Philippine HiStory Today: Gateway to Philippine Independence
It is difficult to earn the trust of friends. One pal learned this the hard way after botching a business partnership with his friend. That pal ran to me for help… fortunately I was able to give him just the right advice to get his career back on track.
We could say that almost the same thing happened with the Philippines during the American period. Of course, the circumstances were very much different than my pal’s because things of national interest are always very complicated!
The date we’re looking at is 24 March 1934, the day the Tydings-McDuffie Act was passed. Do you remember reading about ‘Tydings-McDuffie’ as a student in Hekasi? Well then, this is the perfect time to re-discover its significance in our history!
Because without it, we would have never gotten our independence from America! Grab a cup of coffee, and read on!
The emerging super power
Before we begin, I would like you to take a look at how America became involved with imperialism in the first place, because that was a masterful story too!
During the early 1900s, the world was still pretty much ‘up for grabs’ in the minds of the world’s super powers. The Western civilisations owned much of the world by colonising them: the British had Canada, much of East Africa, India and Australia; the French had parts of West Africa and Vietnam; Germany and Italy had parts of Africa; the Dutch a huge swathe of Southeast Asia and Portugal the Eastern half of South America. Spain had us and the Western half of South America.
In this kind of world America flourished to become an emerging super power, thanks to the Industrial Revolution. Suddenly America surpassed Europe’s super powers in terms of production and per capita income. Suddenly, it had the power to change the world.
So, Uncle George, with the money to back up his aspirations, began looking at what was happening around the world and saw that colonisation was the ‘in’ thing. Just like any sharp businessman, Uncle George dipped his hand into the pot of gold and started in this colony business. It got Alaska, some islands in the Caribbean including Cuba, then more islands in the Pacific like Hawaii, Samoa and the Carolines.
Pretty soon it also got us.
Americans in the Philippines
So what did the Americans do once Spain was finally out of the picture? Why, they started organising the government to have a measure of control over the mess that the Philippine-Spanish, Spanish-American and American-Philippine wars left.
After the Philippine Assembly was formed in 1907 and was formally given the job of creating laws for the country, naturally, Filipino lawmakers turned to one important concern that had been hogging them since the time of Magellan: when will we be granted full independence?
Although the American Insular Government was not as oppressive as colonial Spain, the Philippines was still not fully independent when it came to creating its own laws, passing its own sentences at court and deciding upon much of its executive functions. America was breathing down our necks. It was only right to ask the Americans when they actually planned to leave us on our own.
Unfortunately, the Americans themselves were torn about what to do with us. The Philippines was a great strategic location for their bases, establishing their presence in Asia just when the Western world started openly trading with the Chinese. A strong influence in Asia is one reason why they could never give a date for independence. Economy another.
However, some of them, like Congressman William Jones, have taken the American Creed of ‘freedom, equality, justice and humanity’ to heart and saw that Filipinos were rightly entitled to their independence. Together with lobbyists like Manuel Quezon, they fought for the American cause and came up with Jones Act which was the first to give a fixed date for Philippine independence.
The version that was approved, however, did not have a specific date written on it because the majority of lawmakers did not believe we were ready for independence. But don’t worry, we still got our way.
Lawmakers Sergio Osmeña and Manuel Roxas had been lobbying in the American Congress (dubbed the OsRox Mission) for Philippine independence until three American lawmakers, Congressman Butler Hare, Senator Harry Hawes and Senator Bronson Cutting, took up the fight too. The result was the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act of January 1933, the first American law to give a timetable to independence.
But this law was rejected by the Philippine Senate. Why? Four points:
- Philippine export products will be taxed
- Philippine exports will have a quota
- the number of Filipino immigrants will be restricted
- America retains its bases
The world was in the middle of the Great Depression at this period. America needed to protect its economy and interests, which was why the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act was primarily pro-American. OsRox believed this was the best deal the country could get for the price of independence (which would come after a transition period). But Quezon and many other Filipino lawmakers were against it, leading to a huge conflict between the Quezon side and the Osmeña-Roxas side.
Quezon soon met with Senator Millard Tydings and Congressman John McDuffie to find ‘a common meeting ground’ in the independence debate. The result was a new act that, according to Quezon, better protected Filipino interests in our quest for freedom.
24 March 1934
On this date, American President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Tydings-McDuffie Act, also called the Philippine Independence Act of 1934. Less than two months afterward, the Philippine legislative body accepted the law that gave a date for independence: the 4th of July 10 years immediately after the Commonwealth transitional government is inaugurated.
The Tydings-McDuffie was in many ways similar to the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act. One reason why the Tydings-McDuffie was more favoured than the Hare-Hawes-Cutting was that American bases were ‘negotiable’ under the former law.
In the realm of politics it is difficult to tell who are our friends and who are not. This is because there are always agendas that are hidden, or agendas that are bound to take advantage over others. While it was good that our ancestors in the revolution had American backing, America had its hidden agenda and its own interests to protect.
Politics has pretty much not changed since that time. But the difference today is that we have history serving as lesson. We should not make the same mistakes our ancestors did and be more wary about whatever relationships our government plans to make, especially in an age when the voice of the average Juan de la Cruz matters.
That is it for today’s chapter of our history. Hmmm… I wonder how that pal of mine is faring nowadays. I think I shall pay him a visit, and make him remember how good a friend I am and maybe get free coffee! I’ll see you in our next date in history!