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Civil Government

In 1899, President William McKinley designated Dr. Jacob G.

Schurman, president of Cornell University, Admiral; George Dewey,
Gen. Elwell E. Otis (then military governor of the country), Charles
Denby and Dean C. Worcester of the University of Michigan as the
members of the First Philippine Commission a body to study
the Philippine situation.
At that time, the guerillas still controlled many areas of the country
and it was physically impossible for the commission to make a
thorough study of the needs of the country and to make final
The First Commission which was only advisory in nature was
immediately succeeded by the Taft Commission. Vested with legislative
and executive powers, the Taft Commission hastened the transfer of
the military government to civilians.
Upon arriving in the country in 1900, the Commission immediately
made public its program.
After several public sessions, the Commission passed more than
basic laws and laid the foundation for the civil service system. It
formed municipal and provincial governments, organized
Constabulary for routing the ladrones and tulisanes in


In 1900,
Senator Spooner of Wisconsin inserted a significant
amendment in the Army Appropriation Act providing that all the
powers necessary for the government in the Philippines shall be vested
in persons directed by the President of the United States and that their
aim should be to make the Filipinos enjoy freely their liberty, property
and religion.
The Spooner amendment ended the military regime in the Philippines.
On 04 July 1901, the Civil Government was inaugurated in Manila,
headed by Judge William H. Taft as its first Civil Governor.
Governor Taft helped in passing before the American Congress of the
Philippine Bill of 1902, which provided for the establishment of a
Philippine Assembly, the publication of census and the dispatch of
Filipino resident commissioners to Washington to present Filipino views.
In 1907, an elected Filipino legislature was established. From 1907 to
1916, the Philippine Commission acted as the upper house of the
legislative branch with the Philippine Assembly serving as the lower

When Woodrow Wilson became U.S. President in 1913, there was a

major change in official American policy concerning the Philippines.
The Wilson administration decided to start a process that would slowly
lead to Philippine independence.

In 1916, the Philippine Autonomy Act, widely known as the Jones

Law, was passed by the U.S. Congress. The law which served as the
new organic act (or constitution) for the Philippines, stated in its
preamble that the ultimate independence of the Philippines would be
American policy, subject to the establishment of a stable government.
The law placed executive power in the Governor General of the
Philippines, appointed by the President of the United States, but
established a bicameral Philippine Legislature to replace the elected
Philippine Assembly (lower house) and appointive Philippine
Commission (upper house) previously in place. The Filipino House of
Representatives would be purely elected, while the new Philippine
Senate would have the majority of its members elected by senatorial
district with senators representing non-Christian areas appointed by
the Governor-General.
In 1934, the United States Congress, having originally passed the
Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act as a Philippine Independence Act over
President Hoover's refusal, only to have the law rejected by the
Philippine legislature, finally passed a new Philippine Independence
Act, popularly known as the Tydings-McDuffie Act. The law provided
for the granting of Philippine independence by 1946.