Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Inauguration of the Commonwealth

"I swore to myself and the God of my ancestors that as long as I lived I would stand by America regardless of the consequences to my people or to myself"
This was the statement of the man who would become the undisputed leader of the Filipinos during the inauguration of the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines on November 15,1935. Pres. Manuel Quezon was the son of a Spanish mestizo sergeant in the Spanish Army in the Philippines. He was born in Manila, but later emigrated to Baler, Tayabas where he married also a Spanish mestiza schoolteacher. During the Philippine Revolution, he was a lieutenant in the Bataan sector, especially during the general retreat. of the Filipino forces. Like all his comrades, he surrendered to the Americans in April 1901, thus both in his thoughts and actions he was a captive of the Americans.
In his inaugural speech, President Quezon had firmly emphasized that the government he sought to establish must satisfy not only the passing needs of the hour but also the exacting demand of the future. In doing so, he identified three major problems, namely, the need for political stability, national security, and a poor economy that was too dependent to the United States. From these mainnational concerns emerged minor problems that also commanded equal attention and consideration.
The Commonwealth was envisioned as a transition period before the final grant of independence ten years thereafter. During this interlude the government should make necessary adjustments on political, economic, social and cultural aspects. The task was not an easy one considering the fact that inherited problems from the Spanish and American times were seemingly insurmountable. One such delicate problem was the policy formulation towards the Moros of Mindanao and Sulu who, except for a few "collaborators," overwhelmingly opposed political agglomeration with the Filipinos. And without doubt, considering his background, President Quezon was not prepared - as his succeeding actuations, pronouncements and policies showed - to shed his "Spanish and American feathers." He went further, vis-a-vis the Moros, by refusing to accord official recognition to the sultans and datus. In one of his meetings with them, he had these blunt words:
... The sultans have no more rights than the humblest Moro and that under my administration the humblest Moro will be given as much protection as any datu under the law, and
that his rights will be recognized exactly as the rights of a datu will be, and that every datu will have to comply with his duties as citizen to same extent. and in the same manner that the humblest Moro is obligated.
Definitely the bottom line is not equality before the law; rather it was the radical reversal of the traditional system and the replacement of the chiefs with leaders whom the people were made to bow down against their will. Reacting to this situation, Sultan Alauya Alonto had this observation:
This is indeed a tragedy. Those of you who are accustomed to witness the native son of the province conducting the affairs of your own people will surely understand what it meant to be governed by "Outsiders" who do not have even the command of the dialect of the people to be governed.'
Thus with President Quezon ended the policy of "special treatment" accorded to the Moros, although this did not mean the birth of equal consideration and protection for the Moros. As a matter of fact, the Moros were not only reduced to second class citizens, but as far as Mindanao and Sulu was concerned, the development of the Moros was a poor third priority in the national agenda.' On the contrary, the Moros, along with the burgeoning Japanese colonies in Davao, were perceived as threats to the security of the commonwealth state. This was precisely the main reason why the 30,000-man Moro Battalion was not issued firearms by the USAFFE during the war with Japan because some pointed out the danger of arming the Moros to the peace and order situation in Mindanao and Sulu.' Despite the pleadings of Lt. Salipada Pendatun (later conferred the rank of Brigadier General), the Moros were permitted to arm themselves with bolos, hence the outfit earned its label as the "Moro Battalion." It was also the hard logic behind the high gear migration to Mindanao particularly in the Moro-dominated provinces of Cotabato and Lanao.

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