5 of The Greatest Filipino Statesmen
This article was originally published in the August 2014 issue of Esquire Magazine with the title "The Greatest Presidents We Never Had." Minor changes have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.
An unyielding nationalist who howled by his unminding lonesome; a brash overachiever who aged into world-renowned eminence; a caustic commentator who remained a public intellectual despite his government sinecure; a pedigreed attorney who knew the difference between law and justice and fought for the latter; and a raffish charmer who surrendered liberty then life for the sake of the people’s freedom.
We present singular wisdom from the five great presidents we never had.
CLARO M RECTO
Don Claro served as a Congressman, Supreme Court Justice, president of the 1935 Constitutional Convention, and a long-time member of the Senate. He also helped pave the way for Magsaysay’s defection from the Liberal Party to run for President under the Nacionalista fold.
Recto, a staunch nationalist who did not agree with the administration's close ties to the United States, eventually mounted an unsuccessful run for the Presidency in 1957.
CARLOS P. ROMULO
A former general, Foreign Affairs Secretary and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Romulo had turned down an offer to run for Vice President in 1946, in which case he could have become President upon the death of President Roxas in 1948. A one-time President of the UN General Assembly, he was also an avid human rights advocate:
LEON MA. GUERRERO
In May 1954, the 39-year old Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs prepared to face life as a foreign exile, albeit as an ambassador, having earned the displeasure of the President he served, Ramon Magsaysay.
Guerrero had caused a stir by declaring that the Philippine government was embracing a nationalist foreign policy, which did not sit well with the West.
JOSE W. DIOKNO
A duly elected Senator of nationalist bent, Diokno’s was one of several promising political careers cut short because of the Philippine establishment’s too-close relationship with the Cold War-era United States. Recognized as the best lawyer of his generation, Diokno was eventually appointed to the Supreme Court but died shortly after.
BENIGNO S. AQUINO JR.
At the age of 21, Aquino was already a special adviser to President Magsaysay on the problem of the Communists. Cursed with a family name that was toxic in Philippine politics, his deceased father had been tagged as a collaborator during the Japanese occupation.
The younger Aquino, however, would go on to redeem his family’s legacy. When martial law was declared, Aquino was at his peak—a credible threat to the sustained rule of Marcos—but ended up in solitary confinement at an army camp in Nueva Ecija.
Quotes compiled by OXAR