Commonwealth of the Philippines

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Mancomunidad de Filipinas
Komonwelt ng Pilipinas
Commonwealth of the Philippines
Insular area of the United States
1935 – 1946 30px
Flag Coat of arms
Flag Badge
Lupang Hinirang
Location of Philippines
Location of the Philippines in Asia
Capital Manila ¹
Language(s) Pilipino, English, Spanish
Government Republic
 - 1935-1944 Manuel L. Quezon
 - 1944-1946 Sergio Osmeña
 - 1946 Manuel Roxas
Vice President
 - 1935-1944 Sergio Osmeña
 - 1946 Elpidio Quirino
Historical era American colonization
 - Philippine Independence Act March 24
 - Independence July 4
 - 1939 300,000 km² (115,831 sq mi)
 - 1939 est. 18,434,000 
     Density 61.4 /km²  (159.1 /sq mi)
Currency Peso
¹ Capital held by enemy forces between December 24, 1941 and February 27, 1945. Temporary capitals Corregidor from December 24, 1941-; Iloilo City from February 22; Bacolod from February 26; Buenos Aire, Negros Occidental from February 27; Oroquieta from March 19; Bukidnon from March 23; Melbourne from April; Washington, DC from May, 1942 to October, 1944; Tacloban from October 20, 1944.

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[United States territory|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 of the Philippines|National Assembly and a Supreme Court of the Philippines|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 Office of the Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines|Military Advisor were also present in the government while an American Field Marshal (Philippines)|Field Marshall was in charge of the Philippine Army.

In 1939-40, after an amendment in the Constitution, a bicameral [[Philippine Congress|Congress consisting a of [[Philippine Senate|Senate and of a [[Philippine House of Representatives|House of Representatives was restored replacing the National Assembly.



23 March 1935: Constitutional Convention. Seated, left to right: George H. Dern, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Manuel L. Quezon

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 Philippine with a ten-year period of peaceful transition to full independence.


In October 1935, presidential elections were held and candidates included former president Emilio Aguinaldo and Iglesia Filipina Indepediente leader Gregorio Aglipay. Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña of the Nacionalista Party were proclaimed 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 draft 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 and industrialization, and the colonization of Mindanao.

However, uncertainties, espescially in the diplomatic and military situation in Southeast Asia, in the level of U.S. commitment to the future Republic, and in the economy due to the Great Depression, proved to be major problems. The situation was further complicated by the presense of agrarian unrest, and of power struggles between Osmeña and Quezon, especially after Quezon was permitted to be reelected after a six-year term.

A proper evaluation of the policies' effectiveness or failure is difficult due to Japanese invasion during World War II.

World War II

The War as seen in Manila.

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 was occupied by the Japanese on January 2 1942. Meanwhile, battles against the Japanese continued in Bataan, Correigidor, and Leyte until the final surrender of United States-Philippine forces on May 1942>

Quezon and Osmeña were escorted by troops to Corregidor and later left for 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 exile, Quezon became ill with tuberculosis, and eventually died. Osmeña later replaced him as 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 unpopular.

The resistance continued in the Philippines. This included the Hukbalahap ("People's Army Against the Japanese"), which comprised of 30,000 armed people and controlled much of Central Luzon. Remnants of the Philippine Army also fought the Japanese through guerrilla warfare and were successful since all but twelve of the forty-eight provinces were liberated.

MacArthur's Allied forces landed on Leyte on October 20 1944 and were welcomed as liberators, as other landings followed. Fighting continued until Japan's formal surrender on September 2, 1945. Estimates for Filipino casualties reached one million, and Manila was extensively damaged .

After the Philippines campaign, 1944-45, the Commonwealth was restored and 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.


The Commonwealth ended when the United States recognized Philippine independence on July 4, 1946, as scheduled.American Colony and Philippine Commonwealth 1901 - 1941 However, the economy remained dependent to the U.S..Philippines - Economic Relations with the United States U.S. Library of Congress. 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.Balitang Beterano: Facts about Philippine Independence Philippine Headline News Online


Uprisings and agrarian reform

An example of a hacienda in Uruguay

At the time, tenant farmers held grievances often rooted to debt caused by the sharecropping system, as well as by the dramatic increase in population, which added economic pressure to the tenant farmers' families. Philippine history - American Colony and Philippine Commonwealth (1901-1941) As a result, an agrarian reform program was initiated by the Commonwealth. However, success of the program was hampered by ongoing clashes between tenants and landowners.

An example of these clashes includes one intitiated 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.

National language

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 Institue), 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 traditon) 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. Republic of the Philippies, Philippine Almanac,


The Commonwealth also had a policy involving the colonization of Mindanao.


Manuel L. Quezon visiting Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington D.C.

The economy of the Commowealth was mostly agricultural based. Products included abaca, coconuts and coconut oil, sugar, and timber.

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. American Colony and Philippine Commonwealth (1901-1941)


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:

List of Presidents

Color Legend

The colors indicate the political party or coalition of each President at Election Day.

# President Took office Left office Party Vice President Term
1 Manuel L. Quezon Ph pres quezon.jpg November 15, 1935 August 1, 19441 Nacionalista Sergio Osmeña 1
2 Sergio Osmeña Ph pres osmena.jpg August 1, 1944 May 28, 1946 Nacionalista vacant
3 Manuel Roxas Ph pres roxas.jpg May 28, 1946 July 4, 19462 Liberal Elpidio Quirino 3

1 Died due to tuberculosis at Saranac Lake, New York.
2 End of Commonwealth government, independent Republic inaugurated.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Philippines, The period of U.S. influence. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved on 2007-02-10.
  2. ^ Tydings-McDuffie Act. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved on 2007-02-10.
  3. ^ Text of the Tydings-McDuffie Act. The ChanRobles Group. Retrieved on 2007-02-10.
  4. ^ Jones Act. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved on 2007-02-10.
  5. ^ Philippine Historical Commission. "Philippine Legislature, 100 Years. Quezon City: Philippine Historical Commission, 2000: chapter 4. ISBN 971-92245-0-9
  6. ^ Constitutions of the Philippines. The ChanRobles Group. Retrieved on 2007-02-10.
  7. ^ Text of the 1935 Constitution. The ChanRobles Group. Retrieved on 2007-02-10.
  8. ^ a b Philippines - Commonwealth Politics. U.S. Library of Congress. Retrieved on 2007-02-10.
  9. ^ Agoncillo, Teodoro "The Fateful Years: Japan's Adventure in the Philippines." (1) Hayden, J. Ralston "The Philippines: A Study in National Development."
  10. ^ The Yamashita Standard. PBS. Retrieved on 2007-02-12.
  11. ^ a b Philippine History. DLSU-Manila. Retrieved on 2007-02-11.
  12. ^ a b c d A History of Plebiscites in the Philippines. Arab News. Retrieved on 2007-02-12.
  13. ^ Hare-Hawes-Cutting-Act. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved on 2007-02-10.
  14. ^ Agoncillo, History of the Filipino People, p. 345-346
  15. ^ Agoncillo, History of the Filipino People, p. 390
  16. ^ Agoncillo, History of the Filipino People, p. 392
  17. ^ Lacsamana, Philippine History and Government, p. 168
  18. ^ Agoncillo, History of the Filipino People, p. 415
  19. ^ a b c d Philippines - World War II. U.S. Library of Congress. Retrieved on 2007-02-11.
  20. ^ American Colony and Philippine Commonwealth 1901 - 1941. University of Alberta. Retrieved on 2007-02-11.
  21. ^ Philippines - Economic Relations with the United States. U.S. Library of Congress. Retrieved on 2007-02-11.
  22. ^ Balitang Beterano: Facts about Philippine Independence. Philippine Headline News Online. Retrieved on 2007-02-11.
  23. ^ Philippine history - American Colony and Philippine Commonwealth (1901-1941). Windows on Asia. Retrieved on 2007-02-11.
  24. ^ Republic of the Philippies, Philippine Almanac, p. 140
  25. ^ a b c d Republic of the Philippies, Philippine Almanac, p. 338
  26. ^ a b American Colony and Philippine Commonwealth (1901-1941). Filipinas Heritage Library. Retrieved on 2007-02-12.

Original Source

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