Today I appear before you with both gladness and sadness. Gladness because I am
thankful for the unique opportunity to address you, the creme de la creme of the
international media in the Philippines. Sadness because as you all know my beloved father,
Diosdado Macapagal, your colleague as a former newspaperman and above all in your
quest for truth and justice passed away just nine days ago.
I also wish to thank you for the tributes accorded my father the past several days,
especially on how a poor boy from Lubao overcame all odds to become President, a
President who upheld the tradition of honesty and integrity. Today, allow me to pay my own
accolade by sharing with you the philosophy behind his accomplishments.
My father was sworn into office as fifth President of the Republic of the Philippines on
December 30, 1961 by Chief Justice Cesar Bengzon.
My father regarded integirty and a capacity for self-denial as the prime requisites for the
Presidency. He always believed in the primacy of integrity, while a capacity for self-denial
was essential because apart from the far-reaching consequences of Presidential actions,
the Presidency of the Philippines is a tough and killing job that demands a sense of
The requirements for the high office of President led immediately to a consideration of the
qualities desirable in key persons of the administration, who share with the Chief Executive
the burden of responsibility to the nation and to posterity. As far as my father could see it,
the decisive qualifications for this cabinet members and top subordinates were: integrity,
competence, and faith in his reform program.
In making appointments, he consulted administration leaders and suitable private citizens.
Some appointments turned out to be unpopular. He was aware of public disappointment in
some instances. At one time, George Cohen and Donald Muntz of Robot Statistics, whose
advice on public reaction and preference was based on the science of sampling, called his
attention to unpopular choices. "I am engaged in a reform movement, and must take
risks," he told them. "I am not in a popularity contest. I expect adverse reaction and even
The National Goal
In starting his task, my father felt it essential to determine first of all the national goal. In
his inaugural address, he categorically affirmed that "the basic national problem is the
poverty of the masses."
He saw it as the task of the nation to fight mass poverty. To grapple with the basic problem
of mass poverty he believed that in concrete terms, this should mean that the prime
national goal of Filipinos in his generation was the achievement of economic and social
progress as rapidly as possible.
However, to achieve prosperity would not be enough. Since the fundamental fight against
widespread poverty, it was absolutely essential that the prosperity achieved was not
confined to a priveledged few but shared with the greatest number of our people.
The Fundamental Way
Two distinct ways were open to my father as President in attacking the problems of the
nation. The first was the fundamental, the other the expedient. The fundamental is
long-range. The expedient way hopes for immediate results.
As a student, he was attracted to the fundamental method as exemplified by Dr. Jose P.
Laurel who was one of his law professors. Instead of spending class time on detailed
statutory provisions, Dr. Laurel expounded with erudition on bashed light on technical
In reviewing for the bar examination, starting with the Civil Code which he tried to learn by
heart, it struck the young Diosdado that the Code confirmed the soundness of Laurel's
fundamental method of study. He discerned that the Code is a complete system which
guides every conceivable act of an individual from birth to death. Proceeding further, he
noted that the Code of Commerce is a complete system to guide every business act, that
the penal Code is a complete system dealing with every act of penal offenders, and that the
whole range of laws is in integrated system that regulates every situation in human society.
Thereafter it became relatively easier to see significance in the fact that the human body is
a system, the earth is part of the solar system, society is a system, the nation is a system.
National problems themselves have a systematic relationship.
My father believed it to be the task of government to identify each national problem, to
know what significance brought it into being, and what role it played in the correlated
scheme of things.
He believed that the fundamental approach for a leader was imperative, especially in
underdeveloped or developing nations like the Philippines and other former colonies in
Asia, Latin America and Africa. This was because underdevelopment was a fundamental
problem and could not be effectively handled except through the fundamental way.
To achieve the national goal of economic and social progress with prosperity reaching down
to the masses, there existed a choice of methods. First, there was the choice between the
democratic and dictatorial systems, the latter prevailing in Communist countries. On this,
the choice was easy as Filipinos had long been committed to the democratic method.
With the democratic mechanism, however, the next choice was between free enterprise and
the controls system. My father stated the essence of free enterprise in layman parlance in
declaring before Congress on January 22, 1962 that "the task of economic development
belongs principally to private enterprise and not to the government.
Before independence there ws free enterprise in the Philippines under Presidents Quezon,
Osmena and Roxas. In 1950 President Quirino deviated from free enterprise launching as
a temporary emergency measure the system of exchange and import controls. The controls
system was carried on by President Magsaysay and Garcia.
The first fundamental decision my father had to make was whether to continue the system
of exchange controls of Quirino, Magsaysay and Garcia or to return to the free enterprise
of Quezon, Osmena adn Roxas. It had been his view since he was a Congressman for eight
years that the suitable economic system for Filipinos that the suitable economic system for
Filipinos was free enterprise. So on January 21, 1962 after working for 20 straight hours he
signed a Central Bank decree abolishing exchange controls and returning the country to
During the 20 days available to make a decision on choice between controls and free
enterprise, between his inauguration as President and before the opening of Congress, my
father's main adviser was Governor Andres Castillo of the Central Bank.
Five Year Program
The removal of controls and the restoration of free enterprise was intended to provide only
the fundamental setting in which my father could work out economic and social progress. A
specific and periodic program for the guidance of both the private sector and the
government ws an essential instrument to attain the economic and social development that
constituted the goal of his labors.
Such a program for his Administration was formulated under his authority and direction by
a group of able and reputable economic and business leaders the most active and effective
of which was Sixto Roxas III. From an examination of the planned targets and
requirements of the Five-Year program it could be seen that it aimed at the following
1. Immediate restoration of economic stability;
2. Alleviating the plight of the common man; and
3. Establishing a dynamic basic for future growth.
Abolition of tenancy
Restoring free enterprise and setting into motion a concrete program of economic and
social progress were not all that my father needed to pursue the national goal. To lay the
basis for achieving prosperity shared by all it was necessary to release the impoverished
tenant farmers from bondage.
He first became acutely aware of the need for abolishing tenancy while he was a high
school student at the time when communism reared its head in Pampanga under the
leadership of Pedro Abad Santos in the late 1920s. Abad Santos's followers started to use
violence, cutting the tendons of carabaos, burning fields, and killing some landlords.
Diosdado was one of the young vernacular writers whom Abad Santos invited to join his
movement for the tenants. My father declined because inspite of Abad Santos, his type of
socialism has been equated with the use of violence.
Diosdado's reply to Abad Santos was to this effect: "I thank you, sir, for the honor of
inviting me to your movement because I believe in the cause of th epoor. However, I am
unable to join because I do not believe in violence. It is my belief that justice can be
obtained for the tenants not by violence but through law and peace."
Many years after, the Presidency offered the opportunity to help out the tenants in the
democratic manner my father conceived in his youth. So in his State of the Nation message
to Congress on January 28, 1963 he asked Congress to enact a land reform law that would
abolish the tenancy system.
August 8, 1963, was one of the happiest moments in his life. A lifelong dream had come
true. On that day, he publicly signed at the Agrifina Circle at the Luneta Park Republic Act
3844, popularly known as the Agricultual Land Reform Code, abolishing tenancy and
prescribing a program to transform the farmer tenants into lessees and in due course into
Government as enterpreneur of private business ventures
Free enterprise ws restored with decontrol. The Five-Year Economic Program had been
prescribed. Land reform abolishing tenancy had been launched. These were essential
foundations for economic and social progress for the greatest number.
The essential foundations having been laid, attention must then be turned to the equally
difficult task of building the main edifice by implementing the economic program. Although
the success of my father's Socio-Economic Program in free enterprise inherently depended
on the private sector, it would be helpful and necessary for the government to render active
assistance in its implementation by the citizens.
Such role of the government in free enterprise, in the view of my father, required it (1) to
provide the social overhead like roads, airfields and ports that directly or proximately
promote economic growth, (2) to adopt fiscal and monetary policies salutary to
investments, and most importantly (3) to serve as an entrepreneur or promote of basic and
key private industries, particularly those that require capital too large for businessmen to
put up by themselves. Among the enterprises he selected for active government promotion
were integrated steel, fertilizer, pulp, meat canning and tourism.
Speech delivered by Sen. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo before the Manila Overseas Press Club, at the Club Filipino, Greenhills on April 30, 1997)