AMONG the most historic US and Philippine autonomy initiatives accomplished during this period was the passage on August 5, 1909 of the Payne-Aldrich Bill which provided that Philippine sugar not exceeding three hundred thousand tons would be admitted free of duty in the US market while the rest would be taxed under the Dingley Tariff Law. In 1914, the San Carlos planters brought in American capital through the construction of the San Carlos Milling Company to serve northern Negros areas. The Kabankalan Milling Company in southern Negros followed in 1915. It was at this period that the old muscovado and smaller mills were replaced by large centrals in several areas of the province. This modernization in the sugar industry continued but was however interrupted by different socio-economic, and other challenges until the 20th century.
One noteworthy difference between the American and Spanish colonial rules was that during the American period more Filipinos were elected officials in the local governments. Some Filipinos became heads of National Government offices notable of whom was Cayetano Arellano who was appointed first Justice of the Supreme Court. When the initial Civil Government was inaugurated in Manila on July 4, 1901, William Howard Taft (later elected US President) was the Civil Governor heading the US Philippine Commission with T.H. Pardo de Tavera, Benito Legardo, Sr,, Negrense Jose Luzuriaga and Rafael Palma who were also appointed to the Commission. Gregorio Araneta was appointed Secretary of Finance and Justice. During the administration of Gov. Francis Burton Harrison from 1913 -1921, Filipinos were granted more experiences in self-government. Sergio Osmeña also campaigned for independence but stressed continued cooperation with America. Manuel L. Quezon was sent to the US Congress to also present the demands of Filipinos for independence. These Filipino leaders gave Americans confidence that Filipinos could already have more self-rule with their various capabilities. The most historic US Legislative actions were notable initiatives that gave the American government justification to eventually grant the Filipino people the historic Philippine Commonwealth. Among the major congressional actions leading to the birth of the Philippine Commonwealth were the following laws. The first was the Philippine Bill of 1902 approved by the US Congress providing for the establishment of an elective Philippine Assembly, freedom of expression, freedom from imprisonment due to the non-payment of debts, freedom of religion and worship, and appointment of 2 Filipino Resident Commissioners to Washington. The Jones Law of 1916 (Law on Philippine Autonomy) was passed by the US Congress on August 19, 1916 with features granting of more Philippine autonomy, giving legislative powers in a bicameral legislature with a Senate of 24 Senators appointed by the Governor General, a House of Representatives with 90 members also vested executive power with the US Governor General.
Sergio Osmeña, assisted by Manuel Roxas, headed the Philippine Mission for Independence but the bill it proposed was vetoed by US Pres. Herbert Hoover. This law was not favorable to the Filipinos because it provided for the American military bases to remain in the Philippines even after Independence. Another notable US Legislation intended to promote independence was the Tydings-McDuffie Law, which was followed up in the US Congress by Manuel L. Quezon and approved by Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 24, 1934. This law provided for the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth with a 10 year transition period followed by Independence. Following the ratification of the Philippine Commonwealth Constitution, the Presidential election was held on September 17, 1935. The candidates elected were: Manuel Question as President and Sergio Osmeña as Vice President and the Philippine Commonwealth was inaugurated on November 15, 1935 at the Luneta, Manila. To give way to the new government, Pres. Elect Quezon organized various new offices including National Council of Education, National Economic Council, Mindanao- Sulu Commission, Budget Commission, Mining Dept. and National Language Office. The 1935 Commonwealth Constitution also provided that Defense of the State is a primary duty of citizens and the National Defense Act established the Philippine Arm forces. Pres. Quezon also appointed General Douglas McArthur as head of the US Military mission together with Lt. Col. Dwight Eisenhower. General MacArthur administered the plans for the National Defense and a one year training for young Filipinos. It was during Pres. Quezon’s term when WWII broke out with the Japanese attacked on the US forces at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 8, 1941. Our next column will narrate the major changes in Philippine History with the Japanese occupation.
Our deepest sympathy to the family of our former President Noynoy Aquino who recently passed away.