4th President of the Philippines

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Sergio Osmeña (September 9, 1878 -- October 19, 1961)

Early life and career:

Osmeña was born in Cebu to Juana Osmeña y Suico. Juana was only 14 years old when she gave birth to him. Owing to the circumstances of his birth, the identity of his father had been a closely guarded family secret. Though an illegitimate child — Juana never married his father — he didn't allow this aspect to affect his standing in society. The Osmeñas, a rich and prominent clan of Chinese-mestizo heritage with vast business interests in Cebu, slowly warmed up to him as he established himself as a prominent figure in local society.

He took his elementary education in the University of San Carlos and graduated in 1892. Osmeña continued his education in Manila, studying in San Juan de Letran College where he first met Manuel L. Quezon, a classmate of his. He took up law at the University of Santo Tomas and was second place in the bar examination in 1903.

Osmeña served on the war staff of General Emilio Aguinaldo as a courier and journalist. In 1900, he founded the Cebu newspaper, El Nuevo Día which lasted for three years. In 1904, the American colonial administration appointed him governor of Cebu. Two years later he was elected governor of Cebu.


House of Representatives:

While governor, he ran for election to the first Philippine Assembly of 1907 and was elected Speaker of that body. Osmeña was only 29 and already the highest-ranking Filipino official.

He and another provincial politician, Manuel L. Quezon of Tayabas, set up the Nacionalista Party as a foil to the Partido Federalista of Manila-based politicians. The two would engage in a rivalry for political dominance ever since.


Senate:

Osmeña was elected an assemblyman, in 1907, and remained a member of the lower house until 1922. In 1922 he was elected to the senate. He went to the US, in 1933, to secure passage of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Independence Bill which was superseded by the Tydings-McDuffie Act in March 1934.

Vice-Presidency:

In 1924, Quezon and Osmeña reconciled and joined forces in what was denominated the Partido Nacionalista Consolidado against the threat of an emerging opposition from the Democrata Party. The reunited Nacionalista Party dominated the political scene until the second break-up when the members polarized into Pros and Antis in 1934. Quezon and Osmeña again reconciled for the 1935 Presidential Election. In 1935 Quezon and Osmeña won the Philippine's first national presidential election under the banner of the Nacionalista Party. Quezon obtained nearly 68% of the vote against his two main rivals, Emilio Aguinaldo and Bishop Gregorio Aglipay. They were inaugurated on November 15, 1935. Quezon had originally been barred by the Philippine constitution from seeking re-election. However, in 1940, constitutional amendments were ratified allowing him to seek re-election for a fresh term ending in 1943. In the 1941 presidential elections, Quezon was re-elected over former Senator Juan Sumulong with nearly 82% of the vote. Re-elected in 1941, Osmeña remained vice president during the Japanese occupation when the government was in exile. Osmeña agreed to the extension of Quezon's term for the duration of the war, as provided for in a US congressional resolution.

Quezon-Osmeña Impasse:

By 1943, the Philippine Government-in-exile was faced with a serious crisis. According to the 1935 Constitution, the official term of President Quezon was to expire on the 30th December, 1943 and Vice-President Sergio Osmeña would automatically succeed him in the Presidency. This eventuality was brought to the attention of President Quezon by Osmeña himself, who wrote the former to this effect. Aside from replying to this letter informing Vice-President Osmeña that it would not be wise and prudent to effect any such change under the circumstances, President Quezon issued a press release along the same line. Osmeña then requested the opinion of U.S. Attorney General Homer Cummings, who upheld Osmeña's view as more in keeping the law. Quezon, however, remained adamant. He accordingly sought President Franklin D. Roosevelt's decision. The latter choose to remain aloof from the controversy, suggesting instead that the Philippine officials themselves solve the impasse.

A cabinet meeting was then convened by President Quezon. Aside from Quezon and Osmeña, others present in this momentous meeting were Resident Commissioner Joaquin Elizalde, Brig.Gen.Carlos P. Romulo, and Cabinet Secretaries Andres Soriano and Jaime Hernandez. Following a spirited discussion, the Cabinet adopted Elizalde's opinion favorable the decision and announced his plan to retire in California.

After the meeting, however, Vice-President Osmeña approached the President and broached his plan to ask the American Congress to suspend the constitutional provisions for presidential succession until after the Philippines should have been liberated. This legal way out was agreeable to President Quezon and the members of his Cabinet. Proper steps were taken to carry out the proposal. Sponsored by Senator Tydings ans Congressman Bell, the pertinent Resolution was unanimously approved by the Senate on a voice vote and passed the House of Representatives by the a vote of 181 to 107 on November 10, 1943.

Presidency:

Osmeña became president of the Commonwealth on Quezon's death in 1944. He returned to the Philippines the same year with General Douglas MacArthur and the liberation forces. After the war, Osmeña restored the Commonwealth government and the various executive departments. He continued the fight for Philippine independence.

For the presidential election of 1946, Osmeña refused to campaign, saying that the Filipino people knew of his record of 40 years of honest and faithful service. He lost to Manuel Roxas, who won 54 percent of the vote and became president of the independent Republic of the Philippines.

War Cabinet (1944-45)

On August 8, 1944, President Osmeña issued Executive Order 15-W reorganizing and consolidating the Executive Departments of the Commonwealth government. The reorganization of the government after it was reestablished on Philippine soil was undertaken with Executive Order No. 27, February 27, 1945.

Liberation:

Osmeña accompanied U.S. General Douglas MacArthur during the landing of U.S. forces in Leyte on 20 October 1944, starting the liberation of the Philippines during the Second World War was both the combined Filipino and American soldiers including the recognized guerrilla units was fought to the Japanese Imperial forces. Upon establishing the beachhead, MacArthur immediately transferred authority to Osmeña, the successor of Manuel Quezon, as Philippine Commonwealth president.

Restoration of the Commonwealth:

With the city of Manila already liberated, General of the Army, Douglas MacArthur, on behalf of the United States, turned over the reigns of government of the Philippines to Commonwealth President, Sergio Osmeña, on 27 February 1945, amidst brief, but impressive, ceremonies held at the Malacañang Palace. President Osmeña, after thanking the United States through General MacArthur, announced the restoration of the Government of the Commonwealth of the Philippines and work out the salvation of the Philippines from the ravages of war.
Government Reorganization:

President Osmeña proceeded with the immediate reorganization of the government and its diverse dependencies.

On April 8, 1945, he formed his Cabinet, administering the oath of office to its component members. Later, President Osmeña received the Council of State to help him solve the major problems confronting the nation. Government offices and bureaus were gradually reestablished. A number of new ones were created to meet needs then current. Also restored were the Supreme Court of the Philippines and the inferior courts. The Court of Appeals was abolished and its appellate jurisdiction was transferred to the Supreme Court, the members of which were increased to eleven - one Chief Justice and ten Associate Justice - in order to attend to the new responsibilities.

Slowly but steadily, as the liberating forces freed the other portions of the country, provincial and municipal governments were established by the Commonwealth to take over from the military authorities.

Rehabilitation of the Philippine National Bank:

Following the restoration of the Commonwealth Government, the Congress was reorganized. Manuel Roxas and Elpidio Quirino were elected Senate President and Senate President pro tempore respectively. At the House of Representatives, Jose Zulueta of Iloilo was elected Speaker and Prospero Sanidad as Speaker pro tempore. The opening session of the Congress was personally addressed by President Osmeña, who reported on the Commonwealth Government in exile and proposed vital pieces of legislation.

The First Commonwealth Congress earnestly took up the various pending assignments to solve the pressing matters affecting the Philippines, especially in regard to relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction. The first bill enacted was Commonwealth Act No. 672 - rehabilitating the Philippine National Bank.

People's Court:

Yielding to American pressure, on September 25, 1945, the Congress enacted C.A. No. 682 creating the People's Court and the Office of Special Prosecutors to deal with the pending cases of "collaboration".

United Nations Charter:

President Osmeña sent the Philippine delegation, which was headed by Carlos P. Romulo, to the San Francisco gathering for the promulgation of the Charter of the United Nations on June 26, 1945. Other members of the delegation were Maximo Kalaw, Carlos P. Garcia, Pedro Lopez, Francisco Delegado, Urbano Zafra, Alejandro Melchor, and Vicente Sinco. The 28th signatory nation of the United Nations, the Philippines was one of the fifty-one nations that drafted the UN Charter. Once approved by Philippine delegation, the UN Charter was ratified by the Congress of the Philippines and deposited with the U.S State Department on October 11, 1945.

Foreign Relations Office:

To prepare for the forthcoming independent status of the Philippine, President Osmeña created the Office of Foreign Relations. Vicente Sinco was appointed as its first Commissioner, with cabinet rank. In this connection, President Osmeña also entered into an agreement with the United States Government to send five Filipino trainees to the U.S. State Department to prepare themselves for diplomatic service. They were sent by U.S. State Department to the United States embassies in Moscow and Mexico City and consulates in Saigon and Singapore.

International banking:

On December 5, 1945, President Osmeña appointed Resident Commissioner Carlos P. Romulo as his representative to accept Philippine membership in the International Monetary Fund and in the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which bodies had been conceived in the Bretton Woods Agreement, in which the Philippine had also taken part. Romulo signed said membership on December 27, 1945 on behalf of the Philippines.

Bell Trade Act:

On April 30, 1946, the United States Congress, at last approved the Bell Act, which as early as January 20, had been reported to the Ways and Means Committee of the lower house, having been already passed by the Senate. President Osmeña and Resident Commissioner Ramulo had urged the passage of this bill, with United States High Commissioner, Paul V. McNutt, exerting similar pressure.

The Act gave the Philippines eight years of free trade with the United States, then twenty years during which tariffs would be upped gradually until they were in line with the rest of the American tariff policy. The law also fixed some quotas for certain products: sugar - 850,000 long tons; cordage - 6,000,000 pounds; coconut oil - 200,000 long tons; cigars - 200,000,000 pounds.

The great aid this legislation meant for the Philippines was coupled with that to be obtained from the recently passed Tydings Damage bill, which provided some nine hundred million dollars for payment of war damages, of which one million had been earmarked to compensate for church losses. The sum of two hundred and forty million dollars was to be periodically allocated by the United States President as a manifestation of good will to the Filipino people. Additionally, sixty million pieces of surplus property were also transferred to the Philippine Government.

1946 Presidential Election:

Main article: Philippine presidential election, 1946Soon after the reconstitution of the Commonwealth Government in 1945 Senators Manuel Roxas, Elpidio Quirino and their allies called for the holding on an early national election to choose the president and vice president of the Philippines and members of the Congress. In December, 1945 the House Insular Affairs of the United States Congress approved the joint resolution setting the election date at not later than April 30, 1946.

Prompted by this congressional action, President Sergio Osmeña called the Philippine Congress to a three-day special session. Congress enacted Commonwealth Act No. 725, setting the election on April 23, 1946, and was approved by President Osmeña on January 5, 1946.

Three parties presented their respective candidates for the different national elective positions. These were the Nacionalista Party- Conservative (Osmeña) Wing, the Liberal Wing of the Nacionalista Party, and the Partido Modernista. The Nacionalistas had Osmeña and Senator Eulogio Rodriguez as their candidates for president and vice president, respectively. The Modernistas chose Hilario Camino Moncado and Luis Salvador for the same positions. On the other hand, the standard bearers of the Liberals were Senators Manuel Roxas and Elpidio Quirino.

On January 3, 1946 President Osmeña announced candidacy for President. On January 22, 1946 Eulogio Rodriguez was nominated as Osmeña's running mate for Vice President, in a convention held at Ciro's Club in Manila. According to the Manila Chronicle:

The convention opened at 10:15 in the morning when the acting secretary of the party, Vicente Farmoso, called the confab to order.

Congressman José C. Romero, who delivered the keynote speech accused Senate President Manuel Roxas and his followers of fanning the flames of discontent among the people, of capitalizing on the people's hardship, and of minimizing the accomplishment of the [Osmeña] Administration. These men with the Messiah complex have been the bane of the country and of the world. This is the mentality that produces Hitlers and the Mussolinis, and their desire to climb to power. they even want to destroy the party which placed them where they are today.

Senator Carlos P. Garcia, who delivered the nomination speech for President Sergio Osmeña, made a long recital of Osmeña's achievements, his virtues as public official and as private citizen.

A statue of President Osmeña in front of the Osmeña Museum in
Cebu City. Entering the convention hall at about 7:30 p.m, President Osmeña, accompanied by the committee on notification, was greeted with rounds of cheer and applause as he ascended the platform. President Osmeña delivered his speech which was a general outline of his future plans once elected. He emphasized that as far as his party is concerned, independence is a close issue. It is definitely coming on July 4, 1946.

On January 19, 1946, Senator Roxas announced his candidacy for President in a convention held in Santa Ana Cabaret in Manila. According to Manila Chronicle:

...more than three thousand (by conservative estimate there were only 1,000 plus) delegates, party members and hero worshipers jammed into suburban, well known Santa Ana Cabaret (biggest in the world) to acclaim ex-katipunero and Bagong Katipunan organizer Manuel Acuña Roxas as the guidon bearer of the Nacionalista Party's Liberal Wing.

The delegates, who came from all over the Islands, met in formal convention from 10:50 am and did not break up till about 5:30 pm.

They elected 1. Mariano J. Cuenco, professional Osmeñaphobe, as temporary chairman; 2. José Avelino and ex-pharmacist Antonio Zacarias permanent chairman and secretary, respectively; 3. nominated forty-four candidates for senators; 4. heard the generalissimo himself deliver an oratorical masterpiece consisting of 50 per cent attacks against the (Osmeña) Administration, 50 per cent promises, pledges. Rabid Roxasites greeted the Roxas acceptance speech with hysterical applause.

President Osmeña tried to prevent the split in the Nacionalista Party by offering Senator Roxas the position of Philippine Regent Commissioner to the United States but the latter turned down the offer.

As a result of the split among the members of the Nacionalista Party, owing to marked differences of opinion on certain vital issues of which no settlement had been reached, a new political organization was born and named the Liberal Wing of the Nacionalista Party, which would later become the Liberal Party.

The election was generally peaceful and orderly except in some places where passions ran high, especially in the province of Pampanga. According to the controversial decision of the Electoral Tribunal of the House of Representatives on Meliton Soliman vs. Luis Taruc, Pampanga was under the terroristic clutches and control of the Hukbalahaps.So terrorized were the people of Arayat, at one time, 200 persons abandoned their homes, their work, and their food, all their belongings in a mass evacuation to the poblacion due to fear and terror.

A total of 2,218,847 voters went to the polls to elect their President and Vice President who was to be the Commonwealth's last and the Republic's first.

Four days after election day, the Liberal party candidates were proclaimed victors. Roxas registered an overwhelming majority of votes in 34 provinces and 9 cities: Abra, Agusan, Albay, Antique, Bataan, Batanes, Batangas, Bukidnon, Bulacan, Cagayan, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Capiz, Cavite, Cotabato, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Isabela, Laguna, La Union, Leyte, Marinduque, Mindoro, Misamis Oriental, Negros Occidental, Nueva Vizcaya, Palawan, Pangasinan, Rizal, Romblon, Samar, Sorsogon, Sulu, Surigao, Tayabas, Zambales, Manila, Quezon City, Bacolod City (Negros Occidental), Iloilo City (Iloilo), Baguio City (Mountain Province), Zamboanga City (Zamboanga), Tagaytay City (Cavite), Cavite City (Cavite) and San Pablo City (Laguna)

Likewise, the Liberal Party won nine out of 16 contested senatorial seats.

In the House of Representatives, the Liberals won an overwhelming majority with 50 seats while the Nacionalistas and the Democratic Alliance only got 33 and 6 seats, respectively.

Post-Presidency and Death:

After his defeat in the election, Osmeña retired to his home in Cebu. He died of both liver failure and breast cancer at the age of 83 on October 19, 1961 at the Veteran's Memorial Hospital in Quezon City. He is buried in the Manila North Cemetery in Manila.
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