TOMAS V. CONFESOR
Legislator and Patriot
The first Filipino director of commerce, guerilla leader and nationalist, Tomas Confesor was born in Cabatuan, Iloilo on March 2, 1891. His parents were Julian Confesor and Prospera Valenzuela. He was married to Rosalina Grecia of Jaro, Iloilo, by whom he had a son, Roberto.
Poverty was not a hindrance to Confesor’s quest for academic excellence. He studied at the Iloilo High School and, in 1908, finished with distinction. He left Iloilo for the United States and worked as janitor to support himself in college. He acquired two degrees – Bachelor of Science in Commerce, from the University of California and in 1914, bachelor of philosophy in economics, from the University of Chicago.
The American authorities appointed him supervisor of Jaro, Iloilo upon his return to the Philippines. In 1922, he won a seat in the Philippine Legislature as representative of the third district of Iloilo. He earned distinction as the “stormy petrel of the House” because of his determined stand against any anomalous acts of the administration. Thereafter, in recognition of his crusade for clean government, the people of Iloilo elected him for two more terms. As legislator, he was the sponsor of Act 3425, otherwise known as the Cooperatives Marketing Law, which promoted the cooperative movement on the Philippines, particularly the establishment of farmer’s cooperatives.
In 1933, Gov. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, Jr appointed Confesor as the first Filipino Director of Commerce. Later, during the Commonwealth government, he was named by President Manuel L. Quezon as head of the National Cooperatives Administration. Confesor initiated the organization of financing groups, which freed countless small farmers from the grip of rapacious businessmen and usurers.
Confesor was one of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention that drafted the 1935 Constitution of the Philippines. At the time, he was a member of the National Assembly under the Commonwealth government, representing the third district of Iloilo. He discharged both legislative functions in a concurrent capacity.
He was on his second term as governor of Iloilo (he became Iloilo governor in 1937) when the Pacific War broke. During the Japanese occupation, he was invited to serve on the puppet Cabinet, but he declined. This angered the Japanese, who continually harassed him thereafter.
Conscious of his patriotic duty, Confesor left Manila and secretly returned to his home province, where he organized his own underground movement. Upon learning of his activities in Iloilo, President Quezon immediately named him “wartime governor of Free Panay and Romblon.” Throughout the occupation, Confesor chose to lead his guerillas in fighting the Japanese, for he believed that it was better “to suffer in honor than to enjoy life in ignominy.”
President Sergio Osmeña awarded him the Philippine Legion of Honor, degree of commander, in 1945, for his exemplary service during the war. Following the restoration of the Commonwealth government, he was inducted into office as secretary of the interior on April 8, 1945.
Confesor was elected senator during the national elections of 1946. However, he suffered a fatal heart attack on June 6, 1951, leaving his six-year tenure unfinished.
Cornejo, M. K. Commonwealth Directory of the Philippines, 1939.
Gwekoh, Sol H. “Pioneer In Cooperative,” The Manila Times, March 24, 1966.
Sonza, Demy P. Illustrious Ilonggos Volume I. Iloilo Provincial Historical Committee, Iloilo City, 1972.