Early Life & Childhood
Elpidio Quirino was born on November 16, 1890, in Vigan, Ilocos Sur, to Don Mariano Quebral Quirino (of Caoayan, Ilocos Sur) and Doña Gregoria Mendoza Rivera (of Agoo, La Union).
He was a native of Caoayan, Ilocos Sur. He spent his early years in Aringay, La Union.
Elpidio attended the ‘Vigan High School’ before moving to Manila, where he worked as a junior computer technician. He graduated from the ‘Manila High School’ in 1911.
Following this, he passed the civil service examination. He then attended the ‘University of the Philippines’ and earned a degree in law in 1915.
Within a year, he was part of the bar. He then started his practice.
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He continued his private practice as a lawyer until he joined the ‘Philippine House of Representatives’ in 1919. He remained there until 1925. He was succeeded by Vicente Singson Pablo, a congressman.
In 1925, he became a senator and represented the first ‘Senatorial District.’ He was appointed as the chairman of the ‘Committee on Accounts and Claims,’ the ‘Committee on Public Instruction,’ and other related committees.
He was a senator until 1931, after which the controversy related to the ‘Hare-Hawes-Cutting Law’ of 1933 cropped up. He sided with the then-president, Manuel Quezon.
In 1934, he was elected as the secretary of finance. His next big job was under the ‘Philippine Independence’ mission, headed by Manuel L. Quezon.
This mission contributed in protecting the passage of the ‘Tydings–McDuffie Act’ in the ‘United States Congress.’
After the passing of the ‘Tydings-McDuffle Act,’ the date of the country’s independence was set to be July 4, 1946. He was a contributing member in the drafting of the new Philippine ‘Commonwealth,’ the Constitution for which was approved on May 15, 1935.
He became the secretary of finance in 1946. He then became the secretary of interior in 1935 and continued serving until 1938.
In 1941, Quirino ran for the senate again and won. However, he could not continue beyond 1945 due to the Second World War.
When the war broke out, he refused to join the government of Jose Laurel, as he considered it to be a “puppet” government. Instead, he joined a Filipino resistance movement and became its underground leader.
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Quirino was arrested and imprisoned by the Japanese police, and his family was murdered. In 1945, he became the leader of the majority in the ‘Philippine Congress.’
Later, he became the secretary of state and the vice-president of the country under then cabinet of Manuel Roxas, the first president of independent Philippines. On April 15, 1948, Manuel Roxas died, leaving the chair of the president empty.
The following year, Quirino was elected as the new president of the country. He contested from the ‘Liberal Party’ and defeated the ‘Nacionalista Party’ to remain on the seat for 5 long years.
During his presidency, Quirino was accused of being extremely pro-American and subservient to alien economic interests. He tried to maintain peace and thus granted amnesty to the ‘Huk’ guerrillas on June 21, 1948.
He faced serious threat from the communist-led ‘HukBaLaHap,’ also known as the ‘Huk Movement.’ The ‘Huks’ had originally been part of the anti-Japanese guerrilla army in Luzon, but they were slowly taken over by communist leaders.
In 1948, ‘Huk’ commander Luis Taruc threatened to overthrow Quirino’s government. By 1950, they had gained control over Luzon, and that prompted Quirino to hire Ramon Magsaysay as the secretary of national defense to suppress the movement.
There was also an attempt to impeach him. Led by representative Agripino Escareal, a seven-member committee of the ‘House of Representatives’ was composed to look into the matter.
Quirino faced a five-count accusation, including charges of nepotism and gross expenditures. However, after several hearings, on April 19, 1949, he was completely exonerated from all charges.
This attempt of spreading peace backfired and affected the country’s economy. It also intensified the deep-rooted social injustice and exploitation in the country. To save the economy, Quirino asked for support from the U.S.A. in the form of loans.
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He planned to establish more industries and conserve natural resources, but his attempts failed badly. Terrorism rose to an extreme level, and the electoral process was violated.
He ran for the next presidential election but was defeated by Ramon Magsaysay in 1953. It is believed that he lost the election for tolerating corruption in his party and neglecting the welfare of the common people.
Demoralization, political turmoil, and terrorism were rampant across the country during his time. There was also a lot of immorality in the armed forces, which, according to many sources, was allowed by Quirino.
However, the post-war period also witnessed the reconstruction of infrastructure, increased economic help from the U.S., financial gains, and a boost to the economy. Sadly, corruption was rampant in his cabinet.
It was contended that the 1949 elections, which he had won, had been marred by dishonesty and corruption. He retired from politics in 1953 and lived a private life thereafter.
Family, Personal Life & Legacy
Quirino married Alicia Syquia in 1921. They remained married until her death in 1945.
The couple had five children together: Tomas, Armando, Norma, Victoria, and Fe Angela. His family was murdered by the Japanese police at the time of his arrest during World War II.
Quirino died of a heart attack on February 29, 1956. He breathed his last in his retirement house in Quezon City.
His remains were buried at the ‘Manila South Cemetery,’ Makati. However, in 2016, his remains were re-located to a special tomb in the ‘Heroes’ Cemetery’ in Taguig.