Manuel Quezon calls for Filipino Independence (1919)

During World War I, Woodrow Wilson set forth a vision for a new global future of democratic self-determination. The United States had controlled the Philippines since the Spanish-American War. After World War I, the U.S. legislature held joint hearings on a possible Philippine independence. Manuel Quezon came to Washington as part of a delegation to make the following case for Filipino independence. It would be fifteen years until the United States acted and, in 1935, Manuel Quezon became the first president of the Philippines.

…The Philippine Legislature, in accordance with the wishes of the Filipino people, sent a special mission to this country bearing the message of good will, respect, and gratitude from the people of the Philippine Islands to the Government and people of the United States. This mission is truly and thoroughly representative. It is composed of men representing all walks of life in the Philippines….

So large and representative a body, Mr. Chairman, has come to you charged by our people with the noble and sacred mission of pleading for the national independence of the Philippine Islands. The Filipino people feel that the time has come when steps should be taken immediately by the Government of the United States for the recognition of the sovereignty of the Filipino people over their own country. It is, I think, the first time in the history of the world where a country under the sovereignty of another seeks its separation from the latter not on the ground of grievances or abuses that call for redress but rather on the ground that the work of the ruling country has been so well and nobly performed that it is no longer necessary that she should still direct the destinies of her colony; and so the colony, with love and gratitude for the governing country, seeks her separation.

We have nothing but words of praise and appreciation for the work so well performed by the United States, and yet you will readily understand why nothing short of independence would ever fully satisfy our people. The granting of our national freedom at this time is in accordance with the avowed policy of the United States with regard to the Philippine Islands.

…the Congress of the United States in 1916 passed a law entitled: “an act to declare the purpose of the people of the United States as to the future political status of the people of the Philippine Islands, and to provide a more autonomous government for those islands.”…This law…was enacted for the avowed purpose of promising independence to the Philippines and giving the Filipinos and opportunity to learn—if they did not know, and to demonstrate if they did—their capacity to govern themselves. This act has been in operation for three years. It was passed at a time when the whole world was in one of the most critical periods in its history. It required ability, patriotism, and intelligence of the highest order on the part of the people of the Philippine Islands to create the new government as provided by this act, and to assume the new responsibilities in the face of the perplexing problems brought about by the war….

We have kept order and peace during these three years of war. We have not only done that, we have not only kept peace and order within our borders, but we were ready—nay, anxious—once you had entered the war yourselves, to go outside of the Philippines and fight with you and for you in the battle fields of France, or wherever the Government of the United States would care to send our men. The Filipinos have shown in this critical time their loyalty to the United States, their appreciation of what you have done for them and have shown it not in words but in deeds….

The Filipinos have organized, as I said, a new government. Under this new government the country has made progress in education, in commerce, in industry, in agriculture. In other words, it has made progress in every way. So we feel that the conditions laid down by the Jones Act as prerequisite for the granting of Philippine independence have been performed; that we have shown not only that a stable government can be established in the islands but that there is now one there.

There is still another reason why we think that the independence of the Philippines should be granted at this time and that is because of the attitude taken by this Government in the recent war. You said you have gone to war for the liberation of mankind; for the right of every people to govern themselves. Indeed, you have made good those declarations in thus far recognizing the independent existence of several countries of Europe; certainly it would be nothing but natural that the Filipinos should feel that you would make those declarations good with regard to the people of the Philippines. You have recognized the independence of countries of Europe which have been under the control of autocratic powers; who have had no opportunity of exercising the powers of self-government, and to these countries you were not pledged to give independence, you were not in any way related, you were not tied by bonds of long association and affection. How can you afford not to recognize the independence of the Filipino people whom you have solemnly promised independence, whom you have helped to acquire the science and practice of self-government, and who are bound to you by ties of affection, friendship, and eternal gratitude? The granting of our national freedom will be at this time the object lesson that you could give to the world that this country can give of her belief in democracy and in the rights of every people to be free and to govern themselves.

Source: Manuel Quezon, “Statement of Hon. Manuel L. Quezon, President of the Philippine Senate and Chairman of the Philippine Mission,” in Philippine Independence: Hearings before the Committee on the Philippines, United States Senate, and the Committee on Insular Affairs, House of Representatives, Held Jointly (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1919), 4-8. Available via Google Books (