July 4, 1946, not June 12, 1898 is Our True “Independence Day.” And How Should We Celebrate Our True Independence Day?

A Boholano View of Jose “Pepe” Abueva
The Bohol Chronicle
June 21, 2015 

Based on historical and legal realities, the Philippines became a legal or de jure Republic on July 4, 1946. On this date the Philippine Commonwealth under U.S. colonial rule ended. The Republic of the Philippines came into being as a de jure republic recognized by the United States, and by several other states. The Philippines had been a recognized member of the United Nations when this was formed even before we became an independent nation-state.

President Diosdado Macapagal declared that our independence day should be June 12, 1898. On his cue, “On August 4, 1964, Republic Act 4166 renamed July 4 holiday as ‘Philippine Republic Day,’ [and] proclaimed June 12 as ‘Philippine Independence Day.’”

President Macapagal reckoned the independence of the Filipinos from foreign (Spanish) colonial rule because General Emilio Aguinaldo declared the nation’s independence from Spain in Cavite on June 12, 1898.

In fact, on June 12, 1898 the Filipinos were still under Spanish rule. The U.S. Navy, under Admiral George Dewey, was in Manila Bay and his forces prevented General Aguinaldo from capturing the remaining Spanish military forces in Manila. The USA was determined to realize its imperialistic and colonial intentions toward the Filipinos and Filipinas.

And when General Emilio Aguinaldo was proclaimed Presidente at Malolos on January 23, 1899 and the Republica de Filipinas was established at the Malolos Congress in March 1899, Islas Filipinas had been ceded by Spain to the United States of America under the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898, for US$10 million.

Curiously, on December 24, 1898, before Aguinaldo was proclaimed Presidente of Republica de Filipinas, the last Spanish Governor General, Diego de los Rios, surrendered the entire Islas Filipinas to the formative Federal Republic of the Visayas led by General Martin Delgado based in Santa Barbara, Iloilo. On Christmas day, December 25, 1898, General Delgado declared the independence of the Federal Republic of the Visayas from Spain. [I owe this information to Amando Doronila in his column, “The end of the Spanish empire,” June 19, 2015] where he quotes from “The Rise and Fall of the Federal Republic of the Visayas,” by Dinggol Araneta Divinagracia.]

Was Governor General de los Rios unaware of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898? I suppose in those times they could not readily communicate from Spain or the U.S.A. to the Philippines in 14 days?

Filipino Revolutionarios in Luzon, Iloilo, Cebu, Bohol, Samar, and Mindanao fought the Spanish forces and then the American imperial invaders. In due course, all Filipino resistance to the American invaders ended. On July 4, 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt officially ended the Filipino-American War, known to the U.S.A. as “The Philippine Insurrection.”

In fact, Republica de Filipinas or the so-called first Philippine Republic led by Emilio Aguinaldo was only a de facto republic because it was not recognized by any state to become de jure. Indeed, Filipinas had been ceded by Spain to the United States.

The U.S. sponsored Philippine Commonwealth ended and became a de jure Republic of the Philippines only on July 4, 1946. In fact, this is our real “Independence Day.” Under oppressive Japanese military rule, the Philippines also had a fake Japanese-sponsored independence from the United States.

The Philippine Star had a meaningful, critical editorial, “No flag-waving where it matters,” on the observance of our Independence Day on June 12, 2015 that is really worth quoting at length. Which I shall do hereon.

“INDEPENDENCE Day should be an occasion for bragging – with false modesty, of course – by any country, of its landmark economic, political, social and, yes, military achievements in the years after it frees itself from colonial, oppressive overlords. In the case of the Philippines, the latter are the Spaniards, the Americans and the Japanese.

“President Benigno S. Aquino III chose to mark it differently by singing praises of Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd, presumably his anointed candidate in 2016 to succeed him as the country’s leader.

“The President, instead, should have spoken about Filipinos not going hungry, not having to make dropouts of their children whom they can no longer afford to send to school, not having to bear with a mother who opts to work as a maid in a richer country to make both ends meet for the family she leaves behind, not having to eat for breakfast such news as the monumental corruption that has entrenched people in high places and not seeing them get away with it. xxx

“In past Independence Day celebrations, military parades were the norm, with the Quirino Grandstand in Manila’s Rizal Park (Luneta) teeming with common folk given a sense of security, even a false one, perhaps, and engulfed by national pride at the sight of soldiers marching in precision before the President and foreign diplomats, as well as proud representatives from various government agencies calling attention to accomplishments in agriculture, the sciences, the civil service and other areas with their colorful  floats and equally disciplined walk-bys before Filipinos and the world.

“We don’t get them anymore, 117 years [actually only 69 years from 1946] after we won freedom from the Americans, on whose “benevolence” our present-day leaders still depend for external security through such arrangements as the EDCA, VFA, even the MDT that is unbelievably more than 60 years old, and the list would probably go on.

“What we get are motherhood statements, the very same ones made by Aquino’s predecessors, from 1946 to 2010, a case of hearing one and hearing all, and one that ironically gets lapped up by generations of Filipinos to whom independence seems to have no meaning at all.

“Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay, in separate Independence Day speeches that were made public on the eve of June 12, talked about ridding the country of poverty – a mantra it really is, especially when hearing it from two millionaires who both probably have not taken a ride in one of those train systems whose operators practically run over their customers with their high fares and poor services.

“The President goes, “We call on you to exercise the rights and freedom borne from the toil of our ancestors and continue toward shaping a more proactive and mature discourse, perpetuating positive change to the broader spectrum of society, and emancipating our citizenry from the shackles of poverty, corruption and greed.”

“Not to be outdone, Binay goes, “Because of our collective struggle, the Filipino now enjoys many liberties. Yet, our freedom is not complete, for the spectre of poverty continues to cast its large shadow on many of our people despite the nation’s macroeconomic progress over recent years.” xxx The Philippines blew many times over its claim to national freedom and sovereignty when it had to mark its Independence Day through decree, not creed or other more honorable means.

“Its citizens seem to have become jaded to June 12, anyway.

“In public places that matter, such as light-rail train stations that serve millions daily, not one Philippine flag was in sight, not even on the eve of Independence Day.

“Among city folk, no flag-waving was to be seen, either.

“But as of this writing, we were holding our breath for the fireworks.
If the pyrotechnic display falls short of expectations, however, then we have to accept that we are not really celebrating anything at all.” [End of extended quoting of the Philippine Star editorial, June 13, 2015.]

What should the President of the Philippines say to the nation on our Independence Day? 

On our Independence Day as a nation-state since 1987, I believe that what matters most to our nation and citizens of our Republic is the true and honest answer to the question: 

“What have the incumbent President and our entire government, and our people as citizens, achieved in relation to our national vision articulated in our 1987 Constitution: to “build a just and humane society” and “a democracy under the rule of law, and a regime of truth, freedom, justice, love, equality, and peace.”

Our many political leaders  hardly make an authentic  accounting of what they have done as duly elected representatives of our sovereign citizens in our democratic Republic.

The State-of-the Nation addresses of our presidents do not serve this purpose well.

Although some Philippine presidents, like President Corazon C. Aquino and Fidel V. Ramos, have rendered their public accounting of their presidency and administration as their term ended. And these are recorded by the U.P. National College of Public Administration and Governance in cooperation with Presidents Corazon C. Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

President Joseph Ejercito Estrada could not render his public accounting of his presidency and administration after he was removed from office by an extra-constitutional “people power revolt.”

We want to know whether President B.S. Aquino III will honor the established “U.P. Public Lectures on the Philippine Presidency” as self-assessments by outgoing presidents and political administrations.” 

To her great honor the President’s mother, President Cory, patriotically and graciously inaugurated the U.P. Public Lectures as a fitting and supreme act of national accountability of the outgoing President of the Philippines to the sovereign citizens of our Republic.

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