Juan Sumulong

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Don Juan Sumulong
Sumulong.jpg
Born Juan Sumulong y Marquez
(1875-12-27)December 27, 1875
Antipolo, Morong (now Rizal province)
Died January 9, 1942(1942-01-09) (aged 66)
Manila, Philippines
Nationality Filipino
Other names DJS, Don Juan
Occupation politician
Known for Member of the Opposition
Religion Roman Catholicism
Spouse(s) Maria Salome Sumulong

Juan Sumulong y Marquez (December 27, 1875 – January 9, 1942) was a Member of the Opposition during the Commonwealth Era.

Early life[edit]

Juan Sumulong was the Brains of the Opposition during the ascendancy of Manuel L. Quezon. He was born in Antipolo, Rizal on December 27, 1875 to Policarpio Sumulong, a tenant farmer who became Capitan Municipal, and Arcadia Marquez.[1]

Education[edit]

After finishing his elementary education in his hometown, he went to Manila and enrolled at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran. He walked from Tondo to Intramuros. As he did not have enough for his board and room, he helped his landlady prepare food for breakfast and peddled, after school in the mornings, her homemade cigars. He also did his own laundry. During rainy days, he wore wooden clogs, and only upon reaching school would he wear his leather shoes which he carried wrapped in paper. He completed his Bachelor of Arts nevertheless.

He then took up law at the University of Santo Tomas. When the Revolution against Spain broke out, he joined the revolutionists with headquarters in Morong Province (now Rizal). After the restoration or peace following the Filipino-American War, he served as a private secretary to the Filipino civil governor of Morong Province with headquarters in Antipolo. In a meeting held at the Pasig Church on June 5, 1901 to discuss the fusion of Morong Province and the Province of Manila, councilor Sumulong spoke in favor of such a union. It was ultimately approved and the new province was named Rizal.

He became a journalist, joining La Patria as a reporter and becoming its city editor after three months. He analyzed the political situations for La Democracia, the Federal Party’s official publication, of which he was the editor for a long time.


After passing the bar examinations in 1901, he practiced law and at the same time taught Constitutional Law at the Escuela de Derecho. One of the first cases he handled was the boundary dispute between Antipolo and the neighboring town of Cainta. He won the case for his hometown. He and Rafael Palma also successfully defended the newspaper El Renacimiento in a libel suit filed by some American Constabulary officials. The paper exposed the abuses committed by the military officers against the peaceful citizens of Cavite in the concentration camp in Bacoor. It was the first case that the American government lost. In June 1902, these two young lawyers secured from Governor William Howard Taft the pardon of Isabelo de los Reyes who was accused of “conspiracy” in organizing a labor union which staged the first organized strike in the Philippines. He was made Judge of the Court of First Instance in 1906 and of the Court of Land Registration in 1908. He was also a member of the Philippine Commission from 1909 to 1913. He could have been in the Supreme Court had he accepted the offer to him made by U.S. President William H. Taft.

In 1904, while he was in the United States as a member of the Honorary Commission to the St. Louis Exposition he published in an American journal the independence aspiration of the Filipinos, realizing the inadvisability of the statehood plan.


Sumulong was vice-president of the Partido Nacional Progresista that was organized on January 2, 1907. The new political party aimed to achieve Philippine Independence by progressive stages. He ran as its candidate for a seat in the first Philippine Assembly in the July 30 elections, but lost to the Nacionalist Party candidate. Again, he ran for, and lost the position of senator for the fourth district in the 1916 general elections.

Because of the overwhelming Nacionalista victories in the 1916 elections, the minority groups, Sumulong’s Progresistas and the Partido Democrata Nacional of Teodoro Sandiko, merged in August 1917 to form the Democrata Party. In 1919, Sumulong became president of this party.

Sumulong was an effective “public speaker with a high reputation for intellectual capacity and integrity” according to Claro M. Recto, Jr.. But he lost his senatorial bid in 1923 because of an alleged defect in the party platform. In 1925, he was elected finally to a six-year term as Senator for the fourth district, composed of Manila, Rizal, Laguna and Bataan.

As senator, he had his famous debate with Senate President Manuel L. Quezon on the amendments to the Corporation Law. He also voiced out his vehement opposition to the enactment of the Belo Act, giving the Governor-General a yearly appropriation fund for military and technical advisers known as the Belo Boys. He authored the law creating the gasoline tax and the law regarding the books of accounts to be kept by merchants, especially by Chinese.

From 1930 to 1931, he was in the United States as a member of the Philippine Independence Mission. When the first Philippine Independence Act, known as the Hare-Hawes Cutting Act, was enacted by the U.S. Congress, he decided to oppose its acceptance by the Filipino people mainly because of its provision that even after Philippine independence, the United States will continue to exercise sovereignty over U.S. Military reservations in the Philippines. Quezon, Aguinaldo, Recto and many others opposed the HHC Act and they became known as the Antis. Osmena, Roxas, and others favoring it became known as the Pros.

Due to poor health, he resigned from the presidency of the Democrata Party on the eve of the election on June 2, 1931. His resignation led to the dissolution of the party.

In the election of June 5, 1934, he ran as the candidate of the Antis, for Senator of the fourth senatorial district. He won and the Antis became the party in power. On August 18, the Nacionalista and Democrata “Antis” fused into a new political party called Partido Nacionalista Democrata with Quezon as president and Sumulong as vice-president. The coalition in 1935 of this party and the opposition party of Osmena was bitterly denounced by Sumulong in his manifesto called After the Coalition, the Deluge. He believed that political representation was imbalanced and that the coalition would to an oligarchy and to the development of a revolutionary opposition. This was already evident, he warned, in the growth of Communism and Sakdalism. The Sakdal uprising in May 1935 lent credence to Sumulong’s warnings.

Sumulong, who long before Quezon adopted the slogan of “social justice”, broke up with the latter and continued keeping alive an opposition. Sumulong still believes that the establishment of permanent U.S. naval bases will prove disastrous to an independent Philippines. Moreover, he still believes that the longer free trade is continued, the harder it will be for the Philippines to shake off economic bondage.

Death[edit]

In 1941, he ran against Quezon for the Presidency in spite of his failing health.[2] Two weeks before the elections, he fell ill and was forced to stay in bed until his death on January 9, 1942. Several hours before his death he told Jorge Bocobo and Jose Fabella that he and his party would not join in the formation of a Japanese – sponsored government.

Personal life[edit]

He was married to a distant cousin, Maria Salome Sumulong. They had 11 children, four of whom died, the seven surviving being Lumen, Demetria, Lorenzo, Paz, Juan Jr., Belen and Francisco.

Demetria Sumulong married Jose Chichioco Cojuangco of Tarlac. Their fourth child (Sumulong's granddaughter) was Corazon C. Aquino, 11th President of the Philippines (1986-1992), thus her son (Sumulong's great-grandson) is Benigno Aquino III, the 15th President of the Philippines.

Legacy[edit]

Juan Sumulong Memorial School system, a public secondary school, was named after him. Don Juan Sumulong Highway, constructed in the 1960s, was named after him also.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Historical Background, Antipolo City". Retrieved 2011-11-10. 
  2. ^ [1] 111th birth anniversary speech , 1985