Roxas ventured into politics in 1917, when he became a member of the municipal council of Capiz (renamed Roxas in 1949). He became the governor of the province of Capiz in 1919–1921.
In 1922, he was also elected to the ‘Philippine House of Representatives.’ He served as the speaker of the ‘House’ for 12 years. He was also a member of the ‘Council of State.’ Hs tenure saw him serve as the chairman of the ‘National Economic Council’ and the chairman of the ‘National Development Company.’
In 1923, he, along with Manuel Quezon, the president of the ‘Senate,’ resigned from the ‘Council of State.’ This was done as a measure of protest when the U.S. governor-general, Leonard Wood, started vetoing bills passed by the Philippine legislature.
In 1932, Roxas and ‘Nacionalista’ leader Sergio Osmeña led the ‘Philippine Independence Mission’ to Washington, D.C. There, they were instrumental in the passage of the ‘Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act.’ This ‘Act’ was to grant independence to the Philippines following a 10-year transition period.
Quezon later opposed Roxas. Quezon believed that the act would hinder Philippine independence in the future. As a result of this, the ‘Nacionalista Party’ was divided.
In 1934, Roxas was part of the convention that formed a constitution under the revised ‘Philippine Independence and Commonwealth Act’ (also known as the ‘Tydings-McDuffie Act’).
Roxas also served as the secretary of finance in the Commonwealth government from 1938 to 1940. In 1941, Roxas contested for the ‘Senate’ and won.
On Dec. 8, 1941, when World War II began, Roxas served in the ‘USAFFE.’ He did not join Quezon in escaping to the United States because he did not wish to destroy the morale of the Filipino soldiers who were fighting in Bataan and Corregidor. He also served as a military leader of the ‘Philippine Commonwealth Army.’
In 1942, he was taken captive by the Japanese forces in Malaybalay, Bukidnon. He was then forced to be part of the pro-Japanese government of José Laurel and obtained rice supplies for the Japanese army.
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Roxas became the chairman of the ‘Economic Planning Board’ in Laurel's cabinet. When the Japanese were defeated, he fled from the Japanese high command in Baguio, on April 15, 1945.
Following the war, Roxas was defended in court (which was set up to try those involved) by his friend General Douglas MacArthur.
Roxas was elected as the president of the Philippine ‘Senate’ on June 9, 1945. He drifted apart from President Osmeña and formed the ‘Liberal Party,’ which he led to a win as its presidential candidate on April 23, 1946.
Roxas was thus elected as the last president of the Commonwealth on May 28, 1946, as a liberal wing nominee of the ‘Nacionalista Party’ (or the ‘Liberal Party’). Following this, he made his country ready for independence. When the Philippines got its independence from the United States on July 4 that year, he became the first president of the newly formed republic.
The ‘Bell Trade Relations Act’ of 1946, however, had unfairly suggested a revision of the Philippine constitution to give equal rights to U.S. citizens in exchange for rehabilitation.
Thus, Roxas was forced to give up military bases (23 of which had been leased for 99 years), impose trade restrictions on Philippine citizens, and grant special privileges for U.S. investors and property owners.
It is believed that most of Roxas's policies were dictated by General MacArthur and the U.S. high commissioner, Paul V. McNutt.
His administration was plagued by corruption. Additionally, the left-wing ‘Hukbalahap’ (Huk) movement started gaining strength. His efforts to counter the Huks led to his unpopularity among the peasants. Thus, he joined the landlord class and abandoned the working class of his country.
The war had brought massive damage to the Philippines, and Roxas managed the reconstruction efforts.
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Roxas made the ‘Rice Share Tenancy Act’ of 1933 effective across the country, soon after he took over as the president. To control peasant revolts, he brought in the ‘Republic Act No. 1946,’ known as the ‘Tenant Act.’
On January 28, 1948, Roxas granted full amnesty to all Philippine collaborators of the war, many of whom were awaiting their trial. However, the ‘Amnesty Proclamation’ did not apply to collaborators who were charged with crimes such as murder, rape, and arson.
On August 5, 1946, the ‘Treaty of General Relations’ was ratified by the ‘Congress of the Philippines.’ The Republic of the Philippines and the United States had agreed to the treaty earlier, on July 4, 1946.
The treaty gave away a few bases in the country to the United States and allowed the United States to represent the Philippines in a few countries. It made the Philippines responsible for all debts of the previous Philippine government and stated provisions for the settlement of property rights of people from both countries.
On March 11, 1947, Philippines ratified the ‘Parity Amendment’ to the 1935 ‘Constitution of the Philippines,’ allowing U.S. citizens to use Philippine natural resources.
On September 19, 1946, the Republic of the Philippines let the United Kingdom know about its wish to take over the control of the Turtle Islands and the Mangesse Islands. On 16 October 1947, the handover was formally complete.
Family & Personal Life
He married Trinidad de Leon in 1921. She thus became the fifth First Lady of the Philippines. They had two children, Gerardo (Gerry) and Ruby. Gerardo grew up to be a senator of the Republic of the Philippines
Roxas died of a heart attack on the night of April 15, 1948. He was preparing to support the U.S. forces, at the beginning of the Cold War, and had delivered a speech at the ‘Clark Air Force Base’ the same day.
He was succeeded by Elpidio Quirino, his vice president.
Many cities in the Philippines have been named after Roxas. Such cities include Roxas in Oriental Mindoro, Roxas City in Capiz, President Roxas in Capiz, President Roxas in Cotabato, and Roxas in Isabela.
Dewey Boulevard in Manila was renamed ‘Roxas Boulevard’ in his honor.
He features on the 100 Philippine peso currency note.