A Bit of History: The Commonwealth Constitution of 1935

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There was a time in history that the Republic of the Philippines became a territory of the United States of America. During that time the US Congress introduced laws or Organic Acts that served as temporary constitution for the Philippine islands. These Organic Acts were supposedly enacted to teach the Filipino people on how to correctly govern themselves -- leading to the creation of the 1935 Constitution or the Commonwealth Constitution -- one of the Philippines longest constitution.

Here's a bit of history of the Commonwealth Constitution of 1935.


After becoming a territory of the United Stated, the US congress passed two Acts that maybe considered to have qualities of a constitution: the Philippine Organic Act of 1902 and the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916, also known as the Jones Law of 1916.

The Philippine Organic Act of 1902 provided for the creation of a popularly elected Philippine Assembly. The Act specified that legislative power would be vested in a bicameral legislature composed of the Philippine Commission as the upper house and the Philippine Assembly as the lower house.

The second act, the Jones Law, modified the structure of the Philippine Government through the removal of the Philippine Commission, replacing it with a Senate that served as the upper house and its members elected by the Filipino explicitly declared the purpose of the United States to end their sovereignty over the Philippines and recognize Philippine independence as soon as a stable government can be established.

In 1932, with the efforts of the Filipino independence mission led by Sergio Osmena and Manuel Roxas, The US Congress passed the Hare-Hawes-Cutting act with promise of granting Filipinos independence. The bill was opposed by then Senate President Manuel L. Quezon and consequently, rejected by the Philippine Senate.

By 1934, another law, the Tydings-McDuffie Act, also known as the Philippine Independence Act, was passed by the US Congress that provided authority and defined mechanisms for the establishment of a formal constitution by a constitutional convention.

The members of the convention was elected and held their first meeting on July 30, 1934, with Claro M. Recto unanimously elected as president.

The constitution created the Commonwealth of the Philippines, an administrative body the governs the Philippines from 1935 to 1946. It is a transitional administration, preparing the country toward its full achievement of independence.

The 1935 constitution was formally a unicameral National Assembly with a president and vice-president to six-year term without re-election. It was amended in 1940 to have a bicameral Congress composed of a Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the creation of an independent electoral commission, and limited the term of the office of the president and vice-president to four years, with one re-election.

Rights to suffrage was originally afforded to male citizens of the Philippines but was later extended to women within two years after the adoption of the constitution.

The 1935 constitution was dominantly influenced by the Americans but it also bear traces of the Malolos Constitution, the German, Spanish, and Mexican constitutions, constitutions of several South American countries, and the unwritten English Constitution.

The draft of the constitution was approved by the constitutional convention on February 8, 1935, and ratified by then US President Franklin B. Roosevelt on March 25, 1935. Elections were held on September 1935 and Manuel L. Quezon was elected President of the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth was briefly interrupted by the events of World War II, with the Japanese occupying the Philippines. After the country’s liberation, the Philippines was declared an independent republic on July 4, 1946.


Source: Readings In Philippine History (Text Book)

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