by Quennie Ann J. Palafox

“So long as our economic policies remain dependent primarily on foreign “aid” and investments, and our policy-makers remain habitual yes-men of foreign advisors, this “aid,” investment and advice, will be directed toward the retention of the economic status quo.”
– Claro M. Recto (1890-1960)

      This message was delivered by Recto on the eve of the election of 1957 when he ran as the presidential candidate of the Lapiang Makabansa (Nationalist-Citizens Party).

        His writings and speeches spoke of Recto as a nationalist thinker and leader. This very speech inflicted so much anger among the Americans and his fellow Filipinos to whom he coined the term “yes-men” for allowing foreign interference in our political and economic affairs. Recto simply aimed for the Filipinos and their leaders to make sure that Philippines’ national interests were not sacrificed and give way to the American dream of how the world should be run. The Americans, consequently, accused him of being anti-Americans and worst, an atheist.

         Claro M. Recto was born in Tiaong, Quezon province on February 8, 1890 to Don Claro Recto, Sr. of Rosario, Batangas and Doña Micaela Mayo of Lipa. In 1905, he went to Manila to study at the Ateneo de Manila University where he obtained the most outstanding scholastic grades. He graduated in 1909 with a Bachelor of Arts, maxima cum laude.

         In 1913, he graduated law from the University of Santo Tomas and took the bar examinations the same year. He obtained his Masters of Laws also in UST. He entered the government service in 1913, when he was appointed secretary to Vincente Ilustre of the Philippine Commission. He ran as representative of the third district of Batangas under the party Democrata. He became minority floor leader and was reelected in 1922 and 1925.

      Recto was selected president to draft the Philippine Constitution and personally presented the Commonwealth Constitution to President Roosevelt for his approval and signature.  He also served the country as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (1935-1936). In 1941 he ran for the Senate and garnered the highest number of votes among the 24 elected senators. He was appointed Commissioner of Education, Health and Public Welfare (1942-43) and later, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (1943-44) in the Laurel War Cabinet. He was charged with treason for collaboration with the Japanese. He pleaded not guilty and proved that he had connections with the underground movement. In the course of the preparation of his defense, he published two books, Three Years of Enemy Occupation and The Law of Belligerent Occupation. Claro M. Recto did not take advantage of the amnesty issued by Pres. Manuel Roxas to collaborators and instead worked for and got an acquittal from the People’ Court.  He was elected senator and in 1955, ran as Liberal Party “guest candidate” for senator and won the sixth slot. He bid for presidency in 1957 but lost to Ramon Magsaysay.

         On August 24, 1960, he was appointed Cultural Envoy with the rank of an Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary on a cultural mission to Europe and Latin America. But while on this mission he suffered a fatal heart attack in Rome, Italy on October 2, 1960. He died at San Camillo de Lellis Hospital, his wife by his side to whom he uttered his last words: “It is terrible to die in a foreign country”. Paradoxically, Recto died in a foreign land and he’s great love for his motherland remained in his heart up to his last breath.

      The Philippines will never have a man as noble as Claro M. Recto again who has dignity and sensitivity for his fellowmen. His legacy and contributions to the country will remain to date as long as the country suffers the stiff of imperialism and our government being run by dishonest officials who perpetuate the deprivation of public services from the Filipino people.

         As Renato Constantino puts it- “ Recto’s relevance to the present lies not so much in the continuing validity of his nationalist premises as in his contribution to the forward march of history..his courageous attempt  to break away from the colonial condition was itself a great single effort which contributed to today’s relative enlightenment”