February 26, 1945 – Shortwave report and adresses by Gen. MacArthur and Philippine Commonwealth President Sergio Osmeña. – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
February 26, 1945 – While fighting continued, literally yards from the ceremony, Allied forces General Douglas MacArthur handed over the duties of the Philippine Commonwealth Government to acting President Sergio Osmeña.
The Commonwealth of the Philippines was the administrative body that governed the Philippines from 1935 to 1946, aside from a period of exile in the Second World War from 1942 to 1945 when Japan occupied the country. It replaced the Insular Government, a United States territorial government, and was established by the Tydings–McDuffie Act. The Commonwealth was designed as a transitional administration in preparation for the country’s full achievement of independence. Its foreign affairs remained managed by the United States.
During its more than a decade of existence, the Commonwealth had a strong executive and a Supreme Court. Its legislature, dominated by the Nacionalista Party, was at first unicameral, but later bicameral. In 1937, the government selected Tagalog – the language of Manila and its surrounding provinces – as the basis of the national language, although it would be many years before its usage became general. Women’s suffrage was adopted and the economy recovered to its pre-Depression level before the Japanese occupation in 1942.
The Commonwealth government went into exile from 1942 to 1945, when the Philippines was under Japanese occupation. In 1946, the Commonwealth ended and the Philippines claimed full sovereignty as provided for in Article XVIII of the 1935 Constitution.
The battle for Manila was the first and fiercest urban fighting in the entire Pacific War. Few battles in the closing months of World War II exceeded the destruction and the brutality of the massacres and savagery of the fighting in Manila. In Manila’s business district only two buildings were not damaged and those two were looted of their plumbing.
Returning the Capital to the Legitimate Philippine Government. After three years of brutal and exploitative Japanese occupation, another major priority for MacArthur was expeditiously re-establishing the legitimate Philippine government. As the capital of the Philippines, Manila was the most important symbol of governmental authority. Therefore, returning the city to the legitimate Filipino government would fatally undermine any lingering claims of legitimacy asserted by the collaborationist-run Japanese puppet government the occupiers had set up in 1943 (called the Second Philippine Republic). On February 27, 1945, as the fighting for Manila raged, MacArthur gathered Philippine legislators at the capital’s Malacañang Palace and announced that “full constitutional government” was restored to the Filipinos.
Amid the fighting, and with less-than-ideal Shortwave reception, here is that ceremony as it was broadcast to the world on February 26, 1945.