First Philippine Assembly
The First Philippine Assembly was the first Filipino-controlled legislative body in the Philippines, which was created during the American colonial administration of the country. The members of the assembly were selected by popular vote in a nationwide election. The assembly was inaugurated at the Manila Grand Opera House in Sta. Cruz, Manila on 14 november 1908, an event which was attended by high-profile government officials from both the United States and the Philippines.
The idea of creating the first assembly was attributed to Governor-General William Howard Taft (later appointed U.S. Secretary of War) who had been lobbying to improve the relations between Americans and Filipinos. With the U.S. facing controlled but growing opposition, Taft argued that his country had to involve more Filipinos in their own politics to win the support of the Filipino people, and proposed the creation of an assembly comprised of and elected by Filipino citizens. He expedited the creation of a legislature made up of the Philippine Commission as the upper house and his proposed Filipino assembly as the lower house. The campaign for the creation of a popularly elected Filipino assembly which would share legislative power with the American-selected Philippine Commission was backed in the United States Congress by Henry Allen Cooper, the chairman of the House Committee on Insular Affairs, who came up with a bill which went with three conditions:
- There should be prevalence of general and complete peace in the country and that all those territories not inhabited by Muslims and other non-Christian tribes recognize the authority.
- The Philippine Commission must conduct a census of the population and have the results published.
- Peace must be sustained for two years after the census had been taken and its results published.
Peace before the election
The first law passed by the U.S Congress on the formation of a Filipino-controlled assembly was the Cooper Act, better known as the Philippine Act of 1902. The Bill stated that the membership of the assembly should be limited to 100, to be proportionately apportioned by the Philippine Commission among the provinces according to population. However, provisions made by the Philippine Commission allowed provinces with large populations to have more than one delegate.
When preparations for the election were almost completed, Governor-General Luke Wright issued a proclamation that peace had to reign for two more years before elections for the Philippine Assembly could be held. When the condition was met after two years, the Philippine Commission notified President Roosevelt who, in turn, authorized Governor Wright to make a proclamation calling for an election.
The historic first national election for the Philippine Assembly happened on 30 July 1907, where candidates vied for a total of 80 seats as set by the Philippine Commission. There were in all 104,996 registered voters, but the number of those who voted was only 98,251. Males aged 23 and older were qualified to vote. The national election for the Philippine Assembly involved two prominent political parties in the country - the Partido Nacionalista and the Partido Nacional Progresista. The Nacionalista party won 31 seats (plus one, Manuel L. Quezon who chose to run as an independent); the Independientes, 20; the Progresistas, 16; Immediatistas, 7; and other minor political parties, 5. None of the political parties had a majority in the assembly. Prominent personalities in the Revolutionary Government won important posts. Among these were Pedro Paterno, who had been president of the Malolos Congress; Felipe Agoncillo, who had been Aguinaldo’s diplomat in the U.S.; and Leon Ma. Guerrero, Aguedo Velarde, and Alberto Barretto, who had held important posts in the Malolos Government.
- Zaide, Sonia M. (1994), The Philippines: A Unique Nation, All-Nations Publishing Co.
- House of Representative. Congress.gov.ph. (accessed on October 09, 2009).
- Philippine Assembly An article published in an American newspaper examining the membership and accomplishments of the Philippine Assembly during the early years of American rule. An online article made available by Filipiniana.net
- Philippine Bill of 1902 A US Congress Act establishing the Philippine Assembly. An online article made available by Filipiniana.net