Inauguration speech of President Manuel Roxas in 1946
Inaugural Speech of His Excellency Manuel Roxas
President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines
Ruins of the Legislative Building | May 28, 1946
I have taken my oath as President of the Philippines to defend and support the Constitution, and to enforce the laws of our country. I assume in all humbleness the complex responsibilities, which you have chosen to give me. I pledge my effort and my life to discharge them with whatever talent, strength, and energy I can muster. But those responsibilities must be shared by the Congress, by the other branches of government, and, in the last analysis, by all the people of the Philippines who face together the great test of the future. I would not be content to assume this office, I would not have the hope to discharge the duties assigned me if I were not confident that my countrymen are ready and capable of sharing in full measure the work and sacrifices which lie ahead. Certainly no people in recent history have been called upon to surmount the obstacles which confront us today. But I have supreme faith in the ability of our people to reach the goals we seek. I ask from the nation the full and undivided support of heart, mind, and energy for the necessary tasks which await us.
In our traditions, there are ample sources of inspiration. From the recent past, we have the standard of dynamic leadership erected by Manuel Quezon, that mighty champion of independence, and great friend and benefactor of the masses of the people. We have the spotless integrity and noble patriotism of Sergio Osmeña who grasped the banner of leadership when the incomparable Quezon was taken from us.
Our appointment with destiny is upon us. In five weeks, we will be a free Republic. Our noble aspirations for nationhood, long cherished and arduously contended for by our people, will be realized. We will enter upon a new existence in which our individual lives will form together a single current, recognized and identified in the ebb and flow of world events as distinctly Filipino.
Yet look about you, my fellow citizens. The tragic evidence of recent history stares at us from the broken ruins of our cities and the wasting acres of our soil. Beneath the surface of our daily strivings lie deep the wounds of war and economic prostration. The toppled columns of the Legislative Building before which we stand are mute and weeping symbols of the land we have inherited from war.
Unemployment is increasing, as the United States Armed Forces decrease the tempo of activities here. Our soldiers are being discharged in growing numbers to swell the ranks of those who must find work and livelihood. Many of those who have work are employed in trades dependent on the rapidly shrinking expenditures of the Army and Navy.
In five weeks, we will be a free Republic. Our noble aspirations for nationhood, long cherished and arduously contended for by our people, will be realized.
There is hunger among us. In the mountain provinces and in other far-flung areas of our land, children starve. Prices race with wages in the destructive elevators of inflation. The black market with all its attendant evils of disrespect for law and public morality thrives in the channels of commerce.
Plagues of rats and locusts gnaw at our food supplies. Public health and sanitation have been set back a quarter of a century.
Housing for most of our urban citizens is shocking in its inadequacy and squalor. Disease and epidemic threaten, and we have to thank the Divine Providence that the toll of death is still relatively small.
Our communications are destroyed, stolen, or disrupted, and many of our countrymen are still today cut off from the main currents of national life. Schools have been burned and teachers have been killed; our educational system is in large measure a shambles.
I have sketched a dark landscape, a bleak prospect for our future. I have not meant unduly to dramatize our ills. I do not wish to parade the sackcloth and ashes of our people. Nevertheless, it is necessary to know the truth. Many of us live today in the chambered Nautilus of our own mental construction. There are those who close their eyes to the problems that confront us, and prefer to direct the national attention and the national energy at objects outside ourselves, at fancied enemies, at fancied fears of imperialistic aggression. The coincidence of easy money and high prices gives to some of our people the false illusion of national prosperity and the mad notion that we have time to dally and debate. The prosperity of money and prices is a hallucination, a nightmarish dream resulting from the scarcity of commodities and the influx of a half billion dollars of troop money. Soon, very soon, we must awake from that dream. We will find that mere money, bloated by inflation and circulating in narrow channels, does not bring about prosperity and national well-being. Everyday, that money is being siphoned from our land by more and more imports—not productive imports, but imports of consumption. The well-being of the tradesman alone is not the well-being of our people. Disaster awaits us tomorrow if we do not rouse ourselves and get back to work, to productive work.
I recall our national temper and our national condition five years ago, the last year of the generation of peace.
We had then a land of comparative plenty. The products of our fields and farms were flowing in a never-ending stream across the oceans to the United States, to Europe, to China―even to Japan and Russia. The Government was rich in revenue from taxes, from customs, and from the refunded collections on Philippine products processed and taxed in the United States. We were in the midst of a program aimed at the eventual achievement of social justice for the underprivileged elements of our population. Yes, we had those elements then, as we have them now. We must not imagine that economic maladjustments, land hunger, and farm tenancy are problems born of recent years. They are as old as our present civilization in the Philippines.
The brutal hand of war spread its breadth across our land and blotted out not only our progress toward a fuller life for all, but our entire economy, all the economic goods and tools we had amassed by a century of labor. We had not expected to be a battleground. We had not expected war. Nor were we alone among the peoples of the earth in our lack of understanding of the military aims of our enemies.
We were treacherously attacked; soon, despite the unmeasured heroism of our men at arms and of their gallant American comrades on Bataan and Corregidor, despite the magnificent courage and leadership of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, our land was conquered. A new sovereignty, by dint of force, was imposed upon us. From the beginning, the Filipinos had indicated by word and deed that the fate of the United States in this global conflict was the fate of the Philippines. President Quezon offered the United States the blood and treasure of the Filipino people until victory came. We did not then realize how complete that offer was!
For three and a half years, we were an unwilling part of the Japanese sphere of conquest. But though the land was possessed, there was never a moment in which our hearts or convictions faltered. The Filipinos discharged their debt of allegiance to the United States with a payment of loyalty which has never been surpassed.
We had not expected to be a battleground. We had not expected war. Nor were we alone among the peoples of the earth in our lack of understanding of the military aims of our enemies.
I need not refer further in phrase or word to the gallantry of our countrymen in their resistance to the Japanese. The deeds of the Filipino people have been celebrated wherever men have gathered to pay tribute to heroism, courage, and fidelity. Their gallantry has become an epic, a byword, a standard by which all heroism may be measured. Many have tried to explain that heroism and that loyalty. But like all heroism, it rises above the logic of mere reason. I judge it a proof and product of the passion for democracy and freedom which America has taught us during 48 years. That teaching took deep root in a soil made fertile by our great heroes of pre-American days—Rizal, Mabini, and Bonifacio. Our hearts were ready when the Americans came in 1898. By the manner in which America discharged her trust, we developed a devotion to that great nation which I know will exist for all time.
A nation is something more than the people who inhabit a geographic area. It is a spirit, a tradition, and a way of life. There have been Americans whom we have disliked. There have been American administrations from which we have received scant comfort. There have been American Governors General with whom we have quarreled. But we have never had cause to waver in our confidence or faith in America. We have clasped to our bosom her system of government, her language, her institutions, her historical traditions. We have made them ours. We cannot forget this fact and this great truth. We are to be a free nation largely because we were aided in that direction by the love of liberty and the goodwill of the American people. If we succeed as a nation, if we are able to survive as a nation—and of course we will—we will have America to thank. I bear witness to the fact that America stands ready to help, without selfishness, without motive except to reward us for our loyalty and to advance in our land the great cause of democracy and freedom for which Americans and Filipinos died together, in many corners of the earth in the past four years.
I find no dream of empire in America. While cognizant of power, America, as a nation, is troubled in the use of that power by an earnest and heartfelt desire to advance not the cause of greed but the cause of freedom. We are and shall be a living monument to this fact.
Yet we have today in our own land a few among us who would have us believe that we are in danger of an imperialistic invasion from the very nation which is granting us our sovereignty. They would have us believe that the American Republic, resplendent in her power and prestige as the leader of democracy and as the spokesman for freedom, would lend herself to a theft of our national heritage for the sake of a thimbleful of profits. No, my mind will not stoop to as low a conceit as that. The nation which spent 300 billion dollars to arm the hosts of freedom, the nation which has spent and is spending so much of its substance not only to free but also to feed the hungry peoples of the earth will not do that. Small minds see small deeds. I will not place my Government in the position of accusing the United States Congress of willingly conspiring to cheat us of our birthright. I admit the possibility of error in the United States Congress as in any other constitutional body. But I have faith that justice will be done us by a country which has been our mother, our protector, our liberator, and now our benefactor. In this world, the balances of justice move only on great momentums. I am firmly convinced that when the scales point unmistakably to injustice being rendered us, the United States Congress will grant us redress in full and generous measure.
I have no fears from a nation which idolizes humanity and crowns with laurels those who fight for freedom and brotherhood. There is no greater regard in America today than the national regard for our people. Shall we sacrifice that rich regard on the altar of petty pride and foolish fears? Shall we hold up to world obloquy the country whose legions liberated us for freedom? Shall we give comfort to the enemies of liberty in the crisis which now grips the earth? The forces of evil may be defeated, but they are not dead. And there are new forces of evil growing even in nations which were our allies. I see no such forces reflected in the policies of the United States.
Let us strengthen as much as we can the hand of the nation which stands clearly in the world’s confusion today for democracy and for justice under law. Let us bide our time for the rectification of alleged impositions. When the time comes, let us present facts rather than fears.
The gratitude of the Filipino people to America is great and enduring. Our feeling toward America is not represented by the loud complaints of an articulate few in our midst. I say in the presence of our great American High Commissioner―one of the ablest and most unselfish of our advocates and friends―that the America of Franklin D. Roosevelt and of President Truman is a land we love and respect. The mighty concern that these men have felt for our welfare dwarfs the magnitude of our fancied ills against the United States today.
Meanwhile, with the tools, which have been provided us, we must move forward without pause to bind up this nation’s wounds, to toil, to make, and to build. We have, and will have, a market for our produce. We must concentrate on production, on ever-increasing production. This nation must produce to live. We must have income from abroad―income from exports. We must have that income so that we may buy the machines, hire the technical skills, and, for a time, buy the food, which we need to sustain our strength and impart vigor and health to our young. That task must be begun now, today. The time for action has come. The national energy, in all its parts, must be focused on a single purpose, on the rehabilitation of our destroyed and ravaged economic enterprises―on rice, on sugar, on coconuts, on abaca, on coconut oil, on cigars and tobacco―on gold and chrome, and manganese and lumber. We must foster the enterprises which will raise the national income and bring in financial returns from abroad.
But our aim is not alone to rebuild the economy that was broken and destroyed by war. That is only the beginning of our task, stupendous as it is. We must rebuild, repair, and replace. We must feed the hungry and heal the sick and disabled. We must care for the widows and orphans of our soldier dead. We must wage war against inflation and unemployment. That is the obvious foundation stone of national rehabilitation. But we know, we have long known, that the narrow economy of the past must be broadened. The national structure must be sufficient to house the energies of the whole people. For the Philippines to fit into the pattern of the 20th century, to take its place as an equal among the nations of the earth, we must industrialize; we must make as well as grow. Only in this way can we raise to substantial and permanently high levels the living standards of our people. To support this kind of economy, the producers must become consumers and purchasers. They must have the income with which to buy the products of their toil. Higher wages accompanied by efficient and increased production are the true road to full employment. Increased wages and income in pesos must represent increased purchasing power. Prices must be kept under control until production and importation reach saturation levels. We must avoid a price structure based on scarcity. We must avoid a wage structure based on inflated prices. Meanwhile, we must encourage the production of more and more of our primary requirements, production of things we ourselves will consume. The encouragement of production for consumption and the increase in the purchasing power of the masses are parallel paths which we must travel.
The gratitude of the Filipino people to America is great and enduring. Our feeling toward America is not represented by the loud complaints of an articulate few in our midst.
Our people are well known for their handicraft and for their ingenuity. There are available in the world today tools and machines of which we must become the masters. There are many natural resources in our land which can be processed by the methods of modem technology into finished items for our consumption and for sale abroad. There are many small industrial and business enterprises which must attract the skills and talents of our citizens. Every encouragement must be given the Filipino to participate in all the operations of our new economy at all its levels. But this participation cannot be a grant of government. Participation in business and industry cannot be magically induced. Opportunity can be afforded, but it is the responsibility of the individual and groups of individuals to strive for and capture that opportunity and, by so doing, become integral parts of the expanded economy of the nation.
Tools and implements will be needed to make this dream an actuality. Capital will be required. The savings of our own people will be called for, but they are inadequate. We must invite foreign capital, American capital, investment capital.
We may well wisely look to the great international organs, the International Monetary and Rehabilitation Bank and others, for financial aid. We may look to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. But for some of our needs, we can only obtain assistance from the United States. In addition, we must remember that the United States is the source of most of the finances of all these organizations. What we can secure directly from the United States is far better and more expeditiously obtained than through the devious channels of international action. We must bear in mind in this and other connections that the great international organization of the United Nations, lofty in concept, is yet only an infant in the arena of world affairs. Recent events have demonstrated to us, as to the rest of the world, that the skeleton of the United Nations Organization must grow flesh and develop muscles of its own before it can be depended upon as a repository of our immediate hopes.
We will be as wholehearted as any nation in our devotion to the ideals of an indivisible peace and an indivisible world. We will maintain with all our strength and all our power our obligations to the United Nations, and to the causes set forth in the United Nations charter to which we are a signatory. In the same way, we will maintain friendly and honorable relations with all our neighbors and look forward to the day when peace and security will be maintained by mutual consent and by the collective conscience of mankind.
But until that happy day dawns upon us, we can much more securely repose our fate in the understanding and comradeship which exist between the Philippines and the United States than in the hope of an international morality which, however desirable, is still today in the process of development. We are fortunate to have as the guarantor of our security the United States of America, which is today the bulwark and support of small nations everywhere in the world.
I have spoken of the past; I have spoken of the future; I have not spoken much of the present. I have suggested some of the problems we face. I have not referred to one of our most urgent ones.
In some few provinces of our land, the rule of law and order has yielded to the rule of force and terror. Using economic injustice as a rallying cry, demagogues have destroyed the precious fabric of public faith in democratic procedure. The faith of the people in government and in law must be restored. I pledge myself to rectify injustice, but I likewise pledge myself to restore the role of law and government as the arbiter of right among the people.
A great American who loved mankind and died in its name, Abraham Lincoln, once said: “Among free men there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet… they who take such appeal are sure to lose their case and pay the cost.”
This great humanitarian could not be accused of placing the values of law above human values. He recognized as do all right-minded men that if government has one function, it is to insure the reign of law for the protection of the weak in their inalienable rights―the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This Government is pledged to maintain the rights of the underprivileged with all its strength and all its power. It will see justice done to the poor, the lowly, and the disinherited. But it will not sanction, it will not permit, it will oppose with every force at its command if necessary the imposition of extra- legal rule over any section of this country by any group of self-anointed leaders or individuals. The show of arms and terror will not daunt us. Defiance will not obtain from us a single additional iota of justice. Justice is absolute and is not to be measured by strength of contention.
We will move with maximum speed to cure the ills which beset the landless and the tenants, the hungry, and the unemployed. Only unavoidable lack of means can delay the full execution of this policy. A new tenancy law, granting a greater share of the produce of the land to those who till the soil will be recommended; usury will be stamped out; lands will be purchased by the Government and resold to tenants; new agricultural areas will be opened to settlement; modern methods of agriculture will be taught; and farm machinery will be made available for purchase. It is my aim to raise the status of the farm worker, to increase his earnings, to spread wide the benefits of modem technology.
Labor must be given the full fruits of its toil. Its right of organization must be protected. The dignity of work, and the worker’s equity in the product of his labor must be assured by the Government. We will endeavor to assure economic security for all our people. But meanwhile, terror must be abandoned as an instrument of justice. Lawlessness must stop without a moment’s delay. Our people, starting out on a career of nationhood, cannot permit our national efforts to be influenced by fear. This proud nation will not grant economic concessions at gunpoint. Arms must be surrendered, except by those licensed to bear arms. The Government will undertake to protect each man, woman, and child in the security of his person, of his liberty, and of his property. That protection is an absolute requisite of progress.
We understand the habit of violence which developed in time of war when violence was the creed of freedom. Many of those who now hold arms illegally served well our common cause. We will not forget their services. We are not without sympathy for the centuries-old burdens of injustice visited upon some of our people. We must understand that anger will lurk in the hearts of men when the gains won by violence in war seem about to be taken away. But the rough gains achieved in the absence of law are transitory and insecure. Be assured that the welfare of those who suffered injustice in past years will be heeded. Their war-won gains will be replaced by the more substantial benefits of justice, of peace, and tranquility within a framework of national prosperity and economic well-being. But first, arms must be surrendered and the leaders of violence must recognize the leaders duly chosen by the free vote of the people.
I recognize that government, in order to maintain respect for law, must in itself bear the unassailable stamp of integrity. Honesty in government is the first essential for the maintenance by the people of faith in its actions. It is a corollary of this that government must be efficient and must watch with vigilant eye the expenditures of public funds. Public officials must render public service. That is their duty. That is their responsibility. Every centavo of the people’s money must be spent for the people’s benefit. I intend to maintain these standards during my administration.
We have great tasks before us, tasks which challenge the very best and the most that is within us. There is no seed of effort which can be spared from the national planting. Charity and understanding must replace bitterness and anger. We cannot afford to cherish old feuds or old divisions. For the many tasks of national reconstruction, we need the thousand talents of all our people―men and women alike. The recent elections are past. Likewise, the strife of war is over. Bitterness engendered by these events must be forgotten and healed. Violations of basic law will be tested and punished by law. Traitors will not escape their just desserts. But among the people, there must be no recriminations or malignancies. Errors of mind rather than of heart must be forgiven. The great test of war and sacrifice through which we have passed with such hardship will have failed in one of its few benefits if it has not taught us that only in unity can there be power, that only in singleness of national purpose can there be achieved national salvation. I do not mean to suggest that there is no room in this democracy for division of views or of parties. Vigilant, free, and constructive minority organization is a spur to majority leadership and responsibility.
Every centavo of the people’s money must be spent for the people’s benefit.
But as we go forward in our full faith to work out the destiny of our land and of our people, we must cling fast to one another, and to our friends across the seas; we must maintain in both our hearts and minds a gentleness of understanding as well as firmness of purpose. Sweat and sacrifice will be needed, but they will fall on barren ground, unless we move in the path of God, “with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right.”
I have faith in the wisdom of our people. I have trust in the goodness of God. Let us together maintain our faith in each other, in liberty, and in the ways of democracy, and give strength to one another as we advance in our search for the evergreen pastures of peace and well-being for all. With the help of God, let us build in this our land a monument to freedom and to justice, a beacon to all mankind.
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