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Inauguration of the Senate, October 16, 1916

October 21, 1916

Inauguration of New Senate and First Completely Filipino Legislature

In the same historic McKinley plaza which sixteen years ago witnessed the transfer of the government of these islands from the military to the civil authority of the United States, there was witnessed last Monday another epoch-making act in the great political drama being unfolded here in the benevolent emancipation of the Filipino people under the protecting aegis of America. For the first time in their history the Filipino people gazed upon a senate or upper house of their own choosing. They saw the passing of a legislative body selected by the sovereign will of the American people as represented in the President and Congress of the United States, and the birth of a body chosen by the sovereign will of the Filipino people as expressed in the popular vote. In such transformation there was recorded another momentous advance in the political evolution of the Filipino people, and another aspiring dream of the years come true.

The scene of the gathering was befitting such an historic occasion, the setting being the foreground of the Ayuntamiento or seat of government. From the large pillared portals of the building out over the street in front there extended a platform where sat Governor General Harrison, Speaker Osmeña, Senate President Quezon, the members of the upper and lower houses, and other official functionaries. In front and facing the platform sat members of the judiciary and other branches of the government, and representatives of the army and navy, the consular corps, the church, and commercial and other organizations. Behind them and spreading out fanwise under the shady acacia trees of the plaza and on the adjoining streets, stood an enormous throng, estimated at between 15,000 and 20,000 people. Guarding the avenues of approach and holding back the immense throng from pressing too closely to the platform, were serried files of the United States troops and the Philippine constabulary, their uniforms and accoutrements lending a martial touch to the occasion.

It was about eleven o’clock when the imposing strains of the overture by the constabulary band heralded the opening of the ceremonies. As the music ceased the members of the senate and the lower house filed through the spacious doorway and took their seats on the platform, being followed almost immediately by Governor General Harrison, accompanied by the passing Philippine commission, and Speaker Osmeña and Senate President Quezon, both of whom had been elected to their respective posts just previous to the grand ceremony. In the presence of the vast throng, President Quezon and Speaker Osmeña each called his house to order, and then Governor General Harrison advanced to the speaker’s desk and read the messages received from President Wilson and Secretary of War Baker, which evoked enthusiastic responses. The chief executive then read (in Spanish) his message to the legislature, being greeted on several occasions with loud cheers.

Bank and Railroad

Described as “two acts of the greatest importance to the economic development of the islands,” the governor general referred to the creation of the Philippine National bank and the purchase of the controlling stock of the Manila Railroad company. Of the former he said that under wise management it would go far to “secure the freedom of Philippine commerce” and would stimulate agriculture and industry, and of the latter that it would greatly profit the Filipino people to hold in their own hands the power and direction of their principal system of land transportation. Thus they could “stimulate and distribute the commerce of the islands in the interests of the people as a whole, instead of primarily for the benefit of foreign stockholders.” The railroad would prove the “very backbone” of the plans of the Filipino people for “the fiscal independence and financial development of the archipelago.”

“Filipinization”

On this subject the chief executive said the civil service roster of July 1, 1916, showed: approximately 1500 Americans and 8,200 Filipinos in the civil service. Under the present policy of steady filipinization the position was gradually being reached where every bureau or office of the government would be under a Filipino chief or have a Filipino assistant. The terms of the new act showed clearly that congress intended that Filipino citizens should be given an opportunity to demonstrate their own capacity to establish a stable government here. “Should it be your pleasure, therefore, to reorganize the departments of the insular government, it should be the policy for the governor general to appoint a Filipino to be head of each department of which the law gives him the right of nomination.”

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