Carlos P. Garcia (1896-1971) was the fourth president of the Republic of the Philippines. He was noted for the enunciation of the Filipino First Policy, intended to complete and guarantee Philippine economic independence and sovereignty.
Carlos P. Garcia was born in Talibon, Bohol, on November 4, 1896. He took law courses at Silliman University in 1918-1919 and graduated with a law degree from the Philippine Law School. He topped the bar examination in 1923. He was elected for three terms (1925-1931) as representative of the third district of Bohol. He served for three terms (1933-1941) as governor of Bohol Province. For 13 years (1941-1954) Garcia served in the Senate of the Philippines.
During World War II, in May 1942, Garcia was hunted by the Japanese military authority because of his loyalty to the Allied cause and his refusal to surrender and cooperate with the government. After the war he participated in several missions to Washington to work for the approval of the Philippine Rehabilitation and War Damage Claims. He was a delegate to the World Conference at San Francisco to draft the charter of the United Nations Organization in May 1945. He acted as presiding officer of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization Conference in Manila in 1954, which produced the Manila Treaty and the Pacific Charter.
From 1947 to 1953 Garcia was vice president of the Nacionalista party directorate, and he also served in the Cabinet beginning in 1953 as vice president and secretary of foreign affairs. When he was in the Senate, he was chairman and member of numerous key committees, among them government reorganization, foreign affairs, public works, army and navy, and justice. He was also a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal. From 1946 to 1951 Garcia served as minority floor leader of the Senate.
When President Magsaysay was killed in an airplane accident on March 17, 1957, Garcia became his successor, having been elected vice president in November 1953. In the elections of 1957 Garcia won over three other candidates and became fourth president of the republic since its independence in 1946.
Garcia's main achievement before he became president involved his activities as foreign policy expert for the government. As secretary of foreign affairs, he opened formal reparation negotiations in an effort to end the nine-year technical state of war between Japan and the Philippines, leading to an agreement in April 1954. During the Geneva Conference on Korean unification and other Asian problems, Garcia as chairman of the Philippine delegation attacked communist promises in Asia and defended the U.S. policy in the Far East. In a speech on May 7, 1954, the day of the fall of Dien Bien Phu, Garcia repeated the Philippine stand for nationalism and opposition of communism.
Garcia acted as chairman of the eight-nation Southeast Asian Security Conference held in Manila in September 1954, which led to the development of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, known as SEATO. Garcia's cardinal principles in foreign affairs, as announced in a speech on November 30, 1957, were "to maintain and improve Philippine-American relations" and "to foster closer ties with our Asian neighbors."
Stressed Austerity, Nationalism
Garcia's administration was characterized by its austerity program and its insistence on a comprehensive nationalist policy. On March 3, 1960, he affirmed the need for complete economic freedom and added that the government no longer would tolerate the dominance of foreign interests (especially American) in the national economy. He promised to shake off "the yoke of alien domination in business, trade, commerce and industry." Garcia was also credited with his role in reviving Filipino cultural arts.
The prevalence of graft and corruption in the government, institutional carryover from previous administrations, and U.S. disfavor of his Filipino First Policy put Garcia on the defensive and led partly to his defeat in the 1961 elections. Garcia died in 1971 at the age of 74.