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Commonwealth of the Philippines
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Commonwealth of the
Mancomunidad de Filipinas
Komonwelt ng Pilipinas
Associated state of the United States
Flag Coat of arms
The Philippine Hymn
(from September 5, 1938)
Location of the Philippines in Southeast Asia.
- 1935–44 Manuel L. Quezon
- 1944–46 Sergio Osmeña
- 1946 Manuel Roxas
- 1935–44 Sergio Osmeña
- 1946 Elpidio Quirino
Historical era Interwar, World War II
- Independence 4 July 1946
Manila 22 October 1946
300,000 km² (115,831
- 1939 est. 16,000,303
Density 53.3 /km² (138.1 /sq mi)
Today part of Philippines
Capital held by enemy forces between 24
December 1941 and 27 February 1945.
Temporary capitals were
Corregidor Island from 24 December
Iloilo City from 22 February 1942;
Bacolod from 26 February;
Buenos Aires, Bago City from 27
Oroquieta from 19 March;
Bukidnon from 23 March;
government-in-exile in Melbourne,
Australia, in April;
government-in-exile in Washington,
D.C., from May 1942 to October 1944;
Tacloban from 20 October 1944.
The Commonwealth government continued its
existence as a government-in-exile in the United
States during the Japanese Occupation and later
the second republic. In effect, there existed two
The Commonwealth of the Philippines (Tagalog: Komonwelt ng Pilipinas) 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.
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 reclaimed
full sovereignty as provided for in Article XVIII of the 1935 Constitution.
o 2.1 Creation
o 2.2 Pre-War
o 2.3 World War II
o 2.4 Independence
o 3.1 Uprisings and agrarian
o 3.2 National language
o 7.1 List of presidents
o 7.2 Quezon Administration
o 7.3 Osmeña Administration
o 7.4 Roxas Administration
(May 28, 1946 – July 4,
8 See also
12 External links
The Commonwealth of the Philippines was also known as the "Philippine Commonwealth",
or simply as "the Commonwealth". It had official names in Tagalog: Kómonwélt ng Pilipinas
([pɪlɪˈpinɐs]) and Spanish: Mancomunidad de Filipinas ([filiˈpinas]). The 1935 constitution
specifies "the Philippines" as the country's short form name and uses "the Philippine Islands"
only to refer to pre-1935 status and institutions. Under the Insular Government (1901-1935),
both terms had official status.[a]
Main articles: History of the Philippines (1898–1946) and History of the Philippines §
Part of a series on the
History of the Philippines
Callao and Tabon Men
Arrival of the Negritos
Society of the Igorot
Classical Period (900–1521)
Sinified State of Ma-i
Thallasocracy of the Lequios
Confederation of Madja-as
Kingdom of Maynila
Kingdom of Namayan
Rajahnate of Butuan
Rajahnate of Cebu
Sultanate of Maguindanao
Sultanate of Sulu
Sultanate of Lanao
Spanish Period (1521–1898)
Viceroyalty of New Spain
Spanish East Indies
Revolts and uprisings
American Period (1898–1946)
See also: Philippine Constitutional Convention election, 1934
March 23, 1935: Constitutional Convention. Seated, left to right: George H. Dern, President
Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Manuel L. Quezon
The pre-1935 U.S. territorial administration, or Insular Government, was headed by a governor
general who was appointed by the president of the United States. In December 1932, the US
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. When it reached
him for possible signature, President Herbert Hoover vetoed the Hare–Hawes–Cutting Act, but
the American Congress overrode Hoover's veto in 1933 and passed the bill over Hoover's
objections. 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,[b] or
Philippine Independence Act, which allowed the establishment of the Commonwealth of the
Philippines with a ten-year period of peaceful transition to full independence – the date of which
was to be on the 4th July following the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the
A Constitutional Convention was convened in Manila on July 30, 1934. On February 8, 1935,
the 1935 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines was approved by the convention by a
vote of 177 to 1. The constitution was approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March
23, 1935 and ratified by popular vote on May 14, 1935.
On 17 September 1935, presidential elections were held. Candidates included former president
Emilio Aguinaldo, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente 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 Commonwealth Government was inaugurated on the morning of November 15, 1935, in
ceremonies held on the steps of the Legislative Building in Manila. The event was attended by a
crowd of around 300,000 people.
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.
A proper evaluation of the policies' effectiveness or failure is difficult due to Japanese invasion
and occupation during World War II.
World War II
Main articles: Military history of the Philippines during World War II and Japanese occupation
of the Philippines
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.
Manuel L. Quezon visiting Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. while in exile
Quezon and Osmeña were escorted by troops from Manila to Corregidor, and later they left for
Australia and then the U.S. 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 successfully
fought the Japanese through guerrilla warfare liberating all but 12 of the 48 provinces.
General MacArthur and President Osmeña returning to the Philippines
The American General Douglas MacArthur's army landed on Leyte on October 20, 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 September 2 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
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.
Main articles: Philippine independence and Republic Day (Philippines)
The Commonwealth ended when the US recognized Philippine independence on July 4, 1946, as
scheduled. However, the economy remained dependent on 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.
Uprisings and agrarian reform
See also: Land reform in the Philippines
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. 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 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 in
May, 1935, claimed about a hundred lives.
Due to the diverse number of 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 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 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 American military 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.
Main article: Demographics of the Philippines § 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 US-Mexicans. As a second language, English
was spoken by 27% of the population, while Spanish as a first language was spoken by only 3%,
however Spanish was understood as a second language by a significant number of the
Estimated numbers of speakers of the dominant languages:
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. 
During the 1935–41 period, the Commonwealth of the Philippines 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, Douglas MacArthur headed the latter office from 1937 until the advent of
World War II in 1941, holding the military rank of Field Marshal of the Philippines. After 1946,
the rank of field marshal disappeared from the Philippine military.
During 1939 and 1940, after an amendment in the Commonwealth's Constitution, a bicameral
Congress, consisting of a Senate, and of a House of Representatives, was restored,
replacing the National Assembly.
List of presidents
The colors indicate the political party or coalition of each President at Election Day.
# President Took office Left office Party
2 Sergio Osmeña August 1, 1944 May 28, 1946 Nacionalista vacant
3 Manuel Roxas May 28, 1946 July 4, 1946² Liberal
1 Died of tuberculosis at Saranac Lake, New York.
² End of Commonwealth government, independent Republic inaugurated.
Quezon Administration (1935–1944)
Manuel L. Quezon, president from 1935–44
In 1935 Quezon won the Philippine's first national presidential election under the banner of the
Nacionalista Party. He obtained nearly 68% of the vote against his two main rivals, Emilio
Aguinaldo and Bishop Gregorio Aglipay. Quezon was inaugurated in November 1935. He is
recognized as the second President of the Philippines. When Manuel L. Quezon was inaugurated
President of the Philippines in 1935, he became the first Filipino to head a government of the
Philippines since Emilio Aguinaldo and the Malolos Republic in 1898. However, in January
2008, Congressman Rodolfo Valencia of Oriental Mindoro filed a bill seeking instead to declare
General Miguel Malvar as the second Philippine President, having directly succeeded Aguinaldo
Quezon had originally been barred by the Philippine constitution from seeking re-election.
However, in 1940, constitutional amendments were ratified allowing him to seek re-election for
a fresh term ending in 1943. In the 1941 presidential elections, Quezon was re-elected over
former Senator Juan Sumulong with nearly 82% of the vote.
In a notable humanitarian act, Quezon, in cooperation with U.S. High Commissioner Paul V.
McNutt, facilitated the entry into the Philippines of Jewish refugees fleeing fascist regimes in
Europe. Quezon was also instrumental in promoting a project to resettle the refugees in
Quezon suffered from tuberculosis and spent his last years in a ‘cure cottage’ in Saranac Lake,
NY, where he died on August 1, 1944. He was initially buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
His body was later carried by the USS Princeton and re-interred in Manila at the Manila North
Cemetery before being moved to Quezon City within the monument at the Quezon Memorial
Osmeña Administration (1944–1946)
Sergio Osmeña, president from 1944–46
Osmeña became president of the Commonwealth on Quezon's death in 1944. He returned to the
Philippines the same year with General Douglas MacArthur and the liberation forces. After the
war Osmeña restored the Commonwealth government and the various executive departments. He
continued the fight for Philippine independence.
For the presidential election of 1946 Osmeña refused to campaign, saying that the Filipino
people knew of his record of 40 years of honest and faithful service. Nevertheless, he was
defeated by Manuel Roxas, who won 54% of the vote and became the first president of the
independent Republic of the Philippines.
Roxas Administration (May 28, 1946 – July 4, 1946)
Manuel Roxas, last president of the Commonwealth from May 28, 1946 – July 4, 1946
Roxas served as the President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines in a brief period, from his
subsequent election on May 28, 1946 to July 4, 1946, the scheduled date of the proclamation of
Philippine Independence. Roxas prepared the groundwork for the advent of a free and
independent Philippines, assisted by the Congress (reorganized May 25, 1946), with Senator José
Avelino as the Senate President and Congressman Eugenio Pérez as the House of
Representatives Speaker. On June 3, 1946, Roxas appeared for the first time before the joint
session of the Congress to deliver his first state of the nation address. Among other things, he
told the members of the Congress the grave problems and difficulties the Philippines are set to
face and reports of his special trip to the US — the approval for independence.
On June 21, he reappeared into another joint session of the Congress and urged the acceptance of
two important laws passed by the US Congress on April 30, 1946 to the Philippine lands. They
are the Philippine Rehabilitation Act and the Philippine Trade Act. Both recommendations
were accepted by the Congress.
Commonwealth (U.S. insular area)
Political history of the Philippines
History of the Philippines
Philippine Organic Act (1902)
Jones Law (Philippines) Philippines
Organic Act (1916)
Treaty of Paris (1898)
Filipino Repatriation Act of 1935
1. See for example, the Jones Law of 1916, which uses "Philippines" and "Philippine
2. Officially, the Philippine Independence Act; Public Law 73-127; approved on March 24,
3. According to Valencia, "General Malvar took over the revolutionary government after
General Emilio Aguinaldo, first President of the Republic, was captured on March 23,
1901, and [was] exiled in Hong Kong by the American colonial government—since he
was next in command."
1. See Wikisource:Commonwealth Act No. 382.
2. Mair, Christian (2003). The politics of English as a world language: new horizons in
postcolonial cultural studies. The Netherlands: Rodopi. pp. 479–82. ISBN 978-90-420-
0876-2. Retrieved 17 February 2011. 497 pp.
3. Rappa, Antonio L; Wee, Lionel (2006). Language policy and modernity in Southeast
Asia: Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Singapore: Springer. pp. 64–
68. ISBN 978-1-4020-4510-3. Retrieved 17 February 2011. 159 pp.
4. Morton, Louis (1953). The Fall of the Philippines. Washington, DC: United States Army.
p. 6. Retrieved 17 February 2011.
5. Timeline 1930–1939, St. Scholastica's College.
6. Gin Ooi 2004, p. 387.
7. Zaide 1994, p. 319.
8. Roosevelt, Franklin D (November 14, 1935), Proclamation 2148 on the Establishment of
the Commonwealth of the Philippines, The American Presidency Project, University of
California at Santa Barbara, "This Proclamation shall be effective upon its promulgation
at Manila, Philippine Islands, on November 15, 1935, by the Secretary of War of the
United States of America, who is hereby designated as my representative for that
9. Christi-Anne Castro Associate Professor University of Michigan (7 April 2011). Musical
Renderings of the Philippine Nation. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 204. ISBN 978-0-
19-974640-8. Retrieved 3 July 2013.
10. "1935 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines". Chan Robles Law Library. May
14, 1935. Retrieved 10 February 2007.
11. A Decade of American Foreign Policy 1941–1949 Interim Meeting of Foreign Ministers,
Moscow: Yale, retrieved September 30, 2009.
12. "The Philippine Commonwealth", The New York Times, November 16, 1935, retrieved