While all seemed rosy for the ruling Nacionalistas following the 1959 midterm polls, the run-up to the general election of 1961 was fractious for the party. Infighting and loyalty checks resulted in the expulsion of several high-profile members including Emmanuel Pelaez and Sergio “Serging” Osmeña Jr. for being critical of the administration. The intraparty conflict came to a head when the NP chief Senate President Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez and President Garcia had a very public falling out, prompting former President Sergio Osmeña to call for party unity ahead of the presidential polls. In a convention that did not include Rodriguez, the Nacionalistas nominated Garcia to be their standard- bearer, with Senator Gil Puyat as his running mate.
On the other side of the political divide, the Liberal Party had coalesced with the Grand Alliance and styled themselves the United Opposition, fielding Vice President Macapagal and former Senator Pelaez.
Rogelio de la Rosa, a matinee idol, also sought the presidency while Serging Osmeña ran for vice president, both as independent candidates. De la Rosa would later withdraw to run for a Senate seat instead.
After 12 years in opposition, the Liberals finally won, with both Macapagal and Pelaez scoring major victories against their opponents and winning a majority of Senate seats. Osmeña Jr., despite running as an independent, received more votes than Puyat, catapulting him into the national spotlight.
The 1961 elections was the first time the Iglesia ni Cristo endorsed a set of candidates, supporting a Garcia-Osmeña tandem. This provoked a reaction from the Catholics and contributed to the Liberal victory.
The Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) has published the Philippine Electoral Almanac, a handy resource on Philippine national elections from 1935 onwards.