Arturo B. Rotor on Manuel L. Quezon

Arturo Rotor, Executive Secretary in the Commonwealth government-in-exile, in an article reviewing the diaries of Francis Burton Harrison in the Bulletin of the American Historical Collection:

Most important of all, in assessing the remarks and opinions of Quezon, one must always bear in mind the Quezon personality. A gifted writer and orator, possessed of a tremendous memory and the knack for split-second timing of repartee, Quezon could hold an audience spellbound in an auditorium, or keep a social group together until the small hours of the morning with spicy anecdotes and epigrams. He could quote from Rizal or Cervantes as easily as he could crush an opponent with a double-edged witticism in English, Spanish, or Tagalog. Thus what he said at the moment may be nothing more than, an idle observation, designed to draw a laugh, or it may be the conclusion from months of pondering.

He could chastise a colleague or underling today and appoint him to an important post tomorrow. When Romulo’s book “I Saw the Fall of the Philippines,“ came out, “Quezon had been so angry at Romulo that he had told him to get the hell out of here and never come, back,” and had deprived him of his uniform as a Lieutenant Colonel of the Philippine Army when he was on the lecture platform. Yet, later Romulo was to be promoted and given important assignments.

One reason for this of course was that Quezon had his own way of gauging public opinion, of taking a poll survey. He would say something preposterous or do the completely unexpected to find out what the people thought of a political leader, or to measure their opposition to religious instruction in schools. If the act aroused a bigger rumpus than he had calculated, he would institute an appropriate measure.

Thus to the uninformed, Quezon often appeared inconsistent, mercurial, unreliable, a man whose word could not be trusted. No greater mistake can be made. When Quezon had studied a problem and made up his mind, no earthly force could stop him. Had it not been for this trait, probably the Philippines would still be a Commonwealth like Puerto Rico, or a State like Hawaii. His vision was often prophetic; the conflicts that have taken place in American Army bases at Angeles and Subic were clearly foreseen by him in his opposition to the Hare-Hawes-Cutting bill. He had always warned his country against American imperialists deeply entrenched in State and Interior; if he had been alive, the “parity rights” of Americans would have never been forced on the country.

Arturo Rotor
Author: Arturo Rotor

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