MLQ and social justice

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

I recently came across an article entitled “Radio Talk” by President Manuel L. Quezon on the occasion of his birthday over KZRM in 1936. In his message, Quezon’s main concern focused on higher wages for Filipino laborers and an executive order that would determine a minimum wage for all government laborers with an increase of 20 percent over what was already being paid in the past. At this point in time, the country was out of a depression and enjoying benefits from an upward shift in trade and business. In his talk, Quezon further expressed that while people were getting rich, it was also time for the working men to share in the profits. It has been said that Manuel L. Quezon championed the cause of social justice where his dream was not for the few but rather, for all, and especially the poor.

In our province formerly known as Tayabas (now Quezon ), MLQ was known to be a champion of the poor. As a governor in his own province, he often encouraged his people to fight for a clean government and honest public service. As president of the Commonwealth, he elaborated on justice for everyone, such as poor working men who are, as he said, “injured in their rights” based on his speech entitled “social justice.” In the same speech, Quezon emphatically expressed how he came from the masses and that his ancestors were of the poor class which he was unashamed of and, for as long as he was the president, justice would be served for the needy.

The problem in agriculture was one of his biggest pursuits, as he considered it to be the principal social issue of his time. The one measure he considered as adequate to recommend was, as he said, “legislation which would solve once and for all the problem of the relationship between the tenants and the landowners, especially in the large estates.” It was about fairness for MLQ, where with it came security. In 1938, President Quezon held the first National Assembly on the problems of the sugar industry, stating the social obligations required in order for the benefits to be fairly distributed among those who make up the industry while citing the extremely low wages of laborers. It was, as he said, the most vexing problem at that time, as the sugar industry represented a very important component in the national economy, even as it faced a two-pronged dilemma on preservation and equitability.

We fondly remember President Quezon for being the father of the national language but it must also be remembered that he was also the father of social justice. Quezon felt for his people and, more often than not, he conveyed his sole desire to foster the welfare of workers. In most of his speeches, MLQ yearned for the contentment of all Filipinos while defending the poor through given rights, together with a government that will promote their well being where dignity and justice prevail.

As we recently commemorated President Quezon’s birthday, I continue to hope that we can further look back into history where to date, the issues on social justice are still the same issues as what we aspire to achieve with integrity, self-respect and love for country at the core of nation building. Quezon wanted all of us to be strong and resilient -- like a molave tree as he once said; and the very thrust of social justice includes human rights, as this shapes its very foundation and where one cannot exist without the other.


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