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Opinion

Remembering presidents Quezon and Osmeña

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

Today is the 144th birth anniversary of the second president of the Philippines, Manuel Luis Quezon from Baler, Quezon (now the separate province of Aurora named after his wife, his cousin Aurora Aragon). He was the president who said: "I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos than a government run like heaven by Americans." We also remember the grand old man of Cebu, Don Sergio Osmeña Sr., Quezon’s ever-faithful partner. Their political alliance was legendary. It can be a model for teamwork between presidents and vice presidents.

Quezon was elected representative of his province's 1st district in 1907 at age 29. He was chosen majority floor leader and chairman of two powerful committees, that of Rules and of Appropriation. But the American government pulled him out of the legislature and sent him to the US as one of the Filipino resident commissioners. When the Jones Law was enacted by the US Congress in 1916, Quezon returned and was elected senator representing the 5th senatorial district. He served as senator for 19 consecutive years. He headed the Philippine delegation to the US and secured passage of the Tydings-McDuffie Act in 1934. In 1935, he won as the first president of the Philippine Commonwealth with Sergio Osmeña as his vice president. They were classmates in UST Law and took the Bar together. Osmeña got second place, Quezon fourth. Less than 50 people took the exams.

Don Sergio Osmeña Sr. was born in Cebu on September 9, 1878, less than a month after Quezon. The Osmeña Family in Cebu was far richer than the middle-class Quezon Family in Baler. In 1906, Osmeña was appointed fiscal at age 28. In less than one year, he was elected Cebu governor. In 1907, he was elected representative and speaker of the Philippine Assembly. Osmeña outranked Quezon who was then majority floor leader. When the Jones Law was passed, Quezon became senator and Senate president. Osmeña remained the speaker of the House. In 1922, Osmeña was elected senator representing the 10th senatorial district. They had some political differences and parted ways, but in 1924 they reconciled and joined forces.

In 1934, Quezon, with the support of Osmeña defeated both Emilio Aguinaldo of Cavite and Gregorio Aglipay of Ilocos. In 1941, again with the help of Osmeña, Quezon defeated Don Juan Sumulong (grandfather of President Cory Aquino) of Rizal. Quezon's term was supposed to expire on December 30, 1943 but because of World War II, the US Congress extended his term with the concurrence of Osmeña who was supposed to take over by succession. But destiny intervened. Quezon died in New York on August 1, 1944. Osmeña became president from 1944 to 1946. His partymates Manuel Roxas and Elpidio Quirino, both Nacionalistas, bolted the party when Roxas was defeated in a party convention that declared Osmeña the official candidate with Eulogio Rodriguez from Rizal as vice presidential candidate. Roxas and Quirino founded the Liberal Party, and defeated Osmeña and Rodriguez.

Quezon is remembered for social justice, agrarian reform, and for giving Jews fleeing Germany asylum. Israel appreciated Quezon's gesture and until now Filipinos can enter Israel without any visa. Quezon was a fiery speaker eloquent in Spanish, English, and Tagalog, and recognized as the Father of the National Language. Quezon appointed to the Supreme Court outstanding lawyers like Ramon Avancena, Jose Abad Santos, Claro M. Recto, and Jose P. Laurel. Osmeña was a laid-back person who gave Quezon all the chances to shine. He was very unassuming but definitely more brilliant and got better grades in Law school and the Bar. Their tandem was the best among presidential and vice presidential partnership because of their complementary personalities.

Comparing them to subsequent teams, there were no serious conflicts between partymates like Roxas and Quirino, Magsaysay and Garcia, and Macapagal and Pelaez. But there were serious clashes between Quirino and Magsaysay, and Garcia and Macapagal. Marcos didn’t have a problem with Lopez but they parted ways later. Cory and Laurel were the best of friends but the worst of enemies. FVR knew how to play with Erap, but Erap was betrayed by GMA, who was also betrayed by Teofisto Guingona, although GMA was worshipped by Noli de Castro. PNoy knew how to keep Jojo Binay busy and the Binays were indebted to the Aquinos. Duterte never succeeded in taming Robredo.

Hopefully BBM and Inday Sara survive the pressures and intrigues. The plan is for Inday to take over in 2028, if martial law isn’t declared. History has the nasty habit of repeating itself. Let's see how the cookie crumbles. But let’s pray they remain a good team for the good of the country.

MANUEL LUIS QUEZON

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