Spanish-American War and Philippine Resistance
Outbreak of War, 1898
Spain's rule in the Philippines came to an end as a result of United States involvement with Spain's other major colony, Cuba. American business interests were anxious for a resolution - with or without Spain - of the insurrection that had broken out in Cuba in February 1895. Moreover, public opinion in the United States had been aroused by newspaper accounts of the brutalities of Spanish rule. When the United States declared war on Spain on April 25, 1898, acting Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt ordered Commodore George Dewey, commander of the Asiatic Squadron, to sail to the Philippines and destroy the Spanish fleet anchored in Manila Bay. The Spanish navy, which had seen its apogee in the support of a global empire in the sixteenth century, suffered an inglorious defeat on May 1, 1898, as Spain's antiquated fleet, including ships with wooden hulls, was sunk by the guns of Dewey's flagship, the Olympia, and other United States warships. More than 380 Spanish sailors died, but there was only one American fatality.
As Spain and the United States had moved toward war over Cuba in the last months of 1897, negotiations of a highly tentative nature began between United States officials and Aguinaldo in both Hong Kong and Singapore. When war was declared, Aguinaldo, a partner, if not an ally, of the United States, was urged by Dewey to return to the islands as quickly as possible. Arriving in Manila on May 19, Aguinaldo reassumed command of rebel forces. Insurrectionists overwhelmed demoralized Spanish garrisons around the capital, and links were established with other movements throughout the islands.
In the eyes of the Filipinos, their relationship with the United States was that of two nations joined in a common struggle against Spain. As allies, the Filipinos provided American forces with valuable intelligence (e.g., that the Spanish had no mines or torpedoes with which to sink warships entering Manila Bay), and Aguinaldo's 12,000 troops kept a slightly larger Spanish force bottled up inside Manila until American troop reinforcements could arrive from San Francisco in late June. Aguinaldo was unhappy, however, that the United States would not commit to paper a statement of support for Philippine independence.
By late May, the United States Department of the Navy had ordered Dewey, newly promoted to Admiral, to distance himself from Aguinaldo lest he make untoward commitments to the Philippine forces. The war with Spain still was going on, and the future of the Philippines remained uncertain. The immediate objective was to capture Manila, and it was thought best to do that without the assistance of the insurgents. By late July, there were some 12,000 United States troops in the area, and relations between them and rebel forces deteriorated rapidly.
By the summer of 1898, Manila had become the focus not only of the Spanish-American conflict and the growing suspicions between the Americans and Filipino rebels but also of a rivalry that encompassed the European powers. Following Dewey's victory, Manila Bay was filled with the warships of Britain, Germany, France, and Japan. The German fleet of eight ships was led by Vice-Admiral von Diedrichs. It entered Philippine waters to protect German interests and acted highly provocatively - cutting in front of United States ships, refusing to salute the United States flag (according to naval courtesy), taking soundings of the harbor, and landing supplies for the besieged Spanish. Germany, hungry for the ultimate status symbol, a colonial empire, was eager to take advantage of whatever opportunities the conflict in the islands might afford. Dewey called the bluff of the German admiral, threatening a fight if his aggressive activities continued, and the Germans backed down.
The Spanish cause was doomed, but Fermín Jaudenes, Spain's last governor in the islands, had to devise a way to salvage the honor of his country. Negotiations were carried out through British and Belgian diplomatic intermediaries. A secret agreement was made between the governor and United States military commanders in early August 1898 concerning the capture of Manila. In their assault, American forces would neither bombard the city nor allow the insurgents to take part (the Spanish feared that the Filipinos were plotting to massacre them all). The Spanish, in turn, would put up only a show of resistance and, on a prearranged signal, would surrender. In this way, the governor would be spared the ignominy of giving up without a fight, and both sides would be spared casualties. The mock battle was staged on August 13. The attackers rushed in, and by afternoon the United States flag was flying over Intramuros, the ancient walled city that had been the seat of Spanish power for over 300 years.
The agreement between Jaudenes and Dewey marked a curious reversal of roles. At the beginning of the war, Americans and Filipinos had been allies against Spain in all but name; now Spanish and Americans were in a partnership that excluded the insurgents. Fighting between American and Filipino troops almost broke out as the former moved in to dislodge the latter from strategic positions around Manila on the eve of the attack. Aguinaldo was told bluntly by the Americans that his army could not participate and would be fired upon if it crossed into the city. The insurgents were infuriated at being denied triumphant entry into their own capital, but Aguinaldo bided his time. Relations continued to deteriorate, however, as it became clear to Filipinos that the Americans were in the islands to stay.
The Malolos Constitution and the Treaty of Paris
After returning to the islands, Aguinaldo wasted little time in setting up an independent government. On June 12, 1898, a declaration of independence, modeled on the American one, was proclaimed at his headquarters in Cavite. It was at this time that Apolinario Mabini, a lawyer and political thinker, came to prominence as Aguinaldo's principal adviser. Born into a poor indio family but educated at the University of Santo Tomás, he advocated "simultaneous external and internal revolution," a philosophy that unsettled the more conservative landowners and ilustrados who initially supported Aguinaldo. For Mabini, true independence for the Philippines would mean not simply liberation from Spain (or from any other colonial power) but also educating the people for self-government and abandoning the paternalistic, colonial mentality that the Spanish had cultivated over the centuries. Mabini's The True Decalogue, published in July 1898 in the form of ten commandments, used this medium, somewhat paradoxically, to promote critical thinking and a reform of customs and attitudes. His Constitutional Program for the Philippine Republic, published at the same time, elaborated his ideas on political institutions.
On September 15, 1898, a revolutionary congress was convened at Malolos, a market town located thirty-two kilometers north of Manila, for the purpose of drawing up a constitution for the new republic. A document was approved by the congress on November 29, 1898. Modeled on the constitutions of France, Belgium, and Latin American countries, it was promulgated at Malolos on January 21, 1899, and two days later Aguinaldo was inaugurated as president.
American observers traveling in Luzon commented that the areas controlled by the republic seemed peaceful and well governed. The Malolos congress had set up schools, a military academy, and the Literary University of the Philippines. Government finances were organized, and new currency was issued. The army and navy were established on a regular basis, having regional commands. The accomplishments of the Filipino government, however, counted for little in the eyes of the great powers as the transfer of the islands from Spanish to United States rule was arranged in the closing months of 1898.
In late September, treaty negotiations were initiated between Spanish and American representatives in Paris. The Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898. Among its conditions was the cession of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico to the United States (Cuba was granted its independence); in return, the United States would pay Spain the sum of US$20 million. The nature of this payment is rather difficult to define; it was paid neither to purchase Spanish territories nor as a war indemnity. In the words of historian Leon Wolff, "it was . . . a gift. Spain accepted it. Quite irrelevantly she handed us the Philippines. No question of honor or conquest was involved. The Filipino people had nothing to say about it, although their rebellion was thrown in (so to speak) free of charge."
The Treaty of Paris aroused anger among Filipinos. Reacting to the US$20 million sum paid to Spain, La Independencia (Independence), a newspaper published in Manila by a revolutionary, General Antonio Luna, stated that "people are not to be bought and sold like horses and houses. If the aim has been to abolish the traffic in Negroes because it meant the sale of persons, why is there still maintained the sale of countries with inhabitants?" Tension and ill feelings were growing between the American troops in Manila and the insurgents surrounding the capital. In addition to Manila, Iloilo, the main port on the island of Panay, also was a pressure point. The Revolutionary Government of the Visayas was proclaimed there on November 17, 1898, and an American force stood poised to capture the city. Upon the announcement of the treaty, the radicals, Mabini and Luna, prepared for war, and provisional articles were added to the constitution giving President Aguinaldo dictatorial powers in times of emergency. President William McKinley issued a proclamation on December 21, 1898, declaring United States policy to be one of "benevolent assimilation" in which "the mild sway of justice and right" would be substituted for "arbitrary rule." When this was published in the islands on January 4, 1899, references to "American sovereignty" having been prudently deleted, Aguinaldo issued his own proclamation that condemned "violent and aggressive seizure" by the United States and threatened war.
War of Resistance
Hostilities broke out on the night of February 4, 1899, after two American privates on patrol killed three Filipino soldiers in a suburb of Manila. Thus began a war that would last for more than two years. Some 126,000 American soldiers would be committed to the conflict; 4,234 American and 16,000 Filipino soldiers, part of a nationwide guerrilla movement of indeterminate numbers, died.
The Filipino troops, armed with old rifles and bolos and carrying anting-anting (magical charms), were no match for American troops in open combat, but they were formidable opponents in guerrilla warfare. For General Ewell S. Otis, commander of the United States forces, who had been appointed military governor of the Philippines, the conflict began auspiciously with the expulsion of the rebels from Manila and its suburbs by late February and the capture of Malolos, the revolutionary capital, on March 31, 1899. Aguinaldo and his government escaped, however, establishing a new capital at San Isidro in Nueva Ecija Province. The Filipino cause suffered a number of reverses. The attempts of Mabini and his successor as president of Aguinaldo's cabinet, Pedro Paterno, to negotiate an armistice in May 1899 ended in failure because Otis insisted on unconditional surrender.
Still more serious was the murder of Luna, Aguinaldo's most capable military commander, in June. Hot-tempered and cruel, Luna collected a large number of enemies among his associates, and, according to rumor, his death was ordered by Aguinaldo. With his best commander dead and his troops suffering continued defeats as American forces pushed into northern Luzon, Aguinaldo dissolved the regular army in November 1899 and ordered the establishment of decentralized guerrilla commands in each of several military zones. More than ever, American soldiers knew the miseries of fighting an enemy that was able to move at will within the civilian population in the villages. The general population, caught between Americans and rebels, suffered horribly.
According to historian Gregorio Zaide, as many as 200,000 civilians died, largely because of famine and disease, by the end of the war. Atrocities were committed on both sides. Although Aguinaldo's government did not have effective authority over the whole archipelago and resistance was strongest and best organized in the Tagalog area of Central Luzon, the notion entertained by many Americans that independence was supported only by the "Tagalog tribe" was refuted by the fact that there was sustained fighting in the Visayan Islands and in Mindanao. Although the ports of Iloilo on Panay and Cebu on Cebu were captured in February 1899, and Tagbilaran, capital of Bohol, in March, guerrilla resistance continued in the mountainous interiors of these islands. Only on the sugar-growing island of Negros did the local authorities peacefully accept United States rule. On Mindanao the United States Army faced the determined opposition of Christian Filipinos loyal to the republic.
Aguinaldo was captured at Palanan on March 23, 1901, by a force of Philippine Scouts loyal to the United States and was brought back to Manila. Convinced of the futility of further resistance, he swore allegiance to the United States and issued a proclamation calling on his compatriots to lay down their arms. Yet insurgent resistance continued in various parts of the Philippines until 1903.
The Moros on Mindanao and on the Sulu Archipelago, suspicious of both Christian Filipino insurrectionists and Americans, remained for the most part neutral. In August 1899, an agreement had been signed between General John C. Bates, representing the United States government, and the sultan of Sulu, Jamal-ul Kiram II, pledging a policy of noninterference on the part of the United States. In 1903, however, a Moro province was established by the American authorities, and a more forward policy was implemented: slavery was outlawed, schools that taught a non-Muslim curriculum were established, and local governments that challenged the authority of traditional community leaders were organized. A new legal system replaced the sharia, or Islamic law. United States rule, even more than that of the Spanish, was seen as a challenge to Islam. Armed resistance grew, and the Moro province remained under United States military rule until 1914, by which time the major Muslim groups had been subjugated.
The First Phase of United States Rule, 1898-1935
On January 20, 1899, President McKinley appointed the First Philippine Commission (the Schurman Commission), a five-person group headed by Dr. Jacob Schurman, president of Cornell University, and including Admiral Dewey and General Otis, to investigate conditions in the islands and make recommendations. In the report that they issued to the president the following year, the commissioners acknowledged Filipino aspirations for independence; they declared, however, that the Philippines was not ready for it. Specific recommendations included the establishment of civilian government as rapidly as possible (the American chief executive in the islands at that time was the military governor), including establishment of a bicameral legislature, autonomous governments on the provincial and municipal levels, and a system of free public elementary schools.
The Second Philippine Commission (the Taft Commission), appointed by McKinley on March 16, 1900, and headed by William Howard Taft, was granted legislative as well as limited executive powers. Between September 1900 and August 1902, it issued 499 laws. A judicial system was established, including a Supreme Court, and a legal code was drawn up to replace antiquated Spanish ordinances. A civil service was organized. The 1901 municipal code provided for popularly elected presidents, vice presidents, and councilors to serve on municipal boards. The municipal board members were responsible for collecting taxes, maintaining municipal properties, and undertaking necessary construction projects; they also elected provincial governors. In July 1901 the Philippine Constabulary was organized as an archipelago-wide police force to control brigandage and deal with the remnants of the insurgent movement. After military rule was terminated on July 4, 1901, the Philippine Constabulary gradually took over from United States army units the responsibility for suppressing guerrilla and bandit activities.
From the very beginning, United States presidents and their representatives in the islands defined their colonial mission as tutelage: preparing the Philippines for eventual independence. Except for a small group of "retentionists," the issue was not whether the Philippines would be granted self-rule, but when and under what conditions. Thus political development in the islands was rapid and particularly impressive in light of the complete lack of representative institutions under the Spanish. The Philippine Organic Act of July 1902 stipulated that, with the achievement of peace, a legislature would be established composed of a lower house, the Philippine Assembly, which would be popularly elected, and an upper house consisting of the Philippine Commission, which was to be appointed by the president of the United States. The two houses would share legislative powers, although the upper house alone would pass laws relating to the Moros and other non-Christian peoples. The act also provided for extending the United States Bill of Rights to Filipinos and sending two Filipino resident commissioners to Washington to attend sessions of the United States Congress. In July 1907, the first elections for the assembly were held, and it opened its first session on October 16, 1907. Political parties were organized, and, although open advocacy of independence had been banned during the insurgency years, criticism of government policies in the local newspapers was tolerated.
Taft, the Philippines' first civilian governor, outlined a comprehensive development plan that he described as "the Philippines for the Filipinos . . . that every measure, whether in the form of a law or an executive order, before its adoption, should be weighed in the light of this question: Does it make for the welfare of the Filipino people, or does it not?" Its main features included not only broadening representative institutions but also expanding a system of free public elementary education and designing economic policies to promote the islands' development. Filipinos widely interpreted Taft's pronouncements as a promise of independence.
The 1902 Philippine Organic Act disestablished the Catholic Church as the state religion. The United States government, in an effort to resolve the status of the friars, negotiated with the Vatican. The church agreed to sell the friars' estates and promised gradual substitution of Filipino and other non-Spanish priests for the friars. It refused, however, to withdraw the religious orders from the islands immediately, partly to avoid offending Spain. In 1904 the administration bought for US$7.2 million the major part of the friars' holdings, amounting to some 166,000 hectares, of which one-half was in the vicinity of Manila. The land was eventually resold to Filipinos, some of them tenants but the majority of them estate owners.
A Collaborative Philippine Leadership
The most important step in establishing a new political system was the successful coaptation of the Filipino elite - called the "policy of attraction." Wealthy and conservative ilustrados, the self-described "oligarchy of intelligence," had been from the outset reluctant revolutionaries, suspicious of the Katipunan and willing to negotiate with either Spain or the United States. Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera, a descendant of Spanish nobility, and Benito Legarda, a rich landowner and capitalist, had quit Aguinaldo's government in 1898 as a result of disagreements with Mabini. Subsequently, they worked closely with the Schurman and Taft commissions, advocating acceptance of United States rule.
In December 1900, de Tavera and Legarda established the Federalista Party, advocating statehood for the islands. In the following year they were appointed the first Filipino members of the Philippine Commission of the legislature. In such an advantageous position, they were able to bring influence to bear to achieve the appointment of Federalistas to provincial governorships, the Supreme Court, and top positions in the civil service. Although the party boasted a membership of 200,000 by May 1901, its proposal to make the islands a state of the United States had limited appeal, both in the islands and in the United States, and the party was widely regarded as being opportunistic. In 1905 the party revised its program over the objections of its leaders, calling for "ultimate independence" and changing its name to the National Progressive Party (Partido Nacional Progresista).
The Nacionalista Party, established in 1907, dominated the Philippine political process until after World War II. It was led by a new generation of politicians, although they were not ilustrados and were by no means radical. One of the leaders, Manuel Quezon, came from a family of moderate wealth. An officer in Aguinaldo's army, he studied law, passed his bar examination in 1903, and entered provincial politics, becoming governor of Tayabas in 1906 before being elected to the Philippine Assembly the following year. His success at an early age was attributable to consummate political skills and the support of influential Americans. His Nacionalista Party associate and sometime rival was Sergio Osmeña, the college-educated son of a shopkeeper, who had worked as a journalist. The former journalist's thoroughness and command of detail made him a perfect complement to Quezon. Like Quezon, Osmeña had served as a provincial governor (in his home province of Cebu) before being elected in 1907 to the assembly and, at age twenty-nine, selected as its first speaker.
Although the Nacionalista Party's platform at its founding called for "immediate independence," American observers believed that Osmeña and Quezon used this appeal only to get votes. In fact, their policy toward the Americans was highly accommodating. In 1907 an understanding was reached with an American official that the two leaders would block any attempt by the Philippine Assembly to demand independence. Osmeña and Quezon, who were the dominant political figures in the islands up to World War II, were genuinely committed to independence. The failure of Aguinaldo's revolutionary movement, however, had taught them the pragmatism of adopting a conciliatory policy.
The appearance of the Nacionalista Party in 1907 marked the emergence of the party system, although the party was without an effective rival from 1916 for most of the period until the emergence of the Liberal Party in 1946. Much of the system's success (or, rather, the success of the Nacionalistas) depended on the linkage of modern political institutions with traditional social structures and practices. Most significantly, it involved the integration of local-level elite groups into the new political system. Philippine parties have been described by political scientist Carl Landé as organized "upward" rather than "downward." That is, national followings were put together by party leaders who worked in conjunction with local elite groups -in many cases the descendants of the principalía of Spanish times - who controlled constituencies tied to them in patron-client relationships. The issue of independence, and the conditions and timing under which it would be granted, generated considerable passion in the national political arena. According to Landé, however, the decisive factors in terms of popular support were more often local and particularistic issues rather than national or ideological concerns. Filipino political associations depended on intricate networks of personalistic ties, directed upward to Manila and the national legislature.
The linchpins of the system created under United States tutelage were the village- and province-level notables - often labeled bosses or caciques by colonial administrators - who garnered support by exchanging specific favors for votes. Reciprocal relations between inferior and superior (most often tenants or sharecroppers with large landholders) usually involved the concept of utang na loob (repayment of debts) or kinship ties, and they formed the basis of support for village-level factions led by the notables. These factions decided political party allegiance. The extension of voting rights to all literate males in 1916, the growth of literacy, and the granting of women's suffrage in 1938 increased the electorate considerably. The elite, however, was largely successful in monopolizing the support of the newly enfranchised, and a genuinely populist alternative to the status quo was never really established.
The policy of attraction ensured the success of what colonial administrators called the political education of the Filipinos. It was, however, also the cause of its greatest failure. Osmeña and Quezon, as the acknowledged representatives, were not genuinely interested in social reform, and serious problems involving land ownership, tenancy, and the highly unequal distribution of wealth were largely ignored. The growing power of the Nacionalista Party, particularly in the period after 1916 when it gained almost complete control of a bicameral Filipino legislature, barred the effective inclusion of nonelite interests in the political system. Not only revolution but also moderate reform of the social and economic systems were precluded. Discussions of policy alternatives became less salient to the political process than the dynamics of personalism and the ethic of give and take.
The Jones Act
The term of Governor General Francis Burton Harrison (1913-21) was one of particularly harmonious collaboration between Americans and Filipinos. Harrison's attitudes (he is described as having regarded himself as a "constitutional monarch" presiding over a "government of Filipinos") reflected the relatively liberal stance of Woodrow Wilson's Democratic Party administration. In 1913 Wilson had appointed five Filipinos to the Philippine Commission of the legislature, giving it a Filipino majority for the first time. Harrison undertook rapid "Filipinization" of the civil service, much to the anger and distress of Americans in the islands, including superannuated officials. In 1913 there had been 2,623 American and 6,363 Filipino officials; in 1921 there were 13,240 Filipino and 614 American administrators. Critics accused Harrison of transforming a "colonial government of Americans aided by Filipinos" into a "government of Filipinos aided by Americans" and of being the "plaything and catspaw of the leaders of the Nacionalista Party."
A major step was taken in the direction of independence in 1916, when the United States Congress passed a second organic law, commonly referred to as the Jones Act, which replaced the 1902 law. Its preamble stated the intent to grant Philippine independence as soon as a stable government was established. The Philippine Senate replaced the Philippine Commission as the upper house of the legislature. Unlike the commission, all but two of the Senate's twenty-four members (and all but nine of the ninety representatives in the lower house, now renamed the House of Representatives) were popularly elected. The two senators and nine representatives were appointed by the governor general to represent the non-Christian peoples. The legislature's actions were subject to the veto of the governor general, and it could not pass laws affecting the rights of United States citizens. The Jones Act brought the legislative branch under Filipino control. The executive still was firmly under the control of an appointed governor general, and most Supreme Court justices, who were appointed by the United States president, still were Americans in 1916.
Elections were held for the two houses in 1916, and the Nacionalista Party made an almost clean sweep. All but one elected seat in the Senate and eighty-three out of ninety elected seats in the House were won by their candidates, leaving the National Progressive Party (the former Federalista Party) a powerless opposition. Quezon was chosen president of the Senate, and Osmeña continued as speaker of the House.
The Jones Act remained the basic legislation for the administration of the Philippines until the United States Congress passed new legislation in 1934 which became effective in 1935, establishing the Commonwealth of the Philippines. Provisions of the Jones Act were differently interpreted, however, by the governors general. Harrison rarely challenged the legislature by his use of the veto power. His successor, General Leonard Wood (1921-27), was convinced that United States withdrawal from the islands would be as disastrous for the Filipinos as it would be for the interests of the United States in the western Pacific. He aroused the intense opposition of the Nacionalistas by his use of the veto power 126 times in his six years in office. The Nacionalista Party created a political deadlock when ranking Filipino officials resigned in 1923 leaving their positions vacant until Wood's term ended with his death in 1927. His successors, however, reversed Wood's policies and reestablished effective working relations with Filipino politicians.
Although the Jones Act did not transfer responsibility for the Moro regions (reorganized in 1914 under the Department of Mindanao and Sulu) from the American governor to the Filipinocontrolled legislature, Muslims perceived the rapid Filipinization of the civil service and United States commitment to eventual independence as serious threats. In the view of the Moros, an independent Philippines would be dominated by Christians , their traditional enemies. United States policy from 1903 had been to break down the historical autonomy of the Muslim territories. Immigration of Christian settlers from Luzon and the Visayan Islands to the relatively unsettled regions of Mindanao was encouraged, and the new arrivals began supplanting the Moros in their own homeland. Large areas of the island were opened to economic exploitation. There was no legal recognition of Muslim customs and institutions. In March 1935, Muslim datu petitioned United States president Franklin D. Roosevelt, asking that "the American people should not release us until we are educated and become powerful because we are like a calf who, once abandoned by its mother, would be devoured by a merciless lion." Any suggestion of special status for or continued United States rule over the Moro regions, however, was vehemently opposed by Christian Filipino leaders who, when the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established, gained virtually complete control over government institutions.
Economic and Social Developments
The "Taft Commission", appointed in 1900, viewed economic development, along with education and the establishment of representative institutions, as one of the three pillars of the United States program of tutelage. Its members had ambitious plans to build railroads and highways, improve harbor facilities, open greater markets for Philippine goods through the lowering or elimination of tariffs, and stimulate foreign investment in mining, forestry, and cash-crop cultivation. In 1901 some 93 percent of the islands' total land area was public land, and it was hoped that a portion of this area could be sold to American investors. Those plans were frustrated, however, by powerful agricultural interests in the United States Congress who feared competition from Philippine sugar, coconut oil, tobacco, and other exports. Although Taft argued for more liberal terms, the United States Congress, in the 1902 Land Act, set a limit of 16 hectares of Philippine public land to be sold or leased to American individuals and 1,024 hectares to American corporations. This act and tight financial markets in the United States discouraged the development of large-scale, foreign-owned plantations such as were being established in British Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, and French Indochina.
The Taft Commission argued that tariff relief was essential if the islands were to be developed. In August 1909, Congress passed the Payne Aldrich Tariff Act, which provided for free entry to the United States of all Philippine products except rice, sugar, and tobacco. Rice imports were subjected to regular tariffs, and quotas were established for sugar and tobacco. In 1913 the Underwood Tariff Act removed all restrictions. The principal result of these acts was to make the islands increasingly dependent on American markets; between 1914 and 1920, the portion of Philippine exports going to the United States rose from 50 to 70 percent. By 1939 it had reached 85 percent, and 65 percent of imports came from the United States.
In 1931 there were between 80,000 and 100,000 Chinese in the islands active in the local economy; many of them had arrived after United States rule had been established. Some 16,000 Japanese were concentrated largely in the Mindanao province of Davao (the incorporated city of Davao was labeled by local boosters the "Little Tokyo of the South") and were predominant in the abaca industry. Yet the immigration of foreign laborers never reached a volume sufficient to threaten indigenous control of the economy or the traditional social structure as it did in British Malaya and Burma.
The Tenancy Problem
The limited nature of United States intervention in the economy and the Nacionalista Party's elite dominance of the Philippine political system ensured that the status quo in landlord and tenant relationships would be maintained, even if certain of its traditional aspects changed. A government attempt to establish homesteads modeled on those of the American West in 1903 did little to alter landholding arrangements. Although different regions of the archipelago had their own specific arrangements and different proportions of tenants and small proprietors, the kasama (sharecropper) system, was the most prevalent, particularly in the rice-growing areas of Central Luzon and the Visayan Islands.
Under this arrangement, the landowners supplied the seed and cash necessary to tide cultivators over during the planting season, whereas the cultivators provided tools and work animals and were responsible for one-half the expense of crop production. Usually, owner and sharecropper each took one-half of the harvest, although only after the former deducted a portion for expenses. Terms might be more liberal in frontier areas where owners needed to attract cultivators to clear the land. Sometimes land tenancy arrangements were three tiered. An original owner would lease land to an inquilino, who would then sublet it to kasamas. In the words of historian David R. Sturtevant: "Thrice removed from their proprietario, affected taos [peasants] received ever-diminishing shares from the picked-over remains of harvests."
Cultivators customarily were deep in debt, for they were dependent on advances made by the landowner or inquilino and had to pay steep interest rates. Principal and interest accumulated rapidly, becoming an impossible burden. It was estimated in 1924 that the average tenant family would have to labor uninterruptedly for 163 years to pay off debts and acquire title to the land they worked. The kasama system created a class of peons or serfs; children inherited the debts of their fathers, and over the generations families were tied in bondage to their estates. Contracts usually were unwritten, and landowners could change conditions to their own advantage.
Two factors led to a worsening of the cultivators' position. One was the rapid increase in the national population (from 7.6 million in 1905 to 16 million in 1939) brought about through improvements in public health, which put added pressure on the land, lowered the standard of living, and created a labor surplus. Closely tied to the population increase was the erosion of traditional patron-client ties. The landlord-tenant relationship was becoming more impersonal. The landlord's interest in the tenants' welfare was waning. Landlords ceased providing important services and used profits from the sale of cash crops to support their urban life-styles or to invest in other kinds of enterprises. Cultivators accused landowners of being shameless and forgetting the principle of utang na loob, demanding services from tenants without pay and giving nothing in return.
As the area under cultivation increased from 1.3 million hectares in 1903 to 4 million hectares in 1935 - stimulated by United States demand for cash crops and by the growing population - tenancy also increased. In 1918 there were roughly 2 million farms, of which 1.5 million were operated by their owners; by 1939 these figures had declined to 1.6 million and 800,000, respectively, as individual proprietors became tenants or migrant laborers. Disparities in the distribution of wealth grew. By 1939 the wealthiest 10 percent of the population received 40 percent of the islands' income. The elite and the cultivators were separated culturally and geographically, as well as economically; as new urban centers rose, often with an Americanized culture, the elite left the countryside to become absentee landlords, leaving estate management in the hands of frequently abusive overseers. The Philippine Constabulary played a central role in suppressing antilandlord resistance.
The tradition of rural revolt, often with messianic overtones, continued under United States rule. Colorum sects, derived from the old Cofradía de San José, had spread throughout the Christian regions of the archipelago and by the early 1920s competed with the Roman Catholic establishment and the missionaries of Gregorio Aglipay's Independent Philippine Church (Iglesia Filipina Independiente). A colorum-led revolt broke out in northeastern Mindanao early in 1924, sparked by a sect leader's predictions of an imminent judgment day. In 1925 Florencio Entrencherado, a shopkeeper on the island of Panay, proclaimed himself Florencio I, Emperor of the Philippines, somewhat paradoxically running for the office of provincial governor of Iloilo that same year on a platform of tax reduction, measures against Chinese and Japanese merchants, and immediate independence. Although he lost the election, the campaign made him a prominent figure in the western Visayan Islands and won him the sympathies of the poor living in the sugar provinces of Panay and Negros. Claiming semidivine attributes (that he could control the elements and that his charisma had been granted him by the Holy Spirit and the spirits of Father Burgos and Rizal), Florencio had a following of some 10,000 peasants on Negros and Panay by late 1926. In May 1927, his supporters, heeding his call that "the hour will come when the poor will be ordered to kill all the rich," launched an abortive insurrection.
Tensions were highest in Central Luzon, where tenancy was most widespread and population pressures were the greatest. The 1931 Tayug insurrection north of Manila was connected with a colorum sect and had religious overtones, but traditionally messianic movements gradually gave way to secular, and at times revolutionary, ones. One of the first of these movements was the Association of the Worthy Kabola (Kapisanan Makabola Makasinag), a secret society that by 1925 had some 12,000 followers, largely in Nueva Ecija Province. Its leader, Pedro Kabola, called for liberation of the Philippines and promised the aid of the Japanese. The Tangulang (Kapatiran Tangulang Malayang Mamamayang - Association for an Offensive for Our Future Freedom) movement founded in 1931 was both urban and rural based and had as many as 40,000 followers.
The most important movement, however, was that of the Sakdalistas. Founded in 1933 by Benigno Ramos, a former Nacionalista Party member and associate of Quezon who broke with him over the issue of collaboration, the Sakdal Party (sakdal means to accuse) ran candidates in the 1934 election on a platform of complete independence by the end of 1935, redistribution of land, and an end to caciquism. Sakdalistas were elected to a number of seats in the legislature and to provincial posts, and by early 1935 the party may have had as many as 200,000 members. Because of poor harvests and frustrations with the government's lack of response to peasant demands, Sakdalistas took up arms and seized government buildings in a number of locations on May 2-3, 1935. The insurrection, suppressed by the Philippine Constabulary, resulted in approximately 100 dead and Benigno Ramos fled into exile to Japan.
Through the 1930s, tenant movements in Central Luzon became more active, articulate, and better organized. In 1938 the Socialist Party joined in a united front with the Communist Party of the Philippines (Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas - PKP), which was prominent in supporting the demands of tenants for better contracts and working conditions. As the depression wore on and prices for cash crops collapsed, tenant strikes and violent confrontations with landlords, their overseers, and the Philippine Constabulary escalated.
In response to deteriorating conditions, commonwealth president Quezon launched the "Social Justice" program, which included regulation of rents but achieved only meager results. There were insufficient funds to carry out the program, and implementation was sabotaged on the local level by landlords and municipal officials. In 1939 and 1940, thousands of cultivators were evicted by landlords because they insisted on enforcement of the 1933 Rice Share Tenancy Act, which guaranteed larger shares for tenants.