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Elpidio Quirino

Elpidio Quirino was a political leader and the 6th president of the Philippines. He was born in Vigan, Ilocos Sur on November 16, 1890. After finishing his law studies at the University of the Philippines in 1915 he hurdled the Bar examinations that same year. He began his public service in humble positions: as a barrio school teacher in Vigan, a "junior computer" in the Bureau of Lands, a property clerk in the Manila Police Department and private secretary to President Quezon who was then the Senate president.

His political career followed a familiar pattern: elected representative of Ilocos Sur in 1919, then elected senator in 1925, and re-elected in 1931. In 1934 he was a member of the Philippine independence mission to Washington, D.C., headed by Manuel Quezon, which secured the passage in congress of the Tydings-McDuffie Act, setting the date for Philippine independence as July 4, 1946.

He was also elected to the convention that drafted a constitution for the new Philippine Commonwealth. President Quezon appointed him secretary of finance and then secretary of the interior in the Commonwealth Government. As Vice President to Roxas, he served concurrently first as secretary of finance; later, as secretary of foreign affairs.

During the Japanese occupation of the Philippines (1942-1945), Quirino was active in the underground but was captured and imprisoned. His wife, Alma Syquia, and three of his five children were killed by the Japanese. After World War II, Quirino resumed his political career. As the running mate of Manuel Roxas he was elected vice president of the new republic in 1946 and on Roxas' death two years later he assumed the presidency. In 1949, Quirino was elected president for a four-year term on the Liberal Party ticket, defeating the Nacionalista candidate.

The Quirino administration outlined two avowed objectives: regain faith and confidence in government and restore peace and order. Quirino however suffered from a bad press and, for the first time, impeachment proceedings were initiated against an incumbent president. The Quirino administration, however, is credited with sponsoring the growth of industrial ventures, expanding irrigation, improvement of the road system, setting up of the Central Bank and rural banking, and concluding peace with Japan. It was also during his term that the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty was forged on August 30, 1951.

During his term, the Philippine government faced a serious threat in the form of the Communist-led Hukbalahap (Huk) movement. The Huks originally had been an anti-Japanese guerrilla army in Luzon. However, the Communists steadily gained control over the leadership and ultimately Quirino's negotiations with Huk commander Luis Taruc broke down in 1948.

Taruc openly declared himself a Communist and called for the overthrow of the government. By 1950 the Huks had gained control over a considerable portion of Luzon, and Quirino appointed the able Ramon Magsaysay as secretary of national defense to suppress the insurrection.

Quirino's six years as president were marked by notable postwar reconstruction, general economic gains, and increased economic aid from the United States. Basic social problems, however, particularly in the rural areas, remained unsolved. Quirino's administration was tainted by widespread graft and corruption. The 1949 elections, which he had won, were among the most dishonest in the country's history. Magsaysay, who had been largely successful in eliminating the threat of the Huk insurgents, broke with Quirino on the issue of corruption, campaigning for clean elections.

Defeated for reelection by Ramon Magsaysay in 1953, Quirino retired from public life and later died in Novaliches on Feb. 28, 1956.

 

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