January 28, 1933
Independence in the Balance
Babel of Voices Rising on All Sides—Question Buried Under Volumes of Oratory Leaders’ Future Moves Uncertain
CONFUSION worse confounded marked the week’s developments in the unfolding of the drama of Philippine independence. From Bongao to Aparri raged the question of the hour: Should the Philippines approve the independence bill enacted by the United States congress? Of almost equal interest was the subsidiary question: Should the Philippine legislature act on the bill, or should a convention of specially elected delegates decide this momentous matter?
All eyes were focused upon the impetuous figure of Senate President Quezon, who effective ended discussion of the bill during the special session of the legislature by threatening to take an immediate vote on the question unless sponsors of the bill stopped their sniping tactics.
As staunchly opposed to the bill as ever, Senate President Quezon was unquestionably supported by a majority in both houses of the legislature. Should he have put the question to a vote, there was no doubt but that his wishes would have been followed. In spite of claims that the legislature could not act on the matter until an official copy of the bill had been received from Washington, the senate president insisted that all that was necessary for a vote was for the governor general to submit the radioed copy of the bill to the legislature.
“I have an agreement with the members of the mission not to act on the bill until they return and make their report, in order that they may defend their actions,” said Senate President Quezon, “but if sympathizers of the bill continue making speeches and waging a campaign to form public opinion in favor of the bill, the members of the legislature, in spite of my wishes, may force a vote on the measure.
Having thus effectively spiked discussion of the bill at the special session of the legislature, Senate President Quezon called a caucus of the majority party, and secured authorization to send a cable ordering the mission to return to the Philippines.
If the mission were to return, it seemed probable that Senate President Quezon had abandoned his plans to sail to the United States to work for the better bill which he felt he could secure from the forthcoming congress. Yet the next thing the mercurial leader did indicated the possibility of his departure. He had the senate elect Sen. Jose Clarin as president pro tempore, and Sen. Elpidio Quirino a majority floor leader. “As everybody knows, the question of my going to the United States has not been decided, but if I should leave there must be a president pro tempore,” explained Senate President Quezon.
The mission, in the meantime, were sitting tightly in Washington awaiting orders from Manila. Even Sen. Benigno Aquino, envoy extraordinary who joined the mission at the last moment and who had planned to start his return trip late this month, announced he had canceled his passage and would stay in Washington.
But while the senate president was charting his course in regard to the independence bill, a great barrage of opinion, pro and con, was laid down in Manila and throughout the provinces.
Among the many entities which expressed their opinions on the independence bill were: the municipal council of Manila, which opposed it after hearing a councilor make the sensational statement that the mission should be shot for treachery and the students of the Columbian institute of Manila, who “sincerely and wholeheartedly” endorsed the independence bill.
For and Against
Rafael Palma, president of the University of the Philippines, and once a member of the Big Three of Philippine politics, issued a statement deploring “the absence of perfect understanding among our leaders”. He favors the approval of the bill.
On the other side of the fence is Don Vicente Lopez, president of the International Chamber of Commerce of Iloilo, the Filipino businessman who declared before Secretary of War Hurley that independence would be ruinous without free trade for 20 years. He said:
“One need not be a prophet to predict now what will happen should the Philippine legislature accept the Hawes-Cutting Bill.
“1. Foreign capital, which constitutes more than 50% of our total, will be withdrawn as soon as possible, in two years at the most.
“2. Filipino capital, which is much more conservative than foreign capital will also be withdrawn and all the cash will be deposited with foreign banks.
“3. As a result of this withdrawal of all foreign and Filipino capital, the government of the Philippine commonwealth will be so poor after the lapse of five years that it will ask the United States to restore the Jones Bill.
“4. The Jones law may be restored but without such privileges or have gains as free trade.
“5. That, to cap it all—and in this I hope I am mistaken—we shall not say goodbye to the country, but we shall say goodbye to the home, because economic slavery will then prevail.”
Many observers chose the “middle path,” feeling that although the independence bill is far from an ideal one, it is better than nothing at all. For instance, Dr. Bernabe Africa, professor of political science at the University of the Philippines, holds that “We must meet the selfish American interests halfway. Immediate independence is impracticable. If we cannot have a whole loaf, we are wise if we take half a loaf. Under the next administration a worse bill, from the economic standpoint, might be passed.
The most interesting debate now being conducted in the daily press by Maximo Kalaw and Jorge Bocobo, the two politically minded deans of the University of the Philippines. Dean Kalaw, a member of the mission who returned early, is defending the bill, while Dean Bocobo is opposing it.
De Joya for Bill
A public clash between those favoring and those opposing the independence bill occurred Tuesday afternoon at that forum for the creation of public opinion, a convocation of students of the University of the Philippines.
For Judge Mariano H. de Joya, the principal speaker delivered a lengthy speech in favor of the bill declaring “We must accept the Hawes-Cutting-Hare Bill because it contains a definite and solemn promise of Independence, at the expiration of the ten year period of transition, thus eliminating the element of uncertainty.
“Furthermore, we must accept the Hawes-Cutting-Hare Bill, to be consistent with ourselves; and so that we may not become the laughing-stock of the World. To reject the Hawes-Cutting-Hare Bill would be impolitic, and treason to the rights and the welfare of future generations.
“Besides, if we should now reject the Hawes-Cutting-Hare Bill, the American Congress will charge us with ingratitude and with attempting to impose upon them, and they will treat our next petitions with scorn. We have no right to gamble away the gains already obtained, and thus be recreant to our duty to 13,000,000 souls.”
Judge De Joya then took up the controversial points of the bill one at a time, arguing that the retention of American naval bases in the Philippines would be a stabilizing influence in the Far East, that the trade relations provided in the bill are not unjust to the Philippines, that the limitation of immigration into the United States was a blessing in disguise and that the fears concerning the American high commissioner are unjustified.
The high spot of the convocation resulted from Judge De Joya’s statement that “What could President Quezon do, a sick man and alone, that the others, all strong and sound, could not do together?”
Securing permission to be heard, Dean Jorge Bocobo leaped to his feet and belabored Judge De Joya for “rejoicing over the failing health of our president, Manuel L. Quezon.” With anger surging through every word of his speech, he passionately declared, “If President Quezon’s health is failing, if he is a sick man, it is because he has spent all his life, has sacrificed it all for the welfare of the people.”
Judge De Joya protested that he had been maliciously misunderstood declaring, “I did not say I was rejoicing because President Quezon is a sick man. I was merely stating a simple fact as a lawyer ordinarily would.”
Opening shot of the Kalaw-Bocobo debate was fired Thursday morning when Dean Kalaw released to the press his first article, which he described as an account “of a once famous battle-cry whose echo has been lost in the recondite nooks and corners of Capitol hill.” The battle-cry was “immediate, complete and absolute independence,” which Dean Kalaw said “has served tremendously in arousing the people”. Therefore supporters of immediate independence, he argued, were barking up the wrong tree, were seeking something impossible to attain.
Probably one of the most vital pronouncements on the measure will be made by Senate President Quezon at one o’clock next Sunday morning, when he will address the people of the United States over a nationwide radio hook-up which will carry his voice into millions of American homes.
What the Filipino leader says then will undoubtedly have a very real and definite bearing on the final outcome of the problem.
And Now. . .
THE fevered excitement incidental to the unimagined passing of the Hawes-Cutting bill over President Hoover’s veto is subsiding, and we are moving into the more sober secondary stage.
While there is still interested discussion as to the merits and probable consequences of the measure, which debates in the press and on the platform will tend to keep alive, the general tendency seems to be toward suspended judgment.
The poll conducted by the daily press, mostly among businessmen, reveals complacence on the part of some and resignation, in lieu of the hope of anything better, on the part of others. A few, however, openly voice their dissatisfaction and apprehension and seem disposed to risk everything in an effort to avert the “slow strangulation,” the “creeping paralysis,” which they see as the inevitable outcome of the bill’s operation.
Meanwhile, in diametrical opposition, in apparently uncompromising antagonism dominating the welter of discussion and dissidence, are the well known views of the members of the mission in the United States, with Osmeña and Roxas in the forefront, and, here, Manuel Quezon. On neither side has there been the slightest sign of wavering, of change, of yielding.
For those who believe with Quezon, that there is hope of something better, the argument appears to run about as follows:
That the executive heads of the United States government, reference being had to President Hoover and four members of his cabinet, definitely opposed the bill; that in its essence it is unqualifiedly one-sided and arbitrary; that it was promoted by selfish and sordid interests; that the press of the United States generally condemns it; that it works a great moral and material wrong upon the Filipino people, gives the lie to the past lofty professions of the United States about being animated solely by motives of altruism in its dealings with the Filipino people and generally reflects dishonor upon the good name of America; and further, that it is inconceivable, if the worst came to the worst, that, with a whole people protesting against the injustice of the bill, the congress of the United States would be so cruel and inhuman as to force upon that people a bill still more drastic and merciless in its provisions.
On the other hand, apart from those who welcome the bill because of its more or less definite promise of independence, fear exists lest congress might be ruthless enough to enact a still more stringent measure. These advocates of acceptance say there is no telling what congress might do. Some Americans even go so far as to voice the belief that, should Quezon declare the Filipino people would prefer immediate and outright independence to the present bill, congress might—to use their words—“call his bluff” and pass such a bill. Better, they say, to take half a loaf than risk getting none.
Thus is the issue presented to the Filipino people, to the people of the Philippines. They stand at the crossroads of destiny, at a crisis in their history. Through their legislature or through a popular convention, they are to be called upon to play the part of the Lords of High Decision. Fate hangs in the balance.