Road to Philippine independence: Manuel Quezon — Sergio Osmeña rivalry

CROSSROADS TOWARD PHILIPPINE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL PROGRESS - Gerardo P. Sicat (The Philippine Star) - August 19, 2020 - 12:00am

(Quezon Day essay, Aug. 19)

No two Philippine historical figures when put together create as much weight as those of Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña. The two were born only three weeks apart in 1878, Quezon on Aug. 19 in Baler, Tayabas (now province of Aurora, which was created out of the bigger Quezon province) and Osmeña on Sept. 9, in Cebu.

Working as rivals and as allies, their achievements culminated to secure the definite path toward full Philippine political independence, waged in the battlefield of legislation, not of bullets and resistance.

The critical years were 1932 to 1934. But the period of history began in 1907 when they started their political careers to 1946. At the end of this long period, both had become presidents, in succession, of the Philippine Commonwealth.

The Great Depression opens the path toward independence. In 1929, the world economy experienced a major downturn. World markets collapsed. Unemployment became massive, and the US economy suffered badly from all these.

The winds of change turned favorable toward the possibility of independence for the Philippines. Filipino politicians saw the opening for solving the “Philippine question” for Americans: What to do with their colony that was providing heavy competition to their major domestic industries, especially those that competed with Philippine sugar, coconut oil, and who knew, what else in the future.

The Republican Party – which was hostile to Philippine independence – lost heavily during the mid-term 1930 election. It lost control of the House and could hardly keep control of the Senate. The prospects for a favorable independence law loomed under such a condition. The emergence of the Democratic Party brought in more allies in support of Philippine independence.

In the course of the legislative period of Philippine history as an American colony, it sent periodic independence missions to the US capital to seek legislation toward independence.

The OSROX Mission. In October 1931, the ninth such independence mission was composed and headed by Sergio Osmeña (then the Senate President Pro Tempore) and Speaker of the House Manuel A. Roxas. Two other members were the majority floor leader of the Nacionalista Party and a representative from the minority Democrata Party. The two Philippine resident commissioners in the US completed the mission.

The mission was to take its instructions from then Senate President Manuel Quezon, as the most senior political leader, who was to remain in Manila, to take care of home affairs.

In this setting, clear communication between Manila and Washington was critical. Quezon was not one to let all the negotiations happen without expressing his views. He had strong views on particular provisions. On the other hand, the mission (called the OsRox mission, after the two heads, abbreviation for Osmeña and Roxas) had to react to particular issues as they were brought out.

The year 1932 was a highly productive, but also a very turbulent year for the independence law. The legal drafting for the provisions of the law moved forward relatively quickly in the lower house of Congress. The House version – the Hare bill – passed the lower house on April 4.

The Senate version was more difficult because that was where the resistance was felt most. However, a massive change in the political landscape was taking place that was becoming more favorable to the prospects of independence. It was a presidential election year. But the senators friendly to the cause of the bill managed to schedule the bill as the first to be calendared among unfinished business in the short session of Congress starting on Dec. 8.

(On Nov. 8, 1932, a new president for the United States was elected under a landslide victory of massive proportion. The new president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, captured both the House and the Senate with even bigger margins. Under these conditions, the independence prospects also improved.)

The Senate bill – the Hawes-Cutting independence bill – which had early rough sailing during the year passed quickly thereafter in the dying days of the Hoover government.

Provisions of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Law. A conference committee united the independence bills into the Hare-Hawes-Cutting bill passed by the US Congress. It had the following major provisions: (1) The framing of a constitution. (2) The establishment of an interim government for 10 years, headed by a president. (3) An American High Commissioner as delegate of the US president in Manila. (4) Quotas set for principal Philippine exports to America and provision for tariff preferences. And (5) Retention by the United States of land and other property as has been designated by the US president for military and other reservations.

On Jan. 13, 1933, then president Herbert Hoover vetoed the bill. He took the advice of his secretary of war Hurley and his secretary of state Stimson in his decision.

But this was not the end of the story. The proponents of the measure in the US Congress, emboldened by their numbers, felt that they could over-ride the presidential veto. Their action depended on what the Philippine independence mission wanted to do next.

The American supporters of the independence bill gave the Philippine mission 24 hours to make up their minds on what to do with the veto. Sergio Osmeña and Manuel Roxas signed a letter jointly on Jan. 16 to Senator Pittman, the leader of the group. They made it clear that they wanted the independence bill approved as law.

A few days later, the US Congress over-rode the veto of then president Hoover by a vote of 274-94 in the House and 62-26 in the Senate.

The Hare-Hawes-Cutting Law, or the Philippine independence law, was passed by Congress.

But this was not the end of the story either.

The real law on which Philippine independence became possible was the Tydings-McDuffie law, not the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Law.

Except for a few minor provisions, the Tydings-McDuffie Law, or the real Philippine Independence Act, is almost an identical twin of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Law.

The complicated story will be told in an ensuing essay.

My email is: gpsicat@gmail.com. For archives of previous Crossroads essays, go to: https://www.philstar.com/authors/1336383/gerardo-p-sicat. Visit this site for more information, feedback and commentary: http://econ.upd.edu.p h/gpsicat/

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