3rd President of the Philippines

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Jose Paciano Laurel (March 9, 1891 -- November 6, 1959)

Early life and career:

José Paciano Laurel was born on March 9, 1891 in the town of Tanauan, Batangas. His parents were Sotero Laurel, Sr. and Jacoba García. His father had been an official in the revolutionary government of Emilio Aguinaldo and a signatory to the 1898 Malolos Constitution.

While a teen, Laurel was indicted for attempted murder when he almost killed a rival suitor of his girlfriend. While studying and finishing law school, he argued for and received an acquittal.

Laurel received his law degree from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1915, where he studied under Dean George A. Malcolm, whom he would later succeed on the Supreme Court. He then obtained a Master of Laws degree from University of Santo Tomas in 1919. Laurel then attended Yale Law School, where he obtained a Doctorate of Law.

Laurel began his life in public service while a student, as a messenger in the Bureau of Forestry then as a clerk in the Code Committee tasked with the codification of Philippine laws. During his work for the Code Committee, he was introduced to its head, Thomas A. Street, a future Supreme Court Justice who would be a mentor to the young Laurel.

Upon his return from Yale, Laurel was appointed first as Undersecretary of the Interior Department, then promoted as Secretary of the Interior in 1922. In that post, he would frequently clash with the American Governor-General Leonard Wood, and eventually, in 1923, resign from his position together with other Cabinet members in protest of Wood's administration. His clashes with Wood solidified Laurel's nationalist credentials.

Senator of the Philippines:

In 1925 he was elected to the Philippine Senate. He would serve for one term before losing his re-election bid in 1931 to Claro M. Recto. He retired to private practice, but by 1934, he was again elected to public office, this time as a delegate to the 1935 Constitutional Convention. Hailed as one of the "Seven Wise Men of the Convention", he would sponsor the provisions on the Bill of Rights. Following the ratification of the 1935 Constitution and the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Laurel was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court on February 29, 1936.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court:

Laurel's Supreme Court tenure may have been overshadowed by his presidency, yet he remains one of the most important Supreme Court justices in Philippine history. He authored several leading cases still analyzed to this day that defined the parameters of the branches of government as well as their powers.

Angara v. Electoral Commission, 63 Phil. 139 (1936), which is considered as the Philippine equivalent of Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803), is Laurel's most important contribution to jurisprudence and even the rule of law in the Philippines. In affirming that the Court had jurisdiction to review the rulings of the Electoral Commission organized under the National Assembly, the Court, through Justice Laurel's opinion, firmly entrenched the power of Philippine courts to engage in judicial review of the acts of the other branches of government, and to interpret the Constitution. Held the Court, through Laurel:

"The Constitution is a definition of the powers of government. Who is to determine the nature, scope and extent of such powers? The Constitution itself has provided for the instrumentality of the judiciary as the rational way. And when the judiciary mediates to allocate constitutional boundaries, it does not assert any superiority over the other departments; it does not in reality nullify or invalidate an act of the legislature, but only asserts the solemn and sacred obligation assigned to it by the Constitution to determine conflicting claims of authority under the Constitution and to establish for the parties in an actual controversy the rights which that instrument secures and guarantees to them."


Another highly influential decision penned by Laurel was Ang Tibay v. CIR, 69 Phil. 635 (1940). The Court acknowledged in that case that the substantive and procedural requirements before proceedings in administrative agencies, such as labor relations courts, were more flexible than those in judicial proceedings. At the same time, the Court still asserted that the right to due process of law must be observed, and enumerated the "cardinal primary rights" that must be respected in administrative proceedings. Since then, these "cardinal primary rights" have stood as the standard in testing due process claims in administrative cases.

Calalang v. Williams, 70 Phil. 726 (1940) was a seemingly innocuous case involving a challenge raised by a private citizen to a traffic regulation banning kalesas from Manila streets during certain afternoon hours. The Court, through Laurel, upheld the regulation as within the police power of the government. But in rejecting the claim that the regulation was violative of social justice, Laurel would respond with what would become his most famous aphorism, which is to this day widely quoted by judges and memorized by Filipino law students:

"Social justice is neither communism, nor despotism, nor atomism, nor anarchy," but the humanization of laws and the equalization of social and economic forces by the State so that justice in its rational and objectively secular conception may at least be approximated. Social justice means the promotion of the welfare of all the people, the adoption by the Government of measures calculated to insure economic stability of all the competent elements of society, through the maintenance of a proper economic and social equilibrium in the interrelations of the members of the community, constitutionally, through the adoption of measures legally justifiable, or extra-constitutionally, through the exercise of powers underlying the existence of all governments on the time-honored principle of salus populi est suprema lex. Social justice, therefore, must be founded on the recognition of the necessity of interdependence among divers and diverse units of a society and of the protection that should be equally and evenly extended to all groups as a combined force in our social and economic life, consistent with the fundamental and paramount objective of the state of promoting the health, comfort, and quiet of all persons, and of bringing about "the greatest good to the greatest number."

Presidency:

Main articles: Japanese occupation of the Philippines and Second Philippine Republic

The presidency of Laurel understandably remains one of the most controversial in Philippine history. After the war, he would be denounced in some quarters as a war collaborator or even a traitor, although his indictment for treason was superseded by President Roxas' Amnesty Proclamation, and evidenced by his subsequent electoral success. Today, Laurel is considered as doing his best in interceding, protecting and looking after the best interests of the Filipinos against the harsh wartime Japanese military rule and policies. However, the fact remains that he violated his Oath of Office and headed an illegal government of the Philippines.

Accession:Manuel L. Quezon, who fled to Corregidor and then to the United States to establish a government-in-exile. His prewar, close relationship with Japanese officials (a son had been sent to study at the Imperial Military Academy in Tokyo, and Laurel had received an honorary doctorate from Tokyo University), placed him in a good position to interact with the Japanese occupation forces.

Laurel was among the Commonwealth officials instructed by the Japanese Imperial Army to form a provisional government when they invaded and occupied the country. He cooperated with the Japanese in contrast to the decision of Filipino Chief Justice Abad Santos against collaboration. It was because of his being well-known to the Japanese as a critic of US rule, as well as his demonstrated willingness to serve under the Japanese Military Administration, that he held a series of high posts in 1942-1943. In 1943, he was shot by Philippine guerillas while playing golf at Wack-Wack, but he quickly recovered. Later that year, he was selected, by the National Assembly, under vigorous Japanese influence, to serve as President.Economy:

During Laurel's tenure as President, hunger was the main worry. Prices of essential commodities rose to unprecedented heights. The government exerted every effort to increase production and bring consumers' goods under control. However, Japanese rapacity had the better of it all. On the other hand, guerrilla activities and Japanese retaliatory measures brought the peace and order situation to a difficult point. Resorting to district-zoning and domiciliary searches, coupled with arbitrary asserts, the Japanese made the mission of Laurel's administration incalculably exasperating and perilous.

Food Shortage:

During his presidency, the Philippines faced a crippling food shortage which demanded much of Laurel's attention. Laurel also resisted in vain Japanese demands that the Philippines issue a formal declaration of war against the United States. There were also reports during his presidency of the Japanese military carrying out rape and massacre towards the Filipino population.

KALIBAPI:

Telling of Laurel's ambivalent and precarious position is the following anecdote. In 1944, Laurel issued an executive order organizing the Kapisanan sa Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas (KALIBAPI) as the sole political organization to back the government. An attempt was made to organize a women's section of the KALIBAPI, and Laurel hosted several women leaders in Malacañang Palace to plead his case. After he spoke, a university president, speaking in behalf of the group, responded, "Mr. President, sa kabila po kami". ("Mr. President, we are on the other side.") Laurel joined the others assembled in hearty laughter and the KALIBAPI women's section was never formed.

Philippine-Japanese Treaty of Alliance:

On October 20, 1943 the Philippine-Japanese Treaty of Alliance was signed by Claro M. Recto, who was appointed by Laurel as his Foreign Minister, and Japanese Ambassador to Philippines Sozyo Murata. One redeeming feature was that no conscription was envisioned.

Greater East Asia Conference:

Shortly after the inauguration of the Second Philippine Republic, President Laurel, together with cabinet Ministers Recto and Paredes flew to Tokyo to attend the Greater East Asia Conference which was an international summit held in Tokyo, Japan from 5 – 6 November 1943, in which Japan hosted the heads of state of various component members of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The conference was also referred to as the Tokyo Conference.

The Conference addressed few issues of any substance, but was intended from the start as a propaganda show piece, to illustrate the Empire of Japan's commitments to the Pan-Asianism ideal and to emphasize its role as the “liberator” of Asia from Western colonialism.

The Joint Declaration of the Greater East Asia Conference was published as follows:

It is the basic principle for the establishment of world peace that the nations of the world have each its proper place, and enjoy prosperity in common through mutual aid and assistance. The United States of America and the British Empire have in seeking their own prosperity oppressed other nations and peoples. Especially in East Asia, they indulged in insatiable aggression and exploitation, and sought to satisfy their inordinate ambition of enslaving the entire region, and finally they came to menace seriously the stability of East Asia. Herein lies the cause of the recent war. The countries of Greater East Asia, with a view to contributing to the cause of world peace, undertake to cooperate toward prosecuting the War of Greater East Asia to a successful conclusion, liberating their region from the yoke of British-American domination, and ensuring their self-existence and self-defense, and in constructing a Greater East Asia in accordance with the following principles:

  • The countries of Greater East Asia through mutual cooperation will ensure the stability of their region and construct an order of common prosperity and well-being based upon justice.
  • The countries of Greater East Asia will ensure the fraternity of nations in their region, by respecting one another's sovereignty and independence and practicing mutual assistance and amity.
  • The countries of Greater East Asia by respecting one another's traditions and developing the creative faculties of each race, will enhance the culture and civilization of Greater East Asia.
  • The countries of Greater East Asia will endeavor to accelerate their economic development through close cooperation upon a basis of reciprocity and to promote thereby the general prosperity of their region.
  • The countries of Greater East Asia will cultivate friendly relations with all the countries of the world, and work for the abolition of racial discrimination, the promotion of cultural intercourse and the opening of resources throughout the world, and contribute thereby to the progress of mankind.

Martial law:

Laurel declared the country under martial law in 1944 through Proclamation No. 29, dated September 21. Martial law came into effect on September 22, 1944 at 9am. Proclamation No. 30 was issued the next day, declaring the existence of a state of war between the Philippines and the United States and the United Kingdom. This took effect on September 23, 1944 at 10:00 am.

Resistance:

Due to the nature of the Second Republic, and its connection to the Empire of Japan, a sizable portion of the population actively resisted his presidency,supporting the exiled Commonwealth government; that is not to say that his government didn't have forces against said resistance.

Assassination attempt:

On June 5, 1943, Laurel was playing golf at the Wack Wack Golf Course in Mandaluyong when he was shot around 4 times with a 45 caliber pistol. The bullets barely missed his heart and liver. He was rushed by his golfing companions, among them FEU president Nicanor Reyes, Sr., to the Philippine General Hospital where he was operated by the Chief Military Surgeon of the Japanese Military Administration and Filipino surgeons. Laurel enjoyed a speedy recovery.

Two suspects to the shooting were reportedly captured and swiftly executed by the Kempetai. Another suspect, a former boxer named Feliciano Lizardo, was presented for identification by the Japanese to Laurel at the latter's hospital bed, but Laurel then professed unclear memory. However, in his 1953 memoirs, Laurel would admit that Lizardo, by then one of the former President's bodyguards, was indeed the would-be-assassin. Still, the historian Teodoro Agoncillo in his book on the Japanese occupation, identified a captain with a guerilla unit as the shooter.

Laurel is the only Filipino president to have been shot outside of combat.

Dissolution of the Second Republic:

On July 26, 1945 the Postdam Declaration served upon Japan an ultimatum to surrender or face utter annihilation. The Japanese government refused the offer. On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima, with some 300,000 inhabitants, was almost totally destroyed by an atomic bomb dropped from an American plane. Two days later, Russia, upon a flimsy excuse, declared war against Japan. The next day, August 9, 1945, a second atomic bomb was dropped a\in Nagasaki. The Allied Forces' message now had a telling effect: Japan unconditionally surrendered to the Allied Powers on August 15, 1945. Since April 1945, President Laurel, together with his family and Cabinet member Camilo Osias, Speaker Benigno Aquino, Sr., Gen. Tomas Capinpin, and Ambassador Jorge Vargas, had been in Japan. Evacuated from Baguio shortly after the city fell, they traveled to Aparri and thence, on board Japanese planes, had been taken to Japan. On August 17, 1945, from his refuge in Nara, President Laurel issued an Executive Proclamation which declared the dissolution of the Second Republic of the Philippines.

1949 Presidential Election:

On August 15, 1945, the Japanese forces surrendered to the United States. Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered Laurel arrested for collaborating with the Japanese. In 1946 he was charged with 132 counts of treason, but was never brought to trial due to the general amnesty granted by President Manuel Roxas in 1948. Laurel ran for president against Elpidio Quirino in 1949 but lost in what was then considered as the dirtiest election in Philippine electoral history.

Return to the Senate:

Laurel was elected to the Senate in 1951, under the Nacionalista Party. He was urged upon to run for President in 1953, but he declined, working instead for the successful election of Ramon Magsaysay. Magsaysay appointed Laurel head of a mission tasked with negotiating trade and other issues with United States officials, the result being known as the Laurel-Langley Agreement.

Retirement and death:

Laurel considered his election to the Senate as a vindication of his reputation. He declined to run for re-election in 1957. He retired from public life, concentrating on the development of the Lyceum of the Philippines established by his family.

During his retirement, Laurel stayed in a 3-story, 7-bedroom mansion dubbed as "Villa Pacencia", erected in 1957 at Mandaluyong and named after Laurel's wife. The home was one of three residences constructed by the Laurel family, the other two being located in Tanauan and in Paco, Manila (called "Villa Peñafrancia). In 2008, the Laurel family sold "Villa Pacencia" to Senate President Manny Villar and his wife Cynthia.

On November 6, 1959, Laurel died at the Lourdes Hospital, in Manila, from a massive heart attack and a stroke.

(Reference www.google.com/Wikipedia)