Quezon and McArthur

Based on the Tydings-McDuffie Act and the resulting Constitutional Convention in 1934, the Philippine Commonwealth and the 1935 Constitution were created. Presidential elections were held and won by Manuel L. Quezon (Nacionalista Party), with Emilio Aguinaldo (National Socialist Party) and Gregorio Aglipay (Republican Party) behind them. The National Defense Act was passed, with the Office of the Military Advisor to the Commonwealth Government of the Philippines under General Douglas MacArthur, who was appointed to be Field Marshal of the Philippine Army.

Aguinaldo and Quezon in 1935

Aguinaldo and Quezon in 1935


McArthur inducts the Philippine Army Air Corps in 1941 at Camp Murphy, now Camp Aguinaldo

 MacArthur had the intention of making the Philippines self-reliant in its defense:

“A small fleet will have distinct effect in compelling any hostile force to approach cautiously. The only naval task is that of inshore defense. This will be provided by flotillas of fast torpedo boats, supported by an air force”

“These islands have enormous defensive advantages. Luzon has only 2 areas where a hostile army could land. Each of these positions is broken by strong defensive positions.”

“When developed the Philippine Army will be strong enough to oppose any conceivable expeditionary force. By 1946, the Islands will be in a favorable posture of defensive security.”

President Manuel L. Quezon built up the state with a number of impressive measures in the areas of social justice, agrarian reform, education and giving women the right to vote.

Tagalog was adopted as the basis for the national language, Filipino. The COMELEC was established in 1940.

The Japanese invaded in late 1941 and interrupted all of this.

The Japanese occupation

Jose P. Laurel

Jose P. Laurel

Luis Taruc

Luis Taruc

MacArthur, Quezon and Osmeña left the Philippines. The remaining combined Filipino and American troops surrendered in May 1942.

 Quezon and Osmeña set up a government-in-exile, while the Japanese set up a puppet government under Jose P. Laurel. Sergio Osmeña became President of the government-in-exile after Quezon died of tuberculosis in the United States.

The Japanese met with enormous resistance from guerrila groups: Philippine Army soldiers, USAFFE soldiers and Filipino Muslims. American submarines supplied some groups. The communist Hukbalahap were also formed under Luis Taruc in Central Luzon.

Former Katipunan General Artemio Ricarte, also known as “El Vibora” (The Viper), returned from Japanese exile. He was instrumental in setting up the Makapili, who cooperated with the Japanese Kempetai – as informers against the guerrilas.

All of this plus food shortages and severe inflation made times very difficult. Some people were place into internment camps. Numerous atrocities were commited against civilians by the Japanese Imperial Army.

McArthur returns

MacArthur, Kenney and Sutherland

Lt. General Kenney, Lt. General Sutherland, President Osmeña, General MacArthur

In October 1944, McArthur landed in Leyte with President Osmeña. Manila was reconquered in February to March 1945 but was heavily devastated, especially the old Spanish quarter of Intramuros. Japanese troops massacred, raped and mutilated countless people.

The Philippines Campaign retook all major Philippine islands by April, yet fighting continued until final Japanese surrender in August 1945. The last Japanese holdout was found in Mindoro jungles in 1974.

President Osmeña restored the Commonwealth. The Philippines became a founding member of the United Nations and the IMF. In the last Commonwealth Presidential election held in 1946, Sergio Osmeña (Nacionalista Party) lost against Manuel Roxas (Liberal Party). Roxas was instrumental in facilitating approval of the Bell Trade Act, which granted the United States preferential terms in trade in exchange for rebuilding funds.

On the 4th of July 1946, the Philippines became formally independent, yet strongly bound to the United States by military bases and trade agreements. The state was damaged but fully formed. The nation was still to go through many trials.

One of the technical assistants to President Manuel Roxas was a then 29 year old lawyer named Ferdinand Marcos, who was at that time still with the Liberal Party. Before the war, Marcos had passed his bar exam and successfully defended himself from prison against charges of murdering his father’s political rival…

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, June 12, 2015.

P.S. In-depth related articles: (will be updated as they appear)

Series on McArthur by guest author Bill in Oz:

I am working on a Quezon biography. Manong sonny is working on a history of the Commonwealth Army.