Filipino Presidents – Biographies

Duterte: Mindanoan President

The native Tagalog word for ‘president’ is pangulo, and the Spanish-derived Filipino word is presidente.

Emilio Aguinaldo (1869 – 1964)
The president of the first Philippine republic (1899). He started as a member of the Magdalo Chapter of the Katipunan in Cavite, then was elected president of the revolutionary government at the Tejeros Convention on March 22,1897, and, later, Biak-na-Bato Republic. He proclaimed Philippine independence at Kawit on June 12, 1898. His capture foreshadowed the end of large-scale armed resistance to American rule.

Manuel L. Quezon (1878-1944)
The first Filipino president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines under American rule. He was president of the Philippines from 1935 to 1944. For advocating Filipino-language amendments to the 1935 Constitution, he is known as the “Father of the National Language.”

Jose P. Laurel (1891 – 1939)
President of the Second Republic from 1943 to 1945. He had been secretary of the interior (1923), senator (1925 – 1931), delegate to the Constitutional Convention (1934), and chief justice during the commonwealth. When World War II broke out, he was instructed by Quezon to stay in Manila and deal with the Japanese to soften the blow of enemy occupation.  As president, he defended Filipino interests and resisted Japanese efforts to draft Filipinos into the Japanese military service. Upon return of the American forces, Laurel was imprisoned in Japan when Douglas Macarthur occupied that country He was returned to the Philippines to face charges of treason, but these were dropped when President Roxas issued an amnesty proclamation. In the Third Republic, he was elected senator and negotiated the Laurel-Langley Agreement.

Sergio Osmeña, Sr. (1878 – 1961)
The first Filipino national leader under the American regime as speaker of the Philippine assembly and the second president of the Philippines (1944-1946).

Manuel Roxas (1892 – 1948)
The last president of the Philippine Commonwealth and the first president of the republic (1946 – 1948).

Elpidio Quirino (1890—1956)
President of the Philippines from 1948 to 1953. As vice president during Manuel Roxas’s term, he was also secretary of foreign affairs. He became president when Roxas died in 1948. He was elected president in his own right in 1949.

Ramon Magsaysay (1907 – 1957)
President of the Philippines from 1953 to 1957. He had been President Quirino’s secretary of defense who was instrumental is suppressing the HUK rebellion. As president, he persuaded Congress to pass the Agricultural Tenancy Act (1954). It was during his term that the Retail Trade Nationalization Act was passed. He secured revisions in the Bell Trade Act and was the first president to revise the US Military Bases agreement to bring it more in line with Philippine interests.

Carlos P. Garcia (1896 – 1971)
President of the Philippines from 1957 to 1961. Remembered for his Filipino First Policy. He was among the founders of the Association for Southeast Asia (1963), the precursor of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Diosdado Macapagal (1910 – 1997)
President of the Republic of the Philippines from 1961 to 1965. He asked Congress to pass the Agricultural Land Reform Code, which abolished share tenancy and installed a leasehold system in its place; it finally passed on August 8, 1963. This was a significant step toward resolving the agrarian problem. It was during his presidency that Independence Day was moved from July 4 to June 12, the date when General Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine independence in Cavite.

Ferdinand Marcos (1917 – 1989)
President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. Declared martial law on September 21, 1972. After the People Power revolution in February 1986, he was ousted from power and lived in exile in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Corazon Cojuangco Aquino (1933 – )
President of the Philippines from 1986 to 1992. With Salvador Laurel as running mate, she led the opposition that overthrew the authoritarian government of Marcos, who went into exile after the successful People’s Power revolution of 1986. She first established a revolutionary government under the Freedom Constitution, later replaced by the Constitution of 1987, which served as the basis for reestablishing democracy

Fidel V. Ramos (1928 – )
President of the Philippines from 1992 to 1997. As head of the Constabulary under President Marcos, he was instrumental in helping to design and implement martial law. Together with General Ponce Enrile and the RAM, he defected from the government in 1986 and joined the People’s Power revolution that ousted Marcos from power. His presidency is remembered for better integrating the national economy in the global scheme.

Joseph Estrada (1937 – )
President of the Philippines from 1998 to 2001.  During his term in office, he was arrested and stood trial at a congressional impeachment hearing on charges of accepting bribes and corruption. While this trial was aborted when the senators voted 11 to 10 not to open incriminating evidence against him, he was ousted from power anyway as a peaceful People’s Power II revolution arose and called for his resignation

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (1947 – )
President of the Philippines from 2001 to 2004.  She served as vice president under President Estrada and became president when he was forced to step down for malfeasance, through the People’s Power II revolution. PGMA has confronted some of the same obstacles as did her father, President Diosdado Macapagal, when he tried to clean up corruption in government. Her government continues enjoy political legitimacy in the face of opposition.

Benigno Aquino III (1960 – )
President of the Philippines from 2010 to 2016. Was elected to a six-year term in May 2010.

Rodrigo Duterte (1945 – )
Current president of the Philippines. Was elected to a six-year term in May 2016. Took office on June 30. Known by the nickname Digong. A lawyer and politician of Visayan descent from the southern island of Mindanao.

In the first four months of his term, President Duterte has made impressive progress in asserting Philippine sovereignty and dignity in the international arena, in aligning the country with Asian values instead of Hollywood-manufactured cultural norms, in the fight against drugs, in uplifting the status of indigenous peoples and of our Muslim brothers in the south, in putting an end to endo, in putting on notice corrupt government officials, and in securing fishing privileges for Filipinos in waters that China has been claiming as its own. He has also secured financial support from Japan and promises from Russia.