The Third Republic of the Philippines was inaugurated on July 4, 1946. It marked the culmination of the peaceful campaign for Philippine Independence—the two landmarks of which were the enactment of the Jones Law in 1916 (in which the U.S. Congress pledged independence for the Philippines once Filipinos have proven their capability for self-government) and the Philippine Independence Act of 1934 (popularly known as Tydings-McDuffie) which put in place a ten-year transition period during which the Philippines had Commonwealth status. The Third Republic also marked the recognition by the global community of nations, of the nationhood of the Philippines—a process that began when the Commonwealth of the Philippines joined the Anti-Axis Alliance known as the United Nations on June 14, 1942, receiving recognition as an Allied nation even before independence.
Thus, the inauguration of the Third Republic marked the fulfillment of the long struggle for independence that began with the Philippine Revolution on August 23, 1896 (recent scholarship suggests, on August 24) and which was formalized on June 12, 1898 with the Proclamation of Philippine Independence at Kawit, Cavite.
From 1946 to 1961, Independence Day was celebrated on July 4. On May 12, 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal issued Proclamation No. 28, s. 1962, which declared June 12 as Independence Day. In 1964, Congress passed Republic Act No. 4166, which formally designated June 12 of every year as the date on which we celebrate Philippine independence. July 4 in turn has been observed as Republic Day since then.
The Roxas Administration (May 28, 1946 – April 15, 1948)
President Manuel Roxas, in his first State of the Nation Address, detailed the challenges the country was facing in the aftermath of war: A government “without financial means to support even its basic functions,” scarcity in commodities especially of food, hyperinflation, the “tragic destruction” of a productive economy, and still-ongoing rehabilitation among the different sectors of society.
In an effort to solve the massive socio-economic problems of the period, President Roxas reorganized the government, and proposed a wide-sweeping legislative program. Among the undertakings of the Third Republic’s initial year were: The establishment of the Rehabilitation Finance Corporation (which would be reorganized in 1958 as the Development Bank of the Philippines); the creation of the Department of Foreign Affair and the organization of the foreign service through Executive Order No. 18; the GI Bill of Rights for Filipino veterans; and the revision of taxation laws to increase government revenues.
In leading a “cash-starved government” that needed to attend a battered nation, President Roxas campaigned for the parity amendment to the 1935 Constitution. This amendment, demanded by the Philippine Trade Relations Act or the Bell Trade Act, would give American citizens and industries the right to utilize the country’s natural resources in return for rehabilitation support from the United States. The President, with the approval of Congress, proposed this move to the nation through a plebiscite.
The amendment was necessary to attract rehabilitation funds and investments at a time when public and official opinion in the United States had swung back to isolationism (the Cold War, and a corresponding reversal in what had been heretofore a return of isolationism, would only come a few years later). On March 11, 1947, a total of 432,933 (78.89% of the electorate) voted in favor of the parity amendment. The approval of the amendment had provided the nation with $620 million in war damage compensation, through the Philippine War Damage Commission.
A major initiative arising from preliminary wartime discussions about the future security of the Philippines, was the US–Philippine Military Bases Agreement of 1947, which gave the United States the right to retain the use of sixteen bases, free of rent, with the option to use seven more for a term of 99 years.
The Roxas administration also pioneered the foreign policy of the Republic. Vice President Elpidio Quirino was appointed Secretary of Foreign Affairs. General Carlos P. Romulo, as permanent representative of the Philippines to the United Nations, helped shape the country’s international identity in the newly established stage for international diplomacy and relations. During the Roxas administration, the Philippines established diplomatic ties with foreign countries and gained membership to international entities, such as the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), etc.
On April 15, 1948, following a speech before an audience of assembled airmen at Clark Field Air Base, President Roxas died of a heart attack. Vice President Elpidio Quirino assumed the presidency on April 17, 1948.
The Quirino Administration (April 17, 1948 – December 30, 1953)
President Elpidio Quirino’s goal as chief executive, as stated in his first State of the Nation Address, revolved around strengthening the people’s confidence in the government and the restoration of peace. In order to achieve these, the Chief Executive travelled around the country to inspect firsthand the condition of the nation.
President Quirino established the Action Committee on Social Amelioration through Administrative Order No. 68, in order to efficiently promote the welfare of citizens in the rural districts. He established the Social Security Study Commission by virtue of Executive Order No. 150, to investigate socio-economic problems of the working class and formulate legislation developing social welfare. The Labor Management Advisory Board, established by Executive Order No. 158, formulated labor policies and conducted studies on the ways and means of preventing, minimizing, and reconciling labor disputes. The Agricultural Credit and Cooperative Financing Administration, established by Republic Act. No. 821, assisted farmers in securing credit as well as developing cooperative associations to efficiently market their agricultural commodities.
The Quirino administration reached out to the leaders and members of Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon (HUKBALAHAP) and the Pambansang Kaisahan ng mga Magbubukid (PKM) to negotiate peace and put an end to the insurgency. In 1948, through Proclamation No. 76, the government granted amnesty to the insurgents that surrendered arms. The negotiation failed to persuade HUKBALAHAP leader Luis Taruc and other rebel leaders, as they conceded to register but never disarm. From 1950 to 1953, Secretary of National Defense Ramon Magsaysay and President Quirino exerted efforts in reforming the nation’s Armed Forces and promoting welfare of citizens in the rural areas through the Economic Development Corps (EDCOR) and Land Settlement and Development Corporation (LASEDECO). This resulted to a considerable improvement to the country’s insurgency problem. There were over 25,000 armed communists in early 1950—two thirds of which had either been captured, killed, or had voluntarily surrendered; an estimated 60,000 firearms were surrendered or captured.
The Quirino administration came to a close in the presidential elections of 1953. It was a battle between incumbent Liberal Party of President Elpidio Quirino against the charismatic Nacionalista candidate Ramon Magsaysay. It was a landslide victory for Ramon Magsaysay, who gained 2,912,992 votes or 68.9% of the electorate.
The Magsaysay Administration (December 30, 1953 – March 17, 1957)
To help the rural masses was the focal point of the populist administration of President Ramon Magsaysay. President Magsaysay insisted in meeting and communicating with his people. In his first Executive Order, he established the Presidential Complaint and Action Commission, which investigated various citizen complaints and recommended remedial actions through different government agencies. The Commission served to boost the nation’s confidence with its government; it was seen as a fulfilment of President Magsaysay’s promise, stated in his inaugural address, to become a President for the people. The principles of the Magsaysay administration were codified in the Magsaysay Credo, and became the theme of leadership and public service.
Among the accomplishments of the Magsaysay administration were the Social Security Law of 1954 or Republic Act No. 1161. In an effort to solve the problems of communism and insurgency, President Magsaysay sought to protect the farmers, through the creation of laws such as: the Agricultural Tenancy Act of the Philippines or Republic Act No. 1199; the Land Reform Act of 1955 through Republic Act No. 1400; the formation of the Court of Agrarian Relations through Republic Act No. 1267; and the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA) through Republic Act No. 1160. The administration achieved victory over insurgents with the surrender of Huk leader Luis Taruc in 1954.
In the field of international diplomacy and defense, President Magsaysay, through the Manila Pact of 1954 or the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, led the establishment of the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO).
The Laurel-Langley Agreement, signed during the Magsaysay administration, gave the Philippines a preferential trade system with the United States and other countries. Among its provisions were the right to impose quotas on non-quota articles and the right to impose export taxes.
On March 17, 1957, President Magsaysay and 25 other passengers of the presidential plane Mt. Pinatubo perished in a crash, at Mt. Manunggal, Cebu. Vice President Carlos P. Garcia succeeded to the presidency on March 18, 1957.
The Garcia Administration (March 18, 1957 – December 30, 1961)
President Carlos P. Garcia, in his inaugural address, sought the help and support of the masses in accomplishing the tremendous responsibilities of the presidency and in carrying on the legacy of the Magsaysay administration. President Garcia used the momentum of the previous administration’s campaign on social welfare and signed the amendment of the Social Security Law through Republic Act 1792, establishing the Social Security System on September 1, 1957.
President Garcia ran for the presidential elections of 1957. It was the first time in electoral history where there were four serious contenders to the presidency, namely: Jose Yulo, Claro M. Recto, Manuel Manahan, and President Garcia. The incumbent president won the elections with 41.3% of the electorate. It was the first time that a president was elected by plurality of candidates instead of a majority vote. It was also the first time where the elected president and vice president did not come from the same political party—President Garcia was a Nacionalista and Vice President Diosdado Macapagal a Liberal.
The Garcia administration promoted the “Filipino First” policy, whose focal point was to regain economic independence; a national effort by Filipinos to “obtain major and dominant participation in their economy.” The administration campaigned for the citizens’ support in patronizing Filipino products and services, and implemented import and currency controls favorable for Filipino industries. In connection with the government’s goal of self-sufficiency was the “Austerity Program,” which President Garcia described in his first State of the NatIon Address as “more work, more thrift, more productive investment, and more efficiency” that aimed to mobilize national savings. The Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, through Republic Act No. 301, aimed to prevent corruption, and promote honesty and public trust. Another achievement of the Garcia administration was the Bohlen–Serrano Agreement of 1959, which shortened the term of lease of the US military bases in the country from the previous 99 to 25 years.
President Garcia lost to Vice President Diosdado Macapagal in the presidential race of 1961.
The Macapagal Administration (December 30, 1961- December 30, 1965)
President Diosdado Macapagal, during his inaugural address on December 30, 1961, emphasized the responsibilities and goals to be attained in the “new era” that was the Macapagal administration. He reiterated his resolve to eradicate corruption, and assured the public that honesty would prevail in his presidency. President Macapagal, too, aimed at self-sufficiency and the promotion of every citizen’s welfare, through the partnership of the government and private sector, and to alleviate poverty by providing solutions for unemployment.
Among the laws passed during the Macapagal administration were: Republic Act No. 3844 or the Agricultural Land Reform Code (an act that established the Land Bank of the Philippines); Republic Act No. 3466, which established the Emergency Employment Administration; Republic Act No. 3518, which established the Philippine Veterans Bank; Republic Act No. 3470, which established the National Cottage Industries Development Authority (NACIDA) to organize, revive, and promote the establishment of local cottage industries; and Republic Act No. 4156, which established the Philippine National Railways (PNR) to operate the national railroad and tramways. The administration lifted foreign exchange controls as part of the decontrol program in an attempt to promote national economic stability and growth.
In the field of foreign relations, the Philippines became a founding member of Maphilindo, through the Manila Accord of 1963. The regional organization of Malay states strove for “Asian solutions by Asian nations for Asian problems,” and aimed to solve national and regional problems through regional diplomacy.
The Macapagal administration closed with the presidential elections of 1965. The “Poor boy from Lubao” was defeated by the Nacionalista candidate Ferdinand E. Marcos.
The Marcos Administration (December 30, 1965 – February 25, 1986)
The last president of the Third Republic of the Philippines was President Ferdinand E. Marcos. Prior to the events of Martial Law, the first term of the Marcos administration, as emphasized in his inaugural address on December 30, 1965, focused on “the revival of the greatness of the nation.”
President Marcos, faced with the challenge of corruption in the government, reorganized the Armed Forces, the Philippine Constabulary, and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. In an attempt to solve the problem of technical smuggling, the Bureau of Customs was also reorganized. The administration, with a goal to strengthen the local economy, devised construction programs and irrigation projects. The promotion of Philippine heritage, culture, and arts was achieved through the establishment of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) in 1969.
Under the Marcos administration, the country hosted the Manila Summit in 1966. The conference aimed to resolve the Vietnam War, and sought the restoration of peace and the promotion of economic stability and development throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
Among the laws approved by President Marcos were: Republic Act No. 5186 or the Investments Incentives Act; Republic Act No. 4864 or the Police Act of 1966; and Republic Act No. 5173, which established the Philippine Coast Guard.
President Marcos won his re-election bid in the 1969 presidential elections against Liberal Party’s Sergio Osmeña Jr. President Marcos gained 5,017,343 votes or 61.47% of the electorate to become only the second Philippine president in history to win reelection and the first to do so in the Third Republic.
On the 30th of January 1970, to protest the violent dispersal of the student-led rally during President Marcos’ fifth State of the Nation Address four days earlier, a demonstration was held in front of Malacañan Palace. This event intensified into a protracted and vicious battle between authorities and the students who tried to storm the palace. A fire truck was rammed into one of the Palace gates; properties were destroyed and fires were started by the rallyists. Two persons were reportedly killed and 106 were injured. The incident and the rallies thereafter became known as the First Quarter Storm, a period of unrest marked by a series of demonstrations against the Marcos administration.
On November 27 of the same year, Blessed Pope Paul VI traveled to the Philippines, attending to the 63.2 million Filipino Catholic faithful. It marked the first time the head of the Catholic church visited the country. Surviving an assassination attempt upon his arrival, the Pontiff continued his Philippine visit. He officiated the first Papal Mass in the Far East at the Manila Cathedral, as well as an open-air mass at the Rizal Park. [Learn more about papal visits to the Philippines.]
As opposition to President Marcos grew significantly due to corruption in the administration, the Liberal Party then saw an opportunity in the midterm elections of 1971. The Miting de Avance of the Liberal Party held at Plaza Miranda on August 21, 1971 was cut short when two bombs were hurled at the opposition candidates, killing nine people and injuring about a hundred. Because of this incident, President Marcos suspended the Writ of Habeas Corpus, leading to the arrest and incarceration of twenty people.
The Plaza Miranda bombing, alongside the increasing strength of the Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing, the New People’s Army, and the Marcos-staged ambush on the convoy of Secretary of Defense Juan Ponce Enrile on the night of September 22, 1972, were the pretext for Marcos’ declaration of Martial Law on September 23, 1972, by virtue of Proclamation No. 1081. The said proclamation was dated September 21, when in fact it was only put into effect on September 23.
Opponents of the administration were incarcerated; decree-making powers were asserted by the President, and when the ongoing Constitutional Convention produced a draft document, a series of “barangay assemblies” were held to prevent Congress from convening as scheduled in January, 1973. After claiming approval of a new Constitution, the dictatorship ordered Congress padlocked. The “ratification” of the 1973 Constitution marked the end of the Third Republic and the beginning of the Bagong Lipunan—the New Society as the martial law regime was called—under President Marcos.
In 1981, through Proclamation No. 2045, Martial Law was lifted throughout the country and marked the beginning of the “New,” or Fourth, Republic of the Philippines.
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