5th President of the Philippines

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Manuel Acuña Roxas (January 1, 1892 -- April 15, 1948)

Early life and career:

Manuel A. Roxas, third and last President of the Commonwealth and the first of the Republic of the Philippines, was born to Gerardo Roxas, Sr. and Rosario Acuña on January 1, 1892 in Capiz (now Roxas City). He was a posthumous child, for his father Gerardo had been mortally wounded by Spanish guardias civiles the year before, leaving him and his older brother Mamerto to be raised by their mother and Don Eleuterio, their maternal grandfather.

Roxas received his early education in the public schools of Capiz, and at age 12, attended St. Joseph’s Academy in HongKong. But after homesickness, he went back to Capiz. He eventually moved to Manila High School (later named the Araullo High School), graduating with highest honors in 1909.

Roxas began his law studies at a private law school established by George Malcolm, the first dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law. On his second year, he enrolled at U.P., where he was elected president of both his class and the Student Council. In 1913, Roxas obtained his law degree, graduated class valedictorian, and subsequently topped the first bar examinations with a grade of 92%, becoming the first ever bar topnotcher of the Philippines.

House Speakership:

Roxas occupied more important positions in the Philippine government than any other Filipino had ever held before him. For some thirty-six years he exercised authority as public official in various capacities, capping these with the highest office in the land. Starting in 1917 as a member of the municipal council of Capiz, he became the youngest governor of his province and served in this capacity from 1919 to 1922. The Roxas potential for national leadership became evident when he was elected President of the national league of governors during his term as provincial head.

He was later elected to the Philippine House of Representatives in 1922, and for twelve consecutive years was Speaker of the House. He was member of the Constitutional Convention 1934 to 1935, Secretary of Finance, Chairman of the National Economic Council, Chairman of the National Development Company and many other government corporations and agencies, Brigadier General in the USAFFE, and Guerilla leader.


World War II:

After the amendments to the 1935 Philippine Constitution were approved in 1941, he was elected (1941) to the Philippine Senate, but was unable to serve until 1945 because of the outbreak of World War II.

Former diplomatic residence of Manuel Roxas in Washington, D.C. Having enrolled prior to World War II as an officer in the reserves, he was made liaison officer between the Commonwealth government and the United States Army Forces in the Far East headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur. He accompanied President Quezon to Corregidor where he supervised the destruction of Philippine currency to prevent its capture by the Japanese. When Quezon left Corregidor, Roxas went to Mindanao to direct the resistance there. It was prior to Quezon's departure that he was made Executive Secretary and designated as successor to the presidency in case Quezon or Vice-President Sergio Osmeña were captured or killed. Roxas was captured (1942) by the Japanese invasion forces.


Senate Presidency:

When the Congress of the Philippines was convened in 1945, the legislators elected in 1941 chose Roxas as Senate President. In the Philippine national elections of 1946, Roxas ran for president as the nominee of the liberal wing of the Nacionalista Party. He had the staunch support of General MacArthur. His opponent was Sergio Osmeña, who refused to campaign, saying that the Filipino people knew his reputation. However, in the April 23, 1946 election, Roxas won 54 percent of the vote, and the Liberal Party won a majority in the legislature. When the Philippines gained independence from the United States on July 4, 1946, he became the first president of the new republic.

Presidential election of (1946)

On 1946, at the height of the last Commonwealth elections, subjected for replacing Sergio Osmeña in office, Senate President Roxas and his friends bolted from the Nacionalista Party and founded their own Liberal Party. Roxas then became the standard-bearer for presidency for the Liberal Party and Elpidio Quirino for vice-president. The Nacionalistas, on the other hand, had Osmeña for president and Senator Eulogio Rodriguez for vice-president. On April 23, 1946, Roxas and Quirino won the ticket.

On May 8, 1946, President-elect Roxas, accompanied by US High Commissioner Paul V. McNutt, enplaned for the United States to discuss with the American authorities the vital matters affecting the Philippines. On May 28, 1946, Roxas was inaugurated amidst impressive ceremonies as the last President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines. The inaugural ceremonies were held on the grounds of ruined, shell-blasted Legislative Building and were witnessed by huge crowds of around 200,000 people. He delineated the main policies of his administration, mainly, closer ties with the United States, adherence to the newly-created United Nations Organization, reconstruction of war-devastated country, relief for the masses, social justice to the working class, maintenance of peace and order, preservation of individual rights and liberties of the citizenry and honesty and efficiency of government office.


Last President of the Commonwealth (1946)

Roxas served as the President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines in a brief period, from his subsequent election on May 28, 1946 to July 4, 1946, the scheduled date of the proclamation of Philippine Independence. Roxas prepared the groundwork for the advent of a free and independent Philippines, assisted by the CongressSenator José Avelino as the Senate President and Congressman Eugenio Perez as the House of Representatives Speaker. On June 3, 1946, Roxas appeared for the first time before the joint session of the Congress to deliver his first state of the nation address. Among other things, he told the members of the Congress the grave problems and difficulties the Philippines are set to face and reports of his special trip to the United States–the approval for independence.

On June 21, he reappeared into another joint session of the Congress and urged the acceptance of two important laws passed by the Congress of the United StatesPhilippine Rehabilitation Act and the Philippine Trade Act. Both recommendations were accepted by the Congress. (reorganized May 25, 1946), with on April 30, 1946 to the Philippine lands. They are the


First President of the Third Republic (1946-1948)

Manuel Roxas' term as the President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines ended on the morning of July 4, 1946 when the Third Republic of the Philippines was inaugurated and Philippine Independence from the United States proclaimed, amidts plaudits and prayers of some 300,000 people, 21-gun salute and joyous echoes of church bells. Roxas was then inaugurated as the new and first president of the new Republic.

The inaugural ceremonies took place at Luneta Park, Manila. On the grandstand there were around 3,000 guests and notables, consisted of President Roxas and his cabinet; the last US High Commissioner and first American Ambassador of US to the Philippines Paul McNutt; General Douglas MacArthur (coming from Tokyo); United States Postmaster General Robert E. Hannegan; a delegation from US Congress headed by Tydings-McDuffie Act author Maryland Senator Millard TydingsMissouri Representative C. Jasper Bell, author of Bell Trade Act and former civil governor-general Francis Burton Harrison.


Economy:

No sooner had the fanfare of the independence festivities ended that the government and the people quickly put all hands to work in the tasks of rescuing the country from its dire economic straits. Reputed to be the most bombed and destroyed country in the world, the Philippines was in a sorry mess. Only Stalingrad and Warsaw, for instance, could compare with Manila in point of destruction. All over the country more that a million people were unaccounted fro. The war casualties as such could very well reached the two million mark. Conservative estimates had it that the Philippines had lost about two thirds of her material wealth.

The country was facing near bankruptcy. There was no national economy, no export trade. Indeed, production for exports had not been restored. On the other hand, imports were to reach the amount of three million dollars. There was need of immediate aid from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Something along this line was obtained. again, loans for the United States, as well as some increase in the national revenues, were to help the new Republic.

President Roxas, with bold steps, met the situation with the same confidence he exuded in his inaugural address, when he said: "The system of free but guided enterprise is our system". Among the maid remedies proposed was the establishment of the Philippine Rehabilitation Finance Corporation. This entity would be responsible for the construction of twelve thousand houses and for the grant of easy-term loans in the amount of 177,000,000 pesos. Another proposal was the creation of the Central Bank of the Philippines to help stabilize the Philippine dollar reserves and coordinate and the nations banking activities gearing them to the economic progress.

Concentrating on the sugar industry, President Roxas would exert such efforts as to succeed in increasing production from 13,000 tons at the time of the Philippine liberation to an all-high of one million tons.


Reconstruction after the war:

The postwar Philippines had burned cities and towns, ruined farms and factories, blasted roads and bridges, shattered industries and commerce, and thousands of massacred victims. The war had paralyzed the educational system, where 80% of the school buildings, their equipments, laboratories and furniture were destroyed. Numberless books, invaluable documents and works of art, irreplaceable historical relics and family heirlooms, hundreds of churches and temples were burned. The reconstruction of the damaged school buildings alone cost more than Php 126,000,000.

The new Republic began to function on an annual deficit of over Php 200,000,000 with little prospect of a balanced budget for some years to come. Manila and other cities then were infested with criminal gangs which used techniques of American gangsters in some activities–bank hold-ups, kidnapping and burglaries. In rural regions, especially the provinces of Central Luzon and the Southern Tagalog regions, the Hukbalahaps and brigands terrorized towns and barrios.

Agrarian reform:

In 1946, shortly after his induction to Presidency, Manuel Roxas proclaimed the Rice Share Tenancy Act of 1933 effective through out the country. However problems of land tenure continued. In fact these became worse in certain areas. Among the remedial measures enacted was Republic Act No. 1946 likewise known as the Tenant Act which provided for a 70-30 sharing arrangements and regulated share-tenancy contracts. It was passed to resolve the ongoing peasant unrest in Central Luzon.

Amnesty proclamation:

President Roxas, on January 28, 1948, granted full amnesty to all so-called Philippine collaborators, many of whom were on trial or awaiting to be tried, particularly former President Jose P. Laurel (1943-1945). The Amnesty Proclamation did not apply to those "collaborators", who were charged with the commission of common crimes, such as murder, rape, and arson. The presidential decision did much to heal a standing wound that somehow threatened to divide the people's sentiments. It was a much-called for measure to bring about a closer unity in the trying times when such was most needed for the progress of the nation.

HUKS outlawed:

Utterly disgusted with the crimes being committed by HUKBALAHAP or HUKS and in possession of the incontrovertible evidence of the subversive character of the same, President Roxas, on March 6, 1948, in a dramatic gesture, issued a Proclamation outlawing Huks' movement, making it a crime to belong to the same. The declaration was hailed by all responsible and peace-loving elements. The same had become imperative in view of the resurgence of Huk depredations, following the unseating of the seven Communists, led by Huk Supremo Luis Taruc through acts of terrorism.

Treaty of General Relations:

On August 5, 1946, the Congress of the Philippines ratified the Treaty of General Relations that had been entered into by and between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States on July 4, 1946. Aside from withdrawing her sovereignty from the Philippines and recognizing her independence, the Treaty reserved for the United States some bases for the mutual protection of both countries; consented that the United States represent the Philippines in countries where the latter had not yet established diplomatic representation; made the Philippines assume all debts and obligations of the former government in the Philippines; and provided for the settlement of property rights of the citizens of both countries.

United States military bases:

Although Roxas was successful in getting rehabilitation funds from the United States after independence, he was forced to concede military bases (23 of which were leased for 99 years), trade restriction for the Philippine citizens, and special privileges for U.S. property owner and investor.

Parity Rights Amendment:

On March 11, 1947, the Filipino people, heeding Roxas' persuasive harangue, ratified in a nationwide plebiscite the "parity amendment" to the 1935 Constitution, granting United States citizens the right to dispose and utilize of Philippine natural resources, or through parity rights. The night before the plebiscite day, Roxas narrowly escaped an assassination by a disgruntled Tondo barber, Julio Guillen, who hurled a grenade on the platform at Plaza Miranda immediately after the President addressed the rally of citizens.

Controversies:

His administration was marred by graft and corruption; moreover, the abuses of the provincial military police contributed to the rise of the left-wing (Huk) movement in the countryside. His heavy-handed attempts to crush the Huks led to widespread peasant disaffection.

The good record of Roxas administration was marred by two failures: the failure to curb graft and corruption in the government, as evidenced by the Surplus War Property scandal, the Chinese immigration scandal and the School supplies scandal; and the failure to check and stop the communist Hukbalahap movement.


Death:

Roxas did not finish his term that was expected to end by 1950 because he died of myocardial infarction.

On the night of April 15, 1948, Roxas died at Clark Field, Pampanga. In the morning of his death Roxas delivered a speech before the US Thirteenth Air Force, in which he said:

“ If war should come, I am certain of one thing–probably the only thing of which I can be certain–and it is this: That America and the Philippines will be found on the same side, and American and Filipino soldiers will again fight side by side in the same trenches or in the air or at sea in the defense of justice, freedom and other principles which we both loved and cherished. ” After the speech, he felt dizzy and was brought to the residence of Major General E.L. Eubank, where he died that same night.

On April 17, 1948, two days after Roxas' death, Vice-President Elpidio Quirino took the oath of office as President of the Philippines, per line of succession.
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