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Committee Thrashing Out Details of Independence, December 24, 1932

December 24, 1932

Committee Thrashing Out Details of Independence
Hawes-Cutting Bill Approved by Senate—Goes to Conference with Hare Bill—Manila Rises Against Senate Measure

IN ONE of the commodious committee rooms in the capital building in Washington, D.C., at 10 o’clock on Wednesday morning, a group of five senators and three representatives sat down around a large conference table.

Before each member of the joint committee lay printed copies of two bills: one entitled S. 3377; the other, H. R. 7233. Popularly known as the Hawes-Cutting and the Hare bills, they were the measures which the United States senate and the United States house of representatives, respectively, had passed as Philippine independence bills.

Basically following the same broad outlines, these two bills varied in certain essential details. To compromise those differences and report out a single measure which would be acceptable to both houses was the task before the joint committee, as it settled down to work Wednesday morning. Briefly, those differences were:

Hawes Hare

How soon the joint committee can finish its task of ironing out those discrepancies was much in doubt as the eight congressmen buckled down to the task at hand. Senator Hawes, chief independence proponent in the upper house, was anxious to get a measure approved before December 25, as a Christmas present for the Filipino people. But with the traditional recess of congress over the holidays only a day or two off, it looked as though there were little hope of final action before January.

But if congress must adjourn, there was no reason why the committee could not continue its deliberations during the holidays.

Members of the committee, for the most part, are well-known in the Philippines.

Representing the upper house are Senators Hawes and Cutting, co-authors of the bill, Sen. Hiram Bingham, long-time opponent of independence, Sen. Hiram Johnson, who wants to exclude Filipinos from the United States, and Sen. Key Pittman, generally regarded as a friend of the Philippines.

From the lower house are Representative Hare, author of the independence bill bearing his name, Rep. Guinn Williams, from Texas, an unknown quantity in Philippine matters but certainly in favor of early independence, and Rep. Harold Knutson, whose Minnesota constituents are clamoring for independence in order to shut out Philippine coconut oil, which competes with their dairy products.

The question of Philippine independence was thrown into committee when the senate, last Saturday, passed the amended Hawes-Cutting bill without a record vote, after having reconsidered and disapproved the Broussard amendment which provided for independence in eight years with increasing tariffs beginning the first year. The bill as passed by the senate provides for independence in approximately 12 years, with restricted imports during the first seven years and gradually increasing tariff duties during the final five year.

As a matter of form, the house of representatives then disapproved the senate amendments to the bill, thus throwing both the senate bill and the house bill, which was passed last spring, into committee. That the compromise measure which emerges from that committee will be approved by both houses and sent to President Hoover seems probable. But what President Hoover will do with the bill is anybody’s guess.

Plebiscite Provision

Most controversial matter during the final discussion of the Hawes-Cutting bill was the question of a plebiscite. It is generally felt that President Hoover wants no independence bill without a plebiscite, which will allow the Philippine voters to decide, after a period of transition, whether or not they wish to be cut loose from the United States.

But Sen. Huey P. Long, self-styled Kingfish of Louisiana, who had forced through lower limitations on sugar and coconut oil, rose in his majesty and said he would filibuster until March 4 to prevent the plebiscite proviso. As a final compromise it was provided that the constitution of the Philippine commonwealth should be submitted to the people for a vote, thus allowing them to express their opinion before the period of transition.

From Manila, after the approval of the Hawes-Cutting bill, came an almost unanimous storm of protest. Said Senate President Quezon:

“While they insist upon keeping us under the American flag for a number of years our people are branded as undesirable to the American people. They want to restrict our free trade with America to a ruinous extent, and yet American free trade with the Philippines will be unlimited. Our industries will not be protected in the United States markets but American industries will be protected in the Philippines.

Wants Independence

“It is a most unfair arrangement reminding one of the treatment accorded to the American colonies by Great Britain in the days of George the Third.

“America should grant independence to the Philippines at once, or if Americans insist upon a period of transition then let it be the shortest possible time. If in the meanwhile, America does not want our people in the United States nor our products, let there be no intermigration of the two peoples nor free trade at all. Let Congress prohibit Filipinos from entering the United States and impose customs duties on Philippine products. But let the Filipinos have the right to do the same thing in reference to the United States.

“We did not ask Congress to establish this free trade, and we are willing to have it terminated now. We only ask independence.”

William H. Anderson fairly represented the opinion of America businessmen in Manila when he said, “Better have independence tomorrow than 10 years of slow torture by economic strangulation.”

Mass Meeting

A more conservative note came from the University of the Philippines, where President Rafael Palma pointed out that the Philippines could not expect an ideal independence bill and Dean Francisco Benitez declared that “beggars cannot be choosers.” Dean Maximo Kalaw caustically remarked that the “unfair commercial provisions” had “not surprised” him as he had “always contended that the history of our tariff relations with the United States showed that America has not been actuated by liberal motives.”

The climax of the protest was scheduled for Thursday evening, when a public mass meeting was held at the Manila Opera House. Organized under the chairmanship of Dean Jorge Bocobo, the meeting was first to have been addressed by Senate President Quezon, but later the Filipino leader withdrew, stating his stand on the matter was clear and declaring he was anxious the people themselves should be given an opportunity to express their views.

A resolution of protest was prepared for the meeting, and the program included speeches by Sen. Jose Generoso, Gonzalo Puyat, Lope K. Santos and Isauro Gabaldon.