Philippine Commonwealth Era

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The Philippine Commonwealth Era


The Commonwealth era is the 10 year transitional period in Philippine history from 1935 to 1945 in preparation for independence from the United States as provided for under the Philippine Independence Act or more popularly known as the Tydings-McDuffie Law. Manuel L. QuezonThe Commonwealth era was interrupted when the Japanese occupied the Philippines in January 2, 1942. The Commonwealth government, lead by Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio S. Osmeña went into exile in the U.S., Quezon died of tuberculosis while in exile and Osmeña took over as president. At the same time, the Japanese forces installed a puppet government in Manila headed by Jose P. Laurel as president. This government is known as the Second Philippine Republic. On October 20, 1944, the Allied forces led by Gen. Douglas MacArthur landed on the island of Leyte to liberate the Philippines from the Japanese. Japan formally surrendered in September 2, 1945.


After liberation, the Commonwealth government was restored. Congress convened in its first President Manuel A. Roxas of the Philippinesregular session on July 9, 1945. It was the first time the people’s representatives have assembled since their election on November 11, 1941. Manuel Roxas was elected Senate President, and Elpidio Quirino was chosen President Pro Tempore. Jose Zulueta was speaker of the house, while Prospero Sanidad became speaker pro Tempore. The first law of this congress, enacted as commonwealth act 672, organized the central bank of the Philippines. The commonwealth deal also tackled the issue of collaboration. In September 1945 the counter intelligence corps presented the people who were accused of having collaborated with, or given aid to, the Japanese. Included were prominent Filipinos who had been active in the puppet government that the Japanese had been established. ”A Peoples Court" was created to investigate and decide on the issue.

Amidst this sad state of affairs, the third commonwealth elections were held on April 23, 1946. Sergio Osmeña and Manuel Roxas vied for the Presidency. Roxas won thus becoming the last president of the Philippine Commonwealth. The Commonwealth era formally ended when the United States granted independence to the Philippines, as scheduled on July 4, 1946.


Important legislations and events during the American period that made the Philippines a commonwealth of the United States:


The Philippine Bill of 1902 - Cooper Act


United States Congressman Henry Allen Cooper sponsored the Philippine Bill of 1902, also known as the Cooper Act. The bill proposed the creation and administration of a civil government in the Philippines. President Theodore Roosevelt signed it into law in July 2, 1902.


Here are some of the more important provisions of the Cooper Act:


▪ Ratification of all changes introduced in the Philippine government by the president of the U.S., such as the establishment of the Philippine Commission, the office of the civil governor and the Supreme court

▪ Extension of the American Bill of Rights to the Filipinos except the right of trial by jury

▪ Creation of bicameral legislative body, with the Philippine Commission as the upper house and a still-to-be-elected Philippine Assembly as the Lower House

▪ Retention of the executive powers of the civil governor, who was also president of the Philippine Commission

▪ Designation of the Philippine Commission as the legislating authority for non-Christian tribes

▪ Retention of the Judicial powers of the Supreme court and other lower courts

▪ Appointment of two Filipino resident commissioners who would represent the Philippines in the US Congress but would not enjoy voting rights

▪ Conservation of Philippine natural resources


The bill contained 3 provisions that had to be fulfilled first before the Philippine Assembly could be establishing these were the:


▪ Complete restoration of peace and order in the Philippines

▪ Accomplishment of a Nationwide census

▪ Two years of peace and order after the publication of the census


Willam Howard TaftThe Philippine Assembly


The assembly was inaugurated on October 16, 1907 at the Manila Grand Opera House, with US secretary of War William Howard Taft as guest of honor. Sergio Osmeña was elected Speaker while Manuel Quezon was elected Majority Floor leader. The Recognition of the Philippine Assembly paved the way for the establishment of the bicameral Philippine Legislature. The Assembly functioned as the lower House, while the Philippine Commission served as the upper house.


Resident Commissioners


Benito Legarda and Pablo Ocampo were the first commissioners. Other Filipinos who occupied this position included Manuel Quezon, Jaime de Veyra, Teodoro Yangco, Isaro Gabaldon, and Camilo Osias.


The Jones Law


To further train the Filipinos in the art of government, the U.S. Congress enacted the Jones Law on August 29, 1916. It was the first official document that clearly promised the Philippine independence, as stated in its preamble, as soon as a stable government was established. The Jones Law or the Philippine Autonomy act, Replace the Philippine bill of 1902 as the framework of the Philippine government. It provide for the creation of the executive powers. The vice governor general, assisted by his Cabinet, would exercise executive powers. The vice governor would act concurrently as the Secretary of Education.


Creation of the Council of State


Upon the recommendation of Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña, Governor General Francis Burton Harrison issued an executive order on October 16, 1981, creating the first Council of State in the Philippines. It was the Council’s duty to advise the governor general on matters such as the creation of policies for administering government offices.


The Council held meetings once a week and whenever the governor general called for one. It was composed of the governor general, the department secretaries, the speaker of the Lower House, and the Senate president. During Harrison’s term, the executive and legislative branches of government worked harmoniously with each other.


The Os-Rox Mission


One delegation, however, that met with partial success was the Os-Rox Mission, so called because it was headed by Sergio Osmeña and Manuel Roxas. The Os-Rox group went to the United States in 1931 and was able to influence the U.S. Congress to pass a pro-independence bill by Representative Butter Hare, Senator Henry Hawes, and Senator Bronso Cutting. The Hare-Hawes-Cutting Law provided for a 10-year transition period before the United States would recognize Philippine independence. U.S. President Herbert Hoover did not sign the bill; but both Houses of Congress ratified it. When the Os-Rox Mission presented the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Law to the Philippine Legislature, it was rejected by a the American High Commissioner representing the US president in the country and the Philippine Senate, specifically the provision that gave the U.S. president the right to maintain land and other properties reserved for military use. Manuel Quezon was tasked to head another independence mission to the united States.


The Tydings-McDuffie Law

In December 1933, Manuel L. Quezon returned to the Philippines from the United States with a slightly amended version of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting bill authored by Senator Milliard Tydings and representative McDuffie. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the new U.S. president, signed it into law on March 24, 1934. The Tydings-McDuffie Act (officially the Philippine Independence Act of the United States Congress; Public Law 73-127) or more popularly known as the The Tydings-McDuffie Law provided for the establishment of the Commonwealth government for a period of ten years preparatory to the granting of Independence. See the full text of the Tydings-McDuffie Law or Continue to Japanese Occupation, Allied Liberation.


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