t know why the President allows certain men to influence his decisions on official matters, matters affecting the people’s welfare. I’m beginning to lose faith in the President….”

Subsequent events were to justify Magsaysay’s decision to quit his job. The Filipino people were to witness another political schism in the Liberal Party. This came unexpectedly: General Carlos P. Romulo decided to fight Quirino in the party convention for the presidential nomination. When the former ambassador and head of the PI delegation to the United Nations said he was making a bid for the presidency, most of the best elements of the party publicly announced their intention to rally behind him. And they did.

These outstanding Liberals left the Quirino bandwagon and openly declared themselves for General Romulo: Senators Esteban Abada, Tomas Cabili, Lorenzo Sumulong and Justiniano Montano. In the Lower House, a number of prominent LP lawmakers headed by Congressmen Jose Roy, Domingo Veloso, Cipriano Allas and Raul Leuterio also bolted the Quirino group to support Romulo.

All of these leaders would have remained Liberals had a fair convention been held to choose the party standard-bearers for president and vice president, had not the convention been “a rigged-up affair,” to quote Romulo himself. All that the Romulo backers had asked was that there be secret balloting among the delegates in order to give them complete freedom to vote for the candidate of their choice. But Quirino and his leaders adamantly refused, for obvious reasons, of course. They insisted on an open vote, so they would know which delegates were not backing the Apo and be able to punish them later.

That was Quirino’s undoing, another telling blow to the Liberal Party.

Romulo and his leaders walked out of the convention in anger, saying they could not stand the dictatorial tactics of the Quirino bullyboys.

Romulo and his leaders were not the only ones who bolted the Quirino faction. Vice President Fernando Lopez also quit the group and with Romulo and many LP members of Congress formed the nucleus of the Democratic Party.

More breaks were in store for Ramon Magsaysay as the preelection campaign progressed. President Quirino fell ill and had to make a trip to America to recover. And later, the Democratic Party leaders—declaring that the common objective of the Opposition was to oust the Liberals from power—decided to coalesce with the Nacionalistas. This meant the withdrawal of the DP presidential and vice-presidential candidates, Romulo and Lopez, who threw their support behind Magsaysay and Garcia.

Quirino’s absence from the country during this crucial period demoralized many Liberals who later decided to quit the party or just remain politically inactive. This state of demoralization was made evident by a public statement attributed to Sen. Quintin Paredes in which he said that, since Quirino was not well enough to carry on a nationwide and vigorous political campaign, the best thing he could do for the party was to quit the political race and give way to another candidate.

That Don Quintin meant what he said has been borne out by the general lack of interest he has shown in the campaign. This master political strategist could have bolstered the chances of the Apo had he exerted himself to urge his admirers to support Mr. Quirino.

In this article, we feel there is no need to enumerate what President Quirino has done for the country during the years he has been in office. The Filipino people know what he has accomplished. They also know what he has failed to do.

If elected again, the Apo says he will complete his total economic mobilization program which is embodied in the Quirino-Foster Agreement. Two more years is all he asks, and after that the Philippines would be ushered into an era of unprecedented progress, contentment and peace. And if he does not finish his task, he says that his vice president, Jose Yulo, will complete it. Yulo is the only man in the Liberal Party, Quirino has stressed, who can carry out the unfinished job.

But many people are saying that Quirino and his Liberals have been given enough time—eight years—to prove what they can do. Eight years is a long time for one administration to govern a country.

The popular clamor is for a change in administration. The people unmistakably demonstrated that in 1951 when they endorsed the entire Nacionalista senatorial ticket. That the majority of the Filipinos have grown tired of the LP regime can, therefore, hardly be successfully disputed.

It’s a complete change of crew for our ship of state that most of our people are crying for these days. The decent elements among our population are fed up with the seemingly endless cases of graft, corruption and all kinds of shady deals that have made the Liberal administration more notorious than any other political regime this country has had.

Right-thinking, independent-minded people are by now more than convinced that unless a new leader takes charge, peace and order will never be completely restored in this land; our Constitution will continue to be violated; reckless extravagance in government spending will continue; abuses  by certain powerful officials will never come to an end; civil service rules and regulations will continue to be ignored and violated for political expediency; elections will never be free, clean and orderly; gangsterism, abetted by certain highly placed individuals, will flourish; the worst forms of nepotism and favoritism will not stop; misappropriation of public funds and public property will go on indefinitely; and favorites in the administration will continue enjoying their regular junkets abroad at the people’s expense.

Liberal Party spokesmen talk about the prosperity that they have allegedly brought to this island. If this is true, why are millions of our countrymen without work? Without enough food? Without sufficient clothing?

Millions are unable to enjoy the blessings of modern medical  care and hospitalization. Liberals continually din into the ears of our people talk about their campaign to rid the government of crooks. But has a single big shot in the administration ever been sent to jail even for a day?

Who are getting rich under the LP regime? Who have been most benefited by the Apo’s so-called “total economic mobilization program”?

Of course, our people well know who the beneficiaries are. The people are not asleep and they aren’t stupid either. They have been fooled, once, twice, nay, thrice; but they won’t allow themselves to be fooled all the time. They were terrorized once at the polls, and thereby prevented from choosing the candidates of their choice. This time, they won’t allow hoodlums to scare them away from the polls. The time for a change has come. The need for a new, for a dynamic leader is desperate. Given the chance to express their minds, some 5,540,000 Filipino voters will choose the right man to lead them the next four years.

The hectic political campaign is over. You, fellow voters, have heard the pros and cons of the issues involved in this election. The candidates have made them clear to you in political rallies and meetings and the various newspapers and radio stations have helped in explaining the merits of those who seek election on November 10. By now you should know the records of the different candidates, both as private citizens and as public officials. Also known to you are the programs of the opposing parties and the men who compose them. With this background you are expected to vote intelligently.

It’s up to you now!

Politics: Means and End, editorial for August 29, 1953

Philippines Free Press editorial

POLITICS: MEANS AND END
August 29, 1953

AS a tribute to the late President Manuel L. Quezon, his birthday was declared a national holiday. The nation rejoiced that he was born, which is tribute, indeed. A big parade was held in the city named after him, complete with military units and allegorical floats. There was a man; when comes such another?

It was splendid and glittering and expensive, the celebration of his birthday; it would have pleased him. Yet, the greatest tribute to the man cost exactly nothing. A man stood up and, for the first time, told, in measured language, the truth about Quezon. It cost the speaker, Sen. Claro M. Recto, nothing to make the speech except intelligence, which practice does not exhaust, literary skill, which is sharpened by use, knowledge of politics, which may be shared without losing, and good judgment, which is increased by exercise. Recto knew Quezon, admired him, but had no illusions about him. Last week, he told the truth about him, and what Recto said is a better monument to the man than the architectural affair the government is contemplating. When a man dies, what he has done is soon forgotten; his deeds are writ on water. He who would live a little longer after death, in the minds of men, is fortunate if he finds a biographer who can catch his spirit on the wing. Recto gave us the essence of Quezon as a public man.

Quezon was a man of spirit, charming, changeable, but not really, as many think he was, unpredictable. What was good for Quezon was good for his country: that, in brief, was his political philosophy, and often it proved to be the case. Political philosophy, in the more abstract sense of the term, he had none, as Recto pointed out. He had no politics; he was merely a consummate politician.

He gave color and drama to a political scene that would otherwise have been drab and dull. He made the Philippines a stage and politics a play in which he took many roles but always, somehow, triumphed in the end. He was anti-American when the Americans would not let him have his way, and pro when they did. He was for collective leadership when it suited his purpose, established a one-man rule when he was on top. He could plead for justice for a political foe, at the same time he was capable of asking another to let him stay in an office he should vacate and to which the other was entitled, by law. Osmeña was the more admirable man, the more magnanimous; he suffered, politically, at Quezon’s hand, but when Quezon was very sick and his term as president was about to be over, Osmeña let him stay on. The country respected Osmeña, who seemed political virtue personified, but loved Quezon, who had all the faults and virtues of the people—magnified.

The people loved him. He gave them a wonderful show. It was an exhilarating experience to watch him perform. No one was more magnetic and lovable. And, after all, he did get the country its independence, although others had secured a similar grant, but if the country must be independent, it must be under his own terms. It was a true love affair between Quezon and the Philippines; they both loved each other and it is even possible that Quezon loved his country a little more than he loved himself. The country wanted him, of that there can be no doubt. The country had him.

So accomplished a politician, however, was he that he did not feel the need of political principles. With him, politics became not the means but the end. It was an exciting game at which he was expert. But politics is the art of government and government is not a game. It is, especially in times such as ours, in a revolutionary age, a matter of life and death. The need to establish a regime above personalities, a government of law instead of men, cannot be exaggerated. In a rule of law alone lies social stability. Those who are for chaos may welcome a personal regime; those who are for order know the need for an impersonal government.

Today, politics as a game is being played with the same fine recklessness that Quezon played it, but viciously. His heirs have his faults without his virtues; he went far but they would go too far. His private conscience drew the line beyond which it would be dishonorable for a public official to go, a line which only an impersonal law should draw. He did not overstep the line, for he had a conscience. His heirs have none and the law may be too weak to draw it for them.

The country has had its entertainment; now the country must pay for it. It was a fine show, while it lasted. This is not to blame Quezon; he was the political leader the country wanted. He did his best to give the people what they wanted. Had the people demanded more, Quezon would doubtless have given it to them; he was too good a politician not to give the people what they wanted. But as water cannot rise above its own level, the politician cannot rise above the people’s. The people wanted him, got him. Now they have what they have.

Lacson’s defiance, editorial, July 18, 1953

Lacson’s defiance
July 18, 1953

MANILANS who saw scout and armored trucks menacingly rumble through the streets of the city last Monday evening, with mounted machine guns manned by soldiers in full battle regalia, at once thought that either the Huks had swooped down on the city or a foreign enemy had just landed. Many a city resident was truly scared by the presence of the battle wagons, with soldiers who were armed to the teeth, as they rolled grimly through the metropolis.

But there was no Huk invasion. Nor was there an invasion to be repelled. They were merely soldiers from Camp Murphy who were responding to a frantic call from their boss—Secretary of Justice and National Defense Oscar Castelo, who was at the Shellborne Hotel.

Why did Mr. Castelo call for the army and the constabulary at that time of the night? And why so many men in arms and in battle uniform?

According to the secretary, his life was being threatened by City Mayor Arsenio Lacson and his men, numbering about 40. They were right around the premises of the Shellborne, the secretary said, lying in ambush for him. Castelo felt certain that Lacson was out to murder him that night. Hence, the SOS to Camp Murphy—which was promptly and adequately answered.

But Mayor Lacson vehemently denied Castelo’s allegation, said he was not at the Shellborne, but in another adjacent place, waiting, for a call from somebody to make arrangements with Florentino “Scarface” Suarez who was going to “spill the beans” that night on the Monroy murder. Suarez’ confession was going to be tape-recorded by the mayor, in the presence of newspapermen, newsphotographers and members of the police department.

The armed forces were merely obeying Castelo’s order to arrest Lacson. But the city mayor defied the secretary’s order because the arresting officer had no warrant of arrest. “Mr. Castelo should come and personally arrest me and I’ll break his neck,” Lacson is said to have told newsmen in a moment of excitement.

If Secretary Castelo’s real purpose was merely to have Lacson arrested, why didn’t he do the usual thing under the circumstances: call for a squad of Manila policemen (of whom we have a number) and order the cops to nab the city mayors? And since he is the secretary of justice, although on leave, why didn’t he first secure a warrant of arrest from any of the many Manila judges before ordering the arrest of Lacson? It becomes obvious that in summoning the army and the constabulary to “pinch” the mayor of Manila, Mr. Castelo was trying to impress all and sundry that being the biggest boss of the army, the men in that organization were at his beck and call, and that any time he could summon a battalion to parade before people he wants properly “impressed.”

Unfortunately, he met one who refused to be impressed—Mayor Arsenio H. Lacson.

The NP Convention story, 1953

The NP convention story
April 18, 1953
by Leon O. Ty
Staff Member

RAMON Magsaysay is the new leader of the Opposition Party in the Philippines by virtue of his sensational winning of the presidential nomination in last Sunday’s convention at the Manila Hotel. The outcome of that convention cleared all doubts as to Senator Jose P. Laurel’s sincerity in personally endorsing Magsaysay as the NP presidential candidate next November.

Weeks before the convention, not a few people kept saying that Laurel was merely toying with Magsaysay and that when the proper time came, the Batangas lawmaker and other NP big shots would double-cross the former defense secretary, who, in the opinion of some, “is a political neophyte.”

The main purpose in inviting Magsaysay to the minority party was to remove “the only redeeming feature” of the Liberal Party, the pessimists explained. Once out of the Quirino cabinet, Magsaysay would then find himself out on a limb, politically speaking. And since any return to the Liberal Party would be impossible, the Nacionalistas would then be in a position to tell him what to do. They could, for instance, tell Magsaysay to run for senator, and the latter would have no choice but to accept the offer. Whether he liked it or not, he would have to accept anything his new political allies offered him as a prize for bolting his party and joining the Opposition.

But the pessimists were wrong, and the local political dopesters got their predictions all fouled up. For no member of the Nacionalista Party was more enthusiastic in seeing Magsaysay get nominated in last Sunday’s convention than Senator Laurel. The Batangas solon had never faltered in his endorsement of Ramon Magsaysay for the highest elective position in the government. Since that historic day last November when he challenged President Quirino to withdraw from the presidential contest—as he (Laurel), too, would withdraw and give way to Magsaysay—the Occupation leader had never stopped reiterating his support for the former defense secretary.

Laurel had repeatedly stated that Magsaysay was the ideal candidate against the Malacañan occupant. If the wish of every Nacionalista was to see Quirino defeated in November, he said, the only man who could get that wish fulfilled was Magsaysay.

The Batangas senator was probably never more inspired while speaking before a mammoth crowd than he was last Sunday morning at the Manila Hotel. His voice echoed with compelling force and sincerity as he delivered his nomination speech for the man of his choice. Finally, when Magsaysay stood on the rostrum to accept the deafening applause of the crowd estimated at three to four thousand, Laurel thundered:

“I give you this man of the masses, the spirit of Juan de la Cruz…the embodiment of Bonifacio and Del Pilar!”

Senator Claro Recto’s keynote address was a masterpiece of political denunciation. He started by saying that the keynote of the convention was “‘victory.”

Lashing out at the majority party, Recto, the master satirist, cried:

“The Quirino Liberals and their protégés have been emptying the public treasury and otherwise accumulating undeserved wealth in their safe-deposit boxes here and abroad by every means that could be devised by criminal ingenuity, through unlawful immigration schemes, blackmailing in deportation cases, RICPA and surplus property rackets, NARIC scandals, import control quotas, Buenavista-Tambobong estate deals, leonine steamship contracts, smuggling of every thing from Bangkok diamonds to potatoes, onions, and firecrackers, padded pay rolls, tax evasion and even copious tong collections.

“They call that ‘clean and honest government’!

“They surrendered to Kamlon and his gang of cutthroats; they have been frantically tying by plaintive radio calls to contact Taruc and bribe him into campaigning for the Liberal Party; they have utterly failed to curb criminality and gangsterism in our cities and towns.

“And they call that ‘strong and efficient government’!”

Senator Recto’s fiery assault upon the administration included “digs” at President Quirino’s “total economic mobilization program.” He also pointed out the causes behind the Communist aggression in the Philippines.

Recto’s keynote address was one of the most sarcastic pieces ever to come from the pen of the famous jurist and parliamentarian. (It must have hurt the Liberals very much because Secretary of Justice and acting head of the department of national defense Oscar Castelo violently hit back at the Nacionalista leaders the following day—April 13—with a threat of criminal prosecution he said he’d undertake in “due time” against two ranking Opposition leaders. Castelo also said that Laurel and Recto were making a puppet out of Magsaysay.)

End of a Trail

Last Sunday’s convention also spelled the death of Senator Camilo Osias’ political career. The most impartial observers in that Opposition powwow did not hesitate to say that the result of the presidential nomination contest—and especially the “unfortunate incidents” which marred Senator Cipriano Primicias’s nomination speech (for Senator Osias) and the La Union senator’s political swan song” which lasted for almost one and a half hours—disclosed a tragic but inescapable fact: Osias had reached the end of the political trail.

The way Osias was treated by the very Nacionalista leaders he had helped get elected in past elections was definitely heart-breaking. Senator Primicias, who had preceded Osias on the rostrum with what was supposed be a nomination speech, almost failed to say his piece because the pro-Magsaysay delegates and guests booed and hissed and indulged in practically every form of baboonery to disturb him. The crowd simply went uncontrollably wild.

This writer was with Senator Osias in his Manila Hotel room (No. 347) while Primicias was resorting, in vain, to every form of platform strategy and oratorical trick in order to get the rowdy crowd under control. As the crowd continued to laugh down Primicias and kept shouting Magsaysay’s name, Senator Osias started to get visibly impatient and restless. Now he would sit down, then stand up, and sit down again, as he listened to the radio broadcast in his room in order to keep track of the proceedings in the Fiesta Pavilion of the hotel.

There is no doubt that those were probably some of the most trying moments in Osias’s political career. As he sat beside the radio set, he kept closing his eyes, but at the same time biting his lip. Sometimes he would shake one leg, then another. In all the years that his writer has known Osias, in and outside the legislature, we have never seen him so troubled as he was last Sunday afternoon.

“Why don’t those rascals allow Primicias to speak?” complained some of Osias’s faithful political followers and friends who were with him in the room. “They are boosting Magsaysay!” others grumbled angrily. “We should ignore that convention!” “Is this democracy?” “Why should they do this to you, Mr. Senator?” “Shall we go down and start something violent?” demanded a hard-core Osias partisan from the provinces.

The La Union senator didn’t say anything. He continued listening to the broadcast, at times taking down notes of what he heard in the convention hall.

Some of his close advisers who had, by this time, gone up to his room—Congressman Miguel Rilloraza of La Union, Ex-Sen. Jose Ma. Veloso of Leyte, former Senator Alejo Mabanag and ex-Rep. Leonardo Festin of Romblon—consulted each other as to whether or not Senator Osias should go down and address the delegates. But Osias himself was determined to change the attitude of the howling crowd from hostility to sympathy.

“I’m going down and quiet them,” he vowed, when we asked him what he thought of the way the delegates were booing Senator Primicias.
Osias went down all right, perhaps hoping against hope that he might yet succeed in swaying the political tide in his favor.

As he proceeded to the Fiesta Pavilion, flanked by leaders and followers, shouts of “Mabuhay si Osias” rent the air. More shouts of “Mabuhay!”

At other times and under different circumstances, the La Union senator—an amiable man—would have readily acknowledged the applause. But at that time, he didn’t. His eyes were red and he pressed his lips tightly, probably in a firm resolve to control the hostile crowd on the convention floor.

Meeting of Rivals

As he ascended the rostrum where the NP leaders were seated, Osias did not forget to shake Laurel’s and Recto’s hands. In a sarcastic vein, he congratulated Laurel for the “magnificent nomination speech.” Presently Magsaysay stood up and extended a hand to his rival. Osias, who was at first hesitant to greet Magsaysay, finally extended his hand, too.

After that, he started his spirited address. During the first half-hour, the crowd, although uneasy, allowed him to recount his sacrifices for the Nacionalista Party. But when he began to attack Magsaysay, hoots and catcalls followed. The crowd became more unruly when he said indignantly:
“Let these disrupting elements in our party have a little consideration for those who sacrificed for the party.”

All in all, Osias was booed ten times during his almost one-and-half-hour speech. Hurt by the hostile attitude of the majority of the delegates, Osias shouted:

“You did not boo me when I was fighting for the Nacionalistas in the 1947, 1949, and 1951 elections! I implore you not to repeat such acts because we would be destroying democracy!”

More boos and hisses.

“I am aware of the situation, and I have faced tighter situations,” Osias pleaded. “But let us reason as gentlemen…. Do not believe you can cow me.”
Again, more boos and more hisses.

This time, Osias was truly rattled. He perspired profusely. Sensing that it was useless to plead with the crowd which openly shoed its antagonism to him, the exasperated senator started attacking Magsaysay for being inexperienced and, therefore, not prepared to shoulder the responsibilities attendant to the office of President.

If Osias had hoped to quiet down the crowd with this line of talk, he made a mistake because he only succeeded in making the pro-Magsaysay delegates more angry. His sarcastic references to Senators Laurel and Recto also infuriated most of the delegates. Osias bitterly deplored the fact that instead of being neutral in the fight between him and Magsaysay, the leaders of the party showed by their words and deeds their partiality to his rival. Osias even recalled the dark days of the Japanese occupation when he accompanied Dr. Laurel to Japan and suffered with him in a Japanese prison.

Desperate Proposal

Senator Osias tried very trick he knew to quiet a hostile crowd but he failed completely in drawing the sympathy of the NP delegates that afternoon. He even showed a photostatic copy of a letter written to him by the late Archbishop Michael O’Doherty, to prove that he was acceptable to the local Catholic population. In addition he showed another photostat of a plenary dispensation given him by the Pope during his last visit to Rome. But none of these proved effective in swaying the crowd to his side.

As a last resort, Senator Osias challenged Magsaysay to withdraw from the presidential race as he (Osias) would also withdraw. The two of them and Senate President Rodriguez would then constitute a committee to select a “compromise candidate.” The idea behind Osias’ proposal was “to preserve unity in the party,” he said.

Instead of cheers, a chorus of boos greeted his desperate proposition.

The La Union senator did not, however, lose his bearings completely. Before concluding his speech (which would have been effective had he limited it to half an hour, instead of almost one and a half hours) he reminded the crowd that he would not bolt the party in case he lost the nomination.

“My second name is Nacionalista,” he said, and the delegates like it. “Bolting the party is not in the vocabulary of Osias… I am a Nacionalista by instinct, by training, and by conviction.”

This portion was received with loud cheers.

Magsaysay’s speech, in sharp contrast to that of Senator Osias, was surprisingly brief. He consumed not more than two and a half minutes, but the tumultuous ovation which followed lasted about five minutes.

In his straightforward and simple way, Magsaysay said, in part:

“I am a man of action… I am not a speechmaker. I do not believe in words but in deeds…I am giving myself unreservedly unto the hands of this convention.”

A Jaycee official who was at our side made the following comment on Magsaysay’s brief address:

“Monching (Ramon) is wise…He knows his limitations. He might have committed errors had he spoken at length… Not being a good speaker, he might have flopped and created a bad impression among the delegates. But he knew when to stop, unlike Osi (Osias).”

The candidates for vice-presidential nomination—Senators Carlos Garcia, Jose Casten Zulueta, and Arsenio Lacson, Manila city mayor, spoke briefly. Lacson declined the nomination. Garcia’s speech was even shorter than that of Magsaysay. Zulueta spoke in English but he did not feel “at home” in it. So he switched to Spanish, and he became quite eloquent.

A total of 754 delegates participated in the secret balloting. Magsaysay polled 705 votes while Osias obtained only 49. Garcia polled 598 votes, as against Zulueta’s 149. After the 450th ballot in favor of Magsaysay was read, his victory was conceded. At 10:20 that night, Magsaysay’s nomination was announced over the radio throughout the country.

Magsaysay’s wife, the former Luz Banzon of Bataan, and his aged mother, were at the Manila Hotel—Room No. 301—to hear the exciting news of his victory. When asked what she thought of her son’s chances in the coming election, the old lady replied:

“It’s in the hands of God.”

The La Union delegation did not take part in the voting. After Senator Osias proposed the creation of a committee to name a “compromise candidate” the delegates from the senator’s province decided to ignore the results of the convention.

Salutations

Magsaysay’s acceptance speech was a model. Following is what he said in accepting his party’s nomination:

“I accept your nomination. I accept it with humility. The honor you have conferred on me, and the responsibility that goes with it, overwhelm me. Alone, I could never be worthy of the honor nor equal to the responsibility. This could only be possible with full support of you, the members of the party, the faith of the people, and the guidance of God.

“To all of you, my deepest gratitude. I thank the grand old man of the Nacionalista Party, Senator Rodriguez, for his fairness and understanding.

“I thank that great patriot and Nacionalista, Senator Laurel, for his self-effacing and noble act of sponsoring my nomination.

“I thank that brilliant thinker and statesman, Senator Recto, for his unselfish encouragement and support.

“And I wish to salute that faithful Nacionalista, Senator Osias, whose aspirations for the nomination were just and sincere. I offer my hand in continued comradeship, to him and all his loyal supporters.

“My thoughts go out tonight to that venerable co-founder of the Nacionalista Party, Don Sergio Osmeña, who manifested his deep concern for our party’s welfare, by sending his own son, Ramon, to represent him in this convention.

“My thanks also go to the tireless leaders of our party, senators and congressmen, governors, provincial board members, mayors, councilors, and chosen delegates for placing their confidence in me.

“With this convention over, we now embark on our great crusade. Of course, our immediate objective is to win—to bring about a complete change in the administration of this country. This will require a total Nacionalista victory in November, and to achieve this victory we must all work together and exert ourselves to the utmost.

“I do not have many promises to make. I can only promise to carry out faithfully and to the letter the provisions of the platform of the Nacionalista Party. If elected, I will administer the affairs of this country as they should be administered—primarily for the welfare of the people—and by methods sanctioned by our constitution. I shall carry out the will of the people within the limits of constitutional executive power, cooperating and in perfect harmony with both houses of Congress, which, after November, I am certain, shall be controlled by the Nacionalista Party.

“My first concern, as should be the concern of every Nacionalista, is the welfare of our people.

“But I shall never forget that I owe, next to my duty to my God and my country, a duty to my party—to consider carefully the counsel of our established party leaders, to attend promptly to the problems, both national and local, of our fellow Nacionalistas, and, in general, to see to it that the men who have sacrificed and fought under the Nacionalista banner to place me at the head of our government, in order to establish a clean and honest administration, shall not be forgotten in the hour of victory.

“I humbly ask God this day to grant me the strength, the courage, and the life to carry out the mission with which you have entrusted me. With His help, and with the active cooperation of all of you, I know that we shall win, and that we shall restore to our country and our people what they fully deserve—an efficient, honest, and God-fearing administration, a government worthy of the sacrifices of our heroes and the respect of all mankind. Goodnight—and God bless you all.”

Trinidad Legarda: Civic Leader of the Year, April 11, 1953

Trinidad Legarda: Civil Leader of the Year
April 11, 1953
by Quijano de Manila

THE Filipina as clubwoman is only about thirty years old but has a record that should impress even the male most stubbornly convinced that a woman’s place is in the home and only in the home.

A brilliant example of the Filipina as clubwoman is Trinidad Fernandez Legarda, who, since her teens, has been working to make her country cleaner, healthier, more united, more beautiful, and more cultured. On Thursday, April 16, her labors will be given due recognition when the 18 affiliate Red Feather organizations award her a gold plaque as the “Civil Leader of the Year.”
(more…)

The Magsaysay boom, editorial for March 7, 1953

The Magsaysay boom
March 7, 1953
(Editorial)

THE Philippines is going wild about Ramon Magsaysay.

Newspaper correspondents’ reports, numerous telegrams and letters of congratulation have been endlessly pouring into Manila, hailing Magsaysay’s resignation from the Quirino cabinet. Magsaysay-for-President clubs are daily mushrooming in provincial capitals, chartered cities and municipalities, while labor, school, civic, social and youth organizations continue to vie with each other in endorsing Magsaysay’s candidacy for the highest position within the gift of the Filipino people. Even some of the Huks—whom Magsaysay and the armed forces of the Philippines tried hard to subdue during the two and a half years that he was secretary of national defense—have made known their Magsaysay-for-President stand.

There is no parallel in our political history to the case of Magsaysay. No Filipino official has as yet resigned from a government job and received so much spontaneous commendation as has this man from Zambales. In fact, no public official in our country has severed his connection with the government and been the recipient of so much praise for a job well done.

The simple explanation of the current Magsaysay-inspired rejoicing must be that the Filipino people as a whole, are fundamentally sound and that they know a good, faithful, and patriotic public servant when they see one. It is more than apparent that in Ramon Magsaysay they have seen one.

It is doubtful if any administration has received so much public condemnation for tolerance of official crookedness, corruption, inefficiency, and incompetence as the present. But despite the general damnation that has come from the people, Magsaysay (who was with the same administration for a long time) has been singled out as a shining exception. And rightly so. For during his time in office, not once was his name mentioned in the same breath with venality, abuse of power and other cardinal sins associated with many a Filipino public official today.

Magsaysay left the Quirino cabinet because life with Quirino had become a series of frustrations. Magsaysay said that he sought public confidence as his highest reward for the services he had rendered. But he realized that such confidence could not be won if he continued serving under the Quirino regime. Many people sincerely subscribe to this view.

Despite efforts were made this week to win back Magsaysay to the fold of the Liberal Party. Liberals who fear their party’s collapse now that Magsaysay—the party’s chief redeeming feature—is out, and won over by the Nacionalistas, this week planned and schemed to woo back the ex-defense secretary. But all attempts have proved futile. Senator Tomas Cabili, chief LP negotiator, has given up the idea of ever getting Magsaysay back. In a moment of despair, Cabili said this week: “They (referring to his fellow Liberals) have ignored the handwriting on the wall…and now, when it is too late, there is feverish effort to reach for a solution….”

Meanwhile, the Magsaysay boom keeps increasing. To try to stop it would be tantamount to the old story of sweeping back the ocean with a broom.

The Magsaysay boom, editorial, March 7, 1953

The Magsaysay boom
March 7, 1953

THE Philippines is going wild about Ramon Magsaysay.

Newspaper correspondents’ reports, numerous telegrams and letters of congratulation have been endlessly pouring into Manila, hailing Magsaysay’s resignation from the Quirino cabinet. Magsaysay-for-President clubs are daily mushrooming in provincial capitals, chartered cities and municipalities, while labor, school, civic, social and youth organizations continue to vie with each other in endorsing Magsaysay’s candidacy for the highest position within the gift of the Filipino people. Even some of the Huks—whom Magsaysay and the armed forces of the Philippines tried hard to subdue during the two and a half years that he was secretary of national defense—have made known their Magsaysay-for-President stand.

There is no parallel in our political history to the case of Magsaysay. No Filipino official has as yet resigned from a government job and received so much spontaneous commendation as has this man from Zambales. In fact, no public official in our country has severed his connection with the government and been the recipient of so much praise for a job well done.

The simple explanation of the current Magsaysay-inspired rejoicing must be that the Filipino people as a whole, are fundamentally sound and that they know a good, faithful, and patriotic public servant when they see one. It is more than apparent that in Ramon Magsaysay they have seen one.

It is doubtful if any administration has received so much public condemnation for tolerance of official crookedness, corruption, inefficiency, and incompetence as the present. But despite the general damnation that has come from the people, Magsaysay (who was with the same administration for a long time) has been singled out as a shining exception. And rightly so. For during his time in office, not once was his name mentioned in the same breath with venality, abuse of power and other cardinal sins associated with many a Filipino public official today.

Magsaysay left the Quirino cabinet because life with Quirino had become a series of frustrations. Magsaysay said that he sought public confidence as his highest reward for the services he had rendered. But he realized that such confidence could not be won if he continued serving under the Quirino regime. Many people sincerely subscribe to this view.

Despite efforts were made this week to win back Magsaysay to the fold of the Liberal Party. Liberals who fear their party’s collapse now that Magsaysay—the party’s chief redeeming feature—is out, and won over by the Nacionalistas, this week planned and schemed to woo back the ex-defense secretary. But all attempts have proved futile. Senator Tomas Cabili, chief LP negotiator, has given up the idea of ever getting Magsaysay back. In a moment of despair, Cabili said this week: “They (referring to his fellow Liberals) have ignored the handwriting on the wall…and now, when it is too late, there is feverish effort to reach for a solution….”

Meanwhile, the Magsaysay boom keeps increasing. To try to stop it would be tantamount to the old story of sweeping back the ocean with a broom.

Constitution Day, February 7, 1953

Constitution Day
By Teodoro M. Locsin
Staff Member

Claro M. Recto and Manuel Roxas, returning from the United States after the approval of the Constitution, were met the Legaspi landing by the Sen. Elpidio Quirino, Secretary of the Interior Teofilo Sison, Speaker Quintin Paredes.

 

February 7, 1953–ON Feb. 8, 1935, the Constitutional Convention approved, with one dissenting vote, a new constitution. The one dissenting voter was Delegate Tomas Cabili from Lanao; he was of the unshakable opinion that Lanao was sufficiently enlightened and knew enough of democracy’s ways to be given the vote. The delegate from Ilocos Sur, Elpidio Quirino, agreed was Cabili: Lanao should be given to vote. Absolutely. The Cabili motion was defeated, but Lanao was to reward handsomely the man who stood up in support of it 14 years later, in 1949.

The convention vote was 201-to-one for the Constitution.

The near-unanimity was surprising when one considers the composition of the assembly. Among the delegates there were, as one writer pointed out, “blue-blooded nobles from the Moroland, trained intellectuals from world-famous colleges and universities, religious leaders and moral crusaders, political moguls and parliamentary luminaries, eminent educators and outstanding jurists, revolutionary generals and World War veterans, business entrepreneurs and banking magnates, opulent hacenderos and small planters, noted writers and famous orators, wealthy landowners and indigent professionals, and former school teachers and actual university professors.”

The old, familiar figures come back as one goes over the record of the convention. Manuel L. Quezon, then senate president, who welcomed the delegates assembled for the first time in the session hall of the House of Representatives and declared the existence of a quorum: One hundred ninety-nine of the 202 elected delegates showed up the first day, some as early as eight o’clock in the morning, although the session was to begin at 10:30. The American governor general, Frank Murphy, who was expected to make a brief speech but stayed away, as a matter of delicadeza: the Filipinos were about to prepare the fundamental law of their future independent state; he did to want anything he might say to influence in the least the deliberations of the body. Manuel A. Roxas, the delegate from Capiz, seconding the nomination of Jose P. Laurel of Batangas by Manuel Cuenco of Cebu as the temporary chairman of the convention, then discharging “the very pleasant duty of presenting…the distinguished jurist, able lawyer and successful statesman who will preside over your convention, the gentleman from Batangas, the Honorable Senator Recto.” Tomas Confesor of Iloilo, raising a tempest in a teapot and being ignored. Gen. Teodoro Sandiko administering the oath of office to Recto as president of the convention. Gregorio Perfecto being ruled out of order by Recto. Ruperto Montinola of Iloilo and Teodoro Sandiko of Bulacan being elected as first and second vice-president, respectively.

Quezon addressed the convention:

“In the name of the Filipino people and the Philippine Legislature, as well as in my own, I bid you welcome and extend to you the warmest congratulations for your election to this august body.”

He was dressed in a white silk suit with a gray necktie and grayish-striped shirt: trim and erect and engaging—a dandy. He enumerated the steps that led to the holding of the convention:

“On March 24,1934, the Congress of the United States approved Public Act No, 127, 73rd Congress, entitled ‘An Act to provide for the independence of the Philippine Islands, to provide for the adoption of a constitution and form of government for the Philippine Islands, and for other purposes.’ As a condition ‘sine qua non’ for the enforcement of this Act, it was provided that it be accepted either by the Philippine Legislature or by a convention called for the purpose of passing upon that question. On May 1, 1934, the Philippine Legislature, at a special session called by His Excellency the Governor-General, accepted the aforesaid Act and ordered the election of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, and fixed this date, the 30th of July, 1934, as the date for the delegates to convene in this Hall of the House of Representatives.”

The man who seemed mainly composed of fire, charm and political cunning, whose nature and American justice tried to explain by saying that in him there were two elements, the white and the brown, with the white despising the brown and the brown hating the white, who had made himself the leader of a similarly confused people, whom it was impossible—many said of him—not to love, paused. An eyebrow twitched. The half-shrill, compelling voice went on:

“You have met here in pursuance to the call of the Philippine Legislature to organize yourself as a constitutional convention and to frame and adopt the constitution for the Government of the Commonwealth, as well as for the Government of the Philippine Republic, until such constitution is amended or abrogated by the sovereign will of the people of the Philippine Islands. It is my fervent wish and prayer that your task upon prosperity of the Filipino people will greatly depend be crowned with complete success.”

Genesis

After a quorum had been declared, Bishop Alfredo Versoza of Lipa, Batangas, rose and prayed God to guide the convention. Dr. Laurel was voted temporary chairman by acclamation. He appointed House Secretary Eulogio Benitez as temporary secretary of the convention. Delegate Manuel Briones of Cebu then nominated Claro M. Recto as permanent president of the convention, was seconded by Delegate Cuenco. Recto was elected by acclamation. Then came the election of the two vice-presidents.

It was a time of hope, of blithe optimism. The United States had elected a man president that it was to reelect three times; the American people were recovering from a terrible depression, although millions remained unemployed until war-orders provided them with work. Dictatorship had raised its head in Europe, with millions coming—many of them enthusiastically—under the rule of hysterical or pompous or falsely benign men. The Japanese had taken Manchuria. But the Filipinos, as parochial then in their world view as most Americans, thought that what happened to the rest of the world could not happen to them and happily framed a constitution republican in form and outlawing war as an instrument of national policy. There would be no war, no Bataan and Corregidor, no occupation.

Just in case, however, that there should be—but the possibility was remote—a provision in the charter authorized the government to require the services of every citizen in both war and peace.

Every delegate contributed something to the Constitution—some a little, others more. Jose Lansang, writing in the Philippines Herald, tried to assess the contributions of the various members:

“The provisions on the Executive Power were prepared by Delegate Roxas, using the American constitution and the Jones Law and several contemporary constitutions as guide. President Recto, Delegate Briones, Delegate Roxas and others worked together in the drafting of the article on the Legislative Power.

“The article on the Judicial Power was prepared by Delegate Romualdez after a conference with Chief Justice Ramon Avaceña of the Supreme Court, and…was based on the report of the committee on judiciary, headed by Delegate Vicente J. Francisco….

“The bill of rights…was the one prepared by the committee headed by Mr. Laurel and is based on the English bill of rights, the Declaration of the Rights of Man of France, the American constitution and the Jones Law, with two or three provisions later on inserted by some delegates, the provision against retroactive taxation by Delegate Salvador Araneta and the prohibition of imprisonment for poll-tax delinquents by Delegate Jesus Y. Perez.

“The general provisions…referring to the nationalization of lands were from the report of the committee headed by Delegate Jose C. Locsin, and were based largely on a report of an technical committee headed by Professor Vicente Sinco of the University of the Philippines.”

Delegates Singson-Encarnacion and Cuaderno drafted the provisions on the budget, aided by an experienced auditor, Delegate Domingo Dikit. Delegates Conrado Benitez and Ricardo Nepomuceno had much to do with the provisions on education and citizenship training. The provisions on public contracts and the electoral commission were prepared by Recto, Briones, Cuenco, Roxas, Laurel and Francisco. Delegate Locsin was “identified throughout the history of the convention with movements to secure social justice through the constitution.” State universities were guaranteed academic freedom by amendment of Delegates Conrado Benitez, Manuel Lim, Ricardo Nepomuceno, Rafael Palma, Camilo Osias and others. Delegate Vicente Francisco introduced the amendment on double jeopardy.

The committee responsible for the final phraseology of the Constitution was headed by President Recto, composed of the two vice-presidents, Montinola and Sandiko, and the seven subcommitteemen of the sponsorship committee as ex-officio members (Delegates Filemon Sotto, Manuel Roxas, Vicente Singson-Encarnacion, Manuel Briones, Miguel Cuaderno, Norberto Romualdez and Conrado Benitez). The following also had something to say on the final wording of the supreme law: Delegates Francisco, Hontiveros, Romero, Laurel, Nepomuceno, Palma, Arellano, Lim, Osias, Orense, Reyes, Aruego, Delgado, Perfecto, Conejero, Caram….

Accomplishment

The preamble to the Constitution was drafted by Recto who contributed most, it was generally held, to the Constitution. At the close of the convention, the senate president and future president of the Commonwealth, Manuel L. Quezon, said of the president of the convention:

“It has indeed been a great honor, that which you have conferred upon the Honorable Claro M. Recto, when you elected him as your President. You have given him the opportunity either to make or unmake himself. He was of course preceded by a great reputation as a scholar, as a man of letters, as a jurist, and as a statesman. But we all know that sometimes precisely those with the same qualifications, however well deserved, when faced by the realities of actually dealing with men, are the ones who do not always rise to the demands of the occasion. It is not necessary for me to say whether President Recto has been equal to his task or not. Soon every member of this convention will affix his signature to the Constitution, a document which is historical not only because to frame the fundamental law of the land is in itself historical, but because I confidently hope that this charter will guide our ship of state not only for many generations but for all generations to come. It has been your privilege to make history; and President Recto should be credited with the able leadership of this convention and the golden opportunity to place his talent and his patriotism at the service of his country.”

The president of the convention made his closing speech in Spanish. In substance, in English paraphrase, he said:

The years will pass into nothing; new generations will succeed ours; Time in its course will change our world if not destroy it; humanity, weary of itself and prey to new follies, will again and again throw the treasures of civilization into the flames of new and terrifying wars; but when those who come after us turn their faces to the past and consider what we have done in this convention, I am confident that they will say that we have done nobly, that we have done greatly. And they will not fail to note that the solicitude and the zeal which attended our efforts were not due to any desire for the praise of the present or the plaudits of the future, any wish to see our names in the bronze or marble of perishable glory, but to the desire to realize for our people, through this Constitution, to make that for which an illustrious prelate, pride of the native clergy, prayed God on the day of our inauguration: “A nation of happy people within Thy Kingdom.”

That was 18 years ago.

Confirmation

A mission headed by Quezon and including Recto and Roxas was sent to the United States to secure then President Roosevelt’s approval of the Constitution. The presentation of the draft was made to the American president on March 18. A Quezon joke made the presentation at the time and on the date set possible. Recto thought Roxas had the copy of the Constitution with him when they left for the White House and Roxas thought Quezon had it. “Don’t forget to bring the official copy of the Constitution with you,” President Quezon told Recto jokingly in Quezon’s room in the Shoreham Hotel where the members of the mission had gathered. The official copy was found in the briefcase of Private Secretary Guillermo Cabrera; it would have been left behind but for Quezon’s little joke.

Recto presented the copy to Roosevelt. On March 23, in the presence of Filipino and American officials, President Roosevelt approved the Constitution, congratulated those responsible for it. He called it a “great constitution.” Quezon told the Filipino people about the approval of the law by radiophone, at 1:02 a.m.

“The Constitution is signed!”

That was the signal to start the sirens going. Bells rang, firecrackers exploded, fireworks were lighted. All Manila was awake and cheering.

It was a great and happy day.

It was a great and noble work. The members of the convention had not worked alone, of course. Inspiration, as has been pointed out—from the minds of England, the United States, France. Among the presiding spirits at the convention were those of St. Thomas More, who had envisioned a “Utopia” in which all men would be free and reasonable—this, under the despotism of Henry VIII; the blind Milton, who wrote of earth, heaven and hell, and the reasons for a free press; Thomas Paine, who called it “Common Sense” to be independent and fought for “The Rights of Man” against the “divine right” of kings; Thomas Jefferson.

The Greeks and the Romans were there, and the Jews, the wedding of whose culture with the cultures of Greece and Rome produced the Western World and its concern for the rights of the individual, the soul of man.