FFE Magazine

Ramon F. Magsaysay

7th President of the Philippines

Term of Office: December 30, 1953 – March 17, 1957

Vice President: Carlos Garcia

Birth: August 31, 1907

Place: Iba, Zambales

Death: March 17, 1957

Spouse: Luz Banzon

Children: Teresita Magsaysay Vargas, Milagros Magsaysay Valenzuela, Ramon Magsaysay, Jr.

Best known for successfully defeating the communist led Hukbalahap (Huk) Movement. Idol of the masses, champion of democracy, and freedom fighter.

He was born in the capital of Iba, Zambales on August 31, 1907. His parents are Exequel Magsaysay and Perfecta Del Fiero.

Magsaysay finished his elementary at the Castillejos, However his secondary course at the Zambales Academy both in his hometown Zambales.

Though most Philippine political leaders were of Spanish descent, Magsaysay was of Malay stock, like most of the common people. He took up mechanical engineering at University of the Philippines but ended up with a commerce degree from Jose Rizal College in Manila in 1933 and became general manager of a Try-Tran transportation company before starting as a mechanic. After serving as a guerrilla leader on Luzon during World War II, he was appointed military governor of his home province, Zambales, by MacArthur, when the United States recaptured the Philippines. He served two terms (1946-50) as a Liberal Party congressman for Zambales, his first experience in politics.

President Elpidio Quirino appointed Magsaysay secretary of defense to deal with the threat of the Huks, whose leader, Luis Taruc, in February 1950 established a People's Liberation Army and called for the overthrow of the government. Magsaysay then carried out until 1953 one of the most successful anti-guerrilla campaigns in modern history. Realizing that the Huks could not survive without popular support, he strove to win the trust of the peasants by offering land and tools to those who came over to the government side and by insisting that army units treat the people with respect. Reforming the army, he dismissed corrupt and incompetent officers and emphasized mobility and flexibility in combat operations against the guerrillas. By 1953, Huks were no longer a serious threat, but Magsaysay's radical measures had made many enemies for him within the government, compelling him to resign on February 28, when he charge the Quirino administration with corruption and incompetence.

Although Magsaysay was a Liberal, the Nacionalista Party successfully backed him for the presidency against Quirino in the 1953 elections, winning the support of Carlos P. Garcia, who had organized a third party. Magsaysay promised reform in every segment of Philippine life, but he was frustrated in his efforts by a conservative congress that represented the interest of the wealthy. Despite initial support of Congress in July 1955.

Magsaysay was unable to pass effective land reform legislation; government indifference to the plight of the peasants then undid most of his good work in gaining the support of the people against the Huks. Neverthless, he remained extremely popular and had a well deserve reputation for incorruptibility.

In foreign policy, Magsaysay remained a close friend and supporter of the United States and a vocal spokesman against communism during the Cold War. He made the Philippines a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, which was established in Manila on September 8, 1954. Before the expiration of his term as president, Magsaysay was killed when his airplane crashed at Mount Pinatubo in the early morning of March 17, 1957, he was succeeded by the vice president, Carlos P. Garcia. The nation was shocked upon learning of Magsaysay sudden death, most of the Filipino people mourned because the nation lost a well loved leader, who in his lifetime become a legendary figure in Philippine politics.

He left his bereaved wife Luz Banzon, children Teresita, Milagros Magsaysay Valenzuela and Ramon Magsaysay Jr., a proclaim winner in May 8, 1995 Senatorial election.

Magsaysay died at the age of 50 years old.

(By Charles Keng / The Presidents, Republic of the Philippines by Rheno A. Velasco. 1996)

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