Commonwealth of the Philippines

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The Commonwealth of the Philippines was the political name for the island state of the Philippines between 1935 and 1946 , when the country had Commonwealth status with the United States . Before 1935, the Philippines was on the outskirts of the United States , making it merely a territory of the United States.

The formation of the Commonwealth was declared with the Philippine Independence Act ( German  law for Philippine independence ), commonly known as the Tydings-McDuffie Act , and represented a ten-year transitional government in preparation for full independence and sovereignty of the Philippines, which the Philippine People through the Philippine Autonomy Act (German law on Philippine autonomy ) or Jones Law (German Jones law ) was guaranteed by the USA.


The Commonwealth had its own constitution, which lasted until 1973, and had its own government, although foreign policy and military affairs remained under the responsibility of the United States, as did certain legislations that required the approval of the American president.

It had a very strict executive , had a unicameral congress of the National Assembly and a Supreme Court, both composed entirely of Filipino officials, and an elected resident representative in the United States House of Representatives (as Puerto Rico now holds). An American High Commissioner ( Upper authorized representative ) and an American military advisers were it represented in the Commonwealth government, while the Philippine Army was under the direction of an American field marshal.

After the constitution was revised between 1939 and 1940, a bicameral congress was set up, which consisted of a Senate and a House of Representatives and replaced the single-tier National Assembly.



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

In December 1932 a law, the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act , passed the United States Congress to guarantee the independence of the Philippines. The bill included orders to maintain various military and naval bases in the United States, as well as the imposition of tariffs and quotas for Philippine exports.

President Herbert C. Hoover objected to the bill, but the US Congress overruled its veto in 1933 and passed the bill. However, the bill was contrary to the interests of the Philippine Senate President Manuel Quezon and was also rejected by the Philippine Senate.

This led to the formation and passage of a new bill known as the Tydings-McDuffie Act , which provided for the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines for a ten year period and eventually a peaceful transition to full independence.

Pre-war period

The first presidential elections were held in October 1935 . Candidates included former President Emilio Aguinaldo , who was not recognized outside the Philippines, and the leader of the Independent Philippine Church, Gregorio Aglipay . Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmeña of the Nacionalista Party received the majority of votes and were eventually installed in the offices of President and Vice-President.

The new government carried out an ambitious reconstruction policy designed to prepare the nation for economic and political independence. This included provisions for national defense (such as the National Defense Ordinance of 1935, which introduced universal conscription in the country), greater control over the economy, perfecting democratic institutions, reforms in educational policy, improving transport systems, promoting local capital and industrialization as well as the colonization of Mindanao.

In the meantime, uncertainties arose, especially because of the diplomatic and military situation in Southeast Asia and with regard to the intensity that the ties between the USA and the future Philippine Republic will assume, as did the economy due to the global economic crisis . These questions turned out to be the main problems. The situation was made increasingly complicated by the current agricultural turmoil and power struggles that had developed between Osmeña and Quezon, especially after Quezon was allowed to be re-elected after a six-year term.

Before the political efficiency could develop fully, the outbreak of the Second World War and the Japanese invasion of the Philippines came.

Second World War

The Japanese Empire launched a surprise attack on the Philippines on December 8, 1941 . The Commonwealth government then handed the Philippine Army over to the command of the Far Eastern US armed forces, which were supposed to counteract the Japanese campaign of conquest. Manila was declared an Open City to protect it from destruction and it was finally occupied by the Japanese on January 2, 1942 . In the meantime there was fighting against the Japanese occupiers all over the island state, such as the Battle of Bataan , the Battle of Corregidor and the Battle of Leyte , before the combined American-Philippine forces finally surrendered in May 1942. Quezon and Osmeña were escorted by their troops to Corregidor and later left the archipelago for the United States, where they have a government in exile formed that both the Pacific War Council (dt. Pazifikkriegsrat ) and in the Declaration by United Nations was represented. During the period of exile, Quezon contracted tuberculosis and eventually died, whereupon Osmeña replaced him as president.

Meanwhile, the Japanese military installed a new government in the Philippines, later known as the Second Philippine Republic, presided over by José P. Laurel , who was installed as president by the Japanese. However, this government was never respected by the Filipino people and remained unpopular throughout the occupation.

Meanwhile, the resistance in the Philippines continued. One of the guerrilla groups, the Hukbalahap movement (the "People's Army against the Japanese"), consisted of 30,000 armed fighters and controlled much of central Luzon . Remnants of the Philippine army relied on guerrilla warfare. The success of this campaign was the liberation of twelve of the fourteen provinces of the Philippines .

On October 20, 1944 , the Allied forces under General MacArthur landed on Leyte and started the liberation of the archipelago, which was followed by other landing forces. The fighting continued until the formal surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945 . The total estimated number of Filipino casualties was close to one million and the capital Manila was largely destroyed after the war.

After the Philippines campaign, the Commonwealth was restituted for a year in preparation for independence. In April 1946, the elections for the first independent Philippine government followed, which Manuel Roxas won. Together with Elpidio Quirino as Vice President, he went down in the history of the country as the first internationally recognized President of the independent Republic of the Philippines .


Commonwealth status ended on July 4, 1946 with the recognition of Filipino independence by the United States .

Nonetheless, the Philippine economy continued to be dependent on the US, among other things to do with the Bell Trade Act , also known as the Philippine Trade Regulation, which was a prerequisite for receiving rehabilitation grants from the United States.


Uprisings and agrarian reforms

At that time, the farmers often complained about grievances, the roots of which lay in the system of debt bondage , in which the landowners allowed the farmers to work their land and retained a share of the harvest in return. On the other hand, the discrepancies were due to the dramatic increase in the population, the effects of which added to the economic pressure that weighed on the farming families. To counter this, the Commonwealth initiated an agrarian reform , the success of which, however, was hampered by the ongoing disputes between farmers and landowners.

An example of these confrontations is the Sakdalista movement, initiated by a man named Benigno Ramos, who advocated lowering taxes, swiftly implementing land reform, breaking up large estates or haciendas, and severing relationships to the United States. The uprisings that broke out in central Luzon in May 1935 ultimately claimed around a hundred lives.

National language

Due to the large number of different Filipino languages , a program for the “development and adoption of a common national language based on the existing indigenous dialects” was drafted and incorporated into the Filipino constitution of 1935. The Commonwealth set up a Surian ng Wikang Pambansa (National Language Institute) made up of President Quezon and six other members from various ethnic groups in the Philippines. A consultation was held during which the Tagalog language (due to its extensive literary tradition) was selected as the basis for a "national language" called "Pilipino".

In 1940 the Commonwealth authorized the production of a dictionary and grammar book for this language. In the same year, the Commonwealth Act 570 was passed, which made the Filipino language the official language after independence.


The Commonwealth also had a political influence on the colonization of Mindanao . The big island in the south became a real refuge. Wave after wave of immigrants poured into the region of the southern Philippines. The immigrants came mainly from the Visayas and Luzon and belonged to the ethnic groups of the Cebuanos and the Hiligaynons from the Central and West Visayas, the Warays (Leyte-Samar) from the East Visayas and the Ilokanos, the Tagalogs, the Pampangos, the Aklanons and the Bicolanos from Luzon. The immigrants quickly settled in the pristine areas of Mindanao and opened up the island to extensive agriculture and industry. In doing so, they displaced the local population and provoked tensions among the Muslim inhabitants of the island who had lived here for centuries. These tensions later developed into the conflicts with Muslim rebel groups, which the Philippine government in the south of the Philippines has to face to this day.


The Commonwealth's economy was largely based on agriculture, which was based on agricultural products such as abacá , coconut and coconut oil , sugar, and timber .

The income from this economic output was initially good, despite the challenge of various agricultural uprisings. Taxes collected from a stable coconut industry helped stimulate the economy through funding for infrastructure and other development projects. However, this growth stopped with the outbreak of the Second World War .


In 1941, the estimated population reached 17,000,000, with Manila alone being home to 648,000. The number of Chinese was 117,000. In addition, 9,000 Americans and 30,000 Japanese immigrants lived in the archipelago, with Davao alone accommodating 20,000 Japanese. The English language is spoken by 27% of the population, while Spanish was used only 3% of the population.

The following are estimated numbers of speakers in the dominant languages:


List of presidents

Color legend
Nacionalista Party
Liberal party

The colors indicate the political party or coalition of each president on election day:

# president Start of office End of office Political party Vice President Term of office
1 Manuel Quezon November 15 , 1935 August 1. , 1944 1 Nacionalista Party Sergio Osmeña 1
2 Sergio Osmeña August 1 , 1944 May 28 , 1946 Nacionalista Party Vacant
3 Manuel Roxas May 28 , 1946 July 4 , 1946 2 Liberal party Elpidio Quirino 3

1 Died of tuberculosis in Saranac Lake, New York .
2 End of Commonwealth government, conversion to an independent republic.

Web links

Individual evidence

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  20. ^ Philippine history - American Colony and Philippine Commonwealth (1901-1941) . Windows on Asia. Archived from the original on October 10, 2007. Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved February 11, 2007. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
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