MACARIO PERALTA, JR.
The Secretary of National Defense portfolio was given to a successful career man who, as an officer in World War II, was commended by Philippine and foreign officials for his extraordinary heroism and gallantry in action.
He was a brilliant lawyer, voted as one of the most outstanding senators in 1955. A man of courage and principles, honest, and a disciplinarian, Macario Peralta, Jr. was easily the most logical choice for the position during the administration of President Diosdado Macapagal.
Born in Manila on July 30, 1913 of Ilocano-Pangasinan descent, Peralta grew up in Tarlac. He finished his Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of the Philippines, graduating cum laude, in 1936. He passed the bar the same year, obtaining second place to Diosdado Macapagal.
Peralta joined the Philippine Army in 1936 as a reserved officer and was later commissioned in the regular force as second Lieutenant. His first assignment was in Cebu as Commanndant of the Visayan Institute ROTC cadets, later at the Adamson University in Manila. He attended the Philippine Army Infantry School in 1940, finishing at the top of his class.
War found him back in the Visayas as Chief of Operations of the 61st Division. Philippine Army (USAFFE), then being mobilized in Iloilo. After the surrender of the USAFFE troops to the Japanese, Peralta, then a Captain, organized and led the guerillas in Panay Romblon, Palawan, Marinduque and portions of Masbate and Mindoro. In this resistance campaign against the Japanese, Peralta displayed his exemplary leadership, competence and gallantry in action. For this he was awarded the Distinguished Service Star. The United States government conferred on him the Distinguished Service Cross and the Silver Star.
Returning to military control in 1945, he was subsequently sent to the Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, U.S.A. for advance studies. He came home with a special commendation from the commandant of the school for his "brilliant and unexcelled scholastic record". Late in 1945, he was promoted to Brigadier General, and was designated Deputy Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army.
He resigned from the Army in 1946 and was appointed by the late President Manuel Roxas as Chairman of the Philippine Veterans Board, a position he served until 1949. With the Magsaysay Mission to the United States which he helped organize, he was able to obtain subsequential benefits fro the disabled veterans. Again, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Star by the Philippine government for this mission.
At 36, he ran for the Senate and was elected in 1949 under the Liberal Party. Among his achievements at the Senate were the expose of the Tambobong-Buenavista estate deal; procurement of supplies and equipment for the Filipino troops in Korea, so called Phlippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK); legislations giving veterans priority in employment and others. In 1955, he was elected as one of the outstanding senators when his Senate term ended, Peralta returned to law practice.
It was President Macapagal who persuaded him to handle the defense portfolio, a position he had twice refused after the "exemplary devotion to duty and for being the most valuable cabinet member" in the first year of the Macapagal administration. The President also appointed him head of the Philippine Virginia Tobacco Administration (PVTA).
Peralta was married to Natividad Kasilag of Batangas with whom he had 3 children - Macario III, Cecilia and Engelbert.
He was awarded by the Confederation of Filipino Veterans (CONVETS) for distinguished service to Filipino veterans. He was a recipient of the Gold Cross Medal for gallantry in action in Panay.