Malacaņang Museum


Diosdado Macapagal
Ninth President of the Philippines.
(Term: December 30, 1961 - December 30, 1965)

Born: September 28, 1910 in Lubao, Pampanga
Died: April 21, 1997 in Makati City
Parents: Urbano Macapagal and Romana Pangan
First Wife: Purita de la Rosa
Second Wife: Evangeline Macaraeg
Education: Lawyer, University of Santo Tomas; Doctor of Civil Laws; Ph.D. in Economics
Vice-President: Emmanuel Pelaez

Poet, politician, lawyer, diplomat, statesman, economist and intellectual, Diosdado Macapagal was born to poverty but rose due to diligence and brilliance. He finished his elementary at the Lubao Elementary School, graduating as class valedictorian. In 1929, he graduated salutatorian in the Pampanga High School.

He finished his pre-law course at the University of the Philippines and enrolled at the Philippine Law School in 1932, where he was a scholar. In law school he became well known as an orator and debater. After two years he transferred to the University of Sto. Tomas. After receiving his LLB degree, he took graduate studies and finished in 1941 with a degree of Master of Laws. He received his Doctor of Civil Laws in 1947, and Doctor of Philosophy in Economics in 1957.

After receiving his law degree, Macapagal was admitted to the bar, topping the bar examinations in 1936 with a rating of 89.95%. Soon after he became a legal assistant to President Manuel L. Quezon in Malacanan. During World War II he continued working in Malacanan for President Jose P. Laurel while he secretly aided the anti-Japanese resistance. In 1943, he lost his first wife to the deprivations of the war.

After the war, Macapagal worked as an assistant attorney with the one of the largest law firms in the country, Ross, Lawrence, Selph and Carrascoso.

When the Republic of the Philippines was established in July 1946, Macapagal rejoined the government service when President Roxas appointed him as Chief of the Law Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs. In 1948, President Elpidio Quirino appointed Macapagal as chief negotiator in the administration-to-administration transfer of the Turtle Islands from the United Kingdom. In 1948, he served as second secretary to the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC. The following year, he was elected to the House of Representatives, serving until 1957. As a Congressman, he authored, co-authored, and sponsored socio-economic legislation such as the Minimum Wage Law, the Rural Bank Law, the Rural Health Law, the Law on Barrio Councils, the Barrio Industrialization Law, the Foreign Service Law, the law creating the ACCFA, and the law nationalizing the rice and corn business.

From 1950-1953, he served as Chairman of the House committee on Foreign Affairs and thus, was given important foreign assignments. He was a delegate to the Southeast Asia Conference as well as to the General Assembly meeting of the United Nations in New York in 1950; chief delegate to the Sixth General Assembly meeting of the United Nations in Paris in 1951; negotiator and signatory in both the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty in Washington, D.C. and the Japanese Peace Treaty in San Francisco, California in 1951, and member of the team that negotiated for the Laurel-Langley Agreement.

From 1947 to 1957, he was consistently chosen by the Congressional Press Club as one of the Ten Outstanding Congressmen. In the Third Congress, he was selected as the Best Lawmaker.

For most of his political career, Diosdado Macapagal was a member of the Liberal Party. In 1957 he was elected vice president while Carlos P. Garcia, a Nacionalista, was elected president. The ruling party refused to give Macpagal a Cabinet position, which was a break with tradition. As vice president, Macapagal toured the provinces to build up and restore the image of the Liberal Party in the public eye, as well as to visit other countries in order to study their economies and problems as they related to the Philippine experience.

In the 1961 elections, however, he ran against incumbent president Garcia, forging a coalition of the Liberal and Progressive parties and making the crusade against corruption a principal element of his platform. He was elected by a wide margin at the age of 52.

Once in office, President Macapagal made the alleviation of poverty, and the rectification of age-old social ills, as well as a new independence of mind and spirit in our foreign affairs, the priorities of his administration. Coming from the poor, he made social Justice the guiding philosophy of his administration. He was the first President to risk everything in order to address the long-festering problem of land reform in the country. His reforms, however, were crippled by a House of Representatives and Senate dominated by the Nacionalistas, and he was defeated in the 1965 elections by Ferdinand E. Marcos. Who had built a conservative coalation to block Macapagal's reforms.

In 1971 Macapagal was elected president of the Constitutional convention that drafted the 1973 constitution; the manner in which the charter was illegally ratified and then modified led Diosdado Macapagal to question in 1981 the validity of its ratification. In 1979 he also organized the National Union for Liberation as an opposition party to the Marcos regime.

Macapagal the champion campaigner once more participated in the effort to restore democracy to the Philippines. With the restoration of democracy, Macapagal became an elder statesman, member of the Council of State during the terms of presidents Aquino and Ramos. In retirement, Macapagal also devoted a good part of his time to reading and writing. He wrote a weekly column. A few years after leaving office, he published his presidential memoir, "A Stone for the Edifice," the first of many books about government and economics he would write after leaving Malacanan.

Macapagal was also honorary chairman of the National Centennial Commission, chairman of the board of CAP Life, and the Angeles University Foundation in Angeles City, among others. He bore the distinction of being the first genuinely poor man to become president; of having the most academic credentials when he was sworn into office; of having served in nearly all the branches of government with great distinction; and of never having lost his reputation for being honest and God-fearing. Two of his children have entered government service: his daughters Cielo Macapagal Salgado (formerly Vice-Governor of Pampanga) and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who became the first woman vice president, then second woman president and first presidential child to become president.

Diosdado Macapagal is buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
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