The president who declined the presidency repeatedly
CEBUPEDIA - Clarence Paul Oaminal (The Freeman) - September 9, 2019 - 12:00am

Don Sergio S. Osmeña Sr., 

The “Grand Old Man of Cebu” upon his election on October 16, 1907 as speaker of the Philippine Assembly, became the highest Filipino official in the country, next to the American governor general. His position was unchallenged. He founded the first Philippine political party, the Nacionalista Party. Then, a litany of events showed how he tempered power which could easily corrupt the weak:

•1935 presidential election. The Tydings-McDuffie Law paved the passage of the 1935 Constitution and the first presidential election. Instead of running for the presidency, he ran for the vice presidency. His supporters complained as Don Sergio was more formidable than Quezon. In the 1903 bar examinations, Don Sergio placed second while Quezon placed third. In the Philippine Assembly, Don Sergio was the speaker while Quezon was his majority floor leader. During the election, Quezon had the backing of the senators as he was the Senate president but Don Sergio had the support of the congressmen which had more influence in gathering votes.

•1938 constitutional amendment. The 1935 Constitution mandates that the president shall serve only for one term (six years). This was favorable to Don Sergio as after the term of Quezon, the logical anointed candidate would be him. Yet, he allowed the move to amend the Constitution in 1938 making the term of the president two (with four years for every term). He did not sabotage the move in the Philippine Assembly which by now was under the influence of Don Sergio as the Senate was abolished by the 1935 Constitution (the Senate was revived in 1938 and had its first election in 1941).

•1941 reelection. Despite the calls of his supporters to run for the presidency instead of reelection as vice president, he sternly refused to run for the presidency to avoid disunity.

•1944 legislative offer to be president. The legislators in exile and those in the Philippines made a resolution questioning the holding of the presidency of Quezon, as this already exceeded, and asked the latter to step down and Don Sergio installed as the president. This he refused, explaining that the country is at war and Filipinos must support its president.

•1946 refusal to use martial law. Don Sergio could have declared martial law which was found in the 1935 Constitution (the same proviso used by Marcos). He could have easily gained the support of his friend, Gen. McArthur. But this he didn’t do, he allowed presidential elections on April 23, 1946. He lost as he focused his energy on rebuilding a nation that just came from war.

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