His Excellency Manuel L. Quezon
President of the Philippines
to the First National Assembly
On Improvement of Philippine Conditions, Philippine Independence, and Relations with American High Commissioner
[Delivered at the Opening of the Second Session of the National Assembly, in the Assembly Hall, Legislative Building, Manila, October 18, 1937]
Mr. Speaker, Gentlemen of the National Assembly:
At no time in ancient or contemporary history has Almighty God showered His blessings upon our beloved country as generously as He has done during this year that is about to close. In a spirit of humility and thankfulness to Him, I come to report to you that the finances of the Government are sounder than they have ever been, that our foreign and internal trade has increased, that more school houses and roads have been built and opened to the people, that public health is in good condition, and that peace and order prevail in every province, city, municipality, and barrio of the Archipelago.
In this year too, as the highest representative of our people, I have taken a step that is of the greatest moment to the Fatherland. In my recent trip abroad I proposed to the President of the United States that he recommend to the Congress the granting of complete independence to the Philippines either on the 30th of December 1938, or the 4th of July, 1939.
I feel certain that in making this petition I have expressed the views of the immense majority of our people and that it is better for us to be independent now, that is to say, as soon as the necessary steps could be taken for the orderly process of erecting an independent Republic, rather than in 1946.
I can see no valid reason why, if the Philippines can be given independence in 1946, she may not have it in 1938 or 1939. In the short span of seven years the Filipino people can hardly do anything that would substantially change their present situation. Any obstacle which would vitally affect the chances of a successful and lasting independent nationhood in 1939 cannot be overcome by 1946.
So, if we want independence at any cost and are ready to take all the consequences –the dangers as well as the advantages of independent national existence- let us have it no later than 1939. If, however, we are fearful of the possible threats that complete independence may offer to our national security, and we would rather remain under the protecting wing of the United States, then let us leave the final determination of our future to come coming generations and not deceive ourselves with the groundless hope that by 1946 we shall have become politically and economically beyond any serious difficulty.
We cannot be hesitating indefinitely. The best interest, indeed the very life, of the nation is at stake. If it is our resolve to be an independent nation, this is the time, for every year lost is to our evident disadvantage.
Our duty –the duty of the Executive and Legislative branches of the government- is plain. Under the Independence Act and the Constitution, the Government of the Commonwealth has been established to prepare the country for complete independence. Our people alone, by their own choice and direction, can command us to take a different course.
Since the news of my proposal to have the transition period shortened was published, voices in opposition to it have been heard both in public and in private. Let me say in all earnestness to those Filipinos who believe in good faith that the security, liberty, prosperity, and peace of our common country lie in some kind of political partnership with the United States rather than in complete independence, that they should say so frankly and come out courageously in the open with an alternative plan, instead of merely adopting dilatory tactics in the belief that when the fourth of July, 1946, shall have arrived, some unforeseen event will prevent the establishment of the Philippine Republic. They have nothing to fear: there is here freedom of thought and of speech, and one may be as much a patriot advocating some other political status for the Philippines as favoring complete independence so long as in advocating he is inspired not by selfish motives but by what he honestly believes is for the commonweal. As long as the essentials of freedom are not sacrificed –and they must not be sacrified under any consideration- the formula for securing and enjoying it may well be debated upon.
It is true that from the point of view of a foreigner who does not intend to remain in the Philippines after independence shall have been granted and who is contemplating to liquidate his interests in this country, the remaining seven years may, perhaps, give him the opportunity to withdraw his investments. But, is this a sufficient reason to postpone the grant of independence if, on the other hand, it would be to the best permanent interests of the Filipino people to accelerate its grant? Is the future well-being of a whole nation to be sacrificed for the benefit of a few foreigners? Do these foreigners have any right to a special consideration?
From the very first day of America’s occupation of the Philippines, she disclaimed any intention to permanently hold these Islands. Neither did she, in thus announcing to the whole world her intentions, ever give any promise either directly or by implication that she would not withdraw her sovereignty from her newly-occupied territory at a moment’s notice. Therefore, foreigners who had investments in the Philippines when the United States took possession of the Islands, as well as those who came thereafter, knew full well that they were not placing themselves under the protection of the American flag except for as long a time only, and no longer, as the Government of the United States decided to retain the Philippines.
With more reason should these foreigners have known that the days of American sovereignty were numbered when, in 1916, the Jones Law was enacted, for it was solemnly and clearly declared in that law that the Philippines would be granted her independence as soon as a stable government could be established in this country. Since the question of the stability of a government is a matter of opinion, and in the case of the Government of the Philippines, the Congress alone has the right to determine the question, that pronouncement in the Jones Law was tantamount to a formal notice to all concerned that the United States might, at any time, leave the Islands to their own fate.
It is true that when the Independence Act was approved by the Congress in 1934, it was specifically provided therein that complete independence would be granted ten years following the inauguration of the Government of the Commonwealth; but the reports of the respective Committees and the speeches delivered upon the floor of both Houses of the Congress clearly show this was not a commitment addressed to foreigners having investments in the Philippines, but only to the Filipino people who, in the opinion of the Congress, might be seriously injured economically if their trade relations with the United States were abruptly terminated. If the Filipino people themselves are willing to have the date for the granting of independence advanced, there is nothing, expressed or implied, in the Independence Law that denies them the right to ask the Congress to shorten the transition period.
My main reason for asking that the independence of the Philippines be granted not later than the 4th of July, 1939, is that I am sincerely of the opinion that it will be to our best interests to secure independence during and under the administration of President Roosevelt. I know the President, his progressive and liberal ideas, his very deep sense of justice, and his friendship for and good will towards the Filipino people. I have no doubt that under his leadership we will receive from the Government of the United States the fairest treatment that we may ever expect to receive under the leadership of his successors. And if the Philippines were to become independent not later than the fourth of July, 1939, President Roosevelt would still have more than one full year to extend his helping hand to the new Philippine Republic in the early stages of its dealings as an independent nation both with the United States and the rest of the world. We could, indeed, find no better sponsor than President Roosevelt to usher the Philippines into the family of free nations.
Moreover, the experience of the last two years has shown that, although the avowed purpose of the ten-year transition period is to stabilize the trade relations between the United States and the Philippines, as provided in the Independence Act, so as to give the Filipino people a basis for making readjustments in their national economy preparatory to the change that complete independence would bring with it, there were tendencies in Congress to disregard the terms and conditions governing said trade relations even against the will of the Filipino people.
In proposing to President Roosevelt that he recommend to the Congress the shortening of the period for the grant of independence, I also asked that the present trade relations between the United States and the Philippines be continued for at least ten years after independence. If this were done and made a part of a treaty between the Government of the United States and the Philippine Republic the trade relations between the two countries would have been placed on a stable basis during the life of the treaty.
I know that there are people who believe that these trade relations only benefit the Philippines at the expense of the American people. As far as I am concerned, I would never ask from the United States anything that we could not reciprocate in kind. If U advocate the temporary continuance of the present trade relations between America and the Philippines it is because I am convinced that these trade relations are mutually beneficial to both countries.
There is another vital reason why the date for the granting of independence should be advanced. The present political set-up is untenable in that while America retains her sovereign authority over the Philippines, she, at the same time, has placed in the hands of the Filipino people the responsibility for laying down the foundations and erecting the structure of the Philippine Republic. The continuation of her sovereignty over the Philippines imposes upon America obligations she cannot shirk, and, correspondingly, it gives her rights that are incompatible with the free exercise of our judgment as to the best means that we should adopt to prepare ourselves for an independent national existence. Conflicts of views, and perhaps of interests, may arise during the coming next eight years that may create misunderstanding and ill-feelings between the American and Filipino peoples and mar the unprecedented record of perfect cooperation and goodwill between two dissimilar races which Fate has thrown together temporarily. As long as America was the sovereign authority and reserved for herself and exercised full power over, and assumed exclusive responsibility for, the Government of the Philippines, there was no occasion for conflict. Her word was then final in all matters of public policy, and our duty was merely to cooperate with her, as we did cooperate under her authority and direction.
Upon the establishment of the Government of the Commonwealth, however, the situation has changed materially. By an Act of Congress, we were given power to create our own government, controlled and managed by us, under a Constitution of our own making. It was the plain purpose of the Congressional enactment that the Filipino people, who were to become automatically independent in 1946, would, during the Commonwealth period, take such steps, as in their opinion would best ensure the stability and success of the Philippine Republic. Yet, the powers granted to the Government of the Commonwealth in the most important and essential functions of government, such as those affecting trarrif, currency, finance, immigration, or those which in any way might involve the international obligations of the United States, etc., were subject to the ultimate approval of, or revocation by, the President of the United States.
It must be recognized, on the one hand, that America cannot, in fairness to herself, concede more governmental powers to the Commonwealth than she has granted without endangering her own interest and peace, nor on the other hand, can the Filipino people assume responsibility for their due preparation for independence with only such limited powers as have been vested in the Commonwealth Government. In this predicament, it were better for America and the Philippines to be independent of each other so that each may be free to act in the furtherance of her own national objectives and interests.
We have been fortunate indeed that so far the representatives of the President of the United States in the Philippines have been men of the highest character and integrity, of broad statesmanship, and of a clear vision of the task entrusted to them. You all know former High Commissioner Frank Murphy. His relations with us, not only as High Commissioner but also as Governor-General, have been very close and most cordial. In both capacities he has rendered permanent service to our people. In my last trip to America he has proven to me that his interest in our liberty and well-being is abiding.
The present United States High Commissioner has been but a few months in our midst. Some of his early acts were misrepresented or misunderstood. For a time there were some misgivings on the part of our people as to his attitude towards them and this Government. But nothing can dispel misunderstandings quicker than personal contact.
It is my pleasure and my duty to report to you –and what I am going to say is no mere gesture of official courtesy, but an honest and straight talk- that I could wish for no better United States High Commissioner in the Philippines than His Excellency, Paul V. McNutt. He measures up to his exalted position, both as an official and as a man. Indeed, it is a very difficult choice to make between Mr. McNutt, the man, and His Excellency, the High Commissioner.
Since my return, we have had some difficult problems to settle and I had occasion to appraise the true measure of him who now represents the President of the United States in the Philippines. He deserves our respect and affection. The best spirit of mutual cooperation characterizes our official association, and we have also become good friends. I feel confident that in serving his government and his country, High Commissioner McNutt will be of invaluable help to the Filipino people.
Happy and fruitful as our association with the American High Commissioner has been, I must state in all candor that these two short years of the life of the Commonwealth have already revealed some signs of the possibility of a serious conflict between the High Commissioner and the President of the Philippines in the performance of their respective duties even if each were desirous of avoiding such conflict. Perhaps there will always be found a way to arrive at some reasonable compromise as long as President Roosevelt is at the head of the American Government, and if his representative in our country were of the caliber of the two High Commissioners we have had until now; especially if the President of the Philippines understood American psychology and realized America’s difficult situation during this twilight period of our nationhood. But who can foretell what will happen if another President should be in the White House, or a less sympathetic man should represent the President of the United States in the Philippines, or a Filipino President should be one entirely foreign to American ways or one-sided in his views of American-Filipino relations? The only sure remedy to this dangerous situation is to terminate it with the least possible delay.
No better evidence could have been given by President Roosevelt of his deep concern for the future welfare of our people than by the appointment of the Joint Preparatory Committee which is now sitting in conference in our country.
The following statement given out jointly by Mr. Sayre, Assistant Secretary of State, as Chairman of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Philippine Affairs, and myself on March 18, 1937, gives a complete idea of the reason for, and the object of, the creation of this Committee:
“Arrangements are being made for the appointment shortly of a joint preparatory committee of American and Philippine experts. The committee is to study trade relations between the United States and the Philippines and to recommend a program for the adjustment of Philippine national economy. This announcement followed conferences between President Quezon of the Philippine Commonwealth and the Inter-Departmental Committee on Philippine Affairs, which is acting on behalf of President Roosevelt in the preliminary discussions. Assistant Secretary of State Francis B. Sayre is Chairman of this Committee.
“Inasmuch as the Independence Act provides that complete political independence of the Philippines shall become effective on July 4, 1946, and inasmuch as President Quezon has suggested that the date of independence might be advanced to 1938 or 1939, it was agreed that the joint committee of experts would be expected in making its recommendations to consider the bearing which an advancement in the date of independence would have on facilitating or retarding the execution of a program of economic adjustment in the Philippines. It was further agreed that the preferential trade relations between the United States and the Philippines are to be terminated at the earliest practicable date consistent with affording the Philippines a reasonable opportunity to adjust their national economy. Thereafter, it is contemplated that trade relations between the two countries will be regulated in accordance with a reciprocal trade agreement on a non-preferential basis.”
The members of the Joint Committee appointed by the Inter-Departmental Committee with the approval of President Roosevelt and by me are the following:
His Excellency, the United States Ambassador to Turkey, Hon. John Van A. MacMurray, Chairman of the Committee.
|American Group||Philippine Group|
|Joseph E. JacobsVice Chairman of the Committee and Chairman of the American Group.Mr. Jacobs is Chief of the Office of Philippine Affairs, Department of State.||Jose YuloVice Chairman of the Committee and Chairman of the Philippine Group.Mr. Yulo is Secretary of Justice of the Philippine Commonwealth.|
|Louis DomeratzkyChief, Division of Regional Information, Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, Department of Commerce.||Conrado BenitezDean, College of Business Administration, University of the Philippines.|
|Lynn R. EdminsterChief Economic Analyst, Division of Trade Agreements, Department of State.||Joaquin M. ElizaldeMember of the National Economic Council.|
|Col. Donald C. McDonaldAssistant to the Chief, Bureau of Insular Affairs, War Department.||Quintin ParedesResident Commissioner for the Philippines.|
|Carl RobbinsChief, Sugar Section, Agricultural Adjustment Administration, Department of Agriculture.||Jose E. RomeroFloor Leader, Majority Party in the National Assembly.|
|Frank A. WaringSenior Economist, United States Tariff Commission.||Manuel Roxas
Floor Leader, Minority Party in the National Assembly.
Ben Dorfman of the United States Tariff Commission and Benito Razon, Economic Adviser to the President, were later on appointed to the Committee as alternates.
This Committee held hearings in Washington, San Francisco, and Manila; and it also visited most of the provinces of the Philippines to secure first-hand information that would be valuable to the members of the Committee in making their report and final recommendation on the task entrusted to them.
After this Committee shall have submitted its report, it is my purpose to reiterate my petition that the granting of complete independence to the Philippines be advanced either to the 30th of December, 1938, or to the 4th of July, 1939, unless the National Assembly, during its present session, should express a contrary opinion.
Let me now turn your attention to our most immediate economic and social problems. The Philippines has undoubtedly made great strides both in the field of politics and of economics during the last three decades. Politically, we have reached the point where we are –having an almost entirely autonomous government and the assurance of complete independence. Economically, we have become an important factor in American commerce; our foreign and domestic trade has multiplied –in a word, the national wealth has greatly increased. We have accomplished, too, considerable progress in sanitation, in education, in the construction of roads and all kinds of communications, and we have acquired the modern conveniences of life. But the main beneficiaries of this most remarkable progress are the rich and the middle class. The rich can live in extravagant luxury. Some of their offspring grow up in an atmosphere of ease, with an outlook on life which gives paramount important to society affairs, vanities, trivialities and material possessions, devoid of discipline, love for work or human sympathy. The middle class have attained a higher standard of living as compared with that prevailing during the Spanish regime. The comforts of present-day civilization are within their reach and they are enjoying them. Their sons and daughters are better-fed, better clothed, better educated –thousands upon thousands of them are now receiving the benefits of higher instruction.
Sad to tell, but it is none the less true, the same cannot be said of our laboring population. The men and women who till the soil or work in the factories are hardly better off now than they were during the Spanish regime. Of course, wages are higher than in any other Oriental country, with the possible exception of Japan. But it should be remembered that money could buy more in those Spanish days than it can now; and furthermore in the relationship between employer and employee in the days of old there was a consideration of higher value to the employee than the monetary compensation itself. Of yore employers and employees lived in personal contact and association resembling that which exists amongst members of the same family so that ties of affection bound them together much more than material considerations. Now this no longer obtains for their relationship is almost as impersonal and detached as that existing between employers and employees in highly industrialized countries. Again, our ancestors, because of their greater ignorance, knew no better and were resigned to their hard life, believing that it was a part of the world order as decreed by Divine Will, so that the unfortunate sufferer may meet with a greater reward in Heaven.
Now the Filipino workingman, however illiterate, refuses to believe that the Creator of the Universe could have ordained that some of His creatures should live in luxury and plenty, while others, in destitution and misery. The Filipino laborer now knows that the Father of mankind loves him as much as every other human being, and, therefore, that the world has not been made for the benefit of a few, but for the happiness of all.
Still more: The Filipino workingman has heard, if he is not able to read, of the equality before the law of the poor and the rich. He has heard of democracy, liberty, and justice, since every candidate for an elective office discourses on these topics, painting to him in glowing terms the meaning of these words.
And yet, what does he actually see? How do these doctrines that he has heard propounded from the platforms affect his everyday life? His hopes have been raised, his vision has been broadened, and his outlook has been painted in bright colors. But thirty-five years of American regime has brought him only disappointments and, sometimes, despair.
Has the progress then made by the Philippines benefited our poorer population? Rhe poor still has to drink the same polluted water that his ancestors drank for ages. Malaria, dysentery, and tuberculosis still threaten him and his family at every turn. His children cannot all go to school, or if they do, they cannot even finish the whole primary instruction for one reason or another.
Roads from his barrio or his little farm to the town there are none. Only trails are within his reach –trails that have been formed by the daily pressure of his bare feet and not because they have been constructed. As he works from sunrise to sundown, his employer gets richer while he remains poor. He is the easy prey of the heartless usurer because usury is still rampant everywhere despite legislative enactments intended to suppress it.
That is, concisely speaking, the lot of the common man in our midst, after America’s long endeavor to give to all fair opportunity in the pursuit of happiness and the enjoyment of life.
It was, of course, impossible for American administrators to see and reach the lowest strata of our population. But now that the reins of government are in our hands in so far as our own domestic affairs are concerned, what excuse, what reasonable justification can there be in allowing such a social and economic order to continue?
It is high time that all the branches of this Government cooperate with one another, and with them the whole community and every good-hearted man and woman, so that at last in this dear land of ours social justice –real justice- in the relations of man to man, may reign supreme.
Our people are patient and law-abiding. They love peace. They have not lost their faith either in the executive, the legislative, or the judicial branch of the Government. As the Government is now in the hands of their own countrymen, they have become hopeful and are placing the realization of their dream for a better day in our clearer understanding of their lot, our better knowledge of conditions prevailing in the country, and in what should be the natural craving of our hearts to serve them with all the power at our command –they who are flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood.
The promotion of social justice by the State is a clear and categorical mandate of our Constitution. Our platform, the platform upon which you and I have been elected, imposes upon us the high duty of enacting measures that will improve the living conditions of the laborer and of carrying these measures into effect. We must see that laws are enacted which will not permit the exploitation of the employee by his employer and which will leave no loopholes that may be used to defeat the ends of justice. We must rely for the security of this new nation, not so much upon the might of brute force, but upon the undivided loyalty of every citizen to the Government –a loyalty founded upon individual consciousness that this Government is his, and that it exists only for his protection, for his liberty, and for his happiness.
Both the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor are ready to help you in the preparation of the measures that are required to fill the gap that may be found in our existing legislation, for the purpose of correcting prevailing social evils and of carrying into effect the provisions of the Constitution as well as the commitments in our platform.
The Proceeds of the Excise Tax on Oil
Fortunately for us a new source of income has come to our hands that will facilitate the carrying out of our program of social justice and economic readjustment. From the proceeds of the excise tax on oil there has been accumulated up to the end of June, 1937, the sum of P96,507,227.30 in the Federal Treasury, the transfer of which amount to the Treasury of the Philippines I had secured before I left America on my last trip. This sum is now available for appropriation, the understanding with the Treasury Department of the United States being that out of that fund, P10,000,000 will be available upon thirty days’ notice and the balance upon ninety days’ notice.
The final decision as to how this fund shall be spent is, of course, yours. But in the exercise of my constitutional prerogative I shall take the liberty of making some suggestions regarding the purposes for which this money should be spent.
The first thing that we must bear in mind is that this fund does not constitute an ordinary income of the Government upon which we may depend for recurring obligations. When independence shall have been granted, this source of our income will cease. Were we to defray from this fund services that we cannot maintain once this income is terminated, we would have thrown away the money thus spent. We must, therefore, limit the use of this fund for national objectives, for purposes where the greater good may be derived by the Filipino people.
Concretely, I recommend that this fund be devoted to the following purposes:
1. To improve sanitary conditions of centers of population by constructing water systems or artesian wells.
2. For combating malaria where there is assurance that it can be done at a reasonable expense.
3. For the prevention of tuberculosis and the establishment of more sanitoriums, as it is well known that the white plague is the worst scourge afflicting our race.
4. For the building of new leprosariums which will permit lepers in the early stage of the disease to be treated where they may be easily reached by their families, thus making their isolation less tragic.
5. For extending free dispensary service to the poor not only in centers of population but also in outlying barrios and communities.
6. For building public schools in every barrio where there is a sufficient number of children justifying the opening of the school.
In this connection, I desire to state that it was with great reluctance that I vetoed the bill passed in your last sessions appropriating funds for school buildings. A subcommittee of the Committee on Public Instruction came to see me to secure my approval to a measure that would appropriate P5,000,000 for school buildings even before approving the regular budget of the Government. The Department of Public Instruction is now ready to furnish you with all the necessary information.
The Constitution imposes upon the Government of the Philippines the duty to give every boy and girl of school age the opportunity to receive primary instruction. As soon as there are sufficient school buildings to accommodate all the school-age population of the Philippines and permanent means for supporting the schools have been created, there should be implanted here, in my opinion, compulsory universal primary instruction. In the meantime we should make it compulsory for every boy and girl who is now in our public schools, and those who may be admitted next year and thereafter to remain in school during the period required for the entire primary instruction. Means should be immediately provided to carry this policy into effect.
One of the discoveries which we have made since the establishment of the Government of the Commonwealth is that, despite the large number of children that have gone through our public schools, as shown in the reports of the Bureau of Education, the literacy of the Islands has not increased proportionally, and the knowledge of those rudimentary subjects which the citizen of a democracy should have, has not been acquired by a population corresponding to the number of children that appear to have entered the public schools. The reason for this is simple. A large proprtion of the boys and girls who have been admitted to the schools have not remained long enough to acquire any kind of useful knowledge.
7. For opening national highways and helping in the construction of provincial and even barrio roads whenever the respective provinces and municipalities pledge themselves to maintain the roads thus constructed, and in the case of barrio roads, where the volume of traffic on said roads also justifies their construction.
8. For the construction of office buildings for the National Government so as to reduce, if not eliminate, the continuous expense in rents.
9. For the purchase of large landed estates and their resale in small lots to the actual occupants thereof.
We are committed to the policy of acquiring the haciendas which, in the opinion of the Government, should be subdivided in small lots and resold to the tenants actually working on said lots. In a message to the National Assembly in its first regular session, I stated that we were not in a position to redeem this pledge, not only because we had no funds with which to purchase these estates, but also because I feared that we would only be transferring the trouble faced by the owners of these estates to the Government itself. Since then we have come into this fund accruing to the Commonwealth from the processing tax on oil, and I deem it proper and wise to use a part of it for the acquisition of these haciendas. In order that the Government may accomplish its objective more completely this time than when it brought the Friar lands, I have appointed a committee to study the whole question in its varied aspects with instructions to submit it recommendations not later than November 15, 1937. As soon as the committee submits its report, I shall refer the same to the National Assembly for such action as you may deem proper and expedient in the light of the recommendations therein contained.
10. For the development of water power, the reforestation of denuded areas, the colonization and development of Mindanao; and
11. For the financing of a long range program of economic adjustments necessary to prepare the country for the new situation attending the grant of our independence, including the establishment of new industries which at the same time will give work to the unemployed.
It is expected that the Joint Preparatory Committee on Philippine Affairs will include in its report a well considered program of economic adjustments to supplement its recommendation on future American-Philippine trade relations. As soon as this report has been received by me it will be immediately submitted to you for your consideration.
Gentlemen of the National Assembly, before closing, allow me to emphasize the need to of giving the common man in the Philippines the benefits that the citizenry of every progressive democracy is entitled to receive. I am sure that every one of you will give to this noble task the best that is in him. An opportunity has been offered us that no past or coming generation has had or will ever have –that of creating a nation where there will be no privileged class, where poverty will be unknown, where every citizen will be duly equipped with the knowledge that will enable him to perform his duties and to exercise his rights properly and conscientiously, and where every man, woman, and child his fireside will be thankful to God for living in this beautiful and blessed land.