President Forever? Quezon and the Presidency (Part 1)

This series generally devoted to one question: Did Quezon envision to be President of the Philippines for life?


[Note: The President Forever title is adapted from the computer game series President Forever, a United States election simulation, first released as President Forever 2008 + Primaries in October 2006.]


   Firstly, following Friedrich Nietzsche’s advice to question the question itself, why is there an interest to know whether Quezon wanted to be President for life? On my part, it all began when I read two articles of Nelson Navarro, a well known biographer writing for the Philippine Star. The earlier one entitled “The devil in May” mentioned “Manuel Quezon’s classic formula of 1941”, but Navarro did not go into the details. The later one entitled “Who wants to be a lame duck?” gave some details concerning this classic formula:

He proposed a historic bargain lapped up by the obedient legislature: to exchange his six-year term with a four-year term with one reelection. Two other amendments were added to complete this grand bargain: to scrap the unicameral assembly for the old bicameral legislature (Senate and House) and to create the Commission on Elections as an independent body. 
Under the arrangement…Quezon would still be president in 1946, take a break from power after a year or so by having his vice president warm his seat and then be eligible in the next election for another eight years. He would, in effect, hold power up to the mid-1950s.

At that time, I made my own computation following the pattern presented by Navarro in his article. From 1935 to 1941, the six-year term of the President shall be consummated. However, when the proposal to amend the constitution, among which was the exchange of the non-renewable six-year term to a four-year term with one available reelection, was approved by both a nationwide plebiscite on June 18, 1940 and the United States President on December 2, 1940, Quezon was made available to run for the renewable four-year term.

He indeed ran for this four-year term in the 1941 elections, wherein he won more handsomely than in 1935 (81.78% in 1941 compared to 67.99% in 1935). Then, this four year term shall be terminated by 1945. Quezon could then let Osmena, or perhaps Roxas, run and win the 1945 elections and rule as President until 1949. Independence Day was scheduled on July 4, 1946. Therefore, when Quezon decides to consummate his eight consecutive years by 1949, provided that he wins in both the 1949 and 1953 elections, he will be President until 1957. By that time, Quezon would be 79 years old, and he would still be considered President of an independent Philippines, though he would not be the first, if this scheme was fulfilled.

Naturally, successors of Quezon would hope to gain a second term after they win the first one, and then try to amend the constitution to extend their rule. Definitely the 1935 Constitution can be an instrument towards dictatorial rule at the worst, and lifetime presidency at the best (consider Marcos, the last president under the 1935 Constitution). However, Quezon did not have the chance to pull this off, if ever, since he had died one year short of the termination of his first four-year term. It must have been taken into thought, however, that he had agreed to the said bargain as early as 1939. There is the possibility that Quezon, perhaps, hoped to live through to see this plan succeed.

Another scenario popped out, however, during the course of the Second World War. Quezon found out that his term that began in 1941 shall end in 1943. The supposed 10-year rule is abbreviated to the constitutional eight years. Thus, Quezon, through Osmena, worked to have his term extended indefinitely. That is, until the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese. This move succeeded with a Resolution approved by the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Considering the speed of the American campaign by that time, Quezon would most probably be President still by 1945. And then, the plan shall go on. As mentioned earlier, Quezon did not have the chance to pull this off.

The next section is to understand how Quezon began to develop his political attitude and style of political action. In doing so, this will help in understanding how Quezon operates his affairs later in his career.

Quezon during his time in the Senate, 1916-1935
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Quezon’s youth: Focusing on father and son relationship

   According to Victor Wolfenstein in Personality and politics, “for all political men, there is a continuity of style and motivation from the experiences of childhood to those of adult life.” The author then forwards that those characteristics of the political man result from the man’s relationship to his father. These characteristics, basically, are concerned with authority and power. Andrew Samuels, in his book Political Psyche, put up a list on the father’s complementary role he plays as a parent. Included here were: “power (and its envy), competition, law and order”. Thus, it can be seen that the father is the political man’s first role model of power and strength. Following this concept, Manuel Quezon, a political man, would therefore derive his political tendencies (attitude and style included) from his father, Lucio.

It was evident for Quezon’s mother, Maria Dolores, that her firstborn son will become a priest. This is due to his birth date being coincident with that of Baler’s patron saint day, August 19. However, Quezon’s father had a different vocation in mind. He wanted his son to be a soldier, just like himself. This he wanted just enough to dress young Manuel a soldier’s outfit, that is, a uniform of a cabo (corporal, which interestingly becomes incorporated in the Filipino language as kabo or police) of the Civil Guard. Obviously, both did not win out with what they were envisioning for their firstborn, at least initially, for Manuel took up law at the University of Santo Tomas instead. At least, if one looks it that way.

It has been mentioned before that the father is the first role model of power and strength. As model to his child, the father performs the function of a “messenger”, wherein he does not only bring the message; he himself is the message. The child, in turn, receives this in a revolutionary way. He would see this as his first opportunity for power and competition, with his father being the rival. Despite this so-called rivalry, there exists love and respect from the child to his father which the former expects to be returned by the latter. Sigmund Freud refers to this competition between father and son as the Oedipus complex, though in contemporary psychoanalysis, this concept was further expanded beyond psycho-sexual development. In contemporary psychoanalysis, as well as in this series this concept broadens to a general competition between son and father, wherein most of the time, the son eventually outgrows the father.

Statue of the Greek god Hermes, equivalent to the Roman god Mercury
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Samuels compares the messenger role of the father to Hermes, the Greek messenger god. The message refers to the paternal image, of which he proposes to have something to say regarding one’s individual political capacity.

In Quezon’s case, we can note that this father-son love-hate affair also existed. Manuel had the opportunity to test his young manhood against a living competitor, at the least, before Lucio was killed by bandits in Baler during the Philippine Revolution. Even though he did take up a law course, it did not stop Quezon to continue, and eventually win out, this so-called rivalry with his father. His father was a sergeant of the Spanish colonial army, which is the highest military position a local could have aspired then. Quezon was envisioned by his sergeant father as a cabo (corporal), and for a small town at the time like Baler, being a corporal meant the highest military position. However, despite this communal prestige he envisions for Manuel, it can be noticed that Lucio, the father, indeed recognized the existing rivalry he is supposed to face with his son. He gauged for his son a vision which is lower than his own achievement, for a rank of corporal is normally a notch lower than that of a sergeant.

Manuel definitely outgrew his father’s vision, and he did it in his own lightning fast manner, for he had a rank of Major under the Philippine Army of General Emilio Aguinaldo. Quezon could have just aimed for being a corporal, perhaps a sergeant. He was envisioned as the top soldier in town, but he saw that there was a bigger world out there he can perform to. This mentality of being on top, which is more prevailing in men, even made him think that he could be “one of the national military heroes of Philippine history.” A second Antonio Luna perhaps, according to National Artist and Quezon biographer Carlos Quirino. This competition with the father resulted to the drive to aim higher. This aim in an arena of power and authority signals tendencies for politics. These political tendencies are the political attitude and style that Quezon would later on present saw genesis at this stage of his life.


Want to continue this series? Read Part 2 of the President Forever series.

See the references by clicking here.


[Disclaimer: While some content may offend or cause disagreement with some readers, it must first be taken to mind that the author does not have access to the entire Quezon fountain of sources. Therefore, whatever analyses and conclusions made here are made as adequate as possible and are only built from the available evidences, sources and theories the author has access. Also, since only few editing, mainly grammatical, was made since this series was first written in 2012, then it is yet to be subjected to change. Any correction is welcome, but copying without permission is being frowned upon, since this blog is not under any Creative Commons Attribution. Thank you for reading the Young Filipino Historian.]
President Forever? Quezon and the Presidency (Part 1) President Forever? Quezon and the Presidency (Part 1) Reviewed by Al Raposas on Saturday, October 04, 2014 Rating: 5

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