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ICYDK, the Philippines has had three Independence Day dates

By NICK GARCIA Published Jun 11, 2024 6:33 pm

Filipinos celebrate Independence Day every June 12, but did you know that the Philippines has had three dates for it?

On June 12, 1898, the Philippine Revolutionary Government under General Emilio Aguinaldo declared independence from Spain after over a 300-year rule.

The declaration, titled Acta de la Proclamacion de la Independencia del Pueblo Filipino, was written and delivered by Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, Aguinaldo's war counselor and special delegate.

The 21-page declaration was written in Spanish and signed by 98 Filipinos, whom Aguinaldo had appointed, and a retired American artillery officer named L.M. Johnson.

The Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine, where the general declared the Philippines's independence from Spain after over a 300-year rule.

The Philippine flag was raised for the first time on that day. But the declaration wasn't honored by Spain and the United States of America, Philippines' eventual colonizer, and in December 1898, the two countries signed the Treaty of Paris.

The treaty officially ended the period of Spanish colonization in the Philippines and granted it to the US alongside Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Guam in exchange for $20 million.

In turn, the Philippine government didn't recognize the treaty and fought with the Americans in the Philippine-American War but lost. Aguinaldo was captured and was forced to issue a statement accepting the US sovereignty over the Philippines.

Japanese occupation

The American colonization went on until 1942 when the Japanese invaded the Philippines following its attack on Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. World War II had been ongoing since 1939, and Japan aimed to dominate Asia at the time.

Japan eventually took over the Philippines and on Oct. 14, 1943, Japan sponsored the Second Republic with Jose P. Laurel as president.

America's return

In 1945, the US dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing hundreds of thousands of people, mostly civilians. This forced Japan to surrender the Philippines to the US.

The US then, via the Treaty of Manila, granted the Philippines full independence on July 4, 1946, the date of its own Independence Day. Prior to this, the Tydings-McDuffie Act or the Philippine Independence Act of 1935 stipulated that the Philippines shall be independent after a 10-year transitional period of Commonwealth government.

The United States of America lowers its flag while the Philippines' flag is being raised on July 4, 1946.

From July 4 to June 12 again

But why did the Philippines revert to celebrating Independence Day on June 12 again?

Luis Zuriel Domingo, an assistant professor at the University of the Philippines Baguio's Department of History, in his blog noted that some Filipinos were disappointed with the idea that the Americans “granted” Filipino independence as a sign of gratitude in the face of the colonial experience.

"For them, while the United States had given the Filipinos political independence, the country remained economically and militarily dependent on its former colonial master," Domingo notes. "For instance, from their point of view, the signing of treaties with Washington kept the Philippines under the American sphere of influence during the Cold War: The Bell Trade Act (1946) and the Military Bases Agreement (1947)."

The Bell Trade Act set quotas on Philippine exports to the US, pegged the Philippine peso to the U.S. dollar at a rate of 2:1, and provided for free trade between the two countries for 8 years, to be followed by gradual application of tariffs for the next 20 years.

The Military Bases Agreement, meanwhile, allows the US to establish military bases in the Philippines even as the two countries established a military alliance.

Citing The Recto Reader of Claro M. Recto edited by Renato Constantino, Domingo wrote that nationalist Filipinos—comprising statesmen and intellectuals from the Second Republic or members/sympathizers of the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas—argued that Americans have only given the Filipinos their desired independence in minimalist terms but have remained in effective control over the country’s sovereignty.

In 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal issued Proclamation No. 28 declaring June 12 as Independence Day. The proclamation was made official in 1964 when he signed Republic Act No. 4166.

Macapagal's souring relationship with the US was believed to be the cause, according to Domingo.

President Diosdado Macapagal (left) signed Republic Act No. 4166, proclaiming June 12 as Philippine Independence Day. (Pilipinas Retrostalgia/Facebook)

Joseph Scalice said Macapagal's move stemmed from the Harry Stonehill scandal, which involved the American expatriate businessman and implicated high government officials including Macapagal. A falling out with Washington then happened, Domingo said, affecting Filipino veterans' pension benefits in return for their service in fighting against the Japanese during the war.

Reynaldo Ileto, in the Philippine Historical Association (PHA)'s Historical Bulletin Vol. 50 in 2016, also found that the PHA and its members, mostly historians who were hostile toward the US, raised the issue of what's called the "unfinished revolution."

Gabriel Fabella, the PHA’s first president and the University of the Philippines's history department chairman at the time, floated the idea of changing Independence Day from July 4 to June 12.

Macapagal would eventually use the "unfinished revolution" rhetoric to question American neocolonialism and imperialism, Domingo said.

In his Independence Day address, Macapagal underscored the proclamation of Philippine independence on June 12, 1898, and how it was "the first successful national revolution in Asia since the coming of the West, and the Republic to which it gave birth was the first democratic Republic outside of the Western hemisphere."

The Philippines is celebrating its 126th Independence Day this 2024.