Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Historic Philippine-United States Relationship and the Philippine Independence

The bombing of USS Maine on February 15, 1898, which claimed the lives of 260 US sailors in the port of Havana, Cuba was an incident that had far reaching effect to the Philippines being then a colony of Spain. Although there was no evidence linking Spain to the incident, the United States nevertheless declared war on Spain on April 11, 1898.
Dr. Jose Rizal
Like Cuba, the Philippines had also revolted against Spain. The unjust execution of Dr. Jose Rizal had more than ever raised the nationalistic feelings and revolutionary fervor of the Filipinos. An organization named Katipunan called for the overthrow of the Spanish colonizer through armed struggle. Emilio Aguinaldo established himself as the undisputed leader of it after having his arch rival, Andres Bonifacio, executed. Aguinaldo sustained the rebellion by having an alliance with the United States.

The Spanish-American war reached the Philippine shore when Commodore George Dewey with his Asiatic Squadron entered Manila Bay on May 1, 1898. After short skirmishes he destroyed the Spanish Pacific Fleet which was commanded by Admiral Patricio Montojo. The Americans suffered 8 wounded and one dead (of heart attack). The Spaniards on the other hand suffered more than 300 casualties. On August 13, 1898, the Spanish-Governor-General Fermin Jaudenes surrendered Manila to Commodore Dewey.

Spain suffered resounding defeats in battles, and it had to agree to the terms of the United States to end the war. Relative to it the Treaty of Paris of 1898 was signed by the United States and Spain on December 10, 1898. In the treaty Spain ceded Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the United States. The United States on its part had to compensate Spain $20,000,000 for the possession of the Philippines.

While Spanish authority was steadily waning, Aguinaldo declared Philippine Independence on  June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite and the following year he established the first Philippine Republic. The Americans however did not recognize his government. The Philippine-American War broke out as a result. After about three years the American forces were able to quell the rebellion and put the country under their control. Aguinaldo surrendered to the Americans and pledged allegiance to the United States.

During the period of rebellion the rule and control of the Philippines were on the hands of the military governors-general. When peace and order was established in the Philippines, the executive authority was transferred on July 4, 1901, to the Philippine Commission which was headed by the American civilian governor-general who was appointed by the President of the United States with the concurrence of the senate. From 1901 to 1935, the Philippines was under the US Bureau of Insular Affairs which had the task to oversee US unincorporated territories like the Philippines. Some of the notable governors-general who served In the Philippines were Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur Jr., the father of General Douglas MacArthur, William Howard Taft who became the 27th President of the United States and Theodore Roosevelt Jr. who was a former general and the eldest son of US President Theodore Roosevelt.  

On January 17, 1933, the Hawes-Hares Cutting Act was approved by the US Congress which would pave the way for the granting of independence to the Philippines. However, provisions such as retention of US military bases in the Philippines for an indefinite period, setting quota and tariffs of Philippine export to the US caused the Philippine senate to reject it. Amendatory bill called Tydings-Mcduffie Law was passed by US Congress on August 24, 1934, which would give the Philippines Commonwealth status as a prelude to giving it full independence after a transition period of ten years. The law came into effect after it was approved by the Philippine senate.

Presidents Quezon and Roosevelt (second and third from left)
A Philippine constitutional convention was held on July 30, 1934 to February 8, 1935. It was approved by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and was unanimously ratified by the Filipinos on May 14, 1935. A general election followed and Manuel L. Quezon was elected president and Sergio Osmena as vice president.  The commonwealth government was inaugurated on Nov ember 15, 1935. Some features of the constitution included a strong executive, a bicameral legislature, and a supreme court. In one of his moves as president, Quezon tapped the services of General Douglas MacArthur as a military advisor with a rank of field marshal.

Meanwhile, Japan became a growing power in Asia. The Japanese Empire which allied itself with Germany invaded and occupied China and other neighboring Asian countries. In one of its bold and daring moves Japan launched a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941, which resulted to about 3,400 American casualties. Several days later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt through the US congress declared war on Japan on December 10, 1941.

The Japanese attacked the Philippines on December 18, 1941. They overpowered the American and the Filipino troops who surrendered on May 1942. General MacArthur fled to Australia to direct the war there. Quezon and Osmena fled to the United States and established a government in exile in New York. While in the United States Quezon died of tuberculosis and Osmena took over as the President of the commonwealth of the Philippines. Meanwhile in the Philippines, the Japanese set up a puppet government called the Second Republic of the Philippines which was headed by Jose P. Laurel.

The landing of Gen. MacArthur in Leyte 
As the war progressed, the tide of battle turned against Japan. Macarthur returned to the Philippines and landed in Leyte on 20 October 1944 for the liberation of the country from the Japanese. The refusal of some units of the Japanese forces to leave Manila against orders from higher ups led to a deadly battle between them and the American and Filipino forces. The overmatched Japanese turned their ire on Manila’s civilian populace and massacred helpless and innocent civilians. WW2 resulted to a million of Filipinos killed with Manila, the national capital, as one of the most devastated cities of the world during the war. The formal surrender of the Japanese to the allied forces on August 1945 officially ended the war in the Asia-Pacific region.

Despite the interruption of WW2, the Philippines was able to have its independence as scheduled. That is 10 years after it was granted a commonwealth status by the US. The first election of an independent Republic of the Philippines was held on April 23, 1946. Manuel Roxas prevailed over incumbent Sergio Osmena who did not campaign in the election.

Since its independence, the Philippines has still had a friendly and cooperative relationship with the United States. Despite some issues regarding the stay of the Americans in the Philippines, the US has left some legacies that have some positive impacts on the Filipinos. The Americans gave the Filipinos the English language as well as western style democracy. In the main, the Philippines is a country that is geographically South East Asian, ethnically Malay and culturally western oriented.

Although the Philippines officially became independent from the United States on July 4, 1946, the Philippines celebrates its Independence Day in July 12. It is in commemoration of the day Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence from Spain in 1898.

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