Manuel Luis M. Quezon

Manuel Luis Molina Quezon, who was known as the principal architect of Philippine Independence, became the second president of the Philippines. He was born in Baler, Tayabas (now Quezon) province, Luzon, on August 19, 1878 to a schoolteacher and small landholder of Tagalog descent.

In 1899 he cut short his law studies at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila to participate in the struggle for independence against the United States which was then led by Emilio Aguinaldo. He fought in Tarlac, Pampanga and Bataan, and ended up with the rank of major. However, the insurrection was crushed in 1901 and Quezon was imprisoned for six months. He then returned to the university, obtained his bachelor of arts degree, studied jurisprudence, and landed fourth place in the Bar examinations in 1903.

Convinced that the only way to independence was through cooperation with the U.S., Quezon ran for governor of Tayabas province in 1905. He won the election and served for two years before being elected a representative in 1907 to the newly established Philippine National Assembly. The next year he was elected to the first Philippine assembly, where he became floor leader of the Nacionalista party.

In 1909 Quezon was appointed as one of two Philippine resident commissioners in Washington where he served for seven years. He was entitled to speak, but not vote, in the U.S. House of Representatives. He fought vigorously for a speedy grant of Philippine independence by the United States. Quezon was instrumental in obtaining passage in 1916 of the Jones Act, which granted the Philippines a greater degree of self-government and promised the islands eventual independence. The act gave the Philippines greater autonomy and provided for the creation of a bicameral national legilature modeled after the U.S. Congress.

Quezon resigned as commissioner and returned to Manila to be elected to the newly formed Philippine Senate in 1916; he subsequently served as its president until 1935. In 1922 he gained control of the Nacionalista party, which had previously been led by his rival Sergio Osmena. By the 1930's, largely for economic reasons, the U.S. Congress was prepared to set a date for Philippine independence. At Quezon's urging, Congress passed, and the Philippine legislature approved, the Tydings-McDuffie Act in 1934. The act provided for independence ten years after the adoption of a constitution and the establishment of a Commonwealth government that would be the forerunner of an independent republic.

On September 17, 1935, Quezon was elected president of the newly formulated Philippine Commonwealth. He had a strong personality and presence, was ambitious, earnest to learn, good-looking, and had a "lack of inferiority complex." He easily emerged as the acknowledged leader of Philippine politics and possessed the kind of background and experience that appealed to Filipinos that he easily won over Emilio Aguinaldo and Bishop Gregorio Aglipay who were also seeking the presidency.

As president he reorganized the islands' military defense with Gen. Douglas MacArthur as his special adviser. He grappled with nagging problems inherited from the Spanish and American administrations. His main concerns were directed at bringing about political stability, and strengthening an economy extremely dependent upon the United States. His presidency was notable for taking executive and legislative action to implement his "social justice" program aimed at the underprivileged. Quezon promoted the settlement and development of the large southern island of Mindanao, and fought graft and corruption in the government.

Quezon was reelected president in 1941. After Japan invaded and occupied the Philippines in 1942, he went to the United States. There he formed a government in exile but could do no more than try to boost the morale of the people he left behind. While in the United States, Quezon served as a member of the Pacific War Council, signed the declaration of the United Nations against fascist governments, and wrote his autobiography, "The Good Fight" in 1946.

Quezon was married to the former Aurora Aragon. He died of tuberculosis in Saranac Lake, New York on August 1,1944, before full Philippine independence was established.

Return To Previous Page