January 7, 1933
Nacionalista Party Split
Hoover Considers Independence
Bill Finally Passed by Both Houses—Provides Three Years Continued Free Trade Without Restrictions—Quezon and Osmeña at Parting of Ways
ON TWO widely divergent battlefronts was the bloodless war of Philippine Independence being waged this week: in Washington and in Manila. In the American capital all the forces were being concentrated on President Hoover, who could approve or veto the compromise bill which congress had passed. In Manila the question was somewhat more complicated, as it involved an apparently irreparable split between those two Titans of Philippine politics, Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña.
Last Friday morning, about an hour before the ice plant whistle announced the 36th anniversary of the exact hour at which Dr. Jose Rizal was executed, word reached Manila that the lower house of the United States congress, by the overwhelming vote of 171 to 16, had approved the compromise Philippine independence bill. Since the senate had previously approved the measure, only the signature of President Hoover was needed to enact into law the first Philippine independence bill ever passed by both houses of the United States congress.
Generally termed a 10-year bill, the compromise bill now before President Hoover would in reality require about 13 years before the final grant of independence, might event take longer. Greatly feared for its annual limitations of 850,000 tons of sugar and 200,000 tons of coconut oil which might be sent free of duty from the Philippines to the United States, the bill provides that these limitations will not go into effect until the Philippine commonwealth has been established, which would take, conservatively estimated, two years and ten months, but might even take as long as four years. In the meantime the bill provides there would be no limitation on Philippine exports to the United States.
With the bill finally passed by both houses of the United States congress, speculation immediately centered itself upon what action President Hoover would take. Having wearied of affairs of state, the president was cruising in the Caribbean sea, and did not return to Washington until Tuesday of this week.
Having until January 11 to sign or veto the bill, failing to do which it will automatically become law, the president called Secretary of War Patrick Jay Hurley into conference, asked him to make a report on the bill. Staunch foe of independence Secretary Hurley told newspapermen on his way out of the White House that the bill “does not solve the inherent difficulties of the Philippine problem, but merely accentuates them.”
That Hurley recommended veto of the bill seemed likely. Another ground for believing that President Hoover would not approve the measure was the statement of Sen. Hiram Bingham, chairman of the senate territories committee, that he feared “Hoover could not sign the Philippine bill in view of the opposition of Secretary Stimson.” Nevertheless, Senator Bingham hoped that Hoover would sign the bill, fearing that an even less favorable measure would be passed by the coming congress.
Rep. Charles L. Underhill, republican from Massachusetts, scorchingly declared the compromise bill was “unfair, unchristian, and uncivilized and it is going to cause more woe and troubles in the world than any here conceive.”
With the bill passed and awaiting presidential action, the long impending storm in Philippine politics broke in all its fury. Asked by the Philippine missioners in Washington to petition the president to sign the bill, Senate President Quezon refused to do so, then called into session the Philippine independence commission.
Before the independence commission Senate President Quezon read a cable from Senator Osmeña and Speaker Roxas.
In a long and intensely dramatic speech, Senate President Quezon then proceeded to tear the compromise measure to pieces, objecting to nearly every provision in the bill. His most startling statement was that the bill “is the work of the National City Bank,” which has “one billion dollars invested in Cuban sugar interests, and it is bent on ruining the Philippine sugar industry.”
Finally, however, he moved and the independence commission approved a qualified interest for presidential approval of the bill. This request was contained in the following cable, signed by Quezon and Alas.
“The commission of independence further believes it to be its bounden duty to state that the legislation recommended by the conference committees of congress is not entirely in accord with the statements made and instructions given to date by the legislature and by the independence commission. The commission of independence would agree, however, with the President’s signing the bill already mentioned, with the object of giving the legislature or the Filipino people opportunity to express its opinion on such legislation, an opportunity which would not exist if the bill is not enacted into law. With this the commission believes it paves the way for the passage of the said measure and at the same time reserves for the legislature and the Filipino people full liberty of action to accept or refuse it when it is submitted to it for its consideration after hearing the side of the mission.”
Thus, while the way for presidential approval might have been paved, the way for a sharp split between Quezon and Osmeña was likewise paved, with Quezon opposing the independence measure and Osmeña approving it. Supporting Osmeña, of course, would be the other member of the independence mission. Just how the senators and representatives in the Philippines would line up was in doubt, but the division in the senate appeared almost even, with perhaps the appointive senators, including the sultan of Sulu, holding the balance of power.
Carrying the fight to the provinces, Quezon supporters invaded northern Luzon, seeking resolutions approving the stand of the senate president. From Cebu, stronghold of Senator Osmeña, came a telegram from Paulino Gullas requesting Senate President Quezon to explain his stand before the bar association of the southern province. Replied Senate President Quezon, “If in my opinion my duty to the people demands a trip to Cebu, I shall come regardless of myself and personal consideration to my friend Senator Osmeña.”
How the wind was blowing in the Philippines was indicated by a cablegram sent to Washington by Sen. Elpidio Quirino, acting majority floor leader Sen. Benigno Aquino had previously cabled Senator Quirino stating, “I wish to complain against premature judgment. If you succeed in preventing Quezon from prematurely and unnecessarily committing himself, we will save the country.” Caustically replied Senator Quirino, “Our colleagues have authorized me to inform you of our unanimous endorsement of Quezon’s attitude.”