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Quezon and his fights
by Rodrigo C. Lim
Everything he did, he did with style and elegance, which is why even his political feuds seem so dramatic and glamorous, especially when compared to the sordid political squabbles of today.
THE CURRENT POWER STRUGGLE among the country’s top political leaders, particularly that between President Garcia and NP and Senate President “Amang” Rodriguez, reminds us of the fights the late President Quezon had in in his over 30 years of public life.
In one respect Quezon’s political career was unique, singular. It could be perhaps duplicated but surely not surpassed by that of any other Filipino leader, or any other country for that matter. For not once in his incessant political strifes did he suffer a single defeat – and in many of them he was pitted against the most formidable opponents of his time.
Foremost of these battles was his historic fight for political supremacy in the early 20s against then Speaker Osmeña on the issue of collective versus unipersonal leadership. For over 15 years the two leaders had been disinterestingly and unselfishly collaborating in the common effort of nation building, forming a political partnership without parallel anywhere else then or today. Times there were when, because of conflict of opinion on vital national questions and of diametrically opposed characters and temperaments, a clash appeared imminent and inevitable. Each time, however, one or the other sacrificed personal prid and ambition for the good of the country, particularly the cause for which both had fought in war and in peace – Philippine independence.
But even the sweetest of honeymoons cannot last forever and in due time, the Quezon-Osmeña combine ended as any such political alliance is bound to end somehow, sometime. The formal parting of the ways came in the evening of February 17, 1922 when, before a mammoth crowd that overflowed the pre-war Manila Grand Opera House, Quezon declared war against his life-long friend and partner.
“When one is convinced that the conduct of a party is no longer in consonance with the will of the people and does not respect the demands of public opinion”, he told the teeming thousands that jammed that huge theater, “then no member is under any obligation to remain in that party.” It was then that he pronounced his classic now off-quoted dogma: “My loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins.”
Talking of the conflict, which some wiseacres of the time called a fight between autocracy as represented by Osmeña and democracy as typified by Quezon, the late Teodoro M. Kalaw, then secretary of interior and one of the geatest minds the Philippins has ever produced, said:
“The split came as a result of the disagreement over the leadership which question. Our faction stood for the so-called collective leadership which puts responsibilty in each department of the government. In other wotds the unipersonalists supported the introduction of the parliamentary form of government in the Philippines and the collectivitists the presidential form.”
While a good many people sincerely believed that Quezon only wanted to establish “a government by the people by means of a voluntary expression of sovereign will of the people” and “not the people’s rule without the expression of the popular will”, there were others who accused him of provoking the split to take control of the party and pertpetuate himself in power.
To those critics he retorted:
“Can I find a position in the Philippine government and in the gift of the Filipino people higher than that of president of the Senate, the highest position to which a Filipino could be sent by his countrymen? If I wanted to perpetuate myself in power, is there anything better for me than to remain in the Nacionalista Party?”
From the thundeous ovation the greeted his memorable pronouncements that evening at the Opera House, could be foreseen the outcome of the first clash between the two Filipino titans. In the subsequent election, in June, 1922, during which both were in the United States as joint chiefs of an independence mission, Quezon’s Collectivistas won with such a convincing majority that he thereafter became the acknowledged leader of Filipino participation in the government.
The Quezon-Osmeña divorce did not last long however. Quezon did not have a sufficient majority in the Lower House to elect the speaker of his choice, the then rising political star from Capiz, Manuel Roxas, and as between his former partner and the Democratas, he chose to coalesce with former. Neither did the Cebuano leader want any coalition with the oppositionists. Thus was formed the Nacionalista Consolidado Party with Quezon as head.
No sooner had Quezon and Osmeña kissed and made up when MLQ had to face a greater fight with no less than the representative of American sovereignty in his country – Governor-General Wood.
An arch-enemy of Philippine Independence, Wood was set on undoing all that his predecessor, Francis Burton Harrison, ahd done to give the Filipinos ample powers and responsibilities in preparation for self-government. Among other things, he turned his cabinet secretaries into glorified office clerks, solely responsible to him and under his absolute control, although their appointments were subject to control and approval of the Philippine legislature. To advise him in matters that were purely the concern of the Filipinos, he insteaf formed what then Editor Carlos P. Romulo called the “Kitchen Cabinet” or “Cavalry Cabinet” as others dubbed it, composed of U.S. Army officers including his playboy son, Lt. Osborne C. Wood.
Quezon was not one to take such affront to Filipino dignity lying down. The open break was precipitated by Governor Wood’s reinstatement of an American police detective who had been suspended by the city mayor with the approval of the interior. Quezon considered this act a clear violation of the fundamental law of the land and “a backward step and a curtailment of Filipino autonomy guaranteed by the organic act and enjoyed by the Filipino people continously since the operation of the Jones Law”. Shortly before midnight of July 17, 1922, the department secretaries led by Quezon and Speaker Roxas marched to Malacañan and presented their resignations from the cabinet and the council of state.
Wood accepted the resignations which he considered “a challenge and a threat which cannot ignore”. He likewise accepted the resignation of City Mayor Ramon J. Fernandez which was simultaneously presented with those of the cabinet men.
Quezon had so presented the issue that the people readily rallied around him. Only dissenters who saw in the crisis a chance to assume the powers formerly enjoyed by Quezon and company, were the Democratas led by Judge Juan Sumulong who branded the resignations as “fictitious, artificial, ridiculous and frivilous”. The case was later submitted to the people when a special election was held in the fourth senatorila district to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Senator Pedro Guevara who was chosen resident commissioner to Washington.
Never had the people witnessed such a battle royal in which all available instruments of political warfare were utilized. Quezon went to the people to the people in behalf of his man, Ex-Mayor Fernandez, with no other issue but “A vote for Fernandez is a vote for the people; a vote for Sumulong is a vote for Wood”. The result was an overwhelming majority for Fernandez and once again, Quezon scored one of the biggest victories in his political career.
A consequence of his rift with Wood which ended with the latter’s death on August 7, 1927, was Quezon’s equally acrimonious controversy with his former revolutionary chief, General Aguinaldo, whom he had served as an aide with the rank of major. Aguinaldo did not only express support for Wood but tried to strengthen the latter’s position here and in America by expelling Quezon from his Veterans of the Revolution Association. The bomb that was expected to discredit the Filipino leader in the eyes of both Filipinos and Americans proved a dud however. It turned out that Quezon had never been a member of the association and he could not therefore be expelled therefrom.
“While I am a veteran I have never affiliated with the association”. Quezon pointed out, “and from the time General Aguinaldo, for purely personal motives, came out in support of General Wood I have considered any association with it not only an inconsistency but a betrayal of public trust on my part.”
Offshoot of that controversy which lasted for quite a time was the withdrawal by the legislature of Aguinaldo’s P12,000 annual pension.
Last but not least of Quezon’s major political battles was his second break with Osmeña on the question of the H-H-C (Hare-Hawes-Cutting) Law. As everyone failiar with Philippine history knows, that law which provided for independence after a transition period of ten years, was passed by the U.S. Congress through the efforts of the so-called OSROX mission headed by Senator Osmeña and Speaker Roxas. Quezon objected however to the economic provisions of the law and caused the legislature to reject it.
With the OSROX group, aside from Osmeña and Roxas, were such political stalwarts as Rep. Benigno Aquino, Sen. Jose O. Vera, Commissioner Osias and U.P. President Palma. On Quezon’s side were his righthand men Senator Jose Ma. Clarin, Senator Elpidio Quirino and Reps. Quintin Paredes and Jose Zulueta. A tribute to Quezon’s political sagacity, he won to his side such former enemies as Aguinaldo, Sumulong, Recto and other lesser oppositionists.
The bitter fight had its first repercussions in the legislature when Osmeña men or “pros” were eliminated from key positions. Foremost of those “decapitated” was Speaker Roxas who was replaced by Rep. Paredes. The senate re-elected Quezon as president; Clarin, president-protempore, and Quirino, floor leader. There was then no question that Quezon and his “antis” were masters of the situation.
Quezon’s stock rose to greater heights when, despite dark predictions of failure voiced by the “pros”, he went to America and came back with another law – the Tydings-McDuffie Act – which was admittedly a much better law in so far as the Filipinos were concerned. Without a dissenting vote the legislature later accepted the law which became the foundation of the present Republic.
Once more, the people gave eloquent evidence of their confidence in Quezon when, in the election held barely a month after the acceptance of the T-M law, his men swept to victory throughout the country.
The foregoing are but a few of the fights that made Quezon’s political career colorful and dramatic. As has been already said, is not one of them did he ever taste the bitter pill of defeat. This, many of those who knew him attributed to his great and winning personality, his deep insight into human nature and his fighting spirit. To this the writer would add: if Quezon never lost a fight, it was because before he plunged into a battle he made sure of his backing, political or otherwise. I still remember that on the eve of his declaration of war against Osmeña and Roxas on the H-H-C law, he gathered at his home in Pasay the biggest men in business, finance and industry to ask for their support.
“Somos or no somos” he asked them, and when everyone chorused “Somos,” he fired the following day the first salvo against the OSROX.
August 4, 1923
Manila’s New Mayor
Some sidelights on his career and personality—reasons for his stand in accepting mayoralty—“not here to listen to barkings of political dogs”
Much discussion has arisen regarding the acceptance by Governor Eulogio Rodriguez, of Rizal province, of the mayorship of the city of Manila. While some say that Governor Rodriguez should not have accepted the position left vacant by the resignation of Mayor Fernandez, in view of the present “alleged crisis” in the government; yet many others contend that a man of the calibre of Mr. Rodriguez is urgently needed to guide the course of Manila’s government.
As the Free Press is always anxious to learn of a good man in public life and present him to its readers for edification and emulation, it takes pride in reproducing an excerpt from the life sketch of Mayor Rodriguez published in this paper seven years ago, when he was first elected provincial governor of Rizal:
“Cochero” and “Zacatero”
“One of the first questions fired at him was whether it was true he had been a ‘cochero’ and ‘zacatero’ as was a matter of common report and as one of his political rivals had contemptuously intimated in the recent election campaign. Mr. Rodriguez said he had never been exactly a ‘zacatero’ though he wouldn’t be ashamed of it if he had; nor was it exactly true that he had been a cochero, at least not as had been implied. These insinuations were based, he said, on his having acted as contractor for the army in a small way, and having supplied it with, among other things, grass as fodder for the horses; and further, on his having been carried on the army payroll as a teamster although actually he served as an interpreter. It appears that under army regulations in the early days no provision had been made for interpreters and so, to be enabled to employ him, it had been necessary to list him as a teamster; and he drew pay and rations as such. He added however, that as a boy he had many a time driven one of his father’s rigs for public hire, and so, if his political rivals any time wanted to, they might call him a cochero, and it wouldn’t hurt him; for it was an honest occupation.
“As to his helping the poor and giving them a lift in his automobile when he met them on the road, Mr. Rodriguez admitted that occasionally he was guilty of such things, and never felt any worse for it. And as to his not talking bad of anyone he stated that during the recent political campaign he had got such a name, as he didn’t believe in mudslinging and saying all the mean and nasty things possible about your opponent.”
Had People’s Consent
To illustrate further how Mayor Rodriguez regards the responsibility vested in him by the people of Rizal province, he told the Free Press reporter who interviewed him this week that before his acceptance of the mayorship of Manila he visited the towns of Malabon, Navotas, and Caloocan, where he obtained a majority of about 1,500 in the last elections for governor; and also the municipalities of San Juan del Monte, Taguig, Parañaque, Las Piñas, Montalban, Cainta, Taytay, Antipolo, Binangonan, Cardona, Morong, Baras, Tanay, and Pililla and consulted the people of those towns, through their municipal officials, as to whether or not he should accept the position of mayor of the city of Manila. In all those 17 towns he obtained the almost unanimous consent of the people.
A Firm Stand
When questioned by the Free Press reporter what he thought about the opposition to his acceptance of the mayor’s office, Mayor Rodriguez replied:
“I know that on my humble personality is being riveted the gaze of our political enemies at present. I know that there is a lot of talk against my acceptance of the mayor’s job. But, I also know that I am not here to listen to the barkings of political dogs. I have been placed here to be responsible to the people, to the citizens of Manila, especially.
“Let me tell you this much. My political enemies can not accuse me of being financially interested in this job. I have been engaged in politics since 1909 and I have a very clean slate. I have never done as intentional wrong to anyone. I have never given a tainted centavo to my family. My conscience is clear. I am here to serve the best interests of the people. At the moment I become convinced that I can not protect the people’s rights and can not serve them longer, I will not in the least hesitate to leave or resign this position and return to my farm.”
July 21, 1923
Details of Cabinet Crash
Chronological Summary of Past Week’s Events Culminating in Resignation En Masse of Philippine Cabinet and Council of State
THE growing feeling of dissatisfaction on the part of Filipino leaders in the government with the attitude of Governor General Wood, particularly with regard to the executive branches of the government, culminated last Tuesday evening in the resignations of the five Filipino secretaries of department and of Senate President Quezon and Speaker Roxas as members of the council of state. The resignation were accepted by the governor general.
The differences of opinion over closing the branches of the national bank, and over suspension of penalties for late payment of the land tax had already resulted in notes of protest being sent to the governor general by Senator Quezon, but the immediate cause of the wholesale resignations was the crisis brought about by the case of Ray Conley, suspended secret service detective accused of bribery and other charges. The special investigating board appointed by the governor general recommended on July 12 that Ray Conley be reinstated. In accordance with a previous agreement between Governor General Wood and Secretary Laurel, Conley was reinstated, but immediately after favorably indorsing the order of reinstatement the secretary resigned, stating that he could not have under his department a man whom he considered dishonest, and in view of a subsequent report of the special committee, stating that the continuance in the service of Conley was inadvisable. Mayor Fernandez resigned on the same day, last Saturday.
Gov. General’s Statement on Conley Resignation
On Monday Ray Conley handed in his resignation, which was accepted directly by the governor general, who made the following general statement:
“I recognize the right of Secretary Laurel and Mayor Fernandez to take action on the Conley case and advise me on this matter, but I do not believe their action or their advice should be final insofar as my own criterion of the merits of the case is concerned.
“True to the agreement I had with the secretary of the interior, I ordered the reinstatement of Conley in view of the first report of the investigating committee which stated that I may reinstate him.
“In explanation of the apparently conflicting stand taken by the investigating committee in its last report, the members pointed to the advisability of the separation of Conley from the service in view of the circumstances surrounding the affair and of the general hostility provoked by the case.
“Conley has submitted his resignation, and it has been accepted. Only two charges against him were proven and neither affects his efficiency as a police officer. The two charges are that he is keeping a woman and that he made certain false statements.”
By this time, however, affairs had reached such a stage that the resignation produced little effect in calming the agitation. The same day members of the cabinet, together with Senators Quezon and Osmeña, Speaker Roxas and several members of the legislature conferred in Senator Quezon’s home and a tentative agreement was made to submit their resignations. Several conferences were held during Monday and Tuesday between the principal parties concerned.
The Final Crash
On Tuesday morning the cabinet finally came to an agreement to resign after considerable discussion, particularly between Secretaries Laurel and Santos. The latter made numerous attempts to reach some agreement between the governor general and the Filipino group, but his efforts as intermediary proved useless, and about four in the afternoon, Senator Quezon, accompanied by Senator Osmeña, Speaker Roxas, and Secretary Abad Santos, went to a conference with the governor general that lasted over two hours, but without favorable result, and at 10:30 in the evening the cabinet members (excepting Secretary of Public Instruction Gilmore) accompanied by Senator Quezon and Speaker Roxas went to the Malacañang and submitted their resignations, which were accepted immediately by Governor General Wood. The resignation of Mayor Fernandez had been accepted earlier in the afternoon.
Appeal to Harding
In addition to the letter of resignation, Senator Quezon issued a statement announcing his intention of appealing to President Harding, and a cable was sent, giving the causes which led to the cabinet resigning en masse, and stating that a delegation would be sent to the United States to expose personally to the President the alleged disregard of important rights and prerogatives heretofore granted to Filipinos. A meeting of the Independence commission has been called for next Monday to make more definite plans for such a delegation.
Vacancies Filled Temporarily
The executive department of the government is not, however, at a standstill, for the undersecretaries automatically took over the duties of the superiors, and at a meeting decided that for the present at least, they would not resign. Acting Secretary of Justice Luis Torres was on Wednesday appointed also to the position of acting secretary of the interior, as Governor Julian Ocampo has not yet accepted the post of undersecretary offered him last week.
City Engineer Artiaga has been appointed acting mayor, and the municipal board at a meeting Wednesday evening promised their cooperation.
Attitude of Democratas
Leading members of the Democrata party have held several meetings during which was discussed the attitude they intend to take regarding the situation. After a gathering held in the home of Judge Sumulong on Wednesday evening it was announced that a formal meeting would be called for this evening, at which the following viewpoints of leaders would be discussed:
By Judge Sumulong: That this question should not be considered national, its origin being too insignificant, as it concerns a simple detective. It has been taken advantage of to provoke this question, as a result of which no one but the secretary of the interior should have resigned.
By Representative Ponce Enrile of Cagayan: That the coalition party be asked if in reality it is a national issue, because in case it is, an effective form will be asked, namely, the resignation of all undersecretaries and bureau chiefs—in other words, bring about a complete paralyzation of the government.
By Representative Padilla of Bulacan: That the Democrata party should clearly define that this is not a national question, and that the Democrata party should be entitled to two of the positions vacated, that of the secretary of the interior and that of the mayor of Manila on the ground that the majority of the provincial governors elected are Democratas and the municipal board of the city is wholly composed of Democratas. However, these positions should not be accepted now unless the Democratas are invited to occupy them as a result of abandonment by the Coalition group of their posts.
By ex-Representative Montenegro of Manila: That the Democratas accept whatever positions may be offered to them. What is happening here is exactly the same as in other countries: a cabinet resigns and another of different political affiliation is formed.
It was reported by Democratas present at Wednesday’s meeting that some members of the Manila police force, who were stationed around Judge Sumulong’s house, tried to enter the building, but after a conference with the chief of police Thursday morning
Officials here believe that Wood’s differences with the Filipino officials are due to the determination of the radical Philippine independence party to divest him of most of his powers over internal administration.
His decision against immediate separation of the islands from American control did much to strengthen antagonism despite his efforts to protect Filipinos from a reckless waste of their resources and their exploitation by self-seeking interests.
When Wood assumed control two years ago he found the islands in a state fast approaching bankruptcy as a result of extravagant appropriations of a wasteful administration.