The Philippine Star : Historical facts about presidential inaugurations

19 June 2022

By Ambassador B. Romualdez | The Philippine Star

On June 30, Filipinos are poised to witness one of the most momentous events in the history of the Philippines: the swearing in of Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. as the country’s 17th president. The inauguration will be historic in more ways than one, since as everyone knows, Bongbong Marcos Jr. is the son of Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr., the 10th president of the Philippines who was sworn into office on Dec. 30, 1965.

People who can still remember the 1965 presidential elections between incumbent president Diosdado Macapagal and then-Senate president Ferdinand Marcos describe it as a hotly contested one, with Marcos winning by a margin of more than 670,000 votes and getting 51.9 percent of the total votes cast against Macapagal’s 42.8 percent.

There was so much acrimony between the Nacionalista and Liberal party candidates that, according to some accounts, Macapagal had preferred not to attend the inaugural of Marcos Sr. But in the end, however, they both observed tradition and propriety and rode together in a Cadillac from Malacañang to the Quirino Grandstand (formerly known as Independence Grandstand) in Luneta for the inauguration of the new president.

Traditionally, the Quirino Grandstand serves as the venue for the swearing in of presidents, among them Elpidio Quirino for whom it was obviously named, Ramon Magsaysay, Carlos P. Garcia, Diosdado Macapagal, Fidel Ramos and Noynoy Aquino.

However, there have been times when this tradition was broken, like when Cory Aquino was sworn into office in Club Filipino. But those were different times. In 2004, Gloria Arroyo delivered her pre-inaugural speech at the Quirino Grandstand in the morning then flew to Cebu for her oath taking at the Provincial Capitol at noon of June 30.

Joseph Estrada also broke with tradition and was sworn in at Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan. Since it was 1998 – the year when we commemorated the centennial of our proclamation of independence, Estrada saw it as symbolic to be sworn into office in the same place where Emilio Aguinaldo took his oath as president of the First Philippine Republic.

President Duterte, on the other hand, opted to have his inauguration at the Rizal Hall in Malacañang because he did not want to be the cause of traffic jams going to Luneta.

President-elect Bongbong Marcos had wanted his inauguration to take place in Quirino Grandstand like his father did. But since the place is being used as field hospitals for COVID-19 patients, BBM did not want to cause any disruption so he opted for the National Museum of the Philippines.

Which is just as well, since the place is also imbued with historical significance. NMP used to be known as the old Legislative Building and was also the venue for the inauguration of Manuel Roxas, Jose P. Laurel and Manuel Quezon, who also proclaimed the Commonwealth of the Philippines on the same day as his inaugural in 1935.

During presidential inaugurations, a lot of traditions and protocols are observed. Usually, the incoming president would go to Malacañang and fetch the outgoing president, after which they would travel together to the inauguration venue. The outgoing president would then conduct a final review of troops before departing, after which the new president will be sworn into office.

Preparations are now underway for the inaugural of president-elect Bongbong Marcos, who is very much aware of the importance of old traditions, knowing the historic significance and symbolism of inaugural events.

BBM was telling me that he inquired why he had to sign the Palace guest book when he was in fact going to be living there during his term of office. According to traditional protocol, BBM would be the last guest to be visiting Malacañang during the administration of President Duterte, after which the guest book will be closed. A new guest book would then be opened with Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as president. Apparently, not too many people are aware of this. I was grateful to him for sharing this piece of historical trivia with me.

In the United States, inaugurations are similar to ours, with traditions, ceremonies and protocols that are also observed to mark the transition from one administration to another. But during the day of Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration in January 1953, he refused to go inside the White House for a pre-inauguration coffee ceremony with outgoing president Harry Truman. The two men had so much bitterness between them because Truman campaigned against Eisenhower, who took the attacks of the outgoing president personally.

Traditionally, the outgoing president would invite the president-elect to the White House for coffee and a friendly chat. By that gesture, the peaceful transfer of power is also underscored. The outgoing president would also leave a letter of encouragement to his successor, with pieces of advice usually thrown in. On inauguration day, the departing president would be waiting on the steps of the White House North Portico to welcome the incoming president. After the Oval Office traditional chat, they would ride down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol for the inaugural ceremonies.

Outgoing president Donald Trump did not carry out the customary welcome ceremonies (coffee, waiting at the steps), refusing to attend the inauguration of his successor Joe Biden – breaking 152 years of White House tradition. The last time an outgoing president refused to attend the inauguration of his successor was in 1869 when Andrew Johnson stayed in the White House while Ulysses Grant was being sworn into office. Trump followed one tradition however: he left a letter for President Joe Biden – who described it as “very generous.”