CLARO M. RECTO

(1890-1960)

 

 

         Claro M. Recto, poet-writer, barrister, parliamentarian, jurist and statesman said: “Filipinism, nationalism: this is my unconquerable faith and my burning hope.”

 

         He was born in Tiaong, Tayabas (now Quezon) province on February 8, 1890. His parents were Don Claro Recto, Sr. of Rosario, Batangas and Dona Micaela Mayo of Lipa. They had six children, of whom three died in an early age. The three others who lived were Rosario, Alfonso and Claro.

 

         Claro obtained his elementary education in Tiaong, then he transferred to Lipa where he studied Latin in the Instituto de Rizal of Dr. Hugo Latorre from 1900 to 1901. Later he enrolled at the Colegio del Sagrado Corazon of Don Sebastian Virrey.

 

         In 1905, he went to Manila to study at the Ateneo where he obtained the most outstanding scholastic grades. His average as freshman was 94%, sophomore 98%, junior 100% and senior 100% - the Spanish sobresaliente being the equivalent. He graduated in 1909 with a Bachelor of Arts, maxima cum laude.

 

         While studying law in 1909 at the University of Santo Tomas, he had to work for the Spanish newspapers to support himself. El Ideal employed him in its editorial staff, and later, he became the editor-in-chief. He joined La Vanguardia as columnist in 1911, the same year his first book, a collection of poems entitled Bajo los Cocoteros, came out. Vida Filipina, El Reincimiento, Excelsior y Filipinas were his other outlets.

 

         He maintained his scholarship in U.S.T. and obtained in the regular examinations given for each academic year the grade in excellent in all subjects. In 1913, he graduated and took the bar examinations the same year. In civil law, he got a grade of 90% but only 41% in civil procedure, so he was disqualified. He re-enrolled at the U.S.T., received his Masters of laws and took the bar examinations again.

 

         The award-winning one-act comedy, La ruta de Damasco (1913), followed by Solo entre las sombras (1917) established his reputation as a dramatist. 

 

He entered the government service in 1913, when he was appointed as secretary to Vicente Ilustre of the Philippine Commission. In 1916 he served as a legal adviser to the first Philippine Senate.

 

         In 1919 the Royal Academy of Spanish Language accepted him as a member, but his interest is shifting to politics. He ran as a Democrata and won a seat in the House of Representatives for the third district of Batangas. He became the minority floor leader. He was re-elected in 1922, and 1925.

 

         He went with the then President Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmena to Washington in 1924 as a member of the third parliamentary Independence Mission tasked to present objections against the Fairfield Bill.

 

         In 1928, he temporarily retired from active politics and dedicated himself to his law practice. He formed the law office of Francisco, Recto and Lualhati. By this time, he was on his second marriage.

 

         In the 1931 elections, he won a seat in the Senate for the fifth senatorial district comprising the provinces of Batangas, Tayabas, Cavite, Mindoro and Mariduque.

He defeated the Quezon-government supported incumbent, Jose p. Laurel of Tanauan. He again served as minority floor leader for three years. But he was one with Quezon in rejecting the Hare-Hawes Cutting Law which he said “imposed styranglehold on our economic life. And tramples on our national dignity.” He changed parties and served as majority floor leader and president protempore of the Senate.

 

         He was the unanimous choice of the delegates as president of the 1934 Constitutional Convention. On February 8, 1935, his 45th birthday, the Philippine Constitution of 1935 was formally completed. He and Quezon brought this document to Washington for the approval and signature of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Immediately after signing it, Roosevelt nominated him to the Philippine Supreme Court. The U.S. Senate confirmed his appointment on April 16, 1935.

 

         He stayed on the bench from July 3, 1935 to November 1, 1936 and then returned to private law practice.

 

         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. Accused of collaboration with the Japanese, he was detained by the United Forces of the Diliman, then in Iwahig, and from thence, was sent to Muntinglupa. He was charged with treason. 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. When President Roxas Issued the amnesty proclamation to the “collaborators, “he did not take advantage of it and instead worked for and got an acquital from the People’s Court.

 

         He was again elected senator in the fraudulent 1949 elections. Initially he was not among the eight senatorial candidates who were declared elected.  He filed an election protest with the Senate Electoral Tribunal and won two years after.

 

         In 1955, he ran as liberal party “guest candidate” for senator and won the sixth slot. Two years after, his bid for the presidency of the Philippines came to naught.

 

         He was chosen by the Philippines Free Press as one of the greatest Filipinos during the last half century. He received the Doctor of Laws honoris causa, University of Manila, 1936; Doctor of Laws honoris causa, Arellano University, 1949; Doctor of Humanities honories causa, University of the Philippines, 1960.

 

         On August 24, 1960, he was appointed Cultural Envoy with the rank of 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 sighed his last words: “It is terrible to die in a foreign country.”

         Senator Recto was survived by his widow Dona Aurora Reyes, sons Jose Maria and Rafael, and daughters Maria Clara ( Mrs. Jack Warner ), Chitang ( Mrs. Faustino Zamora ), and Chona ( Mrs. Hans Casten ).

 

        

 

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