• U.S.

THE PHILIPPINES: New President

3 minute read
TIME

Only twice before had Filipinos tasted the excitement of electing a President. Never before had they enjoyed the privilege of making a choice. As he went to the polls in last week’s close, tropic heat, a Filipino might reasonably feel both elated and nervous.

The national political temper portended a roisterous day of balloting. On Luzon, cub planes buzzed in the skies, looking for suspicious gatherings. Jeeps loaded with soldiers patrolled the rutted roads. Elderly, cautious President Sergio Osmena remained secluded in Manila’s sprawling white Malacafian Palace. An armed guard surrounded the hideout of the opposing candidate—flamboyant, fiery Manuel Roxas y Acuna.

The early hours of election day brought nervous rumors: of masked bands hijacking voting boxes in Santa Rosa; of ink poured over ballots in Cavite. And there were some bloody facts: Governor Ramon Imperial of Camarines Sur Province was wounded by gunfire; a 62-year-old Pampanga supporter of Osmena was hauled from a jeep and murdered by machine-gun fire in a rice field.

But in most of central Luzon, stronghold of the leftist Hukbalahap, expected violence failed to materialize. Schoolteachers showed unarmed voters how-to mark their secret ballots.

Greatest Champion. From the first, the vote swung toward 54-year-old Manuel Roxas*, who had campaigned vigorously while Sergio Osmena stood on his record and kept mum.

Filipinos had come to know Manuel Roxas well. He had once been a general with MacArthur, and was liked by the U.S. military. He was a member of Jose Laurel’s puppet government during the Japanese occupation, but resisted all efforts of the Japs to take him to Tokyo. A lawyer, Roman Catholic, and President of the Senate, he is a magnetic, articulate orator, a serious student of economics. He had the support of most Filipino conservatives.

After six days, tired, careworn Sergio Osmena conceded defeat. In self-assured tones, Manuel Roxas outlined his program to U.S. newsmen. He said that he would seek an immediate U.S. loan for rehabilitation, promised full cooperation with U.S. policy in the Far East.

Said he: “I am going to set our house in order, restore domestic tranquillity. . . . Despite charges that I have fascist tendencies, I am going to be the greatest champion of democracy in politics as well as economics that this country has.”

*When the trend pointed to Roxas, the Philippine Press, a Manila tabloid, printed a boldface column recalling that Jose Vera, Osmena’s campaign manager, had threatened suicide if his candidate lost. The paper called on Vera to make good, suggested poison, a hand grenade, or a banzai charge on Roxas headquarters. Weaseled Vera: “I said ‘I’ll bet my life Osmena will win!’ I never said I would commit suicide. . . I won’t.”

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