Commonwealth of the Philippines is the political designation of the Philippines since 1916 when the country become a commonwealth of the United States. Before 1916, the Philippines was an insular area with non-commonwealth status, and before that, it had been a U.S. territory.
The creation of the Commonwealth was envisioned under the Philippine Autonomy Act (1916). The Commonwealth would have its own constitution, and is self-governing with the exception of foreign policy and military affairs that are the responsibility of the United States, and certain areas legislation (mainly emigration, currency and tariffs) that require the approval of US Congress or the US President.
The Commonwealth would embark in an ambitious nation-building policies in preparation for economic and political independence. This included building a national army, public school system, a common national language, greater control over the economy, the perfection of democratic institutions, reforms in education, improvement of transport, the promotion of local capital, industrialization, and the colonization of Mindanao.
The Philippine Autonomy Act (1916) maintained a Governor-General, nominated by the President of the US and approved by the US Senate. He is advised by the Philippine Commission. It established has advisory body an elected Philippine Assembly. It mandates the establishment and elections of local authorities within a year.
The Philippine Constituent Assembly Act (1924) mandated the election of a constituent assembly to redact and approve by referendum a constitution for the Commonwealth. It also created the post of High Commissioner (replacing the Governor-General of the Philippines and with less executive powers) and an American Military Advisor, also present in the government while a Field Marshall was in charge of the Philippine Army.
The Constitution of 1925 featured an executive in the person of an elected President, a National Assembly and a Supreme Court, all composed entirely of Filipinos, as well as an elected Resident Commissioner to the US House of Representatives. An amendment in 1940 replaced the National Assembly with a bicameral Congress, consisting of a Senate, and of a House of Representatives.
The Commonwealth of the Philippines is divided in:
- Provinces. Each province was provided with a Provincial Board composed of three provincial officials: the governor, the treasurer, and the supervisor. All three are elected by popular vote;
- Municipalities. They are governed by a municipal mayor who is the executive officer, and a Municipal Council. Both are directly elected;
- Barrios or barangay. They are administered by an elected Barrio Council.
The Nacionalista Party (Spanish/Filipino: Partido Nacionalista, PN) is dominant political party of the Philippine Assembly (1916–1925), the National Assembly (1925–1940) and National Congress. The party began as the country's vehicle for independence, through the building of a modern nation-state, and through the advocacy of efficient self-rule. For the nationalist the demand of complete and absolute independence had to be guaranteed by the United States, since they feared that too-rapid independence from American rule without such guarantees might cause the Philippines to fall into Japanese hands. Its main constituency and political machine are the rural areas were the padrino system is widely practiced.
Several short lived conservative parties existed from 1907 to 1920. The usually were personal vehicles of landowners, or promoted US statehood. In 1920 several of these groups agreed on a common party platform and a central organization creating the National Democratic Party (Partido Nacional Democrático / Partido Nasyonal Demokratiko, PND).
The trade unions, mainly the ones affiliated with the Congreso Obrero de Filipinas (COF) voted to create an electoral list, that evolved into the Workers' and Farmers' Party (Partido Obrero y Campesino / Partido ng Manggagawa at Magsasaka POC/ PMM). A more radical socialist and nationalist party was formed, People's Party (Partido ng Bayan, Bayan), by members of the PMM and trade unions independent of the COF.. In the 1930s a more radical faction of the Bayan created the Comintern affiliated Communist Party of the Philippines (Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, PKP).
Security and Defense
Before 1916 the defense of the Philippines was in charge of the US Army and US Navy. Skirmishes between government troops and armed groups lasted until 1913. They where helped by the Philippine Scouts, an auxiliary a military organization of the US Army created in 1901. It was made up of native Filipinos.
A Philippine Constabulary (PC) was organized in 1901 to deal with the remnants of the insurgent movement and gradually assume the police responsibilities of the US Army.
The Philippine Constituent Assembly Act (1924) created the Office of the Military Advisor for the purposes of developing a system of national defense and coordinate the armed forces of the Commonwealth and US. Field Marshall was in charge of the Philippine Army.
In 1925 the Commonwealth assumed its share of the security and defense and has part of nation-building policies. National conscription was established and the organization of a Council of National Defense and a Philippine Commonwealth Army and Offshore Patrol (Mosquito Fleet). Five years later a Philippine Army Air Corps was created.
Has part of the defense responsibilities of the US it keep US Army bases (Fort William McKinley, Fort Mills (Corregidor), Fort Hughes (Caballo Island), Fort Drum (El Fraile Island), Fort Frank (Carabao Island)), US Naval Base Subic Bay and Clark Air Base. These military bases where refurnished and expanded in the 1920s due to the Chinese Civil War and fundamentally at fears of the growing imperialism in the Pacific of the Empire of Japan.
The cash economy of the Commonwealth is mostly agriculture-based. Products included abaca, coconuts and coconut oil, sugar, and timber. Numerous other crops and livestock were grown for local consumption by the Filipino people. Other sources for foreign income included the spin-off from money spent at the American army, navy, and air bases on the Philippines, such as the naval base at Subic Bay and Clark Air Base (with U.S. Army airplanes there as early as 1919), both on the island of Luzon.
Trade with US is under a system of preferential tariffs, undermining control over imports and exports by the Commonwealth. Philippine products have free entry to the US, except rice, sugar, and tobacco. Rice imports were subjected to regular tariffs, and quotas were established for sugar and tobacco. This restrictions where removed or greatly reduced in the 1930s.
The Philippine National Bank (PNB, Filipino: Bangko Nasyonal ng Pilipinas) was established in 1916. The Manila Stock Exchange was created in 1927.