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America takes over the Philippines

By Renato Perdon
Sydney, Australia
December 20, 2016


118 years ago today, 21 December 2016, the Americans implemented its long cherished dream of taking over the Philippines while the treaty ending the hostilities in the Philippines between Spain and United States was still being discussed in Paris. Historians claimed that American leadership was pretending not to know what to do with thePhilippines although it had already the decision.

Many pieces have been written about the dilemma facing American President William McKinley on what to do with the Philippines. And yet as early as September 1898, he officially told his appointed peace negotiators in Paris and said: ‘Incidental to our tenure in the Philippinesis the commercial opportunity to which American statesmanship cannot be indifferent. It is just to use every legitimate means for the enlargement of American trade, but we seek no advantages in the Orient which are not common to all.’

Indeed, the destiny of the Philippines was sealed already even before the signing of the Treaty of Paris and its ratification by the US Senate, a requirement to make official the taking over of the Philippines by the American government.
Maximo M. Kalaw, a former editor of Collegio Folio, the first UP school paper, a scholar, academe, and associate editor of the Manila Times collated and published a collection of valuable official documents related to that period in Philippine history under the title State Papers. One of the  documents found in this compilation was  President William McKinley’s proclamation that sealed the destiny of the Philippines as an American colony.

Kalaw described the document and said: ‘From this document, despite its super-coated promises, and its beguiling phrases, the Filipino people learned in an unmistakable manner that they were deprived of the boom for which they were fighting independence. They realized what they had never for a moment dreamed in the beginning, that their bloody struggle had brought them only a change of master.’

US General Elwell Otis, the military commander of the American forces in Manila, was not even keen of making the proclamation public for it ‘would only enrage the Filipino people, and widen the gap between them and the Americans.’

This document is now regarded as a clear proof of the real intention of the Americans in coming to the Philippines and clearly show that from the very beginning the Americans deceived the Filipinos headed by General EmilioAguinaldo. The document follows:

Executive Mansion, Washington
December 21, 1898

The destruction of the Spanish fleet in the harbour of Manila by theUnited States squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Dewey, followed by the reduction of the city and the surrender of the Spanish forces practically effected the conquest of the Philippine Islands and the suspension of Spanish sovereignty therein.

With the signature of the treaty of peace between the United Statesand Spain by their respective plenipotentiaries at Paris on the 10th instant, and as result of the victories of American arms, the future control, disposition and government of the Philippine Islands are ceded to the United States. In the fulfillment of the rights of sovereignty thus acquired and the responsible obligation and administration of the entire group of the Philippine Islands becomes immediately necessary, and the military government heretofore maintained by the United States in the city, harbour, and the bay of Manila is to be extended with all possible dispatch to the whole of the ceded territory.

In performing this duty the military commander of the United States is enjoined to make known to the inhabitants of the Philippine Islands that in succeeding to the sovereignty of Spain, in severing the former political relations and in establishing a new political power, the authority of the United States is to be exerted for the securing of the persons and property of the people of the islands and for the confirmation of all their private rights and relations. It will be the duty of the commander of the forces of occupations to announce and proclaim in the most public manner that we come not as invaders or conquerors, but as friends, to protect the natives in their homes, in their employments, and their personal and religious rights. All persons who, either by active aid or by honest submission, cooperate with the government of the United States to give effect to those beneficent purposes will receive the reward of its support and protection. All others will be brought within the lawful rule we have assumed, with firmness if need be, but without severity, as far as possible.

Within the absolute domain of military authority which necessarily is and must remain supreme in the ceded territory until the legislation of the United States shall otherwise provide, the municipal laws of the territory in respect to private rights and property and the repression of crime are to be considered as continuing in force, and to be administered by the ordinary tribunals, so far as practicable. The operations of civil and municipal government are to be performed by such officers as may accept the supremacy of the United States by taking the oath of allegiance, or by officers chosen, as far as practicable, from the inhabitants of the islands.

While the control of all the public property and the revenues of the state passes with the cession, and while the use and management of all public means of transportation are necessarily reserved to the authority of the United States, private property, whether belonging to individuals or corporations, is to be respected except for cause duly established. The taxes and duties heretofore payable by the inhabitants to the late government became payable to the authorities of the United States unless it be seen fit to substitute for them other reasonable rates or modes of contribution to the expenses of government, whether general or local. If private property be taken for military use, it shall be paid for when possible in cash, at a fair valuation, and when payment in cash is not practicable, receipts are to be given.

All ports and places in the Philippine Islands in the actual possession of the land and naval forces of the United States will be opened to the commerce of all friendly nations. All goods and wares not prohibited for military reasons by due announcement of the military authority will be admitted upon payment of such duties and other charges as shall be in force at the time of their importation.

Finally, it should be the earnest wish and paramount aim of the military administration to win the confidence, respect, and affection of the inhabitants of the Philippines by assuring them in every possible way that full measure of individual rights and liberties which is the heritage of free people and by proving to them that the mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule.

In the fulfilment of this high mission, supporting the temperate administration of affairs for the greatest good of the governed, there must be sedulously maintained the strong arm of authority, to repress disturbance and to overcome all obstacle to the bestowal of the blessings of good and stable government upon the people of the Philippine Islands under the free flag of the United States.

                                 (SGD) WILLIAM McKINLEY

Note: Upon receipt of the proclamation softened in tenor by Military Governor Elwell Otis, General Emilio Aguinaldo issued a protest against the US policy concerning the Philippines and Filipinos on 5 January 1899 and this was followed by another stronger and revised protest on8 January 1899.

Source: Appendex A – ‘The Americanization of Filipinos’ by Renato Perdon, Manila Prints, Sydney, Australia, 2016.

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