The Good Fight, by Manuel L. Quezon
CHAPTER Vlll: MY ELECTION AS PRESIDENT
AFTER THE general elections for the Legislature which preceded the election of the members of the constitutional convention, the breach in the rank and file of the Nationalist Party caused by the political feud between Osmeña and Roxas and their followers on one side, and my followers and me on the other, was entirely healed. In the general elections, my side won an overwhelming majority, and after our victory we invited our former comrades to join hands with us again so as jointly to give the best there was in the Filipino nation for the writing of their Constitution, and thereafter for the discharge of the grave responsibilities that the Government of the Commonwealth was to impose upon us. Thus when the elections for the officials of the Commonwealth were held, the Nationalist Party again reunited had as its standard bearers myself for President and Sergio Osmeña for Vice-President. Out in the field to oppose me were my former chief, General Emilio Aguinaldo, and also Bishop Gregorio Aglipay of the Philippine Independent Church. After a campaign during which I made only a couple of speeches over the radio, the Quezon-Osmeña ticket came out victorious with overwhelming majorities.
As soon as the results of the elections were officially known, I cabled General MacArthur, who was still the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, to come to the Philippines as soon as possible in accordance with our understanding. General MacArthur came accompanied by a staff selected by him, arriving at Manila some time before the inauguration of the Commonwealth. He at once reported to me and submitted his whole plan for the national defense of the Philippines. He had already prepared a draft of the message that I was to submit to the new one-chamber Philippine Legislature as provided in the Constitution — the National Assembly — as well as the draft of a bill which would translate into legislative provisions his plan for our national defense. I asked him to leave his papers in my possession so that I might carefully study them. This I proceeded to do immediately, and after making certain amendments to the suggested message as well as to the proposed bill, I returned the papers to General MacArthur so that they might be written out in final form.
I invited the members-elect of the National Assembly to come to Manila some time before the day of the inauguration of the new government. I held several conferences with them during which I explained General MacArthur’s plan, and after prolonged discussions, we finally agreed to approve the National Defense Act as the No. 1 Law of the Philippine Commonwealth.
President Roosevelt sent his Secretary of War, the Honorable George H. Dern, to represent him at the inauguration of the Government of the Commonwealth. A distinguished delegation of both the Senate and the House of Representatives, each headed by their respective presiding officers, Vice-President Garner and Speaker Byrns — also came to the Philippines to add solemnity to the greatest historic event in the life of the Filipino people from time immemorial.
On a beautiful morning, November 15, 1935, I left my house in Pasay by the shores of the Bay of Manila and rode with military escorts through streets decorated with American and Filipino flags, under artistic and symbolic arches, to the legislative building where the inaugural ceremonies were to take place. Hundreds of thousands of people had come to Manila from far and wide to witness the elevation to the highest office in the land of the first Filipino who would occupy the seat of power, for centuries past occupied by Spaniards and by Americans. On a grandstand built for the occasion were the highest officials of the Government of the United States, save only the President himself, and all the high dignitaries of the Government of the Philippines including the Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court, the Secretaries of Departments, and the newly elected members of the National Assembly. There were also present my Military Adviser, General MacArthur, the Commanding General of the Philippine Department with his staff, and the Commander of the Cavite Naval Station accompanied by other ranking officials of the United States Navy. The last to enter the grandstand were Secretary Dern as representative of the President of the United States, Governor-General Murphy, and I. Secretary Dern read a message from President Roosevelt to the Filipino people and the president proclamation declaring officially the establishment of the Government of the Commonwealth. Governor-General Murphy read his farewell address as Governor- General, after which I took the oath of office before Chief Justice Ramon Avanceña of the Supreme Court of the Philippines and then delivered my inaugural address.
From the grandstand, I went through streets crowded with people acclaiming their first President, on to the Palace of Malacañan, the great mansion on the bank of the Pasig River which had been the seat of power of foreign rulers for many decades past. As I stepped out of the presidential car and walked over the marble floor of the entrance hall, and up the wide stairway, I remembered the legend of the mother of Rizal, the great Filipino martyr and hero, who went up those stairs on her knees to seek executive clemency from the cruel Spanish Governor-General Polavieja, that would save her son’s life. This story had something to do with my reluctance to believe that capital punishment should ever be carried out. As a matter of fact, during my presidency, no man ever went to the electric chair. At the last moment I always stayed the hand of the executioner.
From the top of the stairs, turning to the right, one saw the very large reception hall, at the end of which on either side of the hall and fronting each other, there were two rooms which reminded me of my first visit to the palace in 1 901 .
In the room on the right side of the hall, there stood at that time General Arthur MacArthur, then Military Governor of the Philippines, and on the left, there was the room where Aguinaldo was kept as prisoner of war. The first thought which came to me was that I had been right in placing my faith in America, for by cooperating with her my people had won their local autonomy and were on the road to complete independence.
These thoughts were suddenly interrupted by my aide-de- camp who informed me that in the executive office there were waiting for me the general who was Chief of the Constabulary, and the provincial governors of Tayabas and Laguna, whom I had summoned to my first official conference.
The night of the inauguration there was a reception and ball in Malacañan Palace in honor of the American officials, Secretary Dern, Vice-President Garner, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Senators and Congressmen who constituted the Congressional Delegation. That same night, from every home in the Philippines, whether of the poor or of the rich, a prayer went to heaven for the continued greatness of America and the future safety of the Philippines.