The Commonwealth of the Philippines was the political designation of the Philippines from 1935 to 1946 when the country was a commonwealth with the United States. Before 1935, the Philippines was an insular area with non-commonwealth status, and before that, it had been a U.S. territory.
The creation of the Commonwealth was envisioned under the Philippine Independence Act, popularly known as the Tydings-McDuffie Act as a ten-year transitional government in preparation for full Philippine independence and sovereignty, which was promised through the Philippine Autonomy Act or Jones Law.
It marked the end of the colonial eras as well as the transition of the nomenclature of the Philippines from the plural "Las Islas Filipinas" and "Philippine Islands" of the Spanish and American colonial periods, to the singular, "Philippines", which is a sign of unity, sovereignty, and national identity.
The Commonwealth had its own constitution, which remained effective until 1973, and was self-governing although foreign policy and military affairs would be under the responsibility of the United States, and certain legislation required the approval of the American President.
It featured a very strong executive, a unicameral National Assembly, and a Supreme Court, all composed entirely of Filipinos, as well as an elected Resident Commissioner to the United States House of Representatives (as Puerto Rico does today). An American High Commissioner and an American Military Advisor, were also present in the government while a Field Marshall was in charge of the Philippine Army.
In December 1932, the United States Congress passed the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act with the premise of granting Filipinos independence. Provisions of the bill included reserving several military and naval bases for the United States, as well as imposing tariffs and quotas on Philippine exports. It was vetoed by President Herbert Hoover but the American Congress overrode his veto in 1933 and passed the bill. The bill, however, was opposed by the then Philippine Senate President Manuel L. Quezon and was also rejected by the Philippine Senate.
This led to the creation and passing of a new bill known as Tydings-McDuffie Act, which allowed the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines with a ten-year period of peaceful transition to full independence.
In October 1935, presidential elections were held and candidates included the former president Emilio Aguinaldo, the Iglesia Filipina Indepediente leader Gregorio Aglipay, and others. Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña of the Nacionalista Party were proclaimed the winners, winning the seats of president and vice-president, respectively.
The new government embarked on ambitious nation-building policies in preparation for economic and political independence. These included national defense (such as the National Defense Act of 1935, which organized a conscription for service in the country), greater control over the economy, the perfection of democratic institutions, reforms in education, improvement of transport, the promotion of local capital, industrialization, and the colonization of Mindanao.
However, uncertainties, especially in the diplomatic and military situation in Southeast Asia, in the level of U.S. commitment to the future Republic of the Philippines, and in the economy due to the Great Depression, proved to be major problems. The situation was further complicated by the presence of agrarian unrest, and of power struggles between Osmeña and Quezon, especially after Quezon was permitted to be re-elected after one six-year term.
Japan launched a surprise attack on the Philippines on December 8 1941. The Commonwealth government drafted the Philippine Army into the U.S. Army Forces Far East, which would resist Japanese occupation. Manila was declared an open city to prevent its destruction, and it was occupied by the Japanese on January 2 1942. Meanwhile, battles against the Japanese continued on the Bataan Peninsula, Corregidor, and Leyte until the final surrender of United States-Philippine forces on May 1942.
Quezon and Osmeña were escorted by troops from Manila to Corregidor, and later they left for Australia and then the United States. There they set up a government in exile, which participated in the Pacific War Council as well as the Declaration by United Nations. During this exile, Quezon became ill with tuberculosis, and later he died of it. Osmeña replaced him as the president.
Meanwhile, the Japanese military organized a new government in the Philippines known as the Second Philippine Republic, which was headed by president José P. Laurel. This government ended up being very unpopular.
The resistance to the Japanese occupation continued in the Philippines. This included the Hukbalahap ("People's Army Against the Japanese"), which consisted of 30,000 armed people and controlled much of Central Luzon. Remnants of the Philippine Army also fought the Japanese through guerrilla warfare, and it was successful, since all but twelve of the forty-eight provinces were liberated.
The American General Douglas MacArthur's army landed on Leyte on 20 October 1944, and they were all welcomed as liberators, along with Philippine Commonwealth troops when other amphibious landings soon followed. Fighting continued in remote corners of the Philippines until Japan's surrender in August 1945, which was signed on 2 September in Tokyo Bay. Estimates for Filipino casualties reached one million, and Manila was extensively damaged when certain Japanese forces refused to vacate the city (against their orders from the Japanese High Command.
After the War in the Philippines, the Commonwealth was restored, and a one-year transitional period in preparation for independence began. Elections followed in April 1946 with Manuel Roxas winning as the first president of the independent Republic of the Philippines and Elpidio Quirino winning as vice-president. In spite of the years of Japanese occupation, the Philippines became independent exactly as scheduled a decade before, on July 4, 1946.
The Commonwealth ended when the United States recognized Philippine independence on July 4, 1946, as scheduled. However, the economy remained dependent to the U.S.. This was due to the Bell Trade Act, otherwise known as the Philippine Trade Act, which was a precondition for receiving war rehabilitation grants from the United States.
An example of these clashes includes one initiated by Benigno Ramos through his Sakdalista movement, which advocated tax reductions, land reforms, the breakup of the large estates or haciendas, and the severing of American ties. The uprising, which occurred in Central Luzon on May, 1935, claimed about a hundred lives.
Due to the diverse number Philippine languages, a program for the "development and adoption of a common national language based on the existing native dialects" was drafted in the 1935 Philippine constitution. The Commonwealth created a Surian ng Wikang Pambansa (National Language Institute), which was composed of President Quezon and six other members from various ethnic groups. A deliberation was held and Tagalog (due to its extensive literary tradition) was selected as the basis for the "national language" to be called "Pilipino".
In 1940, the Commonwealth authorized the creation of a dictionary and grammar book for the language. On the same year, Commonwealth Act 570 was passed, allowing Pilipino to become an official language upon independence.
The Commonwealth also had a policy involving the colonization of Mindanao.
The cash economy of the Commonwealth was mostly agriculture-based. Products included abaca, coconuts and coconut oil, sugar, and timber.Numerous other crops and livestock were grown for local consumption by the Filipino people. Other sources for foreign income included the spin-off from money spent at the American army, navy, and air bases on the Philippines, such as the naval base at Subic Bay and Clark Air Base (with U.S. Army airplanes there as early as 1919), both on the island of Luzon.
The performance of the economy was initially good despite challenges from various agrarian uprisings. Taxes collected from a robust coconut industry helped boost the economy by funding infrastructure and other development projects. However, growth was halted due to the outbreak of World War II.
In 1941, the estimated population of the Philippines reached 17,000,000 while Manila's population was 684,000. The number of Chinese rose to 117,000. There were also 30,000 Japanese, with 20,000 living in Davao, and 9,000 Americans. English was spoken by 27% of the population, while Spanish was spoken by only 3%.
The following is the estimated number of speakers of the dominant languages:
|#||President||Took office||Left office||Party||Vice President||Term|
|1||Manuel L. Quezon||November 15, 1935||August 1, 19441||Nacionalista||Sergio Osmeña||1|
|2||Sergio Osmeña||August 1, 1944||May 28, 1946||Nacionalista||vacant|
|3||Manuel Roxas||May 28, 1946||July 4, 1946²||Liberal||Elpidio Quirino||3|