On Philippine Independence Day

Jose Maria Sison

June 12, 1968

It was in 1962 that the Philippine government decided to change the official Independence Day of our country. Previously, our people had been indoctrinated by the educational system and the entire officialdom that July 4th was our Independence Day.

A shifting of the tablets of Philippine history has occurred. No little embarrassment still flushes the face of teachers, government officials and our elders who pontificated not too long ago that, thanks to the United States of America, we were “granted” independence on the star-spangled day of July 4th. But, in many cases, it is not yet the significance of the error that embarrasses them, it is plainly the reversal of the dates.

The error of historical recall and political principle is calculatedly obfuscated by our officialdom which declares apologetically that July 4th may still be commemorated as the day when Philippine independence was “restored” by the US government.

There is a question of political principle as well as the question of historical truth in rejecting July 4th as our Independence Day. Independence cannot be granted or restored by one state or people to another people; sovereignty cannot be extended as if it were a gift. It cannot be properly proclaimed for us by a foreign president or a foreign power. It can only be recognized by other states or peoples. American jurisprudence itself would uphold that independence can be asserted or proclaimed only by the people themselves and that, therefore, the US government could not have granted independence to the Filipino people on July 4, 1946.

The kind of independence that was so pretentiously extended to the Filipino people in dubious ceremonies all over the country was clearly a nominal one that carried the restrictions, limitations and qualifications required by the pseudodonor. The United States was willing to tack the label of independence on the Philippines but was not willing to and could not let the sovereign Filipino people assert their political, economic, cultural and military independence. The grant of nominal independence was precisely to blunt and avert a genuine national independence movement among the Filipino people. After July 4, 1946, we continued to be deprived of the true essence of independence.

The process of granting what cannot be granted, sovereignty and independence, is reflected by such colonial documents as the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934, the Proclamation of Philippine Independence by the President of the United States of America and the Treaty of General Relations of July 4,1946. These documents contain clever provisions and phrases which bless the continuance of US property rights and parity rights and the persistence of installations and occupied land areas essential to the maintenance of an imperialist hegemony.

A series of agreements and treaties has continuously unfolded to reflect the reality of an imperialist power stubbornly depriving the Filipino people of the substance of national freedom and democracy even as it proclaims itself to have “granted” Philippine “independence.” The Parity Amendment and the Bell Trade Act have perpetuated American violation of the national patrimony and of the very preamble of the Constitution and have allowed US citizens and corporations, together with their landlord and comprador allies, in the country, to foster a semicolonial and semifeudal type of economy. Economic subservience to US imperialism has detracted essentially from political independence. Economic independence is the basis of political independence.

The whole gamut of military pacts with the United States, the Military Bases Agreement, the Military Assistance Pact, the Mutual Defense Pact and the Manila Pact, respectively, provide the United States with the military and legal presumption to occupy large areas of Philippine territory and even to extend them in the course of military operations, to exert control and pressure on the Philippine government and to intervene in Philippine affairs in the name of mutual defense and even to allow other allies of the United States to intervene likewise. If we truly grasp the meaning and content of state power, then we can very well say that a puppet state, a protectorate, has actually been created by the United States in the Philippines. Conservative and reactionary countrymen, those who are favored by the semicolonial and semifeudal conditions, are fond of referring to the United States as our “protector,” in addition to such titles as “liberator” and “independence-giver.”

What may lead some of our countrymen to believe that we have independence is the fact that there is an extensive native bureaucracy and that Americans are no longer to be seen conspicuously in government offices as was the case in former times. The electoral system is also boasted of as an effective medium of free nationhood although it has always been clearly monopolized and abused in visible and invisible ways by the political representatives of the dominant classes. It is relevant to refer to the public confession made by former President Diosdado Macapagal in a recent speech that no president or candidate for president can afford to incur the ire of powerful American interests in the Philippines. He said:

Filipino incumbent presidents and most presidential candidates endeavor to obtain the support of the American government or at least not to antagonize it in their bid for the presidency. This is significant on two counts. Firstly, it indicates that American authorities perform acts, overt or clandestine, calculated to bear on the actuations of incumbent Filipino presidents and most presidential candidates and to affect the campaign and its outcome. Secondly, this practice lessens the independence of mind and action of Filipino presidents, a fact which could jeopardize the interests of the Filipino people.

Our ruling politicians are very much within the political framework designed, built up and defended by the imperialists, compradors and landlords. Historically, our civil and military bureaucracy has been merely carried over to the present in its colonial mold. There are certain basic policies of a colonial and undemocratic cast that can be changed to advance the cause of national freedom and democracy only at the risk of incurring the ire and violence of those who fear the loss of imperialist and class privileges. Is it any surprise to us that there is now a growingly conspicuous alienation between the government and the governed?

June 12 is a glorious and significant date to celebrate, chiefly to accord honor to the masses of the people and their patriotic leaders who rose in armed struggle and shed their blood in a great endeavor to liberate their nation from foreign tyranny and oppression. June 12th is certainly a more honorable day than the mock independence day of July 4th, made in the United States of America.

Nevertheless, let it be remembered that the Proclamation of Independence at Kawit in 1898 carried an unfortunate phrase to the effect that the Philippine Republic was “under the protection of the Mighty and Humane North American Nation.” This phrase, this fly in the ointment, reflected the fact that the Aguinaldo leadership had put good faith in the pledge of agents of the US government that it would provide military aid to the Filipino revolutionaries without prejudice to the cause of Philippine independence.

The chicanery and treachery of US imperialism soon came to light in their arrogant exclusion of the Filipino revolutionaries from the capture of Manila and in the subsequent all-out US aggression against the Filipino people. The Filipino-American war had to explode as an extension of the Philippine Revolution of 1896, with Apolinario Mabini and General Antonio Luna steadfastly denouncing the US imperialists for robbing us of our independence, for slaughtering Filipino patriots, for suppressing our democratic aspirations.

The First Philippine Republic or the Aguinaldo government was over-powered by both the imperialist superiority of arms and by dissensions created in the revolutionary ranks by those ilustrados who capitulated in the face of the enemy, who were carried away by McKinley’s pretentious proclamation of “benevolent assimilation.”

The era of the national democratic revolution of the old type under the ideological and political leadership of the liberal bourgeoisie is over. The period of suppressed nationalism, the period of the Jones Law, the period of the Commonwealth, the period of the Japanese occupation and American retreat and this period of nominal independence have proven beyond doubt that the national democratic revolution will continue to be frustrated by the traitors and opportunists in our midst, if it is not renewed accordingly at this higher historical stage by arousing and mobilizing the masses of workers, peasants, the urban petty bourgeoisie and militant youth under the ideological and class leadership of the working class.

A new type of national democratic revolution, a continuation of the Philippine revolution of 1896 and yet a renewal of strength in a more advanced way, needs to be waged. The basic problems of imperialism and feudalism must be rooted out by the broad alliance of workers, peasants and all other patriots under the leadership of the working class.

A new type of national democratic revolution is now rising in our country at a time that the people of the world are striking at every overextended tentacle of the US imperialist octopus, at a time that all capitalist societies, especially their American bulwark, are internally crisis-stricken, at a time that the Filipino people are learning the lessons of the past and the present and are fighting for a far more definite future founded on the democratic alliance of workers and peasants.

Because the proclamation of June 12th was not crowned by a lasting revolutionary triumph and because we cannot accept the improper proclamation of July 4th, a challenge continues to face the Filipino people to stand up and fight for genuine independence and democracy and to inaugurate a new republic and a new proclamation of independence.

It is easy to draft a new proclamation of independence and to adopt a new independence day as a matter of form and ceremony but we must be determined to struggle at all cost for its substantive realization. A new proclamation and a new day of independence can only emerge from the renewed efforts at national democratic revolution. A day is still to come when we shall deal the most effective blows against imperialism and feudalism, when the youth of the land and the masses of the people shall reassert their national and democratic aspirations with revolutionary feats. A day will surely come when true independence shall have been won and its bounties shall belong to the masses of the people.