Posted in Third Quarter

Towards Philippine Independence


The American Colonial Government

       As part of the American proclamation of Benevolent Assimilation, the Filipinos were taught how to rule themselves. However, they had to be pacified and convinced to accept American rule. Those who refused to accept American rule were punished. they were imprisoned  or executed. Those who cooperated with the Americans were rewarded with positions in the colonial government.

       American military government was immediately established in the Philippines with General Wesley Merritt as the first military governor. The military government aimed to suppress the Filipino struggle against the Americans. The Supreme Court was also reorganized and it was composed of nine judges, six of which were Filipinos. In the ”pacified” provinces, the municipal government was maintained. The first municipal election was held in Baliwag, Bulacan in May 1899. Schools were also established. The teachers in these schools were American Soldiers

       To gain knowledge on the political and social conditions in the Philippines, President McKinley sent the Schurman Commision headed by Jacob Schurman. Commision Its members were Rear Admiral George Dewey, Major General Elwell Otis, Dean C. Worcester, and Charles Denby. They arrived in the Philippines in March 1899. The Schurman Commision recommended the establishment of a civilian government and the election of officials to run the country.

Upon the recommendation of the Schurman Commission, President McKinley organized the second commission called the Taft Commission. It was headed by William Howard Taft and was composed by Henry C. Ide, Bernard Moses, Luke E, Wright, and Dean C. Worcester as members. Through the Taft Commission, the following measures were implemented; adoption of the civil service, organization of the Philippines Constabulary, reconstruction of damaged infrastructures because of the war, and the establishment of government agencies. The Taft Commission recognized the civil rights of the Philippines.

The Taft Commission also served as the first government in the Philippines with William Howard Taft as the first civil governor. The civil government gave the Filipinos the opportunity to participate in the colonial government.

The Filipinos who were appointed to government positions include Cayetano Arellono as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; Gregorio Araneta as Secretary of Finance and Justice; Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, Benito Legarda, and Jose Luzirriaga as members of the Philippine Commission. Although they held position in the national government, they did not have power. It was the Americans who run the government

The first organic act implemented in the Philippines was the Philippine Bill of 1902. It was also known as the Cooper Act since it’s chief advocate was Congressman Henry Allen Cooper. In the US Congress, Cooper defended the said law by invoking Jose Rizal’s last poem, The Last Farewell. He said that a race which could produce someone as great as Rizal had the right to govern themselves.

The Philippine Bill 1902 was the law that served as the foundation of the colonial government. This law provided for the establishment of the Philippine Commission and the Supreme Court, It also called for the appointment of an American civil governor in the Philippines as well as two Filipino resident commissioners who will represent the Philippines in the US Congress. The said law also had a provision on the right of the Americans to engage in businesses in the country. It also granted the government the right to classify public lands.

One of the provisions of the Philippine Bill of 1902 was the holding of elections for representatives to the Philippine Assembly However, It must be proven first that genuine peace and order exists in the Philippines before elections could be. In January 1907, elections for representatives to the Philippine Assembly were held in different provinces in the Philippines. The Philippine Assembly was the lower house of the Philippine legislature while the Philippine Commission Served as the upper house. Former Governor Sergio Osmena, Sr. of Cebu was elected as Speaker while former Governor of Tayabas Manuel Luis Quezon was elected as majority floor leader.

One of the significant laws approved by the Philippine Assembly was the Gabaldon Act of 1907 which appropriated one million pesos for the establishment of schools in the Philippines. The following year, Act No. 1870 was approved, which paved the way for the establishment of the University of the Philippines.

In spite of Aguinaldo’s capture 1901, Filipino struggle against American annexation of the Philippines continued. To suppress these struggles, the civil government implemented pacification policies.

       Sedition Act. the Sedition Act was implemented in 1901 to punish anybody who campaigned for independence. Saying seditious remarks or writing against the US or instigating a rebellion was prohibited under the law. Protecting and assisting Filipino who were fighting the Americans was also forbidden. Imprisonment or death awaited anybody found guilty of sedition.

Brigandage Act. The Brigandage Act was implemented in 1902. It ordered that Filipinos who fought for independence were considered criminals and were punished in accordance with this law.

Reconcentration Act. The Reconcentration Act was implemented in 1903. It ordered that Filipinos living in areas where guerillas were active should be transferred to reconcentration camps. They were put in camps guarded by American soldiers so that guerillas would lose their support. Guerillas were Filipinos who fought the Americans through armed struggle. They were called ladrones by the Americans. Ladron is the Spanish term for thief

      Flag Law. The Flag Law was implemented in 1907.  Through this law, the display of the Philippine flag was not allowed. Any symbol or materials critical of the US and anything related to the katipunan was not permitted to be shown in public.

Filipino writers used the pen to promote nationalism. They wrote plays and published newspapers that criticized the American government. The message of the plays, however, did not attack the Americans directly due to the Sedition Act which is prohibited activities critical of the government.

To counter the negative reaction of the Filipinos against the Americans, the colonial government implemented the policy of Filipinization. Filipinization means the gradual transfer of political power from the Americans to the Filipinos.

In 1916, the Philippine Bill of 1902 was replaced by the Philippine Autonomy Act.

Socio-Economic Changes During the American Period

The American Revolution instigated much change within the newly independent nation, particularly political and social, and to a lesser extent, economically. After breaking away from what appeared to be a corrupt government in England, American leaders formed the concepts of their ideal society. Although to them it seemed that these ideas would help them break away from the British style of government, in reality they reverted to one that was much more centralized, much like that of England’s. The uneducated population of America did not experience as much change, though the ideas behind the revolution itself pushed many to seek economic prosperity for themselves. Women, and slaves experienced change in society as women gained more freedoms and many slaves were set free. Overall, our nation experienced the majority of its change in politics, and social issues, but change was still seen to a lesser extent economically.

Politically, when America first separated itself from Britain, the founders attempted to form it to have the least amount of similarities with Britain’s as possible. To achieve this they ratified the Articles of the Confederation. The ideas that made up the Articles of the Confederation ended up turning the founders’ dream of a functioning government into somewhat of a nightmare. The state and federal governments had no authority to tax citizens, not to mention that there was no concept of an executive branch. These flaws caused many issues which are highlighted in a letter written by Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson in 1787 [Document G]. The letter stated that there was serious civil unrest within many areas of the United States, and that the government may not have been strong enough to suppress rebellions, and guarantee stability. This indicated to the founders that they would be in need of a stronger, more centralized government and for that reason, they began the drafting of the Constitution.

Many ideas were proposed during the drafting of the constitution but perhaps none as important as that of checks and balances. This idea is exemplified in James Madison’s The Federalist, number 51 [Document I]. He illustrates the concepts behind checks and balances bu showing that checks on both the government and the people were necessary for a functional society. He also does this by showing that the government must have necessary measures to control itself. Both of the ideas he supports in his paper indicate that he was a great supporter of the ratification of the constitution. Also, this spurred the first American party system, being the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists, along with the concepts of lose and strict constructionism. These ideas are still fought over today where republicans take the side of strict constructionists, believing that the Constitution should be followed word-for-word, and democrats take the side of loose constructionists, believing that there must be room for interpretation. Overall, the American Revolution incited these great political revelations, and gave the founders concepts included in the Constitution that they would not have become aware of otherwise.

Economically, Americans did not experience great amounts of change. The Philadelphia society for the promotion of agriculture, handed out a medal which said, “Venerate the Plough” [Document F]. This is a large example of how the rich were still “rewarding” the common-people who weren’t necessarily better off after the revolution. This medal acted as a form of encouragement in the sense that it promoted the idea that the United States was filled with abundance, fertility, and freedom. Also, it supports Jeffersonian ideal of agrarian republicanism based on virtuous yeoman farmers where the common-people and the planters would have priority, and would experience equality, and political opportunity. Similarly to this, Shay’s rebellion farmers, lead by the ex-military officer who “…[stopped] the courts of justice in several counties…crying out for a paper currency, [or] for an equal distribution of power” [Document G]. Shay’s Rebellion was a representation of the economic troubles faced by the majority of people in the United States.

With respect to social changes, while the lives of white men remained virtually the same, women and slaves both experienced varying amounts of change after the revolution ended.. The change for women was rather minimal because they would not win the fight over suffrage for another 140 years, but this was the beginning of the recognition of gender equality. One example of this beginning is a woodcut of a woman holding a rifle and a gunpowder horn [Document A]. This portrays the life that was lived by women during that era of war, showing that they fought alongside the men . After the war had ended, it was not the same for women, because they did not necessarily want to go back to their old life of household chores after playing a part in the fight for independence.

Another example of the beginnings of the fight for gender equality is a valedictory address by Molly Wallace at the Young Ladies’ Academy of Pennsylvania [Document J]. She infers that discussion of educational opportunities for women was on the rise as women began to challenge the concept of “separate spheres.” Another example of women’s participation in society was Debora Sampson. Sampson disguised herself as a man during the American Revolutionary War so that she would be able to fight in the Continental Army. She is one of a small number of women with a documented record of military combat during the revolution.

Although for the women they felt that after the war they would return and things would be different for them, they weren’t. The American Revolution had in fact, not greatly altered society’s perception of the role of women. It is clear that this is true when the comparison of the wishes of the women of that time, and what actually materialized. The women wanted to become equal with the men, but in reality, this concept would not be accepted for another 140 years. On the other hand, slaves, depending on the region, experienced great amounts of change during this time. For example, in a Pennsylvania Packet Editorial [Document B], the ideas of America being a land of free men began to emerge. Although this is not directly related to slavery, it shows that the ideas behind universal freedom were beginning to show themselves. The largest example from the time period of this emergence is an Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States Northwest of the Ohio River [Document H]. This ordinance, when put in place, banned slavery in all U.S. territory north of the Ohio River. This is evidence of fundamental social change during the time period. Also, this directly relates to the 3/5 Compromise because the 3/5 Compromise was the first time that slaves were actually being counted as people, not just objects that were owned.

Overall, politically, Americans experienced larger amounts of change when they forged a new government even with the revisions made. Economically, the common-people still lived in a society where they were lesser people than the elites. However changes did occur involving women and slaves. In these ways, American society experienced change in respect to political and social life, but not economically.

The Commonwealth Period

The Commonwealth of the Philippines (Filipino: Komonwelt ng Pilipinas; Spanish: Mancomunidad de Filipinas)[2] was the administrative body that governed the Philippines from 1935 to 1946, aside from a period of exile in the Second World War from 1942 to 1945 when Japan occupied the country. It replaced the Insular Government, a United States territorial government, and was established by the Tydings–McDuffie Act. The Commonwealth was designed as a transitional administration in preparation for the country’s full achievement of independence.[11]

During its more than a decade of existence, the Commonwealth had a strong executive and a Supreme Court. Its legislature, dominated by the Nacionalista Party, was at first unicameral, but later bicameral. In 1937, the government selected Tagalog–the language of Manila and its surrounding provinces–as the basis of the national language, although it would be many years before its usage became general. Women’s suffrage was adopted and the economy recovered to its pre-Depression level before the Japanese occupation in 1942.

The Commonwealth government went into exile from 1942 to 1945, when the Philippines was under Japanese occupation. In 1946, the Commonwealth ended and the Philippines claimed full sovereignty as provided for in Article XVIII of the 1935 Constitution.

The Filipinos Under Japanese Rule


The Japanese occupation of the Philippines occurred between 1942 and 1945, when Imperial Japan occupied the Commonwealth of the Philippines during World War II.

The invasion of the Philippines started on 8 December 1941, ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. As at Pearl Harbor, American aircraft were severely damaged in the initial Japanese attack. Lacking air cover, the American Asiatic Fleet in the Philippines withdrew to Java on 12 December 1941. General Douglas MacArthur was ordered out, leaving his men at Corregidor on the night of 11 March 1942 for Australia, 4,000 km away. The 76,000 starving and sick American and Filipino defenders on Bataan surrendered on 9 April 1942, and were forced to endure the infamous Bataan Death March on which 7,000–10,000 died or were murdered. The 13,000 survivors on Corregidor surrendered on 6 May.

Japan occupied the Philippines for over three years, until the surrender of Japan. A highly effective guerilla campaign by Philippine resistance forces controlled sixty percent of the islands, mostly jungle and mountain areas. MacArthur supplied them by submarine, and sent reinforcements and officers. Filipinos remained loyal to the United States, partly because of the American guarantee of independence, and also because the Japanese had pressed large numbers of Filipinos into work details and even put young Filipino women into brothels.[1]

General MacArthur kept his promise to return to the Philippines on 20 October 1944. The landings on the island of Leyte were accompanied by a force of 700 vessels and 174,000 men. Through December 1944, the islands of Leyte and Mindoro were cleared of Japanese soldiers. During the campaign, the Imperial Japanese Army conducted a suicidal defense of the islands. Cities such as Manila (the second most destroyed Allied city in WWII) were reduced to rubble. Between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Filipinos died during the occupation.




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