Statesman, educator, lawyer, and diplomat, Manuel Viola Gallego was born in San Antonio, Nueva Ecija on January 18, 1893, to Julio Gallego and Inocencia Viola. He acquired his elementary and intermediate education in Nueva Ecija, and his secondary studies, first in Bulacan and later at the Manila High School. He studied at the University of the Philippines, where he obtained three degrees: Bachelor of Arts, 1913; Bachelor of Laws, 1918, and Master of Laws, 1919. That same year, he earned his Licenciado en Jurisprudencia from the University of Santo Tomas.
Determined to pursue further studies, he flew to the United States and enrolled at Chicago’s Northwestern University, where he received his juris doctor degree in 1928. His thesis, entitled “A Critical Study of the Usury Laws,” was made into a book and later served as reference material in different law schools in the Philippines. Before returning home, he proceeded to Spain and took up postgraduate studies in law at the nU iversidad Central de Madrid. In 1919, he started his extensive law practice, gaining recognition for handling his cases
with brilliance and alertness. He taught law at the National Law College and the University of Manila. Later, he served as president of the Fabrica de Tabacos y Cigarillos Katubusan and managed several haciendas.
His political career began in 1931, when he was elected congressman in the first district of Nueva Ecija. He was reelected in 1941. As a congressman, he initiated some of the first land reform measures. He also worked for the use of dialects in Philippine schools as a medium of instruction, and of Tagalog as the national language. He was the author of the House bills granting women suffrage and allowing the partial payment, by installment, of land taxes, both of which became laws. He was co-author of the rice tariff bill, which also became a law. He sponsored the highest number of labor legislation acted upon by the House of Representatives at the time. For that, he won fifth place in the Philippines Free Press ’ evaluation of lawmakers from 1942 to 1945, for service to country for the years 1931 to 1935.
In 1945, he was appointed to the Philippine Congressional Rehabilitation Reconstruction Commission, which conferred with representatives of the United States government on ways and means of rebuilding the country for the havoc and destruction caused by the war.
Dr. Gallego was the last Secretary of Instruction of the Commonwealth of the Philippines under the Osmeña administration, and the first Secretary of Education of the Republic of the Philippines under the Roxas administration.
As education secretary, he promoted cultural development through the introduction of new textbooks, authored by Filipinos, on Philippine government, history, social science, and other relevant subjects. Pursuant to his recommendations, the legislature passed the School Health Act of 1946, mandating the establishment of medical and dental services for students in all educational institutions offering secondary and tertiary programs. He was also instrumental in
the passage of the law, which changed the curriculum to include value instruction. It was also through his initiative that Congress enacted a law increasing the salaries of schoolteachers, to induce qualified men and women to enter and remain in the teaching profession. To help teachers financially, particularly in obtaining loans, he formed the National Cooperative for Teachers. He established and implemented a program that enabled educators to pursue studies abroad along technical lines and on the latest technologies and systems in the administration of the educational process. This resulted in the signing in March 1948 of the Fullbright Pact between the Philippines and the United States, with studies of Filipino educators and students in the US being financed by a special fund coming from the sale of American surplus property.
As a diplomat, Gallego represented the country in various international undertakings. In 1935, he was in Tokyo as Philippine representative to the First Oriental Tourist Conference. He was a member of the Far Eastern Commission, which sought sizable reparations from the Japanese government for the plunders that the Japanese invaders had committed on occupied countries during the war. In 1946, he was in Korea to work for continued peace between that country and the Philippines.
That same year, he was one of the delegates to the First Assembly of the United Nations convened in London. Three years later, in 1949, he headed the Philippine delegation to the ECAPE Conference in Australia where he defended Filipino economic rights. In 1950, again as head of mission, he was in Indonesia to formally negotiate a treaty of friendship and amity between that country and the Philippines, with the effort proving successful.
As an educator, Gallego, who served as member of the Council of State, was chairman of the Board of Regents of the University of the Philippines from 1946-1948; professor and dean of the college of law and, later, president, of the University of Manila; chairman of the board of trustees of the Manila College of Pharmacy and Dentistry; and chancellor of the Manila Central University.
Gallego was the founder of the Central Luzon School of Nursing in Nueva Ecija, as well as of the Central Luzon Educational Center, which later were fused into the Manuel V. Gallego Foundation Colleges, in the same province.
His varied interests made him president of such groups as the Manila Tobacco Association, United Nations Association of the Philippines, Philippine Constitutional Association, National Rice and Corn Growers Association, and the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities, and vice-president of the Homeowners Association and the Foreign Affairs Association of the Philippines.
A prolific writer, Dr. Gallego published the Philippine Election Law, Dictatorship Under the Guise of Democracy, The Philippine Language Problem, Economic Emancipation, the Price of Philippine Independence, The Philippine Trade Act in the Light of History, A Critical Study of the Philippines Usury Act, Bar Examination Questions and Answers on the Civil Code, Philippine Law of Evidence, and the Philippine Law of Water Rights . He also co-authored the Law on Obligations.
He married Caridad Ongsiaco on December 17, 1922. Dr. Gallego died on August 13, 1976. On July 11, 1993, as a gesture of honor and respect for this exemplary and multi-faceted man, the Manuel V. Gallego commemorative stamp was formally issued by the Philippine Postal services.