Manuel Acuña Roxas (January 1, 1892 – April 15, 1948) was the first president of the independent Republic of the Philippines. He served as president from the granting of independence in 1946 until his abrupt death in 1948. His reign as Philippine president is also the shortest; 1 year 10 months and 18 days.
Roxas was born on January 1, 1892 in Capiz, Capiz, a city that was renamed in his honor, to Rosario Acuña. His father, Gerardo Roxas, died before he was born. Roxas had two siblings in brother Mamerto Roxas, and sister Margarita Roxas. He had Spanish, Mexican, and Chinese blood: he was a descendant of Domingo Roxas, and Mexican settler in the Philippines Antonio Fernandez de Roxas and Acuñas have Chinese blood.
Roxas studied college in University of Manila, and law at the University of the Philippines College of Law, where he was a member of the college's first ever graduating class in 1913. He placed first in the bar examinations held later that year. He was immediately drawn into politics, and began what became a lifelong career in government service as a provincial fiscal. In 1921, he was elected to the House of Representatives. The following year he was elected House Speaker.
After the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established (1935), Roxas became a member of the unicameral National Assembly, and served (1938–1941) as the Secretary of Finance in President Manuel L. Quezon's cabinet. After the amendments to the 1935 Philippine Constitution were approved in 1941, he was elected (1941) to the Philippine Senate, but was unable to serve until 1945 because of the outbreak of World War II.
Having enrolled prior to World War II as an officer in the reserves, he was made liaison officer between the Commonwealth government and the United States Army Forces in the Far East headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur. He accompanied President Quezon to Corregidor where he supervised the destruction of Philippine currency to prevent its capture by the Japanese. When Quezon left Corregidor, Roxas went to Mindanao to direct the resistance there. It was prior to Quezon's departure that he was made Executive Secretary and designated as successor to the presidency in case Quezon or Vice-President Sergio Osmeña were captured or killed. Roxas was captured (1942) by the Japanese invasion forces. After a period of imprisonment, he was brought to Manila and eventually signed the Constitution promulgated by the Japanese-sponsored Philippine Republic. He was made responsible for economic policy under the government of Jose P. Laurel. During this time he also served as an intelligence agent for the underground Philippine guerrilla forces. In 1944 he unsuccessfully tried to escape to Allied territory. The returning American forces arrested him as a Japanese collaborator. After the war, Gen. Douglas MacArthur cleared him and reinstated his commission as an officer of the US armed forces. This resuscitated his political career.
When the Congress of the Philippines was convened in 1945, the legislators elected in 1941 chose Roxas as Senate President. In the Philippine national elections of 1946, Roxas ran for president as the nominee of the liberal wing of the Nacionalista Party. He had the staunch support of General MacArthur. His opponent was Sergio Osmeña, who refused to campaign, saying that the Filipino people knew his reputation. However, in the April 23, 1946 election, Roxas won 54 percent of the vote, and the Liberal Party won a majority in the legislature. When Philippine independence was recognized by the United States on July 4, 1946, he became the first president of the new republic.
Roxas married Trinidad R. de Leon of Bulacan. They had two (2) children - Ma. Rosario "Ruby", married to Vicente Roxas; and Gerardo "Gerry" who married Judy Araneta.
In 1948, Roxas declared amnesty for those arrested for collaborating with the Japanese during World War II, except for those who had committed violent crimes.
Manuel Roxas was married to Doña Trinidad de Leon-Roxas and had two children Ma. Rosario "Ruby" and Gerardo M. "Gerry" Roxas who became congressman and a leader of Liberal Party while Mar Roxas is the grandson. He died on April 15, 1948 at the age of 56, suffering a fatal heart attack after delivering a speech at Clark Air Base in Angeles City. He was succeeded by his vice president, Elpidio Quirino.