Free Press: Quezon’s Gift: A Dream of Social Justice

Quezon’s Gift: A Dream of Social Justice
by Emerenciana Y. Arcellana
Associate Professor of Political Science, U.P.

“Not for A Few Alone, But For All, Especially The Poor”

Philippines Free Press

August 19, 1961–THE year of the inauguration of the Philippine Commonwealth, l935, was the year of my graduation from elementary school, in the seventh and last grade of which I first became truly conscious that there was such a thing as a government of the Philippines. Almost synonymous with this government at the time was the name of its foremost leader, Manuel L. Quezon.

The year l935 was also my first year in high school, as it was the first year of Quezon’s six-year term as President of the Commonwealth. Quite early in this incumbency, the name of Manuel L. Quezon became synonymous with his pet idea, social justic. The term occurs and recurs in almost all of his speeches, messages, press statements, interviews, conferences and forum discussions from l935 to l944, the year of his death.

Just what Quezon’s theory of social justice all about? Did Quezon in his actions keep faith with this theory? What motives impelled him to adopt this theory and promote it whenever possible during his administration?

Even before he called it social justice, Quezon had been moving towards a formulation and definition of his self-assigned mission. As governor of Tayabas province (now Quezon), and even earlier as provincial fiscal of the same province, his championship of the poor was well-known. This bias gained such a currency pronouncements that he did not side with the poor simply because they were poor. “I have made known to the friends who are constantly at my side that my fervent desire is to aid and take care of the poor, but that such assistance will be within reason, for although a person be poor, I cannot help him unless he be entitled to it by right. That is what I really cannot do – side with those who are in error: . . .”

During his first term as governor of Tayabas he told the people of his province, especially the poor, that he needed their assistance in the establishment of a clean government and honest public service. That did not mean, Quezon promptly added, that he took the part of the poor as against the wealthy, or that he would aid only the poor. It simply meant that as the poor did not have any means to pay for their needs nor were they learned enough to help themselves, he considered it reasonable to defend them and their rights if they were aggrieved.

That, Quezon said later as President of the Commonwealth, was similar to what he had in mind regarding social justice. It meant “justice not for a few alone, but for all, especially for the poor workingmen who are, as it usually happens, injured in their rights: it is justice for everyone, now especially, when all are aware that the field laborers and factory hands are of the belief that they must be given that to which they are entitled”.

The quotation is from a speech entitled “Social Justice” which Quezon delivered before the representation of labor under the leadership of Cresenciano Torres at a Malacañan Palace luncheon in their honor, February l7, l938.

Some four months before this, at the commencement exercises of the University of Santo Tomas College of Law, on October 2, l937, Quezon had emphatically explained his criticism of the judiciary on the Cuevo-Barredo case thus:

“My administration is committed, by its preelection platform, to ameliorate the lot of the common man. The Constitution of the Philippines imposes upon the Government the inescapable duty to exert my influence to secure the cooperation of every branch of the Government to redeem our pledge and, above all, to carry into effect the mandate of the Constitution.

“I come from the masses. My ancestors were of the poor class, I am not afraid nor ashamed to confess that my heart beats in unison with the hearts of the needy and for them. Justice shall be done to the poor and the humble in this country so long as I am President. I am determined to fight for the rights of everyone, rich and poor alike, but more particularly for those who are unable to pay handsomely for expensive lawyers. And let it be known that I shall use all the powers of my office to win this fight. . .”

The powers to which Quezon referred included those implicit in his oath of office, “to do justice to every man”. Indeed, there is evidence that Quezon was constantly aware of this tremendous responsibility. Wherever he spoke – whether on a routine inspection visit in Tuguegarao, or at a governor’s conference in Malacañan, before the National Assembly at its opening or closing session, before various civic groups, before planters and sugar central owners, before students, before labor leaders – whatever might be the main subject of his speech for the occasion, such as the launching of a TB fund campaign or his birthday anniversary – Quezon adverted to the plight of the underprivileged and to his plans and his moves to ameliorate their lot. Quezon’s personal burden was the poor, and it seemed that in his heart and in his mind he was convinced that an intelligent social justice program was the ideal carry-all.

The agrarian problem was what Quezon considered the foremost social problem of his time, and he stated it foursquare before the Assembly on December 21, l935 in the course of his congratulatory speech to the First National Assembly for its “unparalled record” of accomplishment during its inaugural session. There was one measure, he stated, which would have given him the greatest satisfaction to recommend for enactment then, and that was “legislation which would solve once and for all the problem of the relationship between the tenants and the landowners especially in the large estates”.

There were negotiations then being conducted by the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce with the owners of the estates in Manila, Batangas, Laguna, Bulacan, Bataan and Rizal so that once acquired by the government, these lands might be resold to tenants according to conditions still under study. It was well to bear in mind, however, Quezon even then admonished, that the mere acquisition of these estates by the Government might not solve the social and labor questions that had arisen. The problem as he saw it involved the relationship between tenants and landowners – whether within large or small estates, owned by individual or corporations, public or private – transcending in importance practically all other social problems in the Philippines. Quezon thought that lack of fairness in the treatment of the workers in the field necessarily resulted in social unrest.”I have no doubt”, he said, ” that if we could secure for every tenant or field what in equity should come to him, as his share in the products of his toil, there would be more contentment amongst the poorer classes of our people.”

However, Quezon was not able to recommend during the short Assembly session then the necessary legislation of the subject, as “the Government was not yet in possession of all the facts required to formulate a definite policy in which the rights of all parties concerned” would be duly considered to Quezon’s satisfaction. As Quezon himself explained apologetically, he difficulty of the problem was further complicated by the lack of a uniform tenancy system in the Philippines, the system varying not only by province but by municipality in some places, according to century-old customs and practices. For all his reputation for impulsiveness. Quezon was not one to be rushed into a sweeping land reform without due regard to facts and consequences.

Still, he seemed anxious enough to see injustice corrected, as may be proved by his subsequent acts toward reasonable expropriation and resettlement. As early as possible during his Commonwealth presidency, he had ordered a thorough investigation of the all-important question for purposes of corrective legislation. His interest in an improved relationship between landlord and tenant throughout the Philippines would be reiterated again and again in his messages to the National Assembly and in his speeches to different groups. He was annoyed that the Tendency Law which had been in the statute books for several years had not been put into effect, as its enforcement in any province depended on an affirmative resolution of the majority of the municipal councils of the province, thus augmenting discontent and social unrest.

The large landed estates or haciendas presented a thorny problem. Quezon’s administration was committed under the coalition platform to a policy favoring the acquisition of these estates at a fair and just price, so that they might be sold in small lots to their tenants. However, in his message to the National Assembly at its next opening session on June 16, l936, regarding “the country’s condition and problems”, Quezon stated with regret that after a careful study of the question, he had reached the conclusion that such a step would not remedy the situation, but would only transfer to the Government the agrarian and social problems existing in these haciendas; nor could expropriation and resale be carried out without great financial loss to the country.

Quezon recalled how friar lands were acquired by the Government for the purpose of reselling them in small parcels to the men who were working on these lands, but “for several causes”, the result was that large areas of these haciendas were now in the hands of other people, the lot of the tillers not being in the least improved. The investment, therefor, said Quezon, of several millions of pesos by the Government in the purchase of friar lands had redounded (with few exceptions) to the benefit of people not contemplated by the Government. In this transaction the Government lost heavily and as Quezon saw it, there might be some justification in exposing the country to this financial loss if the purpose of the project would be achieved. The purpose was to enable the majority of the people working on the haciendas to become owners of the land they were then cultivating.Quezon at the time was certain, however, that such would not be the case. Hence, despite the coalition platform commitment, Quezon decided to junk wholesale expropriation of haciendas and proposed resettlement instead. He said he did not wish to “impose upon our bear merely to give a few individuals the opportunity to acquire particular areas at the expense of the people when there is so much available fertile lands in Mindanao”.

Meanwhile, Quezon advocated the adoption of measures similar to those adopted in Ireland to solve agrarian problems there. He also recommended the immediate passage of a law authorizing the expropriation to those portions of the large haciendas which were urban in character and were occupied by the houses of the tenants. With the opportunity to own their homes thus assured, Quezon felt, the tenants mignt no longer find the settlement of their current difficulties relative to their farm lands of urgent necessity.

Hence, Quezon in a subsequent message to the Assembly certified to the necessity for the immediate enactment of a law authorizing the President to order the institution of expropriation proceedings, or to enter into negotiations, for the purpose of acquiring portions of large landed estates which were then used as homesites.

This admittedly was a departure from Quezxon’s preelection platform. Why deprive property-owners by expropriation when so much idle land still remained unappropriated elsewhere? And especially since past experience seemed to indicate that expropriation was no satisfactory solution to the agrarian problem? There must be other ways. Evidently, as he had said time and again, Quezon’s concept of social justice did not mean simply to take from the rich and give to the poor. Besides, Quezon was not only an idealist but a pragmatist, too. Understandably, his state-of-the-nation speech on June 18, l936, advocated a policy of progressive conservatism. And quite consistently, in his speech he titled “Social Justice” and delivered on the first anniversary of the Philippine Commonwealth, he stressed:

“It is my ambition that this new nation will be able to undertake changes in its national economy, in its industrial and agricultural organizations, looking toward the betterment of the working class without depriving capital of its rights, without endangering our social and political institutions, and all in the midst of peace and order, by cooperation between (sic) all the elements of the community.”

Notwithstanding this conservative statement, Quezon’s message to the National Assembly less than a year later, on September 3, l937, dealt with expropriation proceedings for the acquisition of large hacienda:

“When a class, family, or groups has monopolized vast domains and the people thereby converted into mere serfs, history is replete with instances when in their wrath the people have revolted and by force deprived the landlords of their  possessions. The Philippines is not the first country which has faced the land problems caused by the ownership of big estates. . . The platform upon which the executive and legislative officials of this Government have been elected contains a specific pledge that we shall solve this problem.”

Thus, while Quezon never once lost sight of the top economic problem of his day, his tentative solutions varied, and his actions might even suggest a vacillating policy. However, it is reasonable to assume that he was trying, with the means available to him, to explore possibilities and weigh alternatives. One may say that for a President whose powers were constitutionally vast, Quezon went about the problem too cautiously and conservatively. But he was far from complacent. Already, the Sakdalistas were pressing impatiently and aggressively for reforms.

There were, of course, other problems besides the agrarian. Quezon was also concerned with revising the several pension systems then in force – particularly the Teacher’s Retirement and Disability Fund, the Retirement Fund of the Philippine Health Service, and the Constabulary Pension and Retirement Fund – which were then in danger of running deficits. It was Quezon’s persistent efforts to promote the interests of employee-contributors and safeguard the solvency of pension funds which finally established the Government Service Insurance System in l937 by consolidating previous individual pension systems and extending the system to cover all government employees.

On June 24, 1936, before the Rotary Club of Manila, Quezon had to defend the creation of the Rice and Corn Corporation, expounding on the functions of Government. With a hint of impatience characteristically Quezonian, he complained that everybody was criticizing, nobody was suggesting anything new. “We have had 35 years, at least, of this situation”, he said. “There were years when there was too much rice, and the price of rice was not sufficient to pay the poor farmers; at times the price was so high that the consumer could not pay for it.”

On his 58th birthday on August 19, l936, Quezon in a radio broadcast declared that the keynote of his birthday celebration was higher wages for Filipino laborers.Endorsing the campaign launched by the Anti-T.B. Society against tuberculosis, he appealed for support not only in the usual ways; he directed attention to preventive measure, saying that “to eradicate tuberculosis from the Philippines, we must eliminate the causes that have made the white plague the one disease that claims more victims every year than any other disease known to us in the Philippines.The most common cause of tuberculosis is malnutrition. Our poor people are underfed, and lacking strength, they are an easy prey to tuberculosis. They are underfed because they are underpaid.”

Quezon therefore urged all sectors concerned to pay better wages to all laborers both on farm and in factory. He said that it was no excuse to say that in comparison with neighboring countries we were better off; the fact was that the wages we paid were not sufficient to give the workingman what he needed for his support and the sustenance of his family.In words that rang with authority and conviction, Quezon said: “It is trite to say that the first and most fundamental right of a man in his right to live. This right imposes upon well-organized society the duty to provide him with the means for his existence. That other countries around us fail in this primary duty is no good excuse for us to evade it.”

Quezon pleaded on his 58th birthday celebration for all to join him in one concerted effort to improve the living conditions of our masses. He expressed the wish to see this done spontaneously by those in a position to do so “without our having to impose it by legislation”. Social justice, he said, “is far more beneficent if it comes as a matter of sentiment and not of law”. In a sense, Quezon’s repeated appeals for voluntary personal action for social amelioration anticipated by some two decades Nehru’s policy of voluntary land gifts from the rich for distribution to the poor.

Still, Quezon was not one to rely solely on private volition. As if to set an example, that very day (his 58th birthday) he signed an executive order fixing a minimum wage for all government laborers, an increase of 20% over that which they had been receiving in the past, since “by all signs and portents the country was out of the depression and there was an upward swing in our trade and business”. This executive order (No. 49) fixed the minimum daily wages to be paid to able-bodied common laborers employed by, or under the direct supervision of the different branches of the National Government. Five days later came Executive Order No. 50 fixing the minimum salary for employees of the Government.

Before capitalists and industrialists, wealthy planters and other groups, as well as to the whole nation,Quezon repeatedly emphasized the urgency of a revision of traditional attitudes toward a more just treatment of labor if we were “to preserve substantially our accustomed way of life”.

From representatives of labor Quezon pleaded for help and cooperation, saying that they could aid the Government “by exposing any improper governmental administration, and by telling what must be done in their interest”. However, he advised them never to resort to force to secure their objectives or to break the laws of the land, to cultivate the qualities of patience and self-control, while the Government was “striving industriously to obtain social security and financial amelioration for the working masses”.

Quezon often reiterated the responsibility of government” never to tolerate any improper habit or custom”. He enjoined justices of the peace to be upright and honest non-partisans, because “the justice of the peace is in many cases the only court of justice for the poor man . . . I am striving to convince the people that in the Philippines the poor man receives justice from our Government the same as the man of mans”.

In a speech delivered at Tuguegarao, Cagayan on February 28, l936, Quezon declared: “The Government must be just, must protect the people from abuses and wrong doings: and if anyone violates the law or commits abuses, it is the duty of the Government officials to go after such man, regardless of who he is (applause).We must have but one norm of conduct in our dealings with the people. The law must be the same for the powerful and for the weak, for the rich and for the poor. . .”

On January 20, l937, before departing for the United States, Quezon explained, at the banquet in honor of members of the Cabinet, the National Assembly, and provincial governors and treasurers, how the government was to function in his absence, and then proceeded to discuss social justice again in one of his more inspired speeches. He spoke of the duty to uphold social justice in accordance with our Constitution.Linking it with the national defense program then recently launched, Quezon said:”it will serve us none, gentlemen, to instruct all the Filipinos in the use of arms, if with it we do not inculcate in the heart of the Filipino the love of the country in which he lives, so that he will be disposed to fight and die for it. The love of the citizen for his country should not be alone for the beauty of its panoramas nor for the riches of its soil. Love of country sprins from the satisfaction one fins in living in it, from the intimate security in which one can live freely and quietly under a just government where the natural resources of the country are the nation’s own and for the good of all its inhabitants. . . We have to give to the Filipino nation a just government, an honest government.

He directed the government officials to explain to that part of our society”which enjoys privileges and comforts that if it wants to continue enjoying these privileges and comforts, it should give to the less fortunate part of our population in just share of the fruits to which it is entitled because of its honest labor”. Quezon declared that domestic tranquility in the Philippines could only be guaranteed by justice. All the military preparations then being made with so much money and labor, he said, would not suffice to assure internal peace if the farmhand, the factory worker, and the small employee did not receive their just share of the fruits of their labor.

At Iloilo on August 25, l937, after discussing local politics and administration, Quezon enjoined his audience on behalf of the working class thus: “We must all cooperate to find the means and to use these to improve the lot of the working class in the Philippines. Particularly should the provinces enjoying the benefits of the sugar industry immediately and substantially raise the wages of labor. No industry in the Philippines is being benefited by our trade relations with America nearly so much as the sugar industry. There have sprung in Negrosa, Iloilo and Pampanga in the last few years, millionaires as we have never had before. They have palaces, automobiles, and live a life of comfort and luxury here and abroad. I am criticizing them; it is their privilege to spend their money as they please. I am merely stating a fact, for I want to point out that we are doing everything we can, not only to prevent the collapse, but to maintain in full blast, the prosperity of the sugar industry. But the government demands that this prosperity be shared with the workingmen in the sugar fields and in the sugar centrals. Very little, if any, of the immense profits of the sugar industry, has gone into the pockets of labor.”

Quezon thus said in all earnestness to owners of sugar centrals and to proprietors of sugar, lands that unless they raised the wages of the laborers and treated them better, the Government and the country might lose interest in the protection of the sugar industry. He stated that the Government could not be the servants of a privileged class, but the whole people, and should not permit an injustice to be done, much less perpetuated, against any constituent party of the community. He warned the sugar barons that unless the sugar industry of its own account increased immediately the wages of its workingmen, he would ask the National Assembly to enact legislation that would compel that industry to do so.

He then proceeded to explain the meaning of social justice for a clearer understanding of the concept. He said it did not mean favoring the poor or favoring labor against anybody regardless of whether he was right or not. It did not mean dispossessing the rich of his lawful property and distributing that properly among the unemployed. Social justice, in other words, did not mean communism. Social justice involved all, it meant justice for every constituent element in the community. “Of course, today (1937), when you speak of social justice, you emphasize the need of giving better treatment to labor, because in the present state of the Philippine society labor is not receiving its due. “This was why he was interested, he said, in securing legislation that would improve the living conditions of laborers, this was why he was making speeches advising the people to remember that the right to property has its limitations – the limitations imposed by the welfare of the community where one lives. Again he said that property is secondary to the right to live, that whenever a conflict occurs between the right to property and the right to live, the latter should prevail.

Thus, Quezon recommended to the National Assembly on February 16, l938, the enactment to a law ordering the prompt payment of salaries and wages by employers on pain of stiff penalties. He likewise recommended the reenactment of Act No. 2549, as amended Act No. 3958, prohibiting among others, the payment of salaries or wages by means of tokens, chits, or objects, as the former act had been expressly repealed by the Revised Penal Code.

On April 30, l938, Quezon recommended to the National Assembly the enactment of a law to repeal Act No. 1874 commonly known as the Employers’ Liability and to amend the provisions of Act No. 3428 known as the Workmen’s Compensation Act, so as to afford greater protection to laborers who suffered injuries or death in connection with their employment. Quezon also sought to increase the penalty for refusal or negligence of an employer to send to the Bureau of Labor the notice of information required by the latter Act of all injuries received by their employees in the course of their employment. Thus did Quezon initiate the rectification of existing laws in order to preclude decisions on labor cases similar to those made by “fifteenth century judges”.

The cedula tax was abolished, “because this is a tax that is a burden to the poor”, Quezon declared at the Luneta on the second anniversary of the Commonwealth. “From now on, no tax shall be collected that will not be based on the ability of the tax-paying public to pay. Until now the poor are heavily taxed in our country . . . .What the rich pay for taxes are only taken from their surplus, but the poor get their money to pay their taxes from their means of subsistence and subsistence of their families.”

Quezon had the Probation Law repealed on September l, 1937. This law had been made to depend upon the willingness or ability of the provincial governments to appropriate the funds necessary for the payment of salaries of the probation officers, as a result of which no province made any provision. The privilege thus became effective only in Manila (on national funds). Quezon explained that this might give the impression that the government was favoring the rich as against the poor, since there were likely to be more rich people residing in the city than elsewhere.

On September 3, l937, Quezon in a message to the National Assembly certified to the necessity of a heavy penalty for jueteng, in the form of long imprisonment, saying thatr “Gambling is doubtless one of the weakness of human nature that should be dealt with by government with sound discretion; but jueteng is not gambling. It is merely an organized fraud – a fraud of such shocking proportion that it has become the greatest scandal in our community life. The worst victims of this criminal racketeering are the poor.” Its existence, he said, is common knowledge, but it has been impossible to eradicate it, because the penalty is either a small fine or a few days’ imprisonment.

Quezon also caused the abolition of the sweepstakes after a few years of operation for related reasons: it tended to be patronized by the poor, who could ill afford it, on the long, long chance that they might be bailed out of poverty:thus the rich, who were indifferent to the sweepstakes, stayed rich or got richer, while the poor get poorer for betting in the national lotteries. Later, however, the sweepstakes were restored to finance government charities.

Why did Quezon choose to champion social justice in his time? Why did he decide to launch this almost lone personal crusade? Was he genuinely interested in the plight of the poor, the common tao? Or was he thinking of himself, too, and his family, which had in the course of his successful public career by then become fairly wealthy, and therefore as a class, vulnerable to the unsetting doctrines which in the l930s had begun to filter into our young nation’s consciousness, further complicating its already manifold problems associated with the preparation for independence? Was Quezon aware, not only of the isms overrunning Europe and Asia, but also of the New Deal in America, which was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s own way of keeping those isms at bay?

Did Quezon really feel for the poor? He said so countless times. He demostrated this appreciably. Perhaps, the best clue is in his autobiography The Good Fight, in which is related one of the most tender scenes of his youth:

‘I told my father that I was assured of my room and board and that for my clothing and other necessary expenses as a student. I would do some other work in my spare time. (Quezon is here referring to his admission to the University of Sto. Tomas as a scholar.) My father was the happiest man on earth. “My son, I shall be going back home in two hours. I won’t bother you with my advice. Just be good and be just to your fellowmen. No matter how high your station in life may be, never forget that you came from poor parents and that you belong to the poor. Don’t forsake them, whatever happens.’

‘God bless you’, he said when we parted. I never saw him again.”

Indeed, shortly after this his father was to die in the province. These then, it turned out, were his father’s last words to him. What son could forget his father’s dying wish? What son could ignore its quiet mandate?

My interview with Fr. Pacifico J. Ortiz, S.J., who was for many years Quezon’s private chaplain, and was with him all through the hard evacuation days of l941 until he died in New York in August 1944 (after just having listened to some heartening news about the Philippine campaign) may be summed up in the following quotation – I write this interview from memory, and these as far as I recall were Fr. Ortiz’s words:

“For all his flair for the bright and gay life. Quezon loved the poor sincerely. And they loved him, too – one could sense this instantly whenever he moved amongst them. He was no Magsaysay, who would jump fences barefoot. But he cared enough for them to plan for them and fight for them with all his might. His travels abroad, particularly in the United States, where he had occasion to observe at first hand the Rooseveltian New Deal in actual operation, and in Mexico which more closely approximated Philippine conditions, and his painstaking efforts to keep abreast of developments in Europe, with Mussolini and Hitler asserting hegemony by upsetting the status quo, and of course, his awareness of Communist ideology and the Soviet Russian experiment – all these were factors urging a more positive program for social amelioration. Of course, his ideas then might be considered quite conservative now, but for his time they were bold enough to embarrass some people. . . No, Quezon never forgot his father’s parting admonition. He was loyal to his beginnings.”

Did Quezon think of himself, too, and of his family, as well as of the nation he led for nearly three decades? The question, is almost superfluous. What family man does not think of himself, his job, and his family, in whichever order? With Quezon the though became even more pressing with each illness, or rather each flare-up of TB, which was his chronic illness. In his busy and colorful life, death loomed like a raven at the door. He was conscious of it, and could not but wish that he were physically more able,that he might do more to insure the well-being of the family and the nation which were his twin responsibilities. He felt that freedom was the best atmosphere in which to live, and that freedom was best secured by justice. As a keen student of Thomism, Quezon knew that peace (social peace, individual peace, world peace) was possible only with justice. Even as he sponsored woman suffrage, he thought and spoke about his daughters – of a posterity in which he may no longer be around, but which, if he had anything to do with it, he wanted to be fair and just to all, including women; if society is to be stable it must be just; if people are to be happy, they must believe in the justice of their society. Indeed, it is one of the inexplicable ironies of fate that his widow and older daughter were later to perish at the hands of the underprivilege, whose cause Quezon so ably championed while he lived.

Did Quezon seek to outflank communism and other possible radical doctrines violative of his sense of values? It would seem so. he was familiar with contemporary history. He was both well-read and well-travelled. He was a practical politician, true, but he was a statesman, too. In the Thomistic tradition he was for a happy social order in which all the component parts cooperated harmoniously, because each one got his just due. Obviously, Quezon saw the handwriting on the wall even before it could be fully written for the Philippines, because he knew what went on elsewhere.

Quezon was a leader who felt for his people and sensed what they needed: one might say he though for them, too, and acted as he felt necessary. He thought that social justice was the alternative to revolution, which is the bloody price of social injustice, but not necessarily its solution. He knew that long, unmitigated suffering and deprivation could not forever fester without relief, that such a condition had better be remedied as early as possible or the consequences for the society he loved would be frightening. He had a statesman’s foresight.

Not the least that he foresaw was his own approaching death. He spoke of death as if it were for him a constant companion and a consistent reminder of his life’s mission. To groups of listeners both here and abroad he would speak of his awareness that he would not live forever, that politics and the power that it had given hims was only a means by which he might do good, do right, and see that justice was done in accordance with the principles of the Constitution, his oath of office,and beyond this, in accordance with the will of God. When he spoke thus, it was not really to be sentimental or to appeal to the emotions of his hearers. It was not to gain sympathy for himself but support for his cause: it was really to persuade his audience that his motives were noble, his intentions honest, and his ideals the highest for his people. Quezon was no tearful sentimentalist; he was realist enough to be privy to the ephemeral nature of man, the brevity of human life, and therefore the need for a man to serve his fellowman. In this personal dedication he found fulfillment, and therefore a measure of happiness, and perhaps, too, a glimpse of immortality.

Emerenciana Arcellana
Author: Emerenciana Arcellana

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