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The Philippine Legal System: Commonwealth Period

I. Background
Created by the Tydings McDuffie Act (also known as Philippine Independence Act) - a federal law of the United States which provided for self-government of the Philippines and independence from the United States for a period of 10 years (a period of peaceful transition to full independence) - provided for a framework for the drafting of the Constitution for the Commonwealth government of the Philippines, which required approval by the US president and the Filipino people

The 1934 Constitutional Convention They convened in Manila on July 30, 1934 for the drafting of the Commonwealth Constitution (which was later known as the 1935 Philippine constitution) 202 delegates; President: Claro M. Recto 40 committees were organized and study and report on the provisions of the Constitution; Committee of seven prepared a draft of the Constitution It was approved by the same convention through a majority vote, approved by Pres. Roosevelt on March of 1935 and a plebiscite held on May 14, 1935 ratified the constitution

Philippine Constitution followed the American model in structure and formal appearance, except for a unicameral legislature and a unitary system of government Reflected the historical experience of the Filipinos and included provisions such as: Separation of Church and State Limitation on the size of agricultural lands to be owned by private individuals and corporations

Also reflected certain cultural values unique in the Philippine tradition such as: Principle of State supremacy over the individual Exaltation of authority Provisions for compulsory civil or military service and declarations to orient youth towards the ideals of civil efficiency

State was empowered to own and operate public utilities and enterprises and to regulate all employment relationships Also vested extraordinary constitutional powers in the president including an item veto over appropriation, revenue, tariff bills, and conditional powers over trade and tariff

In the 1935 elections, candidates for presidency included former Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo, Gregorio Aglipay ( from Iglesia Filipina Independiente) and Manuel L. Quezon. Quezon won with Osmena as the Vice-President

Government Structure Legislature

Original It featured a very strong, executive unicameral National Assembly

Amended From 1939-1940, the National Assembly was replaced by a bicameral Congress consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives The president was allowed to serve two consecutive terms, 4 years each term


6-year term for president


Supreme Court is already established, which is all composed of all Filipinos as well as an elected Resident Commissioner to the United States House of Representatives.


III. Pertinent Laws

A. Philippine Trade Act / Bell Trade Act - an act passed by the United States Congress specifying the economic conditions governing the independence of the Philippines from the United States it roused several opposing opinions from Filipino nationalists and was even considered by Pres. Osmena as a curtailment of Philippine sovereignty and a virtual nullification of Philippine independence

- The act remained valid until it was repealed by the Laurel Langley Agreement in 1955.

- effects of the said act include: 1. Establishment of system of preferential tarrifs, which undermines the control over imports and exports of the Philippine government 2. Philippine peso wag pegged to dollar 3. Limits policy restriction on currency exchange from Philippines to the US 4. US and Filipinos are given equal access to the countrys natural resources despite prohibition of the Constitution (which, ironically, the Bell Trade Act provided for its amendment)

B. Filipino Repatriation Act of 1935 - called for the United States government to pressure Filipinos to return to the Philippines by offering them free passage back to their native country - Filipinos were allowed to leave the US with free transportation and were subject to the quota system (meaning quota on the number of Filipinos who can enter the US) if they decide to come back - This was declared unconstitutional in 1940, only after almost 3000 Filipinos had returned to the Philippines

C. Criminal Laws -The Revised Penal Code took effect on 1932, which established the definition of crimes and their defining penalties, which is used until the present *though with some amendments

D. Commonwealth Act no. 211 - established a minimum wage for laborers employed in public works and projects (this was P 1.00 a day, the amount subsequently raised to P 1.25 ) E. The 8-hour labor law was also passed applicable to persons employed in any public or private industry or occupation F. Commonwealth Act 213 - Sought to recognize, define, and regulate legitimate labor disputes and a Court of Industrial Relations was established to settle between employees and laborers questions involving hours of labor, minimum wages, working conditions, and other matters.

G. The 1935 Philippine Constitution - the greatest contribution (perhaps) of the Commonwealth government - it was approved and adopted by the Commonwealth of the Philippines, and mainly was written with the purpose of meeting the approval of the United States government - it is the best way to ensure that the United States would live up to its promises to grant Philippine independence and in making the Filipino people politically mature for a full and real freedom

This Constitution mandated that the promotion of social justice to insure the well-being and economic security of all the people should be the concern of the state. Social Justice was equated with justice to the common man

- provided for a national assembly, 6 year term for the president without a re-election - later amended, established an independent electoral body, a bicameral congress composed of senate and house of representatives, and a four-year term for the president with a maximum of two consecutive terms in office

a. The Commonwealth government had made significant contributions in the Philippine legal system, as evident on the applicability of its laws even until today. b. Although supposedly the nature of laws during the time of the Commonwealth would be satisfactory to the training of independence or at least preparatory to it, there are pertinent laws passed by the US legislature which only have a one-way benefit (that is, to the Americans).. There are even some which are repugnant to the 1935 Constitution.

c. There were 733 Commonwealth Acts which were enacted from 1935-1945. d. The government structure at present is the same as compared to the Commonwealth period except for Judiciary.