Manuel A. Roxas’s victory in the 1946 elections over Sergio Osmena made him the last President of Commonwealth of the Philippines and also the first president of the Republic of the Philippines. The Philippines had been given her independence by the US on July 4, 1946. Roxas rode to victory as standard bearer of the Liberal Party which he had established.
Roxas was born in Capiz (now Roxas City) on January 1, 1892 to Gerardo Roxas and Rosario Acuna. An interesting fact about his birth is that his father died from a Spanish civil guard’s bullets before the child Manuel saw the light of day.
Manuel learned his three R’s in a parochial school under Rafael Lozada. He next was enrolled at the St. Joseph Academy but feeling homesick, he left school to finish his elementary in the public school of his province. He went to Manila for his high school education and there went on to the University of the Philippines. He finished law with highest honors.
The Public Life of Manuel Roxas
With his father’s death he returned to his province and there became, first, a municipal councillor, and later, rose to become provincial governor.
In 1922 he became a representative and won the speakership of the Lower House. With Osmena, he headed a mission to the US for the enactment of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act, which provided, among other things, the granting of Philippine Independence after transistion period of ten years.
Roxas was re-elected representative of Capiz, then appointed Secretary of Finance. He became the most trusted adviser and right-hand man of Manuel L. Quezon.
On December 8, 1941, war broke out in the Pacific and Roxas became Lieutenant Colonel in the US Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). He resumed office as President of the Senate in 1945.
As President of the Philippines
When he was elected President of the country in 1945, he began the reconstruction of the war-torn country. Cities were rebuilt out of the ashes of war. Destroyed roads, bridges, and communication facilities were replaced. Farms and factories were made to work and produce again. Old industries were restored and new ones created. Schools, colleges and universities were reopened.
It was an unbelievable feat of leadership. Never was a republic born with such overwhelming problems as the Philippines. The war had devastated the country. Cities and towns have been burned, people massacred, farms and factories ruined, roads and bridges blasted. Industry and commerce were at the lowest. Thus, economic rehabilitation was the foremost problem.
Another big problem was the cultural rehabilitation. Education had been paralyzed, with school buildings, equipment laboratories and furniture all gone. Book, valuable documents, works of art, historical relics, churches and places of worship were all burned.
How the problems gradually dwindled, considering the financial poverty of the government, is miraculous. Add to this the people’s struggle to rise out of the debasement their spirit and moral fiber had fallen into.
When the Philippines became independent on July 4, 1946, her foreign policy became as important to her survival as her domestic policy. President Roxas laid the basis of the Philippine foreign as follows: Continuation of Philippine-American friendship and cooperation; Sympathy for the political aspiration of all dependent people, particularly of Asian countries; Full participation in the work and ideals of the UN.
Following this policy laid by President Roxs, the Philippine entered into economic and military agreements with the US. Among the results of the agreement were the Philippine Rehabilitation Act and Philippine Trade Relations Act which were passed in order to rehabilitate the damaged industries and agriculture of the Philippines and to construct the damaged homes, buildings, roads and bridges.
On March 14, 1947, the Philippines and the US entered into an agreement concerning military bases. Under this treaty, the Philippines granted the US certain military bases for the protection of both countries.
This treaty provides for American military assistance to the Philippines in the form of training and development of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This includes the furnishing of arms, ammunition, equipment and supplies, and certain aircrafts and naval vessels for the Philippine armed forces.
President Manuel Roxas began the rehabilitation and reconstruction of war-ravaged Philippines with the help of the US. Because of the gratitude he and the Filipinos felt to America, he adopted a pro-american policy.
Roxas did all he could to stop the Hukbalahap movement. Another historical event during his presidency was the plebiscite on the constitutional amendments, a condition required for granting of aid to rebuild the Philippines by the US.
Guiding the young, independent Republic after it has gained independence was an enormous task, but the administrative genius of President Roxas ore than matched the challenge. Through the period of the rehabilitation and economic development he proved his mettle and leadership qualities.
Roxas served as President from his election in 1945 to April 15, 1948, when during a speech in Clark Air Base, a heart attack felled him. Thus ended the life and career of one of the most brilliant leaders in the Philippine history.
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