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History of the First Philippine Republic

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It all started in the centuries of Spanish rule over the Philippines. The revolutionary forces took steps to form a functioning government called the Republic of Biak-na-Bato. However, it was never fully implemented. Finally, after several battles between the Spanish and Philippine Revolutionary Army, a truce was signed called the Pact of Biak-na-Bato in 1897. Emilio Aguinaldo and other revolutionary leaders accepted a payment from Spain and went into exile in Hong Kong. This time, the United States also fighting against Spain for its sovereignty. On May 1, 1898, the American force defeated the Spanish in the Battle of Manila Bay. Later that month, the U.S. Navy transported Aguinaldo back to the Philippines. Aguinaldo took control of the newly re-formed Philippine revolutionary forces. On June 12, Aguinaldo issued the Philippine Declaration of Independence and followed that with several decrees forming the First Philippine Republic. Elections were held from June 23 to September 10, 1898 for a new national legislature, the Malolos Congress. Emilio Aguinaldo appointed 50 delegates in all (but this number fluctuated). Aguinaldo assembled the Revolutionary Congress at the Brasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan on September 15, 1898.

This paved the way to launching the first Philippine Republic. It established a democratic, republication government with three branches – the Executive, Legislative and the Juridicial branches. Legislative branch is authorized to make laws, Executive branch carries out laws usually the president and vice president and lastly the Juridicial branch who evaluates the laws which has the power to settle controversies involving rights that are legally demandable and enforceable.

The constitution specifically provided for safeguards against abuses, and enumerated the national and individual rights. Some of this are the following:

  • The condition of being a Filipino, all persons born in the Philippine territory, children of a Filipino father and mother, and foreigners who have obtained naturalization.
  • No one shall enter the house of any Filipino or a foreigner residing in the Philippines without his consent except in urgent cases of emergency.
  • No Filipino shall be prosecuted or sentenced, except by a judge or court of proper jurisdiction and according to the procedure prescribed by law.
  • No one shall be obliged to pay any public tax which had not been approved by the National Assembly or by local popular governments legally so authorized, and which is not in the manner prescribed by the law.
  • Every Filipinos have the right to freely express his ideas or opinions, orally or in writing, through the use of the press or other similar means. Filipino also have the right to send petitions to the authorities, individually or collectively.
  • Crimes committed on the occasion of the exercise of rights provided for in this title, shall be punished by the courts in accordance with the laws.
  • No Filipino or foreigner shall be detained nor imprisoned except for the commission of a crime and in accordance with law.
  • Public education shall be free and obligatory in all schools of the nation.
  • Equal legal status for the languages of all the Philippine nationalities.
  • The freedom and equality of all religions, as well as the separation of the Church and the State.

Aguinaldo commissioned Julian Felipe, a composer from Cavite province was asked to write an instrumental march for the proclamation of independence ceremony. The original lyrics was written in Spanish, then to then later, was translated to Tagalog which is also known as “Lupang Hinirang”, the Philippine National Anthem.

1935 Constitution

The 1935 Constitution of the Philippines which created the Commonwealth of the Philippines was based on the principle of separation of powers among the three branches of government. It establishes the Commonwealth of the Philippines and provides that upon withdrawal of American sovereignty in the country and the declaration of Philippine independence, said commonwealth shall be known as the Republic of the Philippines. The Constitution enumerates the composition, powers and duties of the three branches of government (the Executive, Legislative and Judicial) and creates the General Auditing Office and lays down the framework in the establishment of the civil service in the country. Executive power is vested to the President and Vice President which shall serve for a single-six year term. Legislative power is for the National Assembly, and judicial power is exercised by the Supreme Court.

The Constitution vests the President with the veto power on legislative bills and emergency powers in times of war and other national emergencies. Also, the Constitution adopts the Regalian Doctrine or the Principle of State ownership for all its natural wealth and provides for the proper utilization of such wealth by its citizens. The original 1935 Constitution provided for unicameral National Assembly and the President was elected to a 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 the creation of an independent electoral commission. The Constitution now granted the President a four-year term with a maximum of two consecutive terms in office.

Accordingly, the 1935 Constitution was written with an eye to meeting the approval of the United States Government so as to ensure that the U.S. would live up to its promise to grant the Philippines independence. It was also on this day in 1910, that the then Manuel L. Quezon the president of the Commonwealth delivered a speech in the United States Congress, pleading for Philippine independence.

Some features/functions stated in the 1935 Constitution are the following:

  • National Territory The national territory comprises the Philippine archipelago, with all the islands and waters embraced therein, and all other territories over which the Philippines has sovereignty or jurisdiction, consisting of its terrestrial, fluvial and aerial domains, including its territorial sea, the seabed, the subsoil, the insular shelves, and other submarine areas. The waters around, between, and connecting the islands of the archipelago, regardless of their breadth and dimensions, form part of the internal waters of the Philippines.
  • Section 1. The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them
  • The Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation, and amity with all nations.
  • The prime duty of the Government is to serve and protect the people.
  • The maintenance of peace and order, the protection of life, liberty, and property, and promotion of the general welfare are essential for the enjoyment by all the people of the blessings of democracy · The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.
  • The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination
  • The Philippines, consistent with the national interest, adopts and pursues a policy of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.
  • The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution.
  • The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being.
  • The State recognizes the role of women in nation-building, and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men.

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