Thursday, May 07, 2009

Claro M. Recto - Biographies from the Internet

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Claro M. Recto (1890-1960) was a Philippine nationalist leader and president of the 1934 constitutional convention. He was one of the most vocal advocates of Philippine political and social autonomy.

Claro M. Recto was born in Tiaong, Tayabas, on Feb. 8, 1890. He worked for a bachelor of arts at the Ateneo de Manila and finished a master of laws degree at the University of Santo Tomas in 1914. From 1916 to 1919 he served as legal adviser to the Philippine Senate. In 1919 he was elected as representative of the third district of Batangas and served as House minority floor leader. He was reelected in 1922 and 1925.

Framing of the [1935] Constitution

In 1924 Recto went to the United States as a member of a parliamentary independence mission. In the same year he was admitted to the U.S. bar by the Supreme Court. In 1934 a constitutional convention was held in accordance with the provisions of the Tydings-McDuffie Act, which required the drafting of a constitution as part of the steps leading to Philippine independence. Recto was elected president of the convention. It was due mainly to Recto's sagacity and intellectual acumen that the convention succeeded in framing and approving on Feb. 8, 1935, a constitution which would truly reflect the Filipinos' capacity to frame laws and principles that would govern their lives as free, responsible citizens in a democracy.

In 1931 Recto was elected to the Senate on the platform of the Democrata party. He acted as minority floor leader for 3 years. In 1934 he became majority floor leader and president pro tempore of the Senate. He subsequently resigned his Senate seat when President Franklin Roosevelt appointed him as associate justice of the Supreme Court. Recto left the Supreme Court in 1941 and was elected anew as senator. In 1949 he was reelected on the Nacionalista party ticket. In 1957 he ran for president but was defeated.

Apart from his numerous legal treatises and literary works in Spanish, Recto is noted for his staunch nationalist stand on questions regarding political sovereignty and economic independence.

World War II and Rehabilitation

Recto served in the wartime Cabinet of José Laurel during the Japanese occupation and was subsequently arrested and tried for collaboration. He wrote a defense and explanation of his position in Three Years of Enemy Occupation (1946), which convincingly presented the case of the "patriotic" conduct of the Filipino elite during World War II. Recto fought his legal battle in court and was acquitted.

On April 9, 1949, Recto opened his attack against the unfair impositions of the U.S. government as expressed in the Military Bases Agreement of March 14, 1947, and later in the Mutual Defense Treaty of Aug. 30, 1951, and especially the Tydings Rehabilitation Act, which required the enactment of the controversial parity-rights amendment to the constitution.

A Radical Gadfly

Recto's wit, irony, and sharp analytic powers exposed the duplicity of the diplomatic agreements with the United States and revealed the subservience of Filipino opportunists to the dictates of American policy makers. Recto opposed President Ramon Magsaysay on a number of fundamental issues, among them the Philippine relations with the Chiang Kai-shek regime in Taiwan, the Ohno-Garcia reparations deal, the grant of more bases to the United States, the American claim of ownership over these bases, the question of expanded parity rights for Americans under the Laurel-Langley Agreement, and the premature recognition of Ngo Dinh Diem's South Vietnam government. In all those issues, Recto's consistent stand in favor of Philippine sovereignty and security was proved right by the turn of events.

In perspective, Recto revived the tradition of the radical dissenter fighting against feudal backwardness, clericofascist authoritarianism, and neocolonial mentality and imperialism. He strove to reawaken the consciousness of the Filipinos to the greatness of their revolutionary heritage and emphasized the need to transform the character of the national life by reaffirming their solidarity as a sovereign, free people.

Recto was preparing to launch his Filipinist crusade in the tradition of the Propaganda Movement of the 1880s when he died of a heart ailment in Rome, Italy, on Oct. 2, 1960.

Further Reading

For Recto's ideas and attitudes see his own books, Three Years of Enemy Occupation: The Issue of Political Collaboration in the Philippines (1946); My Crusade (1955); and Recto Reader, edited by Renato Constantino (1965). The best biographical account from a nationalistic sociocultural point of view is Constantino's The Making of a Filipino: Story of Philippine Colonial Politics (1969). For other information about Recto's career consult Hernando J. Abaya, The Untold Philippine Story (1967). For a thoughtful appraisal of Recto's progressive tendencies by a young intellectual see José Maria Sison, Recto and the National Democratic Struggle (1969).

Additional Sources

Arcellana, Emerenciana Yuvienco, Recto, nationalist, Philippines: Claro M. Recto Memorial Foundation, 1988.

Arcellana, Emerenciana Yuvienco, The social and political thought of Claro Mayo Recto, Manila: National Research Council of the Philippines, 1981.

Claro M. Recto, 1890-1990: a centenary tribute of the Civil Liberties Union, Quezon City: Karrel, 1990?


Claro Mayo Recto (February 8, 1890 Tiáong, Tayabas - October 2, 1960 Rome, Italy) was a Filipino politician, jurist, poet and one of the foremost statesmen of his generation. He is remembered mainly for his nationalism, for "the impact of his patriotic convictions on modern political thought".[1]

He was born in Tiáong, Tayabas (now known as Quezon province) of educated, upper middle-class parents, namely Claro Recto [Sr.] of Rosario, Batangas, and Marcela Mayo of Lipa, Batangas. He studied Latin at the Instituto de Rizal in Lipa, Batangas from 1900 to 1901. Further schooling was at the Colegio del Sagrado Corazón of Don Sebastián Virrey. He moved to Manila to study at the Ateneo de Manila where he consistently obtained outstanding scholastic grades, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree maxima cum laude. He received a Masters of Laws degree from the University of Santo Tomás.




Claro M. Recto launched his political career as a legal adviser to the first Philippine Senate in 1916. In 1919, he was elected representative from the second district of Batangas. He served as minority floor leader for several years until 1925. His grasp of parliamentary procedures won him the accolades of friends and adversaries alike.

He traveled to the United States as a member of the Independence Mission, and was admitted to the American Bar in 1924. Upon his return he founded the Partido Democrata. In 1928, he temporarily retired from active politics and dedicated himself to the practice and teaching of law.

Recto found the world of academia restrictive and soporific. Although he still engaged in the practice of law, he resigned from his teaching job in 1931 and reentered politics when he ran and won a senate seat and was subsequently elected its majority floor leader in 1934.

He was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1935 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As a jurist he held his own in famous debates even against the U.S. Attorney General with whom he waged a war of words on the question of ownership of military bases in the Philippines.

He presided over the assembly that drafted the Philippine Constitution in 1934-35, which was in accordance with the provisions of the Tydings-McDuffie Act and a preliminary step to independence and self-governance after a 10-year transitional period. The Tydings-McDuffie Act was created in response to the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act which, through the urging of Quezon, was rejected by the Philippine Senate. The original bill would have allowed the indefinite retention of U.S. military and naval bases in the Philippines and the American imposition of high tariff and quotas on Philippine exports such as sugar and coconut oil. A few minor changes were made and the Tydings-McDuffie bill was passed and signed into law by President Roosevelt.

Together with then-Senate President Manuel L. Quezon (who eventually was elected first president of the commonwealth), Recto personally presented the Commonwealth Constitution to U.S. President Roosevelt. The consensus among many political scholars of today judges the 1935 Constitution as the best-written Philippine charter ever. Its author was mainly Claro M. Recto.

In the 1953 and 1955 elections, Recto denounced the influence and coercion of the Church on voters' decisions—the Philippines having a 90% Catholic majority at the time. In a 1958 article in "The Lawyer's Journal" he suggested that a constitutional amendment be passed to make the article on Separation of Church and State clearer and more definitive. He also rallied against the teaching of religion in public schools.

He served as Commissioner of Education (1942-43), Minister of Foreign Affairs (1943-44), and Cultural Envoy with the rank of Ambassador on a cultural mission to Europe and Latin America (1960). In 1941 he ran and reaped the highest number of votes among the 24 elected senators. He was re-elected in 1949 as a Nacionalista Party candidate and again in 1955 as a guest candidate of the Liberal Party.

Claro M. Recto is considered light-years ahead of his time. He foresaw the demands of a fast-moving global economy which his nation is incapable to meet even to this day. In a memorable speech on the eve of the 1957 presidential election where he raced against then Vice President Carlos Garcia, he petitioned all sectors of society, and like Rizal, implored the youth:

In his speech "Our Mendicant Foreign Policy", delivered before the 1951 graduates at the University of the Philippines, he implored an end to what he called the panhandling atittude of the Philippine government and emphasized the drive to self reliance. A mendicant policy, he declared, promotes "a dole-out mentality. A dependent nation cannot expect respect from other nations."

Recto was dubbed by the media as the "Radical Gadfly" and the "Great Dissenter". He was considered the nemesis of President Magsaysay's government, disputing him on a number of fundamental issues, including the Philippine relations with the Chiang Kai-shek government, the grant of more bases to the U.S., the American claim of ownership over these bases, and the expanded rights for Americans under the Laurel-Langley Agreement. He was President Garcia's harshest critic, vigorously opposing him on the Ohno-García (Japanese) reparations deal and the Philippine recognition of the American-supported regime of Ngo Dinh Diem.

During the Formosa crisis, the Philippine Congress, controlled by Magsaysay's party men, issued a resolution pledging support to the U.S. defense of Formosa upon threat of a communist invasion. Congress and the Old Guards of the Nationalista Party supported Magsaysay, and Magsaysay prevailed. Recto severely criticized Magsaysay's pro-American stance and forewarned that involvement in U.S. military intervention exposes the Philippines to imminent danger. Recto's consistent stand was proven right by history's turn of events.

Without his steerage of the Partida Democrata, the party experienced its eventual demise; he founded a second, the Nationalist Citizens Party which espoused neutrality in foreign relations and advocated economic independence from American interests. In that same 1957 election speech, he further said:[2]

I call upon my countrymen to remember that we have not always been so low and so ignoble, that our nationalist revolution of 1896 was indeed the first blow struck against an imperialist power and that the words and deeds of Rizal, Bonifacio, Del Pilar and Mabini once stirred the hearts of liberty-loving men all over Asia. Our national salvation lies first in reasserting the ideals of our heroes in their fight for emancipation, and second in changing the course of our economic efforts by giving emphasis to nationalist industrialization.

Recto sponsored the Rizal bill together with fellow senator Jose Laurel. The bill would require all high schools and colleges to include in their curricula a course in the study of Rizal's literary works, mainly the Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, to provide an in-depth study of nationalism and the shaping of national character invoked in these two novels. Although it met strong opposition from a contingent of Catholic groups because of the books' virulent attack on the Church and their perceived anti-clericalism, the bill was passed and approved on December 6, 1956 and became R.A. 1425 known as Rizal Law.[3] Today there are many, especially among college and university students, who are calling for a repeal or revision of this law, questioning its essentiality to a high school and college diploma and its relevance to modern-day Filipino life.

Poet, playwright, essayist

The Spanish language was where he was reared and schooled. Alongside Tagalog, it was Recto's mother tongue, although he was equally adept in English. His initial fame was as a poet while a student at the University of Santo Tomás when he published a book Bajos Los Cocoteros (Under the Coconut Trees, 1911), a collection of his poems in Spanish. A staff writer of El Ideal, and later La Vanguardia, he wrote a daily column, Primares Cuartillas (First Sheets), under the nom de plume Aristeo Hilario. They were prose and numerous poems of satirical pieces. Some of his work still grace the classic poetry anthologies of the Hispanic world.

Among the plays that he authored were La Ruta de Damasco (The Route to Damascus, 1918), and Solo entre las Sombras (Alone among the Shadows, 1917), which were lauded not only in the Philippines, but also in Spain and Latin America. Both were produced and staged in Manila to critical acclaim in the mid 1950s.

In 1929, his article Monroismo Asiático (Asiatic Monroism) was published, validating his repute as a political satirist. In what was claimed as a commendable study in polemics, he proferred his arguments and defenses in a debate with Dean Máximo Kálaw of the University of the Philippines where Kálaw championed a version of the Monroe Doctrine with its application to the Asian continent, while Recto took the opposing side. The original Monroe doctrine (1823) was U.S. President Monroe's foreign policy of keeping the Americas off-limits to the influence of the Old World, and states that the United States, Mexico, and countries in South and Central America were no longer open to European colonization. Recto was passionately against its implementation in Asia, wary of Japan's preeminence and its aggressive stance towards its neighbors. In his deliberation he wrote about foreseeing the danger Japan posed to the Philippines and other Asian countries. His words proved prophetic when Japan invaded and colonized the region, including the Philippines from 1942-45.

His eloquence and facility with the Spanish language were recognized throughout the Hispanic world. The Enciclopedia Universal says of him: Recto, more than a politician and lawyer, is a Spanish writer, and that among those of his race (he is pure Tagalog on both sides), there is not and there has been no one who has surpassed him in the mastery of the language of his country's former sovereign.[4]

The 'finest mind of his generation'

Claro M. Recto is considered the "finest mind of his generation".[5] Through his speeches and writings, he was able to mold the mind of his Filipino contemporaries and succeeding generations, a skill "only excelled by Rizal's".[5]

He left a mark on the patriotic climate of his time and a lasting legacy to those who succeeded him. Such icons of nationalism as Lorenzo Tanada, Jose Diokno, Renato Constantino, Jovito Salonga, refer to him as a mentor and forerunner.

Teodoro M. Locsín of the Philippines Free Press, defines Recto's genius, thus:[5]

"Recto is not a good speaker, no. He will arouse no mob. But heaven help the one whose pretensions he chooses to demolish. His sentences march like ordered battalions against the inmost citadel of the man's arguments, and reduce them to rubble; meanwhile his reservations stand like armed sentries against the most silent approach and every attempt at encirclement by the adversary. The reduction to absurdity of Nacionalista senator Zulueta's conception of sound foreign policy was a shattering experience, the skill that goes into the cutting of a diamond went into the work of demolition. There was no slip of the hand, no flaw in the tool. All was delicately, perfectly done... Recto cannot defend the indefensible, but what can be defended, he will see to it that it will not be taken."


His critics claim that Recto's brilliance is overshadowed by his inability to capture nationwide acceptance. He could have been an exceptional leader, perhaps a great president, but his appeal was limited to the intellectual elite and the nationalist minority of his time.

In the same article, political editorialist, Manuel L. Quezon III, laments this fact:

"Recto's leadership was the curious kind that only finds fulfillment from being at the periphery of power, and not from being its fulcrum. It was the best occupation suited to the satirist that he was. His success at the polls would be limited, his ability to mold the minds of his contemporaries was only excelled by Rizal's...But he was admired for his intellect and his dogged determination to never let the opposition be bereft of a champion, still his opposition was flawed. For it was one that never bothered to transform itself into an opposition capable of taking power."[5]

However, one possible explanation as to why Recto was never able to capture full national acceptance was because he dared strongly oppose the national security interests of the United States in the Philippines, as when he campaigned against the US military bases in his country. During the 1957 presidential campaign, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) conducted black propaganda operations to ensure his defeat, including the distribution of condoms with holes in them and marked with `Courtesy of Claro M. Recto' on the labels.[6] [7]


Claro M. Recto died of a heart attack in Rome, Italy, on October 2, 1960, while on a cultural mission, and en route to Spain, where he was to fulfill a series of speaking engagements.

The US Central Intelligence Agency is suspected of involvement in his death. Recto, who had no known heart disease, met with two mysterious "Caucasians" wearing business suits before he died. US government documents later showed that a plan to murder Recto with a vial of poison was discussed by CIA Chief of Station Ralph Lovett and the US Ambassador to the Philippines Admiral Raymond Spruance years earlier.[8][9]

Recto was married to Doña Aurora Reyes, with whom he had two sons. He had four children in his first marriage with Doña Angeles Silos.

Speeches and writings

  • A realistic economic policy for the Philippines. Speech delivered at the Philippine Columbian Association, Sept. 26, 1956. ISBN B0007KCFEM
  • On the Formosa Question, 1955 ISBN B0007JI5DI
  • United States-Philippine Relations, 1935-1960. Alicia Benitez, ed. University of Hawaii, 1964.
  • Three years of enemy occupation: The issue of political collaboration in the Philippines. Filipiniana series, 1985 Filipiana reprint. ISBN B0007K1JRG
  • Our trade relations with the United States, 1954 ISBN B0007K8LS6
  • The evil of religious test in a democracy, 1960 ISBN B0007K4Y8W
  • Solo entre las sombres: Drama en un acto y en prosa, 1917; reprinted 1999 ISBN 971-555-306-0
  • Asiatic monroeism and other essays: Articles of debate, 1930 ISBN B0008A5354
  • The law of belligerent occupation and the effect of the change of sovereignty on the commonwealth treason law: With particular reference to the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, 1946
  • Our lingering colonial complex, a speech before the Baguio Press Association, 1951
  • The Quirino junket: an Objective Appraisal, 1949 ISBN B0007K4A7W
  • The Philippine survival: Nationalist essays by Claro M. Recto, 1982
  • Claro Recto on our Constitution, Constitutional Amendments and the Constitutional Convention of 1991
  • Our mendicant foreign policy, a speech at the commencement exercises, University of the Philippines, 1951
  • The Recto Valedictory, a collection of 10 never-delivered speeches, with English translations by Nick Joaquin, 1985
  • [1] [2] Vintage Recto: Memorable speeches and writings, edited by Renato Constantino, 1986
  • Recto Reader: Excerpts from the Speeches of Claro M. Recto. edited by Renato Constantino, 1965 ISBN B0006E72Z6

Further reading

  • The relevant Recto, by Renato Constantino, 1986
  • Dissent on Philippine Society; the Filipino elite; Recto's Second Demise, by Renato Constantino, 1972
  • The Relevance of Recto Today: A review of Philippine-American and other relations, by Emerenciana Avellana
  • Recto and the National Democratic Struggle: a re-appraisal, by Jose Sison, 1969
  • Claro M. Recto, 1890-1990: A Centenary tribute of the Civil Liberties Union, 1990
  • The Crisis of a Republic by Teodoro Agoncillo, University of the Philippines Press, Quezon City.
  • White Love, Surveillance and Nationalist Resistance in the United States Colonization of the Philippines by Vince Rafael
  • The Star-Entangled Banner: One Hundred Years of America in the Philippines by Sharon Delmondo, 2004
  • Nationalism: a summons to greatness by Lorenzo M. Tañada; edited by Ileana Maramag, 1965
  • Cory Aquino: Person of the Century by Manuel L. Quezon III, Philippines Free Press, December 30, 1999.


  1. ^ The Manila Times Internet Edition (2006-02-10). Remembering Claro M. Recto. Press release. Retrieved on 2007-08-29.
  2. ^ Luzadas, Jose. "THE UNEXPLAINED: OKR's Failure to Support Recto and Laurel in Rizal Bill". Order of the Knights of Rizal. Retrieved on 2007-08-29
  3. ^ a b c d Quezon, eManuel III (1999-12-30). "Cory Aquino: Person of the Century". Archives: Articles/Columns. Retrieved on 2007-08-29.
  4. ^ The Worst Book of 2002. Review of The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, by Max Boot. 2003 Retrieved March 17, 2009, from
  5. ^ Simbulan, Roland. Covert Operations and the CIA's Hidden History in the Philippines. 18 Aug. 2000. Retrieved March 17, 2009, from
  6. ^ The Worst Book of 2002. Review of The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, by Max Boot. 2003. Retrieved on March 17, 2009, from
  7. ^ Simbulan, Roland. Covert Operations and the CIA's Hidden History in the Philippines. 18 August 2000. Retrieved on March 17, 2009, from

External links



Awtomatik said...

Ang talambuhay ni Claro Mayo Recto ang dapat na pinag-aaralan sa ating mga paaralan.

At nararapat din ihanay kahalintulad ng talambuhay nina Jose Rizal, Mabini, Bonifacio atpb.

Sadyang napapanahon ipagbigay alam ang mga kaisipan ng mga kagaya ni C.M. Recto..

Awtomatik said...

Nakapagtapos ako ng high school,
nakatuntong ng kolehiyo(undergrad)
Ngunit hindi ko nakilala si C.M. Recto
sa classroom--ganyan ka-bulok ang
sistema ng edukasyon ng Bayang Magiliw.

Nakilala ko ang tungkol sa buhay at kaisipan
ni C.M. Recto sa katatambay sa National Bookstore
at kababasa sa mga aklat ni Renato Constantino
Halos nabili ko yan lahat mga aklat limbag
ni R. Constantino..
paborito ko sa lahat ang--
Recto Reader...dahil manipis lang siya
at halos pamphlet lang sa laki..

Anonymous said...

i join awtomatik in his/her opinion
if you are going to ask a student who is claro m recto. their definitive answer is "a street in manila" " recto university" my students are fully unaware who is recto and what he has done in their lives. even their filipino teachers are completely unaware that recto is the brain behind the reason why noli me tangere and el filibusterismo are part of the curriculum of hs student. he even fought the catholic church just to pass RA 1465 into law
if rizal is considered as "perla un hombre" i think recto is deserving of the prestige that is in the name of ninoy, gomburza et. al.
with the greatness in the name of recto. i think it is hightime for the manila mayor to eradicate the diploma,license maker in the streets of recto

Unknown said...

Claro M. Recto deserved to be honored side by side with Rizal, Bonifacio and Marini. Recto vehemently opposed US military bases because the Philippines will lose jurisdictions of those bases but the politicians surendered to American dictatorial demands. In fact the Americans boycotted the negotiations if Recto is a member of the negotiating team.
CIA I believe has something to do with Recto's death! What the Philippines should do is petition the US court under the Freedom of Information law to release all files about Recto and make the US government accountable for a terrible criminal act.