Should Independence Day be on June 12 or July 4?

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty Josephus Jimenez - The Freeman

From July 4, 1946 up to 1962, the Philippines celebrated Independence Day annually for a period of 16 years. On May 12, 1964, then President Diosdado P. Macapagal decided to change the date to June 12 to honor the proclamation of independence by General Emilio Aguinaldo on June 12, 1898. From 1964, we have been celebrating Independence Day for 60 years now. But is this really the right thing to do?

This writer is one of those who believe that July 4, and not June 12 is our true Independence Day. While it is more dramatic, more appealing to our sense of pride, and more supportive of our historical sense of national dignity to be celebrating June 12, that is not really the truth. And if we consider the fundamental principles of constitutional law and even international law, the proclamation by General Emilio Aguinaldo on June 12, 1898 was not binding.

It lacked the essential requirement of international recognition. Not a single sovereign nation ever extended recognition to that proclaimed republic. On the contrary, it was superseded by the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. Aguinaldo was only the leader of Cavite. He never governed the Visayas and Mindanao.

The Kingdom of Spain, which still had control over the Philippine Islands, having discovered it on March 16, 1521 and started to colonize it in 1565, had entered into an international convention or a treaty in Paris, France. By virtue of that Treaty of 1898, the Philippine Islands, lumped together with Puerto Rico and Guam, were purchased by the United States of America from the Kingdom of Spain for a measly sum of $20 twenty million. And so, how could we honestly call the Philippines as independent when we were sold by one sovereign nation to another. Immediately after the Treaty of Paris, the Americans colonized the whole islands, then made our nation a commonwealth until 1946. And so, what independence are we talking about?

With due respect, Aguinaldo's so-called Tejeros Convention and even the Malolos Convention were just a group of Tagalog landowners and mestizo businessmen. The Visayas and Mindanao were not properly and adequately represented there and the fundamental laws they passed were never ratified by the Filipino people. In contrast, after the Treaty of Paris, the US governed the PI or Philippine Islands as a colony. In 1902, the US Congress passed the Philippine Organic Act, under which the islands were governed by a governor general with a bicameral legislature. The Upper House was composed of appointed commissioners and the lower house was composed of elected representatives.

The Philippine Organic Act of 1902 was replaced in 1916 by the Jones Law and the legislature called the Philippine Commission was composed of two Houses whose members were all elected. Manuel Quezon was elected Senate president and held that post from 1916 to 1935 when he was elected president. To me, Quezon was really the true first president. He was elected nationwide, unlike the Tejeros Convention of Aguinaldo composed only of 256 delegates composed of a majority of 176 Magdalos mostly from Cavite and 80 Magdiwangs all from Tondo. It was not a truly representative assembly.

In 1933, the US Congress passed the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Law over the veto of President Herbert Hoover. Quezon did not like it because there was no guarantee of independence. With the help of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a new law replaced it. It was called the Tydings-McDuffie Act with a definite guarantee of independence in 1946. Truly, on July 4, 1946, the American flag was lowered and the Philippine flag hoisted signaling the true and genuine independence of our country.

The whole United Nations and the entire international community did recognize the Republic of the Philippines as a sovereign nation. In fact a year earlier, our own Carlos P. Romulo was allowed to sign the United Nations Charter on June 26, 1945. Our independence was recognized even before it was declared on July 4, 1946. Aguinaldo's proclamation on June 12, 1898 did not have all these essential recognitions. We should go back to July 4 instead of June 12.

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