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The Vital Question, February 11, 1933

February 11, 1933

The Vital Question

BACK and forth across the length and breadth of the Philippines, tossed upon an apparently endless sea of speeches, the question of whether to accept or reject the Hawes-Cutting-Hare independence bill was discussed from every possible angle this week. And still there was no definite decision, still the political bosses and the intellectual leaders were divided into two opposing camps, still the people pondered upon the greatest decision which any country could possibly be called upon to make.

The main point of dissension between those supporting and those opposing the bill was whether or not it really provided independence. But in answering that question such a mass of relevant and irrelevant matter was raised that the public began to wonder what it was all about.

The most monumental event of the independence week was the wordy battle between those two staunch deans of the University of the Philippines, Maximo Kalaw and Jorge Bocobo. Their articles are reported in brief beginning on Page 28 of this issue.

The most significant event of the week was the definite stand against the bill taken by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, president of the short-lived Philippine republic, who presided over the annual convention of the Veteranos de la Revolucion in the Manila stadium Sunday. Asserting the bill was “the outcome of the efforts since 1930 of moneyed American and Cuban interests in sugar and other industries,” the old general declared:

Aguinaldo’s opinion

“The Bill imposes conditions that would work untold hardships upon our people, aside from the fact that it is not certain whether at the end of the 10-year period our independence would actually be granted us. About the only thing that appeals to us in this Bill is the grant of independence which is the goal of our people and for which we are sincerely thankful to America. Aside from this, however, the Bill spells an incubus on the shoulders of our people.”

Two courses of action were recommended by General Aguinaldo: “To amend the Hare-Hawes-Cutting bill or to ask a better bill from the ensuing Democratic administration and congress.” He feels that “from the incoming congress a more liberal independence bill may be obtained.”

However, the convention took no action either to approve or disapprove the bill, following this sage counsel from their president: “Let us proceed with caution, my comrades and countrymen, and let us not all too hastily give our answer to the question upon which depends the destiny of our people. Let us study its provisions further and meditating over the history of our country and that of America, let us look for what would redound to the glory of our land.”

Be Prepared

Finally, General Aguinaldo enjoined his comrades in arms to be prepared for a special assembly in case the legislature attempted to take precipitous action on the question “If the legislature,” he said, “should resolve to decide before the return of the Mission, it would be our duty to make known our decision before the legislature acts. In view of this, you are requested to vote finally on the question at an extraordinary general assembly of which you will be advised in time.”

In addition to General Aguinaldo, opponents of the bill found another recruit in the person of Sen. Claro M. Recto, leader of the defunct minority party in the senate. Declared Senator Recto in Iloilo: “The bill is so bad that we cannot obtain a worse one.”

The most startling declaration during the week was made by Prof. Melquiades S. Gamboa, of the U.P. college of law. A pundit who has studied law at Oxford, he declared that the Hawes-Cutting-Hare bill “is already a law” and hence already in full effect, regardless of the Philippine people or their representatives. The basis for his argument was the belief that congress had no constitutional right to refer the law to the Philippine legislation or to a special convention for ratification.

Proponents of the bill received more and comfort from U. P. President Rafael Palma, one-time member along with Quezon and Osmeña of the “Big Three” of Philippine politics. Categorically and explicitly, he declared, “The time has come for the country to change its leadership. We need new direction and new guidance.”

Since it has been bruited about that President Palma would resign as head of the university in order to reenter politics, the university faculty unanimously passed a resolution “expressing its full trust and confidence in President Palma and its wholehearted support of the continuance of his administration.” Said Senate President Quezon, “There is no reason why President Palma should resign.”

In the legislature interest was centered largely upon the fortunes of Floor Leader Francisco Varona, whose opponents attempted to take from his leadership, since he was unwilling to define his stand on the independence bill. Failing to secure the necessary number of votes to oust Representative Varona, a caucus of lower house members offered to send him to the United States along with Senate President Quezon, then proceeded to elect Rep. Jose Zulueta to act in his place should he go. Said Senate President Quezon, “I have no right to invite Representative Varona or anybody else to go with me and I can say that I have not done so.”

But Manila no longer held the center of the stage in the independence parleys this week. In Cebu a monster mass meeting on Saturday night protested against the Hawes-Cutting-Hare bill, and passed a resolution expressing “its condemnation of the work of the Philippine mission in Washington which ignored and disobeyed the instructions of the Philippine legislature and the Philippine commission of independence.”

Senate President Quezon in several public speeches said: They are at the foot of the mountain and I am far from it. What is happening with the mission is what happened to me when I was for for the enactment of the Jones bill. The only difference is that I have experience and I cannot be fooled for the second time. I was gullible  once when I was dazzled by the beauty of the preamble of the Jones bill and I failed to notice that the independence promised me by Congressman Jones was not in the law itself. The mission is now dazzled by the fixed date promise of independence and is holding to it as tightly as I held to the preamble, ignoring the other provisions of the law.”

Concerning himself the senate president said:

“Let me tell you that from a purely personal viewpoint it is foolish for me to object to the acceptance of the Hawes-Cutting act. If I were politically ambitious, there is nothing better for me than to advocate that it be accepted. Given the power that I am now represented to have, if I favor the acceptance of the Hawes-Cutting law and it is accepted by the people, I can have myself elected the first governor general of the commonwealth even by using the means resorted to by Ex-Representative Garde since, under such a law, aside from the American interests, it will be only the one fortunate enough to live in Malacañang that will be benefited by it.”

From the United States came only one significant pronouncement, the declaration by Sen. Key Pittman that the Philippines would have to accept the bill in its entirety or not at all. There could be no “acceptance with reservations,” as so many conservative Filipinos have suggested, according to the senator from Nevada. He said further that the compromise plan embodied in the bill was the inevitable solution of the question.

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