Monday, April 27, 2009


Ramon Del Fierro Magsaysay

Ramon del Fierro Magsaysay (August 31, 1907 - March 17, 1957) was the third President of the Third Republic of the Philippines 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 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 Jose Rizal College (1928-1932), where he received a baccalaureate in commerce. He then worked as 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 liberation forces together with the Philippine Commonwealth troops on Jan. 29, 1945.


On April 23, 1946, Magsaysay was elected as an Independent 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 considerable 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

Defense Secretary Magsaysay in the November 1951 cover of Time Magazine.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, waging one of the most successful anti-guerrilla campaigns in modern history. 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 powerful. 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.


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.

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 Philippines 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.


On March 16, 1957 Magsaysay left Manila for Cebu City where he spoke at three educational institutions. That same night, at about 1 a.m., 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 25 of the 26 passengers and crew aboard were killed. Only newspaperman Néstor Mata survived. Vice President Carlos P. García, 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 2 million people attended Magsaysay's burial on March 22, 1957.

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