Inaugurations—swathed in pomp and circumstance, solemnity and ceremony—signal the assumption of the President’s stewardship of the nation that put him in power. Here, the President comes into his or her role of power-and-servitude; transition of governance is formalized with all the accouterments of state; there occurs an affirmation of the mandate granted by the Filipino people.

On June 30, 2010, Benigno S. Aquino III took his oath of office at the Quirino Grandstand and became the 15th President of the Philippines—the fifth president of the Fifth Republic of the Philippines. President Aquino, for his inaugural, followed the tradition set by those that preceded him—and, like his predecessors, too, built on the rites that mark his first day of office.

The President and the President-elect

The President and the Vice President shall be elected by direct vote of the people for a term of six years which shall begin at noon on the thirtieth day of June next following the day of the election and shall end at the same day six years thereafter.

Article VII, Section 4 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Inaugurals signal the transfer of power from the incumbent President to the President-elect, who is recognized as such upon the proclamation of both Houses of Congress. Two years ago, at nine in the morning, President-elect Benigno S. Aquino III left his residence at Times Street, Quezon City, thus ushering the start of his assumption into office. An hour later, he fetched President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from Malacañan Palace, which would, by that day’s end, be his official residence and office. This tradition dates back to the inauguration of President Manuel Roxas—the first transfer of power from an incumbent (President Osmeña) to a president-elect (Roxas), who was his rival for the presidency.

President-elect Diosdado Macapagal departs from his residence on Laura Street, San Juan to fetch President Carlos P. Garcia at Malacañan Palace.
President-elect Ramon Magsaysay was invited to try out the presidential chair by President Elpidio Quirino when he arrived to fetch the latter at Malacañan Palace.

[C]ontinuity of government was demonstrated by having a bipartisan committee of [officials] pick up the president-elect in his residence and take him to Malacañan. From there, the incumbent President and the incoming one, along with one member of the committee, board the presidential car for the ride to then-Independence Grandstand where the old and the new part ways. Ninoy Aquino was in the committee which picked up Macapagal at his mother in law’s house on Laura Street, San Juan on December 30, 1961 to escort him to Malacañan to fetch President Garcia for the ride to the Luneta. Ninoy was also among those who fetched Marcos at his Ortega Street residence also in San Juan December 30, 1965 to pick up Macapagal at Malacañan. He rode with Marcos and Macapagal in the car that ultimately took Macapagal to retirement, Marcos to Makiki Heights and him, Ninoy to the tarmac of the airport which now bears his name.

Raul S. Gonzales, Press Secretary of President Diosdado Macapagal.

President Sergio Osmeña and President-elect Manuel Roxas leave Malacañan Palace en route to the latter’s inauguration, May 28, 1946. Osmeña was the only president to witness his successor’s inauguration until President Corazon C. Aquino did the same in 1992.

The departure of the incumbent President, accompanied by the President-elect, marks the formal act of leaving office for the incumbent, who descends the stairs of the Palace for the last time. The President-elect will then symbolically mark the start of his presidency by climbing the same stairs later in the day.

At the inaugural venue, a twenty-one gun salute, accompanied by the honor guard presenting arms, and four ruffles (drum rolls) and flourishes (trumpet blasts) and the playing of the national anthem herald the arrival of the President and the President-elect. This is the last time the Armed Forces of the Philippines renders honors to the incumbent President as head of state. The incumbent President will troop the line and receive the salute of the honor guard and bid farewell to the major service commanders.

President Elpidio Quirino receives military honors for the last time, accompanied by President-elect Ramon Magsaysay. After the honors, the two shook hands and President Quirino departed to his rest house in Novaliches, while President-elect Magsaysay ascended the platform for his oath-taking.

Tradition dictates that the outgoing President departs the inauguration venue; this is a tradition that dates back to the inauguration of President Magsaysay in 1953, and followed in the Macapagal and Marcos inaugurals in 1961 and 1965. The symbolism is that the old administration has come to an end, and the new one begins. Ideally, as per tradition, at the moment the President-elect takes his oath as President at 12 noon, the incumbent is already at home to mark his reverting to being an ordinary citizen.

On July 4, 1946, as part of the Independence Ceremony, President Manuel Roxas retook his oath of office to serve the newly inaugurated Republic. His predecessor Sergio Osmeña was present at both oath-takings.
President Fidel V. Ramos and President-elect Joseph Ejercito Estrada arrive together at Barasoain Church, June 30, 1998.

The only Presidents to have attended the inaugurals of their successors were: Osmeña in 1946, Aquino in 1992, and Ramos in 1998. Osmeña attended because it was the first time power was to be transferred from one party to another; Aquino, to symbolize the first peaceful and constitutional transfer of power since 1969; and Ramos as part of the centennial celebrations of 1998.

Inaugural Venues

View of the Independence Grandstand built during the Quirino Administration, facing the Rizal monument.

The Quirino Grandstand, previously called Independence Grandstand and renamed after President Elpidio Quirino who first took his oath there, has been the favored inaugural venue for Presidents since 1949. It was originally a replica of the original Independence Grandstand built specifically for the Independence Ceremonies of July 4, 1946, when the separate and self-governing Republic of the Philippines was established.

President Elpidio Quirino at his 1949 inaugural, in the grandstand that would bear his name.

Seven Presidents have been inaugurated at the Quirino Grandstand: Quirino (1949), Magsaysay (1953), Garcia (1957), Macapagal (1961), Marcos (1965, 1969, 1981), Ramos (1992), and President Benigno S. Aquino III (2010).

Quezon(1935), Laurel (1943), and Roxas (May 1946) were inaugurated on the steps of the Legislative Building in Manila. Other inaugurals have been held elsewhere in Manila due to extraordinary circumstances: C. Aquino (1986) in Club Filipino and Marcos (1986) in Maharlika Hall (renamed Kalayaan Hall), and Arroyo (2001) at EDSA Shrine.

Four inaugurals have taken place outside Manila: Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan in 1899 (Aguinaldo) and 1998 (Estrada); Corregidor Island in 1941 (Quezon); and Cebu City in 2004 (Arroyo). However, both Estrada and Arroyo delivered their inaugural addresses at the Quirino Grandstand.

Congratulated by U.S. Associate Justice Robert Jackson after he administered the oath of office, August 1, 1944 in Washington D.C., Osmeña was the first Philippine Vice President to assume the presidency upon the death of his predecessor.

The only inauguration held on foreign soil was that of Osmeña (1944) in Washington D.C., following the death of President Manuel L. Quezon.

Starting with Quezon’s second inaugural in 1941 until Marcos’ second inaugural in 1969 (with the exception of the special election called in 1946) presidents were inaugurated on Rizal Day, December 30. Six presidents Quezon (1941), Quirino (1949), Magsaysay, Garcia (1957), Macapagal, Marcos (1965, 1969) had inaugurals on December 30. Presidents Marcos (1981), Ramos (1992), Estrada (1998), Arroyo (2004), and Benigno S. Aquino III (2010) were all inaugurated on June 30.

The Inaugural Ceremonies

On the day of his 1969 inaugural, President Ferdinand E. Marcos and the First Family celebrate Mass at the Ceremonial Hall. His only son read the epistle.

The program usually begins with the singing of the National Anthem, followed by an ecumenical invocation. From 1935 until 1969, the highest-ranking prelate of the Catholic Church traditionally delivered the invocation. President Marcos was the first President to have an ecumenical invocation in 1969.

Reading by the President of the Senate of the Proclamation by the Congress of the Philippines announcing the results of the elections in the Philippines

This is a practice established with the Commonwealth inauguration in 1935, and last undertaken in 1969, although a similar proclamation was read proclaiming the New Republic, in 1981.  Revived in the 2010 inaugural, the Senate President reads the proclamation, which is the final official act of the 15th Congress. It provides the democratic and constitutional basis for the mandate of the individuals about to be inducted into office, and represents the legislative branch of government witnessing the inaugural of the executive branch. The Senate President does so as the head of the portion of the legislature that is considered a continuing body.

Administration of the Oath of Office to the Vice President-elect of the Philippines

For the 2010 inaugural, the Vice President-elect took his oath in Filipino. [His wife Dr. Elenita S. Binay held the bible for Vice President Jejomar Binay.] Four ruffles and flourishes were rendered by the Armed Forces of the Philippines immediately upon the conclusion of the Vice-President’s oath of office. The public rose and remained standing throughout the oath-taking ceremonies of the Vice President and the President. The public resumed their seats upon the commencement of the President’s Inaugural Address.

The President-elect’s Oath of Office

With the pledge “I do solemnly swear…,” the stewardship of the nation passes on to a new chief executive. This rite of presidential transition s thus not all ceremonials, but is as dynamic as democracy itself…

So Help Us God: The Presidents of the Philippines and their Inaugural Addresses, by J. Eduardo Malaya and Jonathan E. Malaya.

At 12:00 noon of June 30, 2010, the Honorable Benigno S. Aquino III, President-elect of the Philippines, was administered the Oath of Office by Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales. The bible on which he placed his left hand was held by Catalino Arevalo, S.J.

Associate Justice Carpio-Morales was the second Filipino Associate Justice to administer the oath of office, although this was the fourth time an associate justice has administered the oath of office to a Philippine president (this happened twice during the period in exile of the Commonwealth Government, and once during the revolutionary oath taking by Corazon C. Aquino). In 1899, the oath was administered by the Speaker of the Malolos Congress, since President Aguinaldo was elected by Congress. Since 1935, the legislative branch of government witnesses and participates in the inauguration in this manner.

Corazon C. Aquino, with her hand resting on a bible held by her late husband’s mother Doña Aurora Aquino, recites the presidential oath, administered by Supreme Court Senior Justice Claudio Teehankee.

From Aguinaldo to Quirino, presidents did not swear on the bible, a legacy of the Revolution of 1896 and the separation of Church and State. President Magsaysay was the first president to swear on the bible, in fact using two, one from his father’s and mother’s branch of the family. The bibles were placed on the lectern. In 1957, Bohol Governor Juan Pajo held the bible as Carlos P. Garcia, a fellow Boholano, took his oath. President Marcos, in 1969, also swore on two bibles, one from his father, the other a gift from his wife.

According to the Malayas, in their book on inaugurals: “Most presidents took oath with their left hand placed on a Bible. The Constitution provides for either the taking of an oath or making an affirmation in case the president-elect is a non-believer. In case of an affirmation, the line ‘So help me God’ is omitted. The affirmation proviso is in line with the principle of the separation of Church and State as well as the ‘non-establishment of religion’ clause which says ‘no religious test shall be required for the exercise of civil and political rights.’”

Manuel L. Quezon taking his oath of office in 1935.
Manuel Roxas taking his oath of office in 1946.

The oath of office of the President of the Philippines, prescribed by every Philippine Constitution since 1935, has remained essentially unchanged:

I do solemnly swear [or affirm] that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties as President [or Vice-President or Acting President] of the Philippines, preserve and defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the Nation. So help me God.” [In case of affirmation, last sentence will be omitted.]

In Filipino:

Mataimtim kong pinanunumpaan (o pinatotohanan) na tutuparin ko nang buong katapatan at sigasig ang aking mga tungkulin bilang Pangulo (o Pangalawang Pangulo o Nanunungkulang Pangulo) ng Pilipinas, pangangalagaan at ipagtatanggol ang kanyang Konstitusyon, ipatutupad ang mga batas nito, magiging makatarungan sa bawat tao, at itatalaga ang aking sarili sa paglilingkod sa Bansa. Kasihan nawa ako ng Diyos. [Kapag pagpapatotoo, ang huling pangungusap ay kakaltasin.]

Aguinaldo took his oath in Spanish. Quezon, Osmeña, Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, Aquino, and Arroyo took their oath in English. Laurel, Marcos, Ramos, Estrada took their oath in Filipino, as did President Benigno S. Aquino III.

At the conclusion of the oath of office, a twenty-one gun salute, four ruffles (drum rolls) and flourishes (trumpet blasts), and the playing of “Mabuhay”—the presidential anthem composed by Tirso Cruz Sr. and which has been used since the Quezon administration—take place.

The Inaugural Address

President Benigno S. Aquino III delivering his inaugural address on June 30, 2010.

Sigaw natin noong kampanya: “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” Hindi lamang ito pang slogan o pang poster—ito ang mga prinsipyong tinatayuan at nagsisilbing batayan ng ating administrasyon.

Ang ating pangunahing tungkulin ay ang magsikap na maiangat ang bansa mula sa kahirapan, sa pamamagitan ng pagpapairal ng katapatan at mabuting pamamalakad sa pamahalaan.

Inaugural Address of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

President Benigno S. Aquino III was the ninth president to deliver his inaugural address at the Quirino Grandstand. Estrada and Arroyo were sworn into office elsewhere but delivered their inaugural address at the Quirino Grandstand in 1998 and 2004.

View the inaugural addresses of the Presidents on the Official Gazette.

President Manuel L. Quezon delivering his inaugural address in 1935.

The addresses delivered by the 14 Philippine presidents on their first day in office . . . had common threads. They all sought to reassure the Filipino people, offer leadership in the arduous tasks ahead, and hopefully win them over to a vision of a better future. The ebullient optimism prevalent in inaugurals was best expressed by Ramon Magsaysay, the nation’s seventh chief executive, when he unabashedly exclaimed, “I have been warned that too much is expected of this administration, that our people expect the impossible. For this young and vigorous nation of ours, nothing is really impossible.”

President Jose P. Laurel delivers his inaugural address, 1943.

Inaugural addresses usually project, as a theme, the philosophy or priorities of the incoming administration, and at times, inaugurate what the new leadership believes is a significant new chapter in the nation’s life. The speeches of Carlos P. Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal described priority programs and specific projects. In contrast, those of Ramon Magsaysay and Ferdinand Marcos, particularly the latter’s second inaugural, emphasized vision and larger purposes.

Most inaugurals follow a certain structure: first comes the President’s gratitude for being elevated to high office, at times expression of humility about his or her abilities, then a promise to work hard to serve the people, and finally an invitation to all to help him do his best.  It is considered in good taste to say kind words about the president’s immediate predecessor, even if he belonged to the other political party.  Estrada, for instance, paid compliments to Ramos for the reform programs that revived the economy.  A number of presidents spiced their speeches with quotations from eminent personalities, notably national hero Jose Rizal. As the address comes to a close, most chief executives appealed to Divine Providence for aid and blessing in the arduous tasks ahead. Aquino’s  address segued to a singing of The Lord’s Prayer…

So Help Us God: The Presidents of the Philippines and their Inaugural Addresses, by J. Eduardo Malaya and Jonathan E. Malaya.

Ang Panata sa Pagbabago

At the conclusion of the inaugural address of President Benigno S. Aquino III, the public rose to recite the Panata sa Pagbabago. This was an innovation in the 2010 inaugural ceremonies. It was meant to respond to the President’s inaugural address by volunteers and the public at large pledging their support and participation in the democratic governance of the nation. It is likewise thematically aligned with the President’s Social Contract with the Filipino People—his campaign’s guiding principle and the  Sixteen-Point Agenda for Change followed by his administration.

Ako ay buong katapatang nanunumpa
Sa ating bansang minamahal at ginagalang
Na aking pagsusumikapang matamo
Ang tunay na pagbabago ng ating bayan
Namamanata ako na tutulong sa ating pamunuan
Sa pagpapataguyod ng marangal na pamamahala
At pagpapalakas ng isang lipunang makatarungan
Na walang palakasan at walang kinikilingan
Na walang lagayan at walang pinapaboran
Gagampanan ko ang lahat ng katungkulan
Ng isang mabuti at matapat na mamamayan
Na kasing tindi ng paghamon ko sa ating mga pinuno
Na sumunod sa landas na tama at matuwid
Upang mabago ang takbo ng kasaysayan
Na magwakas na ang kahirapan
At maitaguyod natin ang ating kabuhayan
Bilang alay sa ating mga anak at salin-lahi ay
Palaganapin natin at itaguyod
Sa isip, sa salita at sa gawa.

The Symbolic Possession of Malacañan Palace

Upon concluding the Panata sa Pagbabago, the honor guard presented arms and the new President trooped the line, and was greeted by the service commanders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police. He then proceeded to Malacañan Palace, preceded by a motorized escort. Outside the gates of Malacañan Palace, the motorized escort was relieved by the Presidential Guards to welcome their new commander-in-chief.

Manuel L. Quezon ascends the stairs of Malacañan Palace for the first time as President, 1935.

The ritual climbing of the stairs

The President formally takes possession of the Palace as his official residence and office, by climbing the main stairs of the Palace for the first time as President of the Philippines. This is a tradition begun by President Quezon, who was moved by the legend that Rizal’s mother climbed the stairs on her knees, to beg for the life of her son. The climbing of the stairs signifies that the chief executive is the freely-elected head of the Filipino people, who is pledged to govern them with justice in contrast to the colonial governors who formerly inhabited the Palace.

Read “The Possession of Malacañan” for more on the history of and the legend surrounding the ritual climbing of the main stairs.

First cabinet meeting

From 1935 to martial law, Kalayaan Hall (formerly Maharlika Hall and before that, the Executive Building) was the official office of the president. Cabinet meetings were held here (in the Cabinet, now Roxas, and Council of State, now Quirino, rooms) from the Quezon to the Macapagal administrations: among those who attended cabinet meetings in this building were Benigno Aquino Sr. as Secretary of Agriculture in the Quezon Administration; it is also the building in which Benigno Aquino Jr. held office as presidential assistant to President Ramon Magsaysay. Cabinet meetings have been held in the Aguinaldo State Dining Room since the Marcos administration.

Inaugural reception

This is a reception for foreign and other dignitaries who wish to call on the new President. The term vin d’honneur will no longer be used, reverting to the pre-martial law practice of simpler official receptions. There will also be no Inaugural Ball (the last Inaugural Ball was for the 1981 Marcos inaugural, which was also the last time the Rigodon de Honor was danced in the Palace until June 12, 2009, when it was again danced on June 12 of that year). The President of the Philippines offers a toast as a gesture of amity to the nations that maintain diplomatic relations with the Philippines.

Inaugural concert

Public concerts have been a feature of inaugurals since the Quirino administration. A public dance instead of an Inaugural Ball first took place in the Magsaysay inaugural in 1953, and restored as a practice by presidents since Macapagal in 1961. The last Inaugural Ball, complete with Rigodon de Honor, was held at Malacañan Palace in 1981. President  Benigno S. Aquino III returned to his residence at Times Street, Quezon City, after the Inaugural Concert.

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