The shifting of Philippine Independence Day from July 4 to
June 12 further strengthens the position of the Moro Nation that
they are not Filipinos and that the Mindanao-Basilan-Sulu-Palawan Region is not part of the Philippine Republic
By
NU’AIN BIN ABDULHAQQ

US President Harry S. Truman’s1 declaration of Philippine independence on July 4, 1946 created controversy among the ranks of Filipino historians as to the determination of the real date of Philippine Independence. Prominent historians argued that June 12, 1898 was the real date when the Filipinos achieved their independence from colonialists and not on July 4, 1946, the date Truman recognized Philippine independence. On the other hand, the fixing of the date of Philippine independence was a significant occasion for the Bangsamoro people. For, Aguinaldo’s declaration of June 12, 1898 definitely did not include the independent Moro sultanates and governments. The bases of U.S. in recognizing Philippine independence in 1946 were not recognized by the Moros as binding to them for these included the Treaty of Paris that illegally and immorally confiscated the independent Moro territories. These historical and legal bases duly support the Moros’ claim that until now they have not been a part of the Philippines and that they are still Moros and not Filipinos.

Filipino historians, who organized themselves into the Philippine Historical Association (PHA), believed that on June 12, 1898, Aguinaldo publicly and solemnly proclaimed in Kawit, Cavite, the independence of the Philippines, and it was also on that occasion that the Philippine flag was officially unfurled and the national anthem was played for the first time. They claimed that the representatives of the Filipino people in Congress assembled at Malolos, Bulacan, on September 29, 1898, solemnly ratified said Independence Proclamation. They further stated that there was an urgent and imperative need of rectifying the practice of the Filipinos in observing and celebrating their “Independence Day” on July 4 of every year, which was not the correct historical date of their “Declaration of Independence” but was merely the date of its recognition by the US.

On July 4, 1946, the 171st anniversary of American independence from Great Britain, Truman, acting by virtue of the authority vested in him by the Act of Congress of March 24, 1934, otherwise known as the Philippines Independence Act, proclaimed the withdrawal and surrender of all rights of possession, supervision, jurisdiction, control or sovereignty exercised by the US in and over the territory and people of the Philippines thereby recognizing the independence of the Philippines as a separate and self-governing nation. For sixteen years from 1946, the Filipinos commemorated their independence day every July 4. However, this tradition was corrected by Filipino historians.

On March 24, 1960, the PHA sent a petition2 unanimously approved by its Board of Governors headed by Esteban de Ocampo to the then President Diosdado A. Macapagal,3 father of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, to “fix, designate and proclaim JUNE 12 of every year as PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE DAY in commemoration of the first historic Declaration of Independence at Kawit, Cavite, on June 12, 1898.” PHA also petitioned the Congress of the Philippines to “fix, designate and proclaim JULY 4 of every year as THANKSGIVING DAY for the magnanimous act of the United States of America in restoring and recognizing the independence of the Philippines.”

The petition signed by Esteban de Ocampo and and PHA Secretary Jorge L. Revilla immediately reached the office of President Macapagal who studied its merits for a period of two years. After a thorough study, Macapagal directed his legal officer, Juan Cancio, to prepare the proclamation. When the draft was presented to him, Macapagal revised and signed it as Presidential Proclamation No. 284 on May 12, 1962 adhering to such petition to “fix, designate and proclaim JUNE 12 of every year as PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE DAY in commemoration of the first historic Declaration of Independence at Kawit, Cavite, on June 12, 1898.” Thus, macapagal’s vision to change the date from July 4 to June 6 since he was congressman became a reality. The proclamation was immediately released to the press through the Malacañang press office. Then on May 17, 1962, Macapagal certified as urgent to the Congress the enactment of a measure to fix June 12 statutorily as Independence Day. 5

Macapagal in that proclamation, invoking the authority vested in him Section 30 of the Revised Administrative Code then in force, declared June 12 as special public holiday throughout the Philippines “in commemoration of our people’s declaration of their inherent and inalienable right to freedom and independence.” Macapagal also urged all national, provincial, city, and municipal officials throughout the Philippines to make arrangements in their respective localities for the appropriate celebration of the occasion as Philippine Independence Day. Here follows is the full text of Macapagal’s Presidential Proclamation No. 28:

MALACAÑANG
RESIDENCE OF THE PRESIDENT
OF THE PHILIPPINES
MANILA

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES
PROCLAMATION NO. 28
DECLARING JUNE 12 AS PHILIPPINE
INDEPENDENCE DAY

WHEREAS, the establishment of the Philippine Republic by the Revolutionary Government under General Emilio Aguinaldo on June 12, 1898, marked our people’s declaration and exercise of their right to self-determination, liberty and independence;
WHEREAS, such a historic and inspiring action was a legitimate assertion by the Filipino nation of their natural and inalienable claim to freedom and independence, which is an inherent right of every people not dependent upon the will and discretion of another; and
WHEREAS, the transcendental importance of the event demands that it be observed throughout the land with fitting ceremonies to the end that it will be cherished forever in the hearts of the Filipino people and inspire them and posterity to greater dedication and endeavor for the welfare of the country and the well-being of man-kind;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DIOSDADO MACAPAGAL, President of the Philippines by virtue of the authority vested in me by Section 30 of the Revised Administrative Code, do hereby declare Tuesday, June 12, 1962, as a special public holiday throughout the Philippines in commemoration of our people’s declaration of their inherent and inalienable right to freedom and independence.
I urge all national, provincial, city and municipal officials throughout the country to make arrangements in their respective localities for the appropriate celebration of the occasion as Philippine Independence Day.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the Republic of the Philippines to be affixed.
Done in the City of Manila, this 12th day of May, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred sixty-two, and of the Independence of the Philippines, the sixteenth.

(Sgd.) DIOSDADO MACAPAGAL
President of the Philippines
By the President:

(Sgd.) AMELITO R. MUTUC
Executive Secretary 6

Macapagal’s proclamation carried with it serious historical, political, and legal implications on the struggle of the Moro people for self-determination, and on the macro level, the Moro-Filipino relations. At the juncture of Macapagal’s proclamation, the Philippines as a country was reverted to its delimitations provided for by the Maura Law of 1893 wherein it stated that the territorial jurisdiction of Las Islas Filipinas covered only Luzon and the Visayas. Therefore, the independent territories of the Bangsamoro people which were not colonized by Spain and respected by Aguinaldo were deemed excluded from the territorial jurisdiction of the Republica Filipina, i.e. Luzon and Visayas as of June 12, 1898. By all indications apparent to the shifting of independence day from July to June 12, the Philippines evidently reverted to its original territorial delimitation defined under the Royal Decree of February 26, 1886, the Maura Law of 1893, and the Royal Decree of July 15, 1896 which all affirmed the independence of the Moro territories from the Spanish-held territories of Luzon, Visayas and some Pacific islands.

On May, 19, 1962, General Aguinaldo wrote Macapagal in the usual Spanish language he and the Malolos Congress spoke in the olden days to extend his profound gratitude for signing the proclamation. Part of Aguinaldo’s letter of thanks read:

I cannot but send you this letter to express the most profound gratitude for the proclamation which Your Excellency has recently issued naming June 12 as independence day—the date when we announced to the whole world that we were a free and independent nation. I who took an active if modest part in the effort of our people to break the colonial yoke we were subjected to, feel joy and pride over the patriotic act which Your Excellency has just performed. 7

In his Independence Day address at Luneta Park in Manila on June 12, 1962 of which the guest of honor was Aguinaldo, Macapagal told the people that in the discharge of his responsibility as President of the Philippines:

I moved the observance of the anniversary of our independence to this day because a nation is born into freedom on the day when such a people, moulded into a nation by the process of cultural evolution and a sense of oneness born of common struggle and suffering, announces to the world that it asserts its natural right to liberty and is ready to defend it with blood, life, and honor. 8

Macapagal further spoke in that historic speech of an “entire nation” who came into being which was galvanized by Aguinaldo who brought to life the “aspirations of all Filipinos,” and who declared Filipinas “free” from Spain. Alas, Macapagal’s very tongue had spoken the truth behind the controversy. The Moros are grateful forever to President Macapagal for disclosing the fact that the Filipino nation Aguinaldo spoke of excluded the Moros whose Sultan in Sulu he would cordially address in January 1899 as “great and powerful brother,” a diplomatic address befitting only heads of state and government like the Sultan of Sulu, for example. Said Macapagal:

Finally on June 12, 1898, General Aguinaldo rose and galvanized the entire nation into action. By his leadership, he brought to life the aspirations of all Filipinos, the poor and the rich, the intellectual and the peasant, for human dignity and liberty. When he assumed political command and declared his country free from the political ties that bind it to the colonial power, a nation came into being, where before there had been only scattered loyalties seeking expression.

It is thus a historical fact that the proclamation of Philippine independence on June 12, 1898 gave colonial Asia its first free and united nation. 9

In the meantime that the petition of the PHA was yet to be acted by Macapagal, a lawmaker from Sulu sought in aid of legislation to secede his province from the map of the Philippines. Congressman Ombra Amilbangsa may have had a good reading of history and broad foresight which prompted him to grab the chance of separating Sulu from the Philippines in the event Macapagal decides to revert to June 12 as Philippine Independence Day. During the fourth session of the Fourth Congress of the Philippines in 1961, Congressman Amilbangsa promptly filed House Bill No. 5682 that sought to grant and recognize the independence of the Province of Sulu. It was evident from his explanatory note that since Sulu is financially neglected by the Philippine colonial government, the only way to enjoy Sulu’s resources is to make it an independent state. Thus he states:

This bill proposes to grant and recognize the independence of the Province of Sulu. By granting independence to the province of Sulu, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines will withdraw and surrender all rights of possession, supervisions, jurisdiction and control as well as sovereignty now existing and exercised by the Republic of the Philippines in and over the territory and people of the province of Sulu.

The financial aid doled out to the province of Sulu is very negligible. In comparison to the national aid given to the other provinces, Sulu province practically receives no national aid. In matters of national concern, the voice of the province of Sulu is seldom heard. Yet the province of Sulu contributes large sums of money to the national coffers by collecting religiously the tariff and custom duties in the port of Jolo. The province of Sulu also helps and cooperates with the Administration in its peace and order campaign. Yet, in spite of all these, the province of Sulu is a forgotten corner of the Republic of the Philippines.
In view of the above, approval of this bill is strongly requested. 10

Following is the text of House Bill No. 5682:

AN ACT GRANTING AND RECOGNIZING THE
INDEPENDENCE OF THE PROVINCE OF SULU

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled:

Section 1. The government of the Republic of the Philippines hereby grants and recognizes the full independence of the Province of Sulu as a separate and self-governing nation and acknowledges the authority and control over the same of the government instituted by the people thereof.

Section 2. The Republic of the Philippines hereby withdraws and surrenders all rights of possession, supervision, jurisdiction, control or sovereignty now existing and exercised by the Republic of the Philippines in and over the territory and people of the Province of Sulu.

Section 3. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.
Approved, 11

The admirable action of the gallant Congressman Amilbangsa in filing House Bill No. 5682 only proves that the Moro people continue to express in a proper forum and right venue their legitimate aspirations for freedom from Philippine colonialism. Its filing further connotes that the grievances of the Moro people had not been properly and justly addressed by the Philippine colonial government. Moreover, the act of Filipino and Christian dominated Senate and House of Representatives in shelving such historically significant bill only proves of the Filipino people’s unending deep-seated animosity, prejudice and hatred against the Moro nation.

Although myopic in the sense that he only wanted his home province, Sulu, to be seceded from Philippine territory which legal historical bases when declared by the US as independent in 1946 were not recognized by the Moros as binding to them, Congressman Ombra Amilbangsa will forever be remembered as the “Post World War II Father of the Republic of Sulu” without prejudice to the rulers of the Sultanate of Sulu who still consider the sultanate independent of the Philippines.

Although Macapagal had already certified in 1962 as urgent to the Congress the enactment of a measure to fix June 12 statutorily as Independence Day, it took Congress another two years to act upon the petition of the PHA and Macapagal’s certification. And so on August 4, 1964, after meticulous researches and deliberations in the both Congress and Senate spearheaded by the late Representatives Ramon Mitra, Sr. and Justiniano Montano, and Senator Lorenzo Tañada who authored separate measures, Congress finally enacted Republic Act No. 4166 statutorily prescribing the date of Philippine Independence Day from July 4 to June 12. Macapagal approved it that very day.

Moreover, Republic Act No. 4166 further strengthened the assertions of the PHA that Aguinaldo was “supreme leader of the Filipino armed struggle against foreign domination,” that the flag unfurled by Aguinaldo on June 12, was Philippine flag, and that the Representatives of the Filipino people in Congress assembled at Malolos on September 29, 1898 solemnly ratified said June 12 Independence Proclamation. Republic Act No. 4166 follows:

REPUBLIC ACT NO. 4166

AN ACT CHANGING THE DATE OF PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE DAY FROM JULY FOUR TO JUNE TWELVE AND DECLARING JULY FOUR AS PHILIPPINE REPUBLIC DAY, FURTHER AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE SECTION TWENTY-NINE OF THE REVISED ADMINISTRATIVE CODE

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of the representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled:

Section 1. The twelfth of June is hereby proclaimed as the Philippine Independence Day, and all citizens of the Philippines are enjoined to observe such day with rites befitting Independence Day.
Section 2. Section twenty-nine of the Revised Administrative Code, as amended, is further amended to read as follows:
“Section 29. Legal Holidays. Thursday and Friday of Holy week, Christmas Day, and Sundays are legal religious holidays. “The legal holidays are: the first of January, the ninth of April, the first of May, the twelfth of June (Independence Day), the fourth of July (Philippine Republic Day), the thirteenth of November, the thirtieth of December, and the day appointed by law for the holding of a general election; Provided, however, That when any regular holiday of fixed date falls on Sunday, the next succeeding day shall be observed as legal holiday.”
Section 3. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.
Approved,
August 4, 1964. 12

The motivation of Macapagal that triggered the shift from July 4 to June 12 was to rectify history. But if the Filipinos really want to work for the whole truth of history, then they should be sincere and consistent in their actions. The Filipinos must accept half of the truth that the Bangsamoro people are not part of the Philippines when Aguinaldo declared independence on June 12, 1898. The other half of the truth is that the struggle of the Filipino people led by Aguinaldo was separate from the struggle of the Moro people. And if we are to follow the golden rule, the Filipinos must cease being colonizers and oppressors if they so detest being colonized. The Filipinos must appreciate and respect the Moro people’s love for freedom if they, too, want freedom for themselves.

In this light, the Bangsamoro people prudently consider that the fixing of June 12 from July 4 as Philippine Independence Day had in effect, symbolically or technically, freed them from Philippine colonial rule and thus, placed the Philippines on a status quo ante prevailing as of June 12, 1898 where the Moro territories did not form part of the Republica Filipina declared by Aguinaldo.#

NOTES

Harry Truman was 33rd President of the United States of America who served from 1945 to 1953.

2 Historical Bulletin, Vol. VI, No. 2, pp.227-229, Appendix B. Manila: Philippine Historical Association, June 1962.

3 Diosdado Pangan Macapagal (1910-1997) was President of the Philippines from December 30, 1961 to December 30, 1965.

4 June 12, 1898 and Related Documents. Manila: Philippine Historical Association, 1972.

5 Macapagal, Diosdado. “June 12 as Independence Day” in Hector Santos, ed., Philippine Centennial Series; at http://www.bibingka.com/phg/documents/whyjun12.htm. US, 30 April 1997.

6 Diosdado A. Macapagal, The Philippines Turns East. Quezon city: Mac Publishing House, 1966, pp.372, Appendix N.

7 Macapagal, Diosdado. “By the President of the Philippines, Proclamation No. 28 Declaring June 12 as Philippine Independence Day” in Hector Santos, ed., Philippine Centennial Series; at http://www.bibingka.com/phg/documents/june12.htm. US, 30 April 1997.

8 Macapagal, The Philippines Turns East, op. cit., pp.1-2. Full text of the speech is in pp.1-8.

9 Ibid., p.5.

10 Alunan C. Glang, Muslim Secession or Integration? Quezon city, 1969, p.121, Appendix G, and in Salah Jubair, op. cit., p.304, Appendix E.

11 Glang, ibid., p.122, and Salah Jubair, op. cit., p.305.

12 Macapagal, The Philippines Turns East, op. cit., p.373, Appendix O.