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The Constitution of the

Philippine Commonwealth
Posted on September 7, 2012


by: Quennie Ann J. Palafox

The Constitution, whether written or unwritten is recognized as the supreme law of

the land as it serves as the basis for the legitimacy of any governmental acts necessary
for its existence. It is a codified law that determines the powers and duties of a
government and it embodies certain rights of the people.

Right after the signing of the Treaty of Paris in Washington D.C in 1898 that ceded
the Philippines to the US paying the amount of $20, 000, 000 to Spain in the process,
and the eruption of Filipino-American War in 1899, our country was placed under a
military government until 1901 with the passing of the Spooner Amendment, putting an
end to the military rule in the Philippines and replacing it with a civil government with
William H. Taft as the first civil governor. The ratification of the Philippine Bill of 1902,
which called for the creation of a lower legislative branch composed of elected Filipino
legislators, and the Jones Law in August 1916 gave the Filipinos the opportunity to
govern themselves better. The First Philippine Assembly, which convened on October
16, 1907, was composed of educated Filipinos from illustrious clans such as Sergio
Osmeña and Manuel L. Quezon, who revived the issue of immediate independence for
the Filipinos and this was expressed by sending political missions to the US Congress.

Controversy divided the Philippine legislature with the debate on the acceptance or
rejection of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Bill brought home by Osmeña-Roxas mission from
the US Congress in 1931, which provided for a 10-year transition period before the
granting of Philippine independence. The passage of the independence bill resulted in
the splitting of the Democrata Party and Nacionalista Party into two factions; the Pros
and Antis. Majority in the legislature led by Quezon and Recto rejected the said bill,
thereby composing the Antis, while the Pros became the Minority under Osmena,
Roxas and others.

On October 17, 1933, Quezon and others triumphed in this battle as the Philippine
legislature rejected the bill. Quezon eventually brought in from the United States the
Tydings-McDuffie Act (Public Law 73-127) authored by Sen. Millard Tydings and Rep.
John McDuffie, a slightly amended version of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting bill signed by
President Franklin Roosevelt on March 24, 1934. The bill set July 4 after the tenth year
of the commonwealth as date of Philippine independence. This was accepted by the
Philippine Legislature on May 1, 1934.
The organization of constitutional Convention that would draw up the fundamental
law of the land based on the American model was one of the salient provisions of the
Tydings-McDuffie Act. Delegates to the convention were subsequently elected in 1934.
In the first meeting held on July 30 at the session of the House of Representatives,
Claro M. Recto was unanimously elected as its President.

Salient features of the 1935 Constitution include the following: a bicameral

legislature composed of a senate and House of Representatives. The President is to be
elected to a four-year term together with the Vice-President without re-election; rights of
suffrage by male citizens of the Philippines who are twenty-one years of age or over
and are able to read and write; extension of the right of suffrage to women within two
years after the adoption of the constitution.

The draft of the constitution was approved by the convention on February 8, 1935
and ratified by Pres. Roosevelt in Washington D.C on March 25, 1935. Elections were
held in September 1935, Manuel L. Quezon was elected as the president of the
Commonwealth. The 1935 Constitution provided the legal basis of the Commonwealth
Government which was considered a transition government before the granting of the
Philippine independence with American-inspired constitution; the Philippine government
would eventually pattern its government system after American government. It has been
said that the 1935 Constitution was the best-written Philippine charter ever.