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Jones Law (Philippines): Wikis


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The Jones Law or the Act of Congress of August 29, 1916, also known as the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916, replaced the Philippine Organic Act of 1902 (Philippine Bill of 1902) that served as the de facto initial constitution of the Philippine Islands after it was ceded by Spain to the United States by virtue of the Treaty of Paris. It provided the Philippine Islands the framework for the creation of an autonomous government in preparation for the grant of independence by the United States Government. It also created a bicameral Philippine Legislature composed of a Senate and a House of Representatives [1].

The Jones Law, enacted by the 64th Congress of the United States on August 29, 1916, contained the first formal and official declaration of the United States commitment to grant independence to the Philippines[2]. The law provides that the grant of independence would come only "as soon as a stable government can be established", which gave the United States Government the power to determine when this "stable government" has been achieved. It aimed at providing the Filipino people (Filipinos) broader domestic autonomy, though it reserved certain privileges to the United States (Americans) to protect their sovereign rights and interests.


Evolution of the bill

In keeping with the idea that the ultimate goal for the Philippines was independence, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt said as early as 1901, "We hope to do for them what has never been done for any people of the tropics—to make them fit for self-government after the fashion of really free nations.[3]" Because of the tendency of the American public to view America's presence in the Philippines as unremunerative and expensive, Roosevelt had concluded by 1907 that, "We shall have to be prepared for giving the islands independence of a more or less complete type much sooner than I think advisable.[3]"

During the election campaign for the 1912 elections which would make him U.S. President, Woodrow Wilson said, "the Philippines are at present our frontier but I hope we presently are to deprive ourselves of that frontier.[3]" Even before the 1912 elections, Congressman William A. Jones, chair of the U.S. House Committee on Insular Affairs, attempted to launch a bill which set a fixed date for Philippine independence.[4] When Jones delayed, Manuel L. Quezon, then one of the Philippines' two resident commissioners to the U.S. House of Representatives, drafted the first of what would eventually be two "Jones Bills". With Republicans dominating the U.S. Senate and with William Howard Taft as President, the bill stood little chance of passage. After the election of Wilson as U.S. President and his appointment of Francis Harrison as President of the Philippine Commission and Governor General of the Philippines, Quezon drafted a second Jones Bill in early 1914. President Wilson had informed Quezon of his hostility to any fixed timetable for independence, and Quezon believed that this draft bill contained enough flexibility to suit Wilson.[5]

Passage into law

Backed by Harrison, U.S. Secretary of War Lindley Garrison and Wilson, the bill passed the U.S. House in October of 1913 and went to the Senate. After amendment by the Senate and further changes in a congressional conference committee, a final version of the bill was signed into U.S. law by President Wilson on August 29, 1916.[5]


Among the salient provisions of the law was the creation of an all Filipino legislature. It created the Philippine Senate to replace the Philippine Commission, which had served as the upper chamber of the legislature.[1]

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b Philippine Autonomy Act (Jones Law)
  2. ^ In the "Instructions of the President to the Philippine Commission" dated April 7, 1900, President William McKinley reiterated the intentions of the United States Government to establish and organize governments – essentially popular in their form – in the municipal and provincial administrative divisions of the Philippine Islands. However, there was no official mention of any official declaration of Philippine Independence.
  3. ^ a b c Ninkovich 2004, p. 75.
  4. ^ Kramer 2006, p. 353.
  5. ^ a b Kramer 2006, p. 354

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