The Claro M. Recto I know
By Rudy A. Arizala
Santiago, 02 February 2013
The Claro M. Recto I know was born on 08 February 1890 at Tiaong, Tayabas (now Quezon province), whose parents were Claro Recto, Sr., of Rosario, Batangas and Micaela Mayo of Lipa, Batangas.
He was well known as a brilliant lawyer, learned associate justice of the Supreme Court, senator and president of the Constitutional Convention which framed the 1935 Philippine Constitution. As president of the Constitutional Convention in his Valedictory Address, Claro M. Recto expressed the hope that the new generations which will succeed them:
“ . . . will not fail to note that the solicitude and the zeal which attended our efforts were not due to any desire for the praise of the present or the plaudits of the future, any wish to see our names in the bronze or marble of perishable glory, but to the desire to realize for our people, through this Constitution, to make that for which an illustrious prelate, pride of the native clergy, prayed God on the day of our inauguration: ‘A nation of happy people within Thy Kingdom’.”
On his 123rd Birth Anniversary it is relevant to recall Recto’s other notable achievements . Perhaps very few know or remember that in 1943-45, he was also a Commissioner of Education, Health and Public Welfare and later Minister of State for Foreign Affairs under President Jose P. Laurel’s war-time cabinet.
Among Claro M. Recto’s accomplishments as Minister for Foreign Affairs during the war years were: in 1943, immediately after the grant of independence to the Philippines by Japan, a Philippine Embassy was established in Tokyo with Jorge G. Vargas as Ambassador to Japan. Aside from Japan, several other countries recognized the independence of the Philippines among them, Burma, China, Manchuko, Thailand, Germany, Italy, Spain, Vichy France, Denmark, Bulgaria, Finland, Rumania and Slovakia. Also, in 1943, the Philippines signed a Declaration calling for common prosperity, independence, fraternity, cultural exchange and economic cooperation with other Southeast Asian countries and Japan.
To protect Filipino nationals and uphold the dignity and sovereignty of an independent Republic, foreign minister Claro M. Recto sent a Note Verbale on 14 July 1944, to the Japanese Ambassador (Morata) in the Philippines protesting against abuses committed by Japanese soldiers reminding the Japanese Government that:
“In the same manner that their government has a duty to secure
the utmost respect for the territorial integrity and political sovereignty
of the Republic, so this government conceives it to be its primordial duty
to protect the interest of its citizens, at least in their own land, as a minimum
condition of the dignity of this Republic as an independent state. . .”
Minister for Foreign Affairs Recto pointed out also in said Note Verbale that said abuses “constituted a serious impairment of the sovereignty of the Republic.”
After the end of the Second World War in August 1945, he was detained by the Allied Powers, accused of collaboration with Japan, imprisoned and charged with treason. When Philippine President Manuel A. Roxas issued an amnesty, Recto did not avail of it, but instead underwent trial. He was acquitted by the People’s Court.
In 1949, Claro M. Recto became again a senator of the Philippines and acted as spokesman of the Nacionalista Party on foreign policy. Among his well-known foreign policy speeches was the one he delivered before the University of the Philippines graduating class on 17 April 1951, entitled “Our Mendicant Foreign Policy”. He advocated an independent foreign policy for the Philippines reminding his audience the realities in international politics. Comparing the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty with that of US-NATO Mutual Defense Treaty, he said:
“. . . . .America has given her word to her kinsmen in the Atlantic Community that any attack upon them will immediately bring into action the full strength of her expanding military machine.
“What comparable assurances and guarantees have been given to Asia?. . .
Where are the pledges of an automatic declaration of war, the organization of united forces on land, at sea, and in the air, and the consultations among equal allies, as in the North Atlantic Pact?”
It is clear from the above 1951 foreign policy speech of Senator Claro M. Recto that if it were necessary for the Philippines to have a mutual defense treaty with the United States, the same “automatic retaliation” as provided in the NATO Pact should have been also provided in the PH-US Mutual Defense Agreement.
“Automatic retaliation” is the very same issue we are facing these days regarding our security and protection of our territorial integrity under the 1951 PH-US Defense Treaty in the light of China’s recent threatening moves. For example, China announced that her patrol ships will stop and board foreign vessels found in the South China Sea warning the Philippines to better get accustom seeing Chinese patrol ships in the disputed maritime area.
Despite such posturings of China, the Philippines has decided to seek peaceful solution by bringing the case to a UN Arbitral Tribunal. Thus, declared Philippine foreign secretary Albert Del Rosario on 22 January 2013:
“The Philippines has exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China. On numerous occasions, dating back to 1995, the Philippines has been exchanging views with China to peacefully settle these disputes. To this day, a solution is still elusive. We hope that the Arbitral Proceedings shall bring this dispute to a durable solution.”
This recent move of the Philippines is in accord with the main trust of Senator Claro M. Recto’s 1951 foreign policy speech in the light of what he stated as follows:
“The first objective of such a government must be peace, for, as a
small and weak nation, it is our prime interest to explore with patience and
sincerity every avenue of honorable and enduring settlement by negotiation
and mutual concessions.”
The Claro M. Recto I know, aside from being a foreign policy and international law expert, was also an educator. It may be recalled that in 1952, he, together with former President Jose P. Laurel, founded a School of Law called “The Lyceum of the Philippines” which is now a university specializing not only in the study of Law but also in International Relations as well as in other branches of higher education such as humanities, science and technology.
The photo below shows Dean Claro M. Recto of the Lyceum School of Law (now Lyceum of the Philippines University), putting a cape over the toga of one of the law graduates during a 1954 graduation ceremony,