Tuesday, August 2, 2011

1934 Constitutional Convention

On March 24, 1934, the Tydings-McDuffie Law was signed into law by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt of the United States. The law contained provisions which specified the various steps as preconditions before the establishment of the Commonwealth. The first step was the holding of a constitutional convention not later than October 1, 1934 to draft a Constitution which would be forwarded to the U.S. President for approval. After the approval, the Filipino people were to elect the officials of the Commonwealth government. After the ten-year transition, the United States would grant independence to the Philippines.
        On July 10, 1934, 202 delegates to the constitutional convention were elected. Of this number, only four Moros were elected, namely, Datu Blah Sinsuat and Minandang Piang of Cotabato, Arolas Tulawie of Sulu and Alauya Alonto of Lanao. The other delegates, Tomas Cabili of Lanao and Jose Montano of Sulu, were Christians. The election of delegates was the first time Moros participated in a nationwide voting exercises.
On July 30, the Convention started to work under the presidency of Claro M. Recto. The Moro delegates participated in the deliberations and to represent the interests of their constituents but against the tyranny of numbers they, numbering only four or five, were practically unheard. The fact that they already belonged to the second generation of Moros since the arrival of the Americans might be enough to suspect that in all likelihood they could no longer represent the legitimate aspirations and sentiments of their people. They were not only proAmericans in every respect but were generally friendly to the Filipinos, who were pushing for Philippine independence. The truth that they ran and won as delegates to this Convention which would make formal self-rule a step nearer singularly attested to this assertion. However, in fairness to them, they discharged their responsibilities to what they thought was their -level best, but they never equalled the exceptionally pro-Moro exploits of Tomas Cabili, though a Christian, who voted against the Draft Constitution. It is on record that Delegate Cabili made the following objections to the Draft Constitution:
1. It did not provide for the direct election of representatives. for the provinces of Lanao, Cotabato and Sulu but left the matter for the Legislature to decide - including, especially, the manner by which the representatives of said provinces may be chosen; and
2. It did not have any special provisions for the backward and non-Christian population of the Philippines. He wanted the Constitution to recognize and hold in trusteeship the welfare and progress of our backward population.' As a sign of protest, he did not sign the 1935 Constitution. On the contrary, all the blue-blooded Moro delegates signed the new charter.
The Constitution miserably failed to specify or imply due consideration for the Moro traditions, customs and laws, which in Islam still fell within the ambit of religion. Many Moro leaders openly campaigned against the ratification of the Constitution denouncing it as an abridgment of their religion, rights and customs. Despite the opposition, the Constitution got ratified. The Christian populace, not thinking of the problem of the Moros, heavily voted for its approval. However, in the succeeding elections for the delegates in September 1935, Moro candidates who were closely associated with the Filipino leaders of self-rule were badly routed in the polls. Hadji Gulamu Rasul of Sulu and Minandang Piang of Cotabato were defeated by Datu Ombra Amilbangsa and Datu Sinsuat Balabaran, respectively. In Lanao, Sultan Alauya Alonto was rejected by the Moros in favor of Tomas Cabili.

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