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The Jones Law and The Philippine Independence Act

Since acquiring the Philippine from Spain in 1898 through the treaty of Paris, America
has been institutionalizing reforms in Philippine society (particularly education, infrastructure,
health, livelihood, etc.) until the recognition of Philippine independence in 1946. What hastened
the Philippines’s path to independence were a series of decisions made by the US that led to the
legislation of two pivotal laws, namely, the Jones Law and the Tydings-Mcduffie Law.
Questioning the motivation of this move by the US to grant the Philippines independence is
essential. It exposes the real truth behind the granting of Philippine independence. The US
motion to recognize Philippine Independence was a necessity in order for the US to focus more
on tackling its domestic problems brought about by the Great Depression.
The Jones Law which is also known as the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916 was a
statute declaring the US government’s intention to withdraw their sovereignty over the
Philippine islands as soon as a stable government could be established. Taking into consideration
the year and the times in which the law was passed, one cannot ignore the fact that the passing of
the Jones Law was no mere coincidence. Nor was it felt by the US that the Philippines finally
deserved the right to govern themselves. The breakout of Word War 1 (1914-1918) managed to
preoccupy the US. So much so that it was enough to force the US to start assessing its
management of overseas territories (whether to keep them or not).
What was happening in the Philippines at that time was a shift in policy. The new
political climate under President Woodrow Wilson had somewhat differed from the previous
Republican establishments that underscored the importance of expansion and conquest of
territories. The new Democratic administration motioned for less control over acquired territories
– not altogether abandoning them – to allow greater participation from the natives. Following
from this new Democratic policy, the “rapid Filipinization” of government was initiated by the
first Democratic Governor General for the Philippines, Francis Burton Harrison. It aimed to
include more Filipinos in the legislative branch. When the Jones Law was passed in 1916,
legislative power in the country was given to Filipinos. The only remaining grasp that the
Americans had on legislative decisions was the veto power of the Chief Executive. The Jones
Law served as motivation for Filipino politicians to lobby and campaign for more participation
and control of government. It catapulted Filipinos closer to the goal of independence.
The Great Depression (1929-1940s) ravaged the global economy and trade between states
bore no fruits. This was due to the protectionist policies that most states at that time employed –
flooding the market with exports and refusing imports. As a result of such economic behavior,
the market collapsed as every country was too busy on selling their respective exports. It had a
profound effect on America. Millions went hungry and had no work. Wages disintegrated to an
amount that wasn’t enough to sustain a person in a day. The US was in trouble on the inside.
Following from this economic crisis, we can clearly read between the lines in the passing
of the Tydings-Mcduffie Law. The US was battling an internal battle and for it to be still
managing its overseas territories was suicidal. Simply put it this way, the US was doing too
many things at the same time. So what was left to do was to loosen its grip on its colonial
territories in order for the pressure to ease and more focus could be given to the domestic
economy. The era in which the Tydings-Mcduffie Act of 1934 was passed was a time of great
woe for Americans.
During that decade, there was already a strong independence movement initiated by
Filipino leaders/representatives who perennially lobbied in Washington for the recognition of
Philippine independence. The OsRox Mission (1931-1933) in particular was aiming to secure a
passage of an independence bill. This bill was first in the form of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act
and it was approved on January 17, 1933. Although the OsRox Mission brought with it a tangible
grasp of what would be Philippine Independence, some provisions in the act (particularly the
economic provisions) proved somehow to be disadvantageous to the Philippines in the event of
the recognition of independence. Quezon attempted a last-ditch effort to find a more favorable
bill but his efforts were futile. This was due to the fact that instead of the replacement of the
Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act by the Tydings-Mcduffie Law which was mostly, if not all, a twin of
the previous bill. It was the same banana with a different peeling.
The economic provisions stated in the bill were beneficial to the US. This can easily be
attributed to the fact that the US wanted to repair the damage incurred by its economy from the
Great Depression. The bill also signaled a new policy of the US towards the Philippines. That
policy was now without full US management of the government and the economy.
In conclusion, the time wherein history saw the passage of the Jones Law and the
Tydings-Mcduffie Act was mauled with great woe and strife – that much is sure. If it weren’t for
those challenging times, there wouldn’t probably have been a Philippines that was able to break
away from its western colonizer. If it weren’t for those challenges to US stability, the Philippines
that we know now might have existed only in the ideas of our past leaders, never to be able to
come out in the open and materialize right before our eyes.
Bibliography

Agoncillo, T. (1990). History of The Filipino People Eighth Edition. Quezon City: Garotech
Publishing.
Brittanica Encylopedia. (n.d.). Jones Act. Retrieved August 9, 2011, from Brittanica.com:
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/306000/Jones-Act
Ronald E. Dolan, e. (n.d.). The Jones Act. Retrieved August 9, 2011, from Country Studies:
http://countrystudies.us/philippines/18.htm