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COMPLETE INDEPENDENCE OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 1939
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D. C. The committee met, pursuant to adjournment, at 10:30 a. m. in room 357, Senate Office Building, Senator Pittman presiding.
Present: Senators Pittman, King, Hayden, Vandenberg, Clark, and Lodge.
Senator PITTMAN. The committee will come to order.
STATEMENT OF DR. B. M. GANCY, FILIPINO LAWYER AND
ECONOMIST, WASHINGTON, D. C.
Dr. Gancy. Mr. Chairman, the political and economic discussions of the final relationship between the United States and the Philippines at this hearing will undoubtedly have a far-reaching influence upon any proposal or bill which this committee contemplates to recommend to the Seventy-sixth Congress. The task of affording the Filipino people with a legislation which will be workable and at the same time be beneficial, particularly to the Filipinos during the transition and after the grant of independence, is one fraught with difficulties of great proportions. It involves not merely the question of future trade agreements between the Philippines and the United States, but it also touches the very core of the Philippine economic and political life. It concerns the security, political and economic, of a race over which the United States has exercised sovereignty for over 39 years. It concerns also the vital interests of the United States in the Far East.
Senator PITTMAN. Dr. Gancy, would it interrupt you if I ask what interests you represent here?
Dr. Gancy. I represent no tangible particular interest, Senator. I represent a school of thought, if I may so term it. There is such a diversion of thought now prevailing in the Philippines, and in the continental United States, and if I might say so, I represent that other thought.
Senator HAYDEN. Please tell the committee where you live and what you do.
Dr. GANCY. I live here in Washington, Senator. I am by profession a lawyer; by vocation an economist; and by choice à Ione lobbyist against immediate and complete independence of the Filipino people.
Senator HAYDEN. Well, you just speak your own individual opinion and represent nobody?
Dr. GANCY. That is right.
Dr. GANCY. I have. I was in the Philippines in 1931, if you call that recent, and I am very much posted with things
Senator KING (interposing). Well, you haven't been there since 1931 ?
Dr. GANCY. No.
Dr. Gancy. I have not gone into that computation of age. I have forgotten my age entirely.
Senator HAYDEN. What was your business in the Philippines?
Dr. Gancy. I was then a student at that time. I came to the United States and worked.
Senator HAYDEN. What school did you attend in the Philippines?
Dr. GANCY. I was admitted to the bar in four States by comity. I was attorney for the Federal Land Bank for 312 years and was admitted in the States of Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee.
Senator HAYDEN. You do not practice law here in the District ?
Dr. Gancy. I do not practice law here in the District because there is no practice for Filipinos in the District.
If the committee will permit me to continue, I will do so.
To this task, and to the attainment of a fair solution to these problems attending the contemplated relinquishment of sovereignty I offer the following statement, suggestions, objections, and recommendations:
The passage by Congress and the subsequent acceptance by the Philippine Legislature of the Tydings-McDuffie Act in March 1934, was, to say the least, inopportune and unwise. In the first place, Congress has no right, despite the common belief of its great number of well-meaning lay Members that it has authority to alienate sov-ereignty over a Territory. I speak of territories, gentlemen, implying political existence and organization in contradistinction to territories signifying land and say that as poltical entities, the Constitution ignores them. I searched in vain for an authority to support the assertion or theory of a supreme power of Congress over a Territory.
At this point, gentlemen, I offer for the record excerpts from my brief, clearly outlining the legal as well as the argumentative points of law and of facts involved in this particular question of alienation, contemplated alienation, which I presented and submitted in the case of B. M. Gancy v. The United States, assailing the constitutionality of the act in question, the Independence Act, and which
I hereby offer in brief form, and request that it be incorporated in the record.
Senator PITTMAN. Without objection, it may be incorporated. (The document is as follows:)
EXCERPTS FROM THE BRIEF OF DR. B. M. GANCY, FILIPINO LAWYER AND ECONOMIST,
FILED IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, SEPTEMBER 17, 1938, IN AN ACTION FOR A DECLARATORY JUDGMENT OF AN ACT OF CONGRESS BY DR. GANCY AGAINST THE UNITED STATES
On March 24, 1934, the Congress of the United States enacted into law the Tydings-McDuffie Act, granting in effect to the people of the Philippine Islands, a nationhood of their own, free and independent of the sovereignty of the United States. This law, now popularly known as the Philippine Independence Act, prescribes among other things a transition period of 10 years, before complete independence is granted the Filipinos and withdrawal of the sovereignty of the United States become an accomplished fact. In the meantime, the law authorized the creation and establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, permitting the Filipino people the exercise of general control, subject only to a few important exceptions, of their local affairs.
During the period of said transition, which is also the period or the life of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, until the proposed act of alienation is consummated, the Government of the United States shall be vested only with authority commensurate with and necessary for, or appropriate to the ultimate responsibilities of sovereignty as set forth in the act.
Accordingly, after the passage of said act, the Philippine Legislature was convened on May 1, 1934, in a special session, to vote on the acceptance of the same, and having voted for acceptance, provision was made for the election on July 10, 1934, of delegates to the Philippine Constitutional Convention, the purpose of which was to draft the constitution of the Philippines' Commonwealth Government.
On March 23, 1935, President Roosevelt, having received the draft of the constitution, signed and certified the same to the Congress of the United States.
In good order, and in accordance with the purposes and intent of the act, subsequent developments took place leading to the election by popular vote of the first president, vice president, and assemblymen to the Philippine National Assembly, climaxing in the inauguration of the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines on November 15, 1935.
Whether or not the passage of this law, the approval by the President of the United States and its subsequent acceptance by the Philippine Legislature gave said act and the instruments it has created a fixed place in the statute books of the United States remains for the court to determine.
In February 1899 he Philippine Archipelago, theretofore held under Spanish sovereignty, was ceded to the United States by treaty with Spain, for which cession the United States paid Spain $20,000,000. (Citing opinion of Chief Justice Fuller, in the Diamond Rings case, 183 U. S. 176, 179, where the force and effect of this cession is construed.)
The sovereign title and rights of Spain over the Philippine Islands were: clearer and better established than those of most modern countries to their territorial possessions. No such thing as a Filipino nation was destroyed or supplanted, for none existed when Spanish sovereignty was extended to the Philippines in 1565. The inhabitants now numbering to approximately 13,000,000 people were then estimated at 500,000, who at that time occupied limited areas of the coastal plains. These early inhabitants were split into numerous tribal groups, speaking different dialects, and altogether lacking in union or homogeneity.
In the exercise of her dominion, Spain took over the unoccupied and unclaimed areas of the archipelago, agricultural, forest, and mineral, and held and administered them as Crown lands for almost four centuries. These islands, at no time, either then or later, were ever owned, occupied or claimed as the territory or patrimony of any Philippine tribe or Filipino body politic.
Upon American occupation this "public domain” constituted over 63,000,000 acres, or 80 percent of the total land area of the islands, the remaining acreage: were given over to or occupied by Pagan and Mohammedan peoples.
Spain's sovereignty over the Philippines, together with her title to these Crown lands and other public holdings in the islands, therefore, passed to the United States by conquest, purchase, and treaty.
The validity and completeness of this conveyance was clearly stated by Chief Justice Fuller in the Diamond Rings case, supra (quoting opinion).
It is an elementary proposition of law that in the United States, “the people are sovereign." This is undeniable, despite the growing tendency on the part of the people of the United States to ignore or forget that fact, and to acquiesce in the gradual encroachment by governmental agencies upon their rights.
This principle of law was clearly brought out by Chief Justice Jay in the early case of Chisholm v. Georgia (2 U. S. 419, 471) (quoting opinion).
The same principle was thus stated by Justice McLean in Spooner v. McConnell, Fed. Cas. No. 13,249 (quoting opinion).
Quotes also opinion of Mr. Justice Matthews in Yick Wo v. Hopkins (188 U. S. 356, 369).
This well-established principle upon which American institutions of Government operate as regards territories, finds expression in Shively v. Bowlby (152 U. S. 1, 57) (quoting opinion).
Quotes opinion of Chief Justice Taney in Dred Scott v. Sandford (U. S.), 393, 448, referring to the powers and limitations of the General Government over Territories.
It results, therefore, that when the United States, as indemnity for a war financed by the American people, and through payment of $20,000,000 of public funds, acquired from Spain "the complete and absolute sovereignty and dominion” over the Philippines, this sovereignty, together with the ownership of Spain's public holdings in the Islands, became and is now vested in “the people of the United States. The acquisition was for their use and benefit as principal, and is now subject to their exclusive control and disposition. Neither Congress, nor any other governmental agency, has authority or jurisdiction to alienate this sovereignty, or to convey or compromise these rights, except as the power so to do may have been delegated to or conferred upon them by "the sovereign owners.”
Since the United States became a nation about 150 years ago, not one square foot of territory, once brought under the American flag, has ever been alienated. In certain cases of disputed boundaries, or where question of title was involved, there have been adjustments, but the record discloses no single instance where sovereignty, admittedly vested in the people of the United States, has been transferred or withdrawn, except in the present case.
Lacking, therefore, of any concrete precedence of alienation, either attempted or consummated, the issue whether or not Congress has constitutional authority in the premises has never come before the courts for decision.
Scarcely was the Treaty with Spain ratified, and the title of the United States to and sovereignty over the Philippines become a fact, than agitation began looking to their alienation. The question thus precipitated was, unfortunately, seized upon by party leaders as a "political issue,” and the fate of the islands and the Filipino people became thereafter a pawn in the game of partisan politics. This agitation continued, despite the fact that American generally were altogether uninformed as to the true conditions and needs of the Filipino people. In the full knowledge, therefore, that such “issue” have no actual bearing or influence on election returns, nor does it represent in any way the considered judgment of the American electorate, the Democratic Party alined itself with those favoring abandonment of the islands, and announced it to be the “paramount issue” of the Presidential campaign in 1900. Subsequent platforms of the Democratic Party have carried analogous planks, all advocating the immediate grant of Philippine independence.
In 1916, the United States Senate, then Democratic, passed a bill providing for absolute Philippine indenendence in not less than 2 nor more than 4 years, which bill was defeated in the lower House by a narrow margin.
In the act finally agreed upon, however, by both Houses in August 1916, a preamble thereto recites (among other things) that: “It is, as it has always been, the purpose of the people of the United States to withdraw their sovereignty over the Philippines and to recognize their independence as soon as a stable government can be established therein."
The truth of this allegation, or at least the authority of a partisan majority in Congress, largely influenced by political commitments, to thus categorically interpret the will of the American people as to the Philippines, might well be questioned, were it relevant to the present case. It concerns this case, however, only insofar as Congress (irrespective of party), has uniformly acted on the assumption that it is vested with authority to alienate the Philippines at its pleasure, and this assumption has never been questioned or challenged.