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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!

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.”


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….


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.


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.

United behind Quezon, July 15, 1939

United Behind Quezon

July 15, 1939–“AYE!” With a tired roar that echoed hollowly in the dark bowl of the Rizal basketball stadium in Manila, one night last week, the Nationalist party convention approved the proposal to amend the Constitution, so as to allow the reelection of the President.

“Nay!” A half-hearted and scattered cry in opposition went up, after hours of resounding but futile debate.

An undisputed majority sent up an “Aye!” again, the following morning, approving another amendment, to revive the old senate.
The “Nay!” was even weaker.

For three days and nights last week, the party which rules the country met in the stifling shadow of a gathering typhoon to deliver itself of a series of historical mandates to its members in Malacañan, in the Assembly, in the cabinet, in every important office of the government. The mandates, expressed in resolutions, were to:

1. Change the Presidential term from one six-year period, to two four-year periods;
2. Revive the old bicameral legislature;
3. Create an administrative body to take charge of all elections;
4. Revise local governments to make them more, responsible and efficient (presumably, along the lines of the Quezon plan for appointive mayors and governors);
5. Readjust the three-year terms of assemblymen, provincial and municipal officials, so as to make them fit the new four-year presidential term;
6. Reaffirm loyalty to the coalition platform, including independence in 1946;
7. Request President Quezon to call a special session of the Assembly;
8. Ratify Presidential and Assembly action on the JPCPA report;
9. Congratulate President Quezon for his social justice program, and to request him to remain in office (that is, take advantage of the reelection amendment);
10. Congratulate Party President Yulo for his handling of the convention;
11. Increase the representation of governors in the Nationalist executive commission, from five to 12, thus putting them on a par with the Assemblymen.

The Sheep and the Goats

The convention was opened formally by Speaker Jose Yulo, in the afternoon of July 6. The morning had been devoted to the dry, and unexpectedly confused, routine of approving the credentials of the delegates. Every assembly district had been allowed three delegates, outside of the assemblymen themselves, and the provincial governors.

However, in many cases, the assemblyman and the governor concerned had not been able to agree on the delegates to be chosen, and had each appointed a separate set of three. This mix-up was unsolvable at the last minute, and the party heads decided to recognize everyone. Speaker Yulo, as president of the party, was reported to have signed the credentials of about 900, instead of the original 500, delegates.

But this large-scale hospitality had its limits. Efforts were made to exclude delegates known to be hostile to the amendment proposals. Paulino Gullas, a member of the 1934 constitutional convention, a delegate from Cebu by appointment of Assemblyman Hilario Abellana, faced ejection by party officials at the last moment. But the ouster had started too late; Gullas’ credentials had already been signed together with the others.

It was needless however to separate the sheep from the goats. The overwhelming majority of the delegates were under implicit specific instructions to vote in favor of the amendments. Several assemblymen opposed to the movement, among them Abellana, had not even bothered to attend the convention. The La Union assemblymen, reported to be antis at first, heatedly denied any convictions along that line.

Even Mrs. Cristina Aguinaldo-Suntay, the daughter of that stolid revolutionist and oppositionist, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, and herself a Popular Front candidate once upon a time, loudly proclaimed in advance her intention to vote for the amendments. Mrs. Suntay is a member of the Cavite provincial board; she campaigned for Manuel Rojas, the rebel Nationalist candidate for the Assembly, last year, and has apparently joined the now controlling Rojas branch of Cavite Nationalists.

The only opposition was expected from Lanao Assemblyman Tomas Cabili and his three delegates. Cabili, the only member of the constitutional convention who refused to sign the Constitution, apparently was now, by an ironic turn of fate, its sole defender.

So that when Speaker Yulo rose to address the convention at the end of the first day, he faced an audience that was in almost complete agreement with everything he was going to say, and he faced, beyond the audience, a nation which had almost always been in complete agreement with everything his party had said.

“The leaders of our party,” he read from a prepared script, “conscious of our duty and responsibility to the nation, have seen fit that at this juncture we should pause and evaluate the progress of our preparation for the day [July 4, 1946], and for the days that are to come thereafter, and decide whether under the surrounding circumstances, the political order that we have established can lend assurance to the accomplishment of the ideals so patiently and reverently waited for by our people.”

Such an evaluation, he continued, has “led our leaders to feel the necessity of the continuance of the present order, particularly as regards the leadership of the man who has laid the foundations of the Commonwealth government, and put into practice the new social justice policies enunciated in our Constitution. Unfortunately for us,” said the Speaker pointedly, “we are confronted by the provisions of our Constitution, which would not permit such an eventuality.”

“Conservative Reforms”

What was the Constitution doing? It “unnecessarily curtailed the right of the people to a free selection of the chief magistrate of the nation,” for it prohibited reelection of the President. It was “depriving the people of the right to change the chief magistrate for a long period of time namely six years, a period of time which, in the hands of an unscrupulous president, may lead the nation to decadence or destruction.”

The remedy? It was “the free and untrammeled exercise of the right of suffrage!”

Only one paragraph did the Speaker of the Assembly devote to the bicameral proposal, which would shear his house of half of its power. “And no less important,” he said, “is the necessity of guarding the nation against the possible onslaught of radical theories, now the preoccupation of many nations—and this can be met by effecting conservative reforms in our legislative body.”

The thunder of agreement that signaled the end of the party president’s exhortation forecast the quick approval of the “reforms.”

Next day however there was unexpected opposition. Cabili had announced he would not speak against the Constitutional amendments. But a foe, far more dangerous and eloquent than the Lanao assemblyman, one who had attacked presidential reelection long and loudly on the floor of the Assembly, had taken his place.

Leading the three delegates from his district, the fiery Batangas gamecock, Eusebio Orense, crowed a challenge. For two days, he and his three men, would strike many a sharp blow against the party leaders. And with him worked Gullas, annoyed by the attempt to oust him.

One of the Batangueños, former Rep. Rafael Villanueva, started the fireworks by challenging the legality of the convention. The delegates had not been appointed, he argued, as provided by the party rules—by municipal and provincial conventions. The objection was swiftly and irrevocably tabled.

Assemblyman Pedro Hernaez, smarting under a recent party snub, questioned the presence of Popular Fronters (Mrs. Suntay) in a Nationalist convention. Again the objection was buried.

The delegates scrambled over one another to file resolutions supporting the Constitutional amendments. A resolutions committee of 36 members, under Secretary of Justice Jose Abad Santos, had to be named to coordinate all these enthusiastic efforts.

“As A Free Man”

The committee reported out an omnibus resolution for the amendment of the Constitution with regard to reelection and the senate; the revision of local governments “with a view to making them more responsive to the actual needs of the people, thus rendering such governments more responsible and efficient”; and ratification of the coalition platform.

The party rebels made a brave show of speeches against the resolution, when it was submitted part by part to the convention, but they were crushed by a well-organized majority. Orense spoke in vain.

Villanueva denounced the reelection proposal as undemocratic and expensive; he sneered that the Assembly had started the movement in payment of President Quezon’s efforts for their reelection last year. So incensed were the legislators by this accusation that they persuaded the convention to strike Villanueva’s remark from the record.

Gullas gave the key speech for the rebels. “This is a free country. I shall speak and vote as a free man,” he began to a flutter of applause. “This resolution permitting the reelection of the President with a shorter term, with retroactive effect, is couched in general terms. The purpose is clear.

“This resolution is indeed a tribute to the leadership of President Quezon. I have voted for that leadership. I am following that leadership. But I shall vote against this resolution; for, in principle, I voted against it on the floor of the constitutional convention; because the constitutional precept prohibiting a presidential reelection was inspired by President Quezon, and the Constitution containing such prohibition was unanimously approved by that convention and overwhelmingly ratified by the Filipino people. I am voting against the resolution because I wish to be consistent with myself….”

FREE PRESS Poll Quoted

“Only a few days ago,” argued Gullas, “a straw vote conducted by the FREE PRESS, a non-partisan and widely read weekly in the Philippines was concluded. The result was against reelection. Of course, it is not an absolute indication of how the public will vote. But it clearly shows which way the wind blows. It is a barometer of the sentiment of the people. Like a finger on the pulse, it counted, as it were, the heartbeats of the nation.

“If that is not sufficient, two months ago, a debating team from the University of the Philippines toured the country from north to south, from east to west. The members of that team will tell you that in practically every town, the home team selected to defend the negative side of the question of presidential reelection. They will tell you that the public reaction in practically every city they visited was decidedly against the reelection of the President.

“What does it all mean? It means that the public wants you to give the Constitution a fair trial. They want the Constitution to reflect the stability, not the instability of our government; they want the Constitution to be permanent, and not transitory; enduring, and not reflecting the passing whims of the leader or party that may happen to be in power.”

The best heads and tongues of the party rallied to the defense of the amendment; sponsored on the floor by Assemblyman Jose Zulueta.

Assemblyman Pedro Sabido eloquently answered the argument that a second term might mean President Quezon’s death, by saying that the life of the nation was more valuable than the life of the President. Assemblyman Gulamu Rasul pledged the Moro people for reelection. But it took golden-tongued Manuel Roxas, drafted at the last minute, to swing the convention behind the proposal with cheering unanimity.

The vote on the proposal was by acclamation. Four delegates, however, were allowed to register dissenting votes afterward; all of them, Orense, Villanueva, Eusebio Lopez and Felipe Dimaculañgan, were from Batangas.

The rebels later denied that Yulo had invited all who had said “Nay” to put their opposition on record. Many who had raised a voice against reelection preferred to remain more or less unknown.

The party went quickly after the four marked men. Convention officials discovered that Dimaculañgan was not a bona fide delegate. Mayor Juan Buenafe of Batangas, Batangas, wired the convention: “The municipal council and the people of this town protest against the appointment of anti-reelectionist delegates. . . . We are unconditionally for reelection.”

Elections in 1939?

The reelection plan however seemed to have suffered a change. The old proposal was to hold the second election in 1941, when Mr. Quezon’s six-year term will be finished. He would then serve for two years of the new four-year term and then resign. However the plan now is apparently to hold the election this year, at the end of Mr. Quezon’s first four years, thus reelecting him for the full new four-year term.

The next morning, the convention took up the remaining resolutions, most important of which was the one on senate revival. Again Villanueva rose to object, supported by Iloilo’s Serapion C. Torre. The success of the unicameral Assembly, they argued was undeniable; why change the system?

But the only successful amendment to the amendment was one leaving the nature of the resurrected senate undecided; the President and the resolutions committee had advocated a senate-at-large. Other factions however wanted one senator for every province, or the revival of the old senatorial districts.

So headlong was the rush toward approval of the resolutions that Zulueta felt obliged to point out that the convention had no authority to change the Constitution; it could only suggest such changes to the Assembly or a constitution convention.

The Yes-men were in the immense majority, and when President Quezon arrived to close the convention, Saturday evening, he was greeted with a spontaneous roar. Moved by the demonstration, His Excellency repeated what he had told the Assembly in May: he was unwilling to serve more than eight years in all; he wanted to follow the precedent of George Washington.

He argued more at length on the need of a senate-at-large; it is believed, in fact, that one strong reason why Mr. Quezon is willing to go along on the reelection proposal is to secure the companion constitutional amendment for a senate.

But the strongest reason he gave at the end of his speech. “The only thing that I am afraid of,” he confessed, “is that after I leave the presidency the country may be divided, not along political lines, but on the choice of my successor. The country is not prepared for a great division among our people.”

There was indeed little fear of division as long as Manuel Quezon was President; the united tribute of the convention proved it once more. And if the Constitution is amended, the country need have no fear until 1943.


Last of the 100 days, May 27, 1939

May 27, 1939

Last of the 100 days
By the Amateur Assemblyman

“WELL, my friends,” Speaker Jose Yulo is said to have told several Assemblymen last week, “all of you have had your palabas. You have given privilege speeches. You have directed investigations. You have passed important bills or amended them. You have had your share of newspaper headlines. Now give me a chance to show off. Let’s close it ahead of time.”

The he announced he would give his colleagues a big feed at the Manila Hotel at 8 p.m. on the last of the 100 Days, four hours before the witching hour of midnight, when the clock was stopped in other legislative windups.

It was a subtle and effective trick that would have done credit to a veteran, and proved that the debutante Speaker had come of political age. The Assemblymen, in high good humor, rattled off bill after bill in third and final reading, and cleared the table by 6:45 p.m. with the approval of the P8,180,000 public works appropriation. Assemblyman Eugenio Perez occupied the rostrum during the last lap. The Assembly passed a total of 87 bills in the 100 Days; five have already been signed by the President.