Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Philippines under American and Japanese occupation

American period (1898–1946)

Filipinos initially saw their relationship with the United States as that of two nations joined in a common struggle against Spain. As allies, Filipinos had provided the American forces with valuable intelligence and military support. However, the United States later distanced itself from the interests of the Filipino insurgents.

Aguinaldo was unhappy that the United States would not commit to paper a statement of support for Philippine independence. Relations deteriorated and tensions heightened as it became clear that the Americans were in the islands to stay.

Philippine-American War

Hostilities broke out on February 4, 1899, after two American privates on patrol killed three Filipino soldiers in San Juan, a Manila suburb. This incident sparked the Philippine-American War, which would cost far more money and took far more lives than the Spanish–American War. Some 126,000 American soldiers would be committed to the conflict; 4,234 Americans died, as did 16,000 Filipino soldiers who were part of a nationwide guerrilla movement of indeterminate numbers. At least 34,000 Filipinos lost their lives as a direct result of the war, and as many as 200,000 may have died as a result of the cholera epidemic at war's end. Atrocities were committed by American troops.

The poorly-equipped Filipino troops were easily overpowered by American troops in open combat, but they were formidable opponents in guerrilla warfare. Malolos, the revolutionary capital town, was captured on March 31, 1899. However, Aguinaldo and his government escaped, establishing a new capital at San Isidro, Nueva Ecija.

On June 5,1899, Antonio Luna, Aguinaldo's most capable military commander, was killed by Aguinaldo's guards in an apparent assassination while visiting Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija. General Luna was to meet with Aguinaldo.

Gregorio del Pilar, another key general, was killed on December 2, 1899 in the Battle of Tirad Pass. With his best commanders dead and his troops suffering continued defeats as American forces pushed into northern Luzon, Aguinaldo dissolved the regular army in November 1899 and ordered the establishment of decentralized guerrilla commands in each of several military zones. The general population, caught between Americans and rebels, suffered significantly.

Aguinaldo was captured at Palanan, Isabela on March 23, 1901 and was brought to Manila. Convinced of the futility of further resistance, he swore allegiance to the United States and issued a proclamation calling on his compatriots to lay down their arms, officially bringing an end to the war. Others considered this act as turncoatism. To this day, there are still questions on the actions of Aguinaldo during this important period in Philippine History.

Sporadic insurgent resistance continued in various parts of the Philippines, especially in the Muslim south, until 1913.

United States territory

The United States defined its territorial mission as one of tutelage, preparing the Philippines for eventual independence. Civil government was established by the United States in 1901, with William Howard Taft as the first American Governor-General of the Philippines, replacing the military governor, Arthur MacArthur, Jr.

The Governor-General acted as head of the Philippine Commission, a body appointed by the U.S. president with legislative and limited executive powers. The commission passed laws to set up the fundamentals of the new government, including a judicial system, civil service, and local government.

A Philippine Constabulary was organized to deal with the remnants of the insurgent movement and gradually assume the responsibilities from the United States Army. The elected Philippine Assembly was inaugurated in 1907, becoming a lower house of a bicameral legislature, with the appointed Philippine Commission as upper house.

United States policies towards the Philippines shifted with changing administrations. During the early years of territorial administration, the Americans were reluctant to delegate authority to the Filipinos. When Woodrow Wilson became U.S. President in 1913, a new policy was adopted to put into motion a process that would gradually lead to Philippine independence. The Jones Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1916 to serve as the new organic law in the Philippines, promised eventual independence and instituted an elected Philippine Senate.

In socio-economic terms, the Philippines made solid progress in this period. In 1895, foreign trade amounted to 62 million pesos, 13% of which was with the United States. By 1920, it had increased to 601 million pesos, 66% of which was with the United States.

A health care system was established which, by 1930, reduced the mortality rate from all causes, including various tropical diseases, to a level similar to that of the United States itself.

Slavery, piracy and headhunting were all suppressed. An educational system was established which, among other subjects, provided English as a lingua franca so that the islands' 170 linguistic groups could communicate with one another and the outside world.

The 1920s saw alternating periods of cooperation and confrontation with American governors-general, depending on how intent the incumbent was on exercising his powers vis-à-vis the Philippine legislature. Members to the elected legislature lobbied for immediate and complete independence from the United States. Several independence missions were sent to Washington, D.C. A civil service was formed and was gradually taken over by Filipinos, who had effectively gained control by 1918.

Philippine politics during the American territorial era was dominated by the Nacionalista Party, which was founded in 1907. Although the party's platform called for "immediate independence", their policy towards the Americans was highly accommodating. Within the political establishment, the call for independence was spearheaded by Manuel L. Quezon, who served continuously as Senate president from 1916 until 1935.

Frank Murphy was the last Governor-General of the Philippines (1933-35), and the first U.S. High Commissioner of the Philippines (1935-36). The change in form was more than symbolic: it was intended as a manifestation of the transition to independence.


In 1933, the United States Congress passed the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act as a Philippine Independence Act over President Herbert Hoover's veto. Though the bill had been drafted with the aid of a commission from the Philippines, it was opposed by Philippine Senate President Manuel L. Quezon, partially because of provisions leaving the United States in control of naval bases. Under his influence, the Philippine legislature rejected the bill.

The following year, a revised act known as the Tydings-McDuffie Act was finally passed. The Tydings-McDuffie Act provided for the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines with a ten-year period of transition to full independence. The commonwealth would have its own constitution and be self-governing, though foreign policy would be the responsibility of the United States, and certain legislation required approval of the United States president.

A constitution was framed and approved by Franklin D. Roosevelt in March 1935. On May 14, 1935, a Filipino government was formed on the basis of principles similar to the U.S. Constitution. The commonwealth was established in 1935, electing Manuel L. Quezon as the president and featuring a very strong executive, a unicameral National Assembly, and a Supreme Court composed entirely of Filipinos for the first time since 1901.

World War II and Japanese occupation

The Japanese occupation of the Philippines was the period in the history of the Philippines between 1941 and 1945, when the Empire of Japan occupied American-controlled Philippines during World War II.

The invasion of the Philippines started on December 8, 1941 ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. As at Pearl Harbor, the American aircraft were entirely destroyed on the ground. Lacking air cover, the American Asiatic Fleet in the Philippines withdrew to Java on December 12, 1941. General Douglas MacArthur escaped Corregidor on the night of March 11, 1942 in PT-41 bound for Australia; 4,000 km away through Japanese controlled waters.

The 76,000 starving and sick American and Filipino defenders in Bataan surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942. The Japanese led their captives on a cruel and criminal Bataan Death March on which 7-10,000 died or were murdered before arriving at the internment camps ten days later. The 13,000 survivors on Corregidor surrendered on May 6, 1942.

For over three years and right to the day of the surrender of Japan, the Philippines were to suffer grievously under the depredations of military occupation. General MacArthur discharged his promise to return to the Philippines on October 20, 1944. The landings on the island of Leyte were accomplished massively with an amphibious force of 700 vessels and 174,000 army and navy servicemen. Through December 1944, the islands of Leyte and Mindoro were cleared of Japanese troops.

The Japanese Invasion

Japan launched a surprise attack on the Philippines on December 8, 1941, just ten hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Initial aerial bombardment was followed by landings of ground troops both north and south of Manila. The defending Philippine and United States troops were under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, who had been recalled to active duty in the United States Army earlier in the year and was designated commander of the United States Armed Forces in the Asia-Pacific region. The aircraft of his command were destroyed; the naval forces were ordered to leave; and because of the circumstances in the Pacific region, reinforcement and resupply of his ground forces were impossible. Under the pressure of superior numbers, the defending forces withdrew to the Bataan Peninsula and to the island of Corregidor at the entrance to Manila Bay. Manila, declared an open city to prevent its destruction, was occupied by the Japanese on January 2, 1942.

The Philippine defense continued until the final surrender of United States-Philippine forces on the Bataan Peninsula in April 1942 and on Corregidor in May. Most of the 80,000 prisoners of war captured by the Japanese at Bataan were forced to undertake the infamous "Bataan Death March" to a prison camp 105 kilometers to the north. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 men, weakened by disease and malnutrition and treated harshly by their captors, died before reaching their destination. Quezon and Osmeña had accompanied the troops to Corregidor and later left for the United States, where they set up a government in exile. MacArthur was ordered to Australia, where he started to plan for a return to the Philippines.

The Japanese occupation

The Japanese military authorities immediately began organizing a new government structure in the Philippines. Although the Japanese had promised independence for the islands after occupation, they initially organized a Council of State through which they directed civil affairs until October 1943, when they declared the Philippines an independent republic. Most of the Philippine elite, with a few notable exceptions, served under the Japanese. Philippine collaboration in Japanese-sponsored political institutions - which later became a major domestic political issue-was motivated by several considerations. Among them was the effort to protect the people from the harshness of Japanese rule (an effort that Quezon himself had advocated), protection of family and personal interests, and a belief that Philippine nationalism would be advanced by solidarity with fellow Asians. Many collaborated to pass information to the Allies. The Japanese-sponsored republic headed by President José P. Laurel proved to be unpopular.

Japanese occupation of the Philippines was opposed by increasingly effective underground and guerrilla activity that ultimately reached large-scale proportions. Postwar investigations showed that about 260,000 people were in guerrilla organizations and that members of the anti-Japanese underground were even more numerous. Their effectiveness was such that by the end of the war, Japan controlled only twelve of the forty-eight provinces.

One major resistance group in the Central Luzon area was furnished by the Huks, Hukbalahap (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon), or the People's Anti-Japanese Army organized in early 1942 under the leadership of Luis Taruc, a communist party member since 1939. The Huks armed some 30,000 people and extended their control over much of Luzon. Other guerrilla units were attached to the SWPA, and were active throughout the archipelago.

End of the Japanese occupation

On October 20, 1944, MacArthur's Allied Forces landed on the island of Leyte accompanied by Osmeña, who had succeeded to the commonwealth presidency upon the death of Quezon on August 1, 1944.

Landings then followed on the island of Mindoro and around the Lingayen Gulf on the west side of Luzon, and the push toward Manila was initiated.

The Commonwealth of the Philippines was restored. Fighting was fierce, particularly in the mountains of northern Luzon, where Japanese troops had retreated, and in Manila, where they put up a last-ditch resistance.

The Philippine Commonwealth troops and the recognized guerrilla fighter units rose up everywhere for the final offensive. Fighting continued until Japan's formal surrender on September 2, 1945. The Philippines had suffered great loss of life and tremendous physical destruction by the time the war was over. An estimated 1 million Filipinos had been killed, a large proportion during the final months of the war, and Manila was extensively damaged.

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