Ramon Magsaysay

Ramón Magsaysay
7th President of the Philippines
3rd President of the Third Republic
In office
December 30, 1953 – March 17, 1957
Vice President Carlos P. García
Preceded by Elpidio Quirino
Succeeded by Carlos P. García
Secretary of National Defense
In office
December 30, 1953 – May 14, 1954
Preceded by Oscar T. Castelo
Succeeded by Sotero B. Cabahug
In office
September 1, 1950 – February 28, 1953
President Elpidio Quirino
Preceded by Ruperto K. Kangleon
Succeeded by Oscar T. Castelo
Member of the Philippine House of Representatives from Zambales' Lone District
In office
May 28, 1946 – September 1, 1950
Preceded by Valentin Afable
Succeeded by Enrique Corpus
Personal details
Born August 31, 1907(1907-08-31)
Iba, Philippines
Died March 17, 1957(1957-03-17) (aged 49)
Balamban, Philippines
Resting place Manila North Cemetery, Santa Cruz, Manila, Philippines
Political party Nacionalista Party (1953–1957)
Liberal Party[1][2] (1946–1953)
Spouse(s) Luz Banzon
Alma mater José Rizal University
Profession Engineer
Religion Roman Catholicism
Military service
Allegiance Flag of the Philippines.svg Republic of the Philippines
Years of service 1942–1945
Rank Captain

Ramón del Fierro Magsaysay (August 31, 1907 – March 17, 1957) was the third President of the Republic of the Philippines (and seventh president overall) from December 30, 1953 until his death in a plane crash in 1957. He was elected President under the banner of the Nacionalista Party.


Early life

Ramon F. Magsaysay was born in Iba, Zambales on August 31, 1907 to Exequiel Magsaysay, a blacksmith, and Perfecta del Fierro, a schoolteacher. He entered the University of the Philippines in 1927. He worked as a chauffeur to support himself as he studied engineering; later, he transferred to the Institute of Commerce at José Rizal College (1928–1932), where he received a baccalaureate in commerce. He then worked as an automobile mechanic and shop superintendent. When World War II broke out, he joined the motor pool of the 31st Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. When Bataan surrendered in 1942, Magsaysay escaped to the hills, organized the Western Luzon Guerrilla Forces, and was commissioned captain on April 5, 1942. For three years Capt. Magsaysay operated under Col. Merrill's famed guerrilla outfit and saw action at Sawang, San Marcelino, Zambales. Magsaysay was among those instrumental in clearing the Zambales coast of the Japanese prior to the landing of American forces together with the Philippine Commonwealth troops on January 29, 1945.

House of Representatives

On April 23, 1946, Magsaysay was elected under the Liberal Party[1] to the Philippine House of Representatives. In 1948, President Roxas chose Magsaysay to go to Washington as Chairman of the Committee on Guerrilla Affairs, to help to secure passage of the Rogers Bill, giving benefits to Philippine veterans. In the so-called "dirty election" of 1949, he was re-elected to a second term in the House of Representatives. During both terms he was Chairman of the House National Defense Committee.

Secretary of National Defense

In early August 1950 he offered President Quirino a plan to fight the Communist guerillas, using his own experiences in guerrilla warfare during World War II. After some hesitation, Quirino realized that there was no alternative and appointed Magsaysay Secretary of National Defence on August 31, 1950. He intensified the campaign against the Hukbalahap guerillas. This success was due in part to the unconventional methods he employed and developed alongside an American adviser, General Edward Lansdale. The counterinsurgency the two deployed utilized soldiers distributing relief goods and other forms of aid to outlying, provincial communities. Where before Magsaysay, the rural folk looked on the Philippine Army if not in distrust, at least with general apathy, during his term as Defense Secretary Filipinos began to respect and admire their soldiers.

In June 1952 Magsaysay made a goodwill tour to the United States and Mexico. He visited New York, Washington, D.C. (with a medical check-up at Walter Reed Hospital) and Mexico City where he spoke at the Annual Convention of Lions International.

By 1953 President Quirino thought the threat of the Huks was under control and Secretary Magsaysay was becoming too weak. Magsaysay met with interference and obstruction from the President and his advisers, in fear they might be unseated at the next presidential election. Although Magsaysay had at that time no intention to run, he was urged from many sides and finally was convinced that the only way to continue his fight against communism, and for a government for the people, was to be elected President, ousting the corrupt administration that, in his opinion, had caused the rise of the communist guerrillas by bad administration. He resigned his post as defense secretary on February 28, 1953, and became the presidential candidate of the Nacionalista Party, disputing the nomination with senator Camilo Osías at the Nacionalista national convention.

1951 Negros Occidental incident

Theatrical poster of the 1961 film The Moises Padilla Story that narrates the 1951 event.

In 1949, the governor of Negros Occidental Rafael Lacson assumed the gubernatorial chair and he ran the war-torn province as a police state. He tied up with the wealthy sugar plantation owners in the province, assembled private local armies and held the constabulary in an iron fist.[3] The next year, many local journalists foretold the defeat of Lacson in the office if he would not loosen up his policies in the province.

In 1951 local elections, a man named Moises Padilla, a former guerrilla fighter against the Japanese during Second World War, declared his bid for candidacy to become the mayor of town of Magallon (now Moises Padilla). Padilla's opponent was an ally of Lacson. Because of this political alliance, Lacson sent a word to Padilla to renounce his candidacy or else he would die. Even though he was warned, Padilla continued his campaign but he sought military protection from defense secretary Ramón Magsaysay.[3]

After the elections, Padilla lost the mayoralty race. The night after that, Lacson's uniformed men picked Padilla up and he was sent on a "town show" where he was beaten and tortured along the road. After the torturing, one of Lacson's men announced in the town plaza that this is "what happens to people who oppose us."[3] When the news reached Magsaysay that Padilla was being tortured, he went to Negros Occidental. To his surprise, Magsaysay was informed that Padilla had already been killed by Lacson's men before the secretary even went to the province. Padilla's body was swimming in blood, pierced by fourteen bullets, and was positioned on a police bench in the town plaza.[3]

The event afterward made Magsaysay's political career brighten up. Magsaysay himself carried the body of Padilla with his bare hands and delivered it to the morgue. News clips showed Magsaysay's pictures holding Padilla's body the next day.[4] Magsaysay even used this event during his presidential campaign in 1953.

The trial against Lacson started in January 1952. Magsaysay and his men presented their evidence enough to convict Lacson and his 26 men for murder.[3] On August 1954, the guilty verdict was given by Judge Eduardo Enriquez. The sentence was to put Lacson, his 22 men and three other mayors of Negros Occidental municipalities in an electric chair.[5]

Presidential Election of 1953

Presidential elections were held on November 10, 1953 in the Philippines. Incumbent President Elpidio Quirino lost his opportunity to get a second full term as President of the Philippines to former Defense Secretary Ramón Magsaysay. His running mate, Senator José Yulo lost to Senator Carlos P. García. Vice President Fernando López did not run for re-election. This was the first time that an elected president did not come from the Senate. Moreover he started the jingles during election, for one of his inclinations and hobbies was dancing.

The United States government, including the CIA, had a strong influence on the 1953 elections, and candidates in the election fiercely competed with each other for U.S. support.[6]


In the Election of 1953, Magsaysay was decisively elected president over the incumbent Elpidio Quirino. He was sworn into office wearing the Barong Tagalog, a first by a Philippine president. He was then called "Mambo Magsaysay".

As president, he was a close friend and supporter of the United States and a vocal spokesman against communism during the Cold War. He led the foundation of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization also known as the Manila Pact of 1954, that aimed to defeat communist-Marxist movements in South East Asia, South Asia and the Southwestern Pacific. During his term, he made Malacañáng Palace literally a "house of the people", opening its gates to the public. One example of his integrity followed a demonstration flight aboard a new plane belonging to the Philippine Air Force (PAF). President Magsaysay asked what the operating costs per hour were for that type of aircraft, then wrote a personal check to the PAF, covering the cost of his flight.

His administration was considered one of the cleanest and most corruption-free; his presidency was cited as the Philippines' Golden Years. Trade and industry flourished, the Philippine military was at its prime, and the Filipino people were given international recognition in sports, culture and foreign affairs. The Philippines ranked second in Asia's clean and well-governed countries.

Domestic Policies

President's Action Body

Ushering, indeed, a new era in Philippine government, President Magsaysay placed emphasis upon service to the people by bringing the government closer to the former.[2] This was symbollically seen when, on inauguration day, President Magsaysay ordered the gates of Malacañang Palace open to all and sundry, who were allowed to freely visit all the dependencies of the presidential mansion. Later, this was regulated to allow weekly visit.[2]

True[2] to his electoral promise, President Magsaysay created the Presidential Complaints and Action Committee.[2] This body immediately proceeded to hear grievances and recommend remedial action. Headed by soft-spoken, but active and tireless, Manuel Manahan, this committee would come to hear nearly sixty thousand complaints in a year, of which more than thirty thousand would be settled by direct action and a little more than twenty five thousand, referred to government agencies for appropriate follow-up. This new entity, composed of youthful personnel, all loyal to the President, proved to be a highly successful morale booster restoring the people's confidence in their own government.[2]

Agrarian Reform

To amplify and stabilize the functions of the Economic Development Corps (EDCOR), President Magsaysay worked[2] for the establishment of the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA).[2] This body took over from the EDCOR and helped in the giving some sixty five thousand acres to three thousand indigent families for settlement purposes.[2] Again, it allocated some other twenty five thousand to a little more than one thousand five hundred landless families, who subsequently became farmers.[2]

As further aid to the rural people,[2] the President Established the Agricultural Credit and Cooperative Administration (ACCFA). The idea was for this entity to make available rural credits. Records show that it did grant, in this wise, almost ten million dollars. This administration body next devoted its attention to cooperative marketing.[2]

Along this line of help to the rural areas, President Magsaysay initiated in all earnestness the artesian wells campaign. A group-movement known as the Liberty Wells Association was formed and in record time managed to raise a considerable sum for the construction of as many artesian wells as possible. The socio-economic value of the same could not be gainsaid and the people were profuse in their gratitude.[2]

Finally, vast irrigation projects, as well as enhancement of the Ambuklao Power plant and other similar ones, went along way towards bringing to reality the rural improvement program advocated by President Magsaysay.[2]

President Ramon Magsaysay at the Presidential Study, Malacañang Palace.

President Ramón Magsaysay enacted the following laws as part of his Agrarian Reform Program:

  • Republic Act No. 1160 of 1954—Abolished the LASEDECO and established the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Administration (NARRA) to resettle dissidents and landless farmers. It was particularly aimed at rebel returnees providing home lots and farmlands in Palawan and Mindanao.
  • Republic Act No. 1199 (Agricultural Tenancy Act of 1954) – governed the relationship between landowners and tenant farmers by organizing share-tenancy and leasehold system. The law provided the security of tenure of tenants. It also created the Court of Agrarian Relations.
  • Republic Act No. 1400 (Land Reform Act of 1955) – Created the Land Tenure Administration (LTA) which was responsible for the acquisition and distribution of large tenanted rice and corn lands over 200 hectares for individuals and 600 hectares for corporations.
  • Republic Act No. 821 (Creation of Agricultural Credit Cooperative Financing Administration) – Provided small farmers and share tenants loans with low interest rates of six to eight percent.[7]


In early 1954, Benigno Aquino, Jr. was appointed by President Ramón Magsaysay to act as personal emissary to Luis Taruc, leader of the Hukbalahap rebel group. Also in 1954, Lt. Col. Laureño Maraña, the former head of Force X of the 16th PC Company, assumed command of the 7th BCT, which had become one of the most mobile striking forces of the Philippine ground forces against the Huks, from Colonel Valeriano. Force X employed psychological warfare through combat intelligence and infiltration that relied on secrecy in planning, training, and execution of attack. The lessons learned from Force X and Nenita were combined in the 7th BCT.

With the all out anti-dissidence campaigns against the Huks, they numbered less than 2,000 by 1954 and without the protection and support of local supporters, active Huk resistance no longer presented a serious threat to Philippine security. From February to mid-September 1954, the largest anti-Huk operation, "Operation Thunder-Lightning" was conducted that resulted to the surrender of Luis Taruc on May 17. Further clean up operations of guerillas remaining lasted throughout 1955, diminishing its number to less than 1,000 by year's end.[8]

Foreign Policies

Eleanor Roosevelt with President Ramon Magsaysay and then First Lady Luz Magsaysay of the Philippines in Manila


The administration of President Magsaysay was active in the fight against the expansion of communism in the Asian region. He made the Philippines a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), which was established in Manila on Sept. 8, 1954 during the "Manila Conference".[9] Members of SEATO were alarmed at the possible victory of North Vietnam over South Vietnam, which could spread communist ideology to other countries in the region. The possibility that a communist state can influence or cause other countries to adopt the same system of government is called the domino theory.[10]

The active coordination of the Magsaysay administration with the Japanese government led to the Reparation Agreement. This was an agreement between the two countries, obligating the Japanese government to pay $800 million as reparation for war damages in the Philippines.[10]

Defense Council

Taking the advantage of the presence of U.S. Secretary John Foster Dulles in Manila to attend the SEATO Conference, the Philippine government took steps to broach with him the establishment of a Joint Defense Council. Vice-President and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Carlos P. Garcia held the opportune conversations with Secretary Dulles for this purpose. Agreement was reached thereon and the first meeting of the Joint United States-Philippines Defense Coincil was held in Manila following the end of the Manila Conference. Thus were the terms of the Mutual Defense Pact between the Philippines and the United States duly implemented.[2]

Laurel-Langley Agreement

At Malacañang Palace, 1955. Clockwise, from top left: Senator Edmundo Cea, Former President José P. Laurel Sr., Senator Primicias, Senate President Eulogio A. Rodriguez, Sr., President Ramon F. Magsaysay, & House Speaker José B. Laurel Jr.

The Magsaysay administration negotiated the Laurel-Langley Agreement which was a trade agreement between the Philippines and the United States which was signed in 1955 and expired in 1974. Although it proved deficient, the final agreement satisfied nearly all of the diverse Filipino economic interests. While some have seen the Laurel-Langley agreement as a continuation of the 1946 trade act, Jose P. Laurel and other Philippine leaders recognized that the agreement substantially gave the country greater freedom to industrialize while continuing to receive privileged access to US markets.[11]

The agreement replaced the unpopular Bell Trade Act, which tied the economy of the Philippines to that of United States economy.

Bandung Conference

Billed as an all Oriental meet and threatening to become a propaganda springboard for Communism, a Conference was held in Bandung (Java) in April 1955, upon invitation extended by the Prime Ministers of India, Pakistan, Burma, Ceylon, and Indonesia. Although, at first, the Magsaysay Government seemed reluctant to send any delegation, later, however, upon advise of Ambassador Carlos P. Romulo, it was decided to have the Philippines participate in the conference. Ambassador Romulo was asked to head the Philippine delegation.[2] At the very outset indications were to the effect that the conference would promote the cause of neutralism as a third position in the current cold war between the democratic bloc and the communist group. John Kotelawala, Prime Minister of Ceylon, however, broke the ice against neutralism.[2] He was immediately joined by Philippine envoy Romulo, who categorically states that his delegation believed that "a puppet is a puppet",[2] no matter whether under a Western Power or an Oriental state.[2]

At one time in the course oft the conference, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru acidly spoke against the SEATO. Quick to draw, Ambassador Romulo delivered a stinging, eloquent retort that prompted Prime Minister Nehru to publicly apologize to the Philippine delegation.[2]

Records had it that the Philippine delegation ably represented the interests of the Philippines and, in the ultimate analysis, succeeded in turning the Bandung Conference into a democratic victory against the plans of the Communist delegates.[2]

Reparations Agreement

Following the reservations made by Ambassador Romulo, on the Philippines behalf, upon signing the Japanese Peace Treaty in San Francisco on September 8, 1951, for several years of series of negotiations were conducted by the Philippine government and that of Japan. In the face of adamant claims of the Japanese government that it found impossible to meet the demand for the payment of eight billion dollars by the way of reparations, president Magsaysay, during a so-called "cooling off"[2] period, sent a Philippine Reparations Survey Committee, headed by Finance Secretary Jaime Hernandez, to Japan for an "on the spot" study of that country's possibilities.[2]

When the Committee reported that Japan was in a position to pay, Ambassador Felino Neri, appointed chief negotiator, went to Tokyo. On May 31, 1955, Ambassador Neri reached a compromise agreement with Japanese Minister Takazaki, the main terms of which consisted in the following: The Japanese government would pay eight hundred million dollars as reparations. Payment was to be made in this wise: Twenty million dollars would be paid in cash in Philippine currency; thirty million dollars, in services; five million dollars, in capital goods; and two hundred and fifty million dollars, in long-term industrial loans.[2]

On August 12, 1955, President Magsaysay informed the Japanese government, through Prime Minister Ichiro Hatoyama, that the Philippines accepted the Neri-Takazaki agreement.[2] In view of political developments in Japan, the Japanese Prime Minister could only inform the Philippine government of the Japanese acceptance of said agreement on March 15, 1956. The official Reparations agreement between the two government was finally signed at Malacañang Palace on May 9, 1956, thus bringing to a rather satisfactory conclusion this long drawn controversy between the two countries.[2]


Gravesite of President.Magsaysay at the Manila North Cemetery.

Magsaysay did not finish his term that was expected to end of December 30, 1957 because he died in a plane crash. On March 16, 1957 Magsaysay left Manila for Cebu City where he spoke at three educational institutions. That same night, at about 1 am, he boarded the presidential plane "Mt. Pinatubo", a C-47, heading back to Manila. In the early morning hours of March 17, his plane was reported missing. It was late in the afternoon that day that newspapers reported that the airplane had crashed on Mt. Manunggal in Cebu and that 36 of the 56 passengers and crew aboard were killed; the actual number on board was 25, including Magsaysay. Only newspaperman Néstor Mata survived. Vice President Carlos Garcia, who was on an official visit to Australia at the time, assumed the presidency to serve out the last eight months of Magsaysay's term.

An estimated 5 million people attended Magsaysay's burial on March 31, 1957.[12][13][14]

He is then referred to by the people the "Idol of the Masses".

Popular references

  • The First Team, a 1971 thriller by author John Ball, hinges on the effort to recapture the USS Ramon Magsaysay, an American ballistic missile submarine. Freeing the submarine from control of the Soviet Union will force the Soviets to surrender their occupation of the United States.
  • In Robert A. Heinlein's novel Starship Troopers, the smallest starships are named after footsoldiers. Upon reading some of their names, protagonist Johnnie Rico remarks "There ought to be one named Magsaysay."
  • In Gundam Seed, an Agamemnon class carrier is named after Ramon Magsaysay; in episode 48: "The Magsaysay will take command of space divisions 48 and 211 from this point on", and this reference is further related to Starship Troopers' tribute: "The remaining vessels of the 15th carrier group are to gather at the signal coordinates of the Heinlein"

Personal life


He was married to Shyvi Luz Magsaysay, with three children: Teresita Banzon-Magsaysay (b. 1934), Milagros "Mila" Banzon-Magsaysay (b. 1936) and Ramon "Jun" Banzon-Magsaysay, Jr. (b. 1938).[citation needed]


Several of Magsaysay's descendants became prominent political figures in their own right:

  • Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., son of former President and former Congressman/former Senator
  • Genaro Magsaysay, brother of former President and former Senator
  • Vicente Magsaysay, uncle of former President and Congressman/former Governor of Zambales
  • JB Magsaysay, grandnephew of former President and public servant
  • Paco Magsaysay, grandson of former President and owner of Carmen's Best Ice Cream

See also

External links


  1. ^ a b "Ramon Magsaysay." Microsoft Student 2009 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z Molina, Antonio. The Philippines: Through the centuries. Manila: University of Sto. Tomas Cooperative, 1961. Print.
  3. ^ a b c d e "THE PHILIPPINES: Justice for the Governor". Time Magazine. September 6, 1954. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,820089,00.html. Retrieved February 3, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Remembering President Ramón Magsaysay y Del Fierro: A Modern-Day Moses". http://www.mabuhayradio.com/content/view/430/51. Retrieved February 3, 2010.  A privileged speech by Senator Nene Pimentel delivered at the Senate, August 2001.
  5. ^ "THE PHILIPPINES: Justice for the Governor". Time. September 6, 1954. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,820089-2,00.html. Retrieved February 3, 2010.  Second page of Time Magazine's coverage of Rafael Lacson's case.
  6. ^ Cullather, Nick (1994). Illusions of influence: the political economy of United States-Philippines relations, 1942–1960. Stanford University Press. pp. 108–109. ISBN 9780804722803. http://books.google.com/books?id=Gtj94zEWL_8C&pg=PA108. 
  7. ^ Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) – Organizational Chart
  8. ^ Carlos P. Romulo and Marvin M. Gray, The Magsaysay Story (1956), is a full-length biography
  9. ^ Ramon Magsaysay (president of Philippines) – Britannica Online Encyclopedia
  10. ^ a b Grace Estela C. Mateo: Philippine Civilization – History and Government, 2006
  11. ^ Illusions of influence: the political economy of United States-Philippines. By Nick Cullather
  12. ^ Zaide, Gregorio F. (1984). Philippine History and Government. National Bookstore Printing Press. 
  13. ^ Townsend, William Cameron (1952). Biography of President Lázaro Cárdenas.        See the SIL International Website at:   Establishing the Work in Mexico.
  14. ^ Carlos P. Romulo and Marvin M. Gray: The Magsaysay Story (The John Day Company, 1956, updated – with an additional chapter on Magsaysay's death – re-edition by Pocket Books, Special Student Edition, SP-18, December 1957)
House of Representatives of the Philippines
Preceded by
Valentin Afable
Member of the House of Representatives from Zambales' At-large district
Succeeded by
Enrique Corpus
Political offices
Preceded by
Ruperto Kangleon
Secretary of National Defense
Succeeded by
Oscar Castelo
Preceded by
Elpidio Quirino
President of the Philippines
December 30, 1953 – March 17, 1957
Succeeded by
Carlos Garcia

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