A Decade of American Rule in the Philippines

EVEN a terse statement of the results accomplished by the American government in the ten years in which we have had control of the Philippine Islands would consume more space than this article affords. I can summarize them, however, most briefly.

As regards public order there is a better condition than has ever before existed in the history of the Archipelago. There are fewer outlaws at large, less crime, prompter administration of justice, and more people engaged in peaceful pursuits, unmolested, than ever before. It is now safe to travel everywhere throughout the Islands without carrying a weapon, excepting only in some of the more remote parts of the mountains, where lurk bands of wild tribes who might possibly mistake the object of a visit, and in the southern part of the great island of Mindanao, which is inhabited by intractable Moros, who have not yet acquired an amiability of character toward strangers of any race.

We have completed the separation of Church and State, buying out from the religious orders their large agricultural properties, which are now administered by the government for the benefit of the tenants.

We have put the finances on a sound and sensible basis.

We have established a complete new system of auditing and accounting.

We have placed our civil administration on a strictly self-supporting basis, receiving no aid whatever from the United States government, except in so far as they have elected to help us in charting the coasts for naval purposes. This charting, which is being done at a rapid rate, is at the joint expense of the Insular and National governments.

We have established a uniform and stable currency on a gold basis.

We have established schools throughout the Archipelago, teaching upward of half a million children, and we find that the Filipinos are eager to learn and are rapidly learning the English language.

We have started a general and thorough system of road construction and maintenance, in which the Insular, Provincial, and Municipal officials coöperate.

We have established the policy of constructing all public buildings, as well as bridges and wharves, of durable material, preferably reinforced concrete, in order that our work may endure.

We have given the Filipinos almost complete autonomy in their municipalities. They elect their own councils and mayors. Two-thirds of the provincial boards, including the governor, are elected by the people, and the great majority of the insular employees are now Filipinos. The Filipinos have an Assembly — a Lower House, elected by the people, and an Upper House appointed by the President of the United States, four of its nine members bring Filipinos. In all these ways we have extended to the Filipino a most important participation in his own government. He has responded well to the trust thus reposed in him, and for many positions makes an excellent official. As a race, the Filipinos take readily and naturally to poltics.

A number of influential Filipinos combined to organize a party which was known as the Federal Party, and which had for its platform a permanent and close union with the United States, the possibility of annexation being considered. The desire for independence is very strong in the Filipino, and is being fostered by patriotic speeches and literature. It was soon found that a party whose platform did not contain the word “ independence ” could not command a majority of the voters in many provinces. The Federal Party therefore reorganized on a basis of ultimate independence, but had the courage to include in their platform the statement that they did not urge the granting of immediate independence because the people were not yet fitted to maintain the burdens thus imposed. To deny the capacity of one’s country for the important and desirable duties of selfgovernment is essentially unpopular. In this case it subjected the framers of the platform and the leaders of the party to abuse on the part of their own people and, as was to be expected, the result has been the success at the polls of the opposite party (Nationalists), which declared unequivocally for immediate independence.

It is true that the Filipino rejoices in the Filipinization of the service. He is very properly elated with each appointment of a Filipino to an important position, a feeling which does him credit. He should want us to recognize his development as fast as possible, and he should wfant the evidence of that development and hail it with joy when it comes. Moreover, his disappointment when not preferred should act as a stimulus to new efforts to meet the requirements necessary for promotion. But it is nothing short of weakness for us to put Filipinos in important positions when none are equipped to fill the position properly; and it must be remembered that consideration should be given to Americans, and fitting promotions for those in line for advancement, or the service will speedily disintegrate. We must be very careful to make the service sufficiently attractive to the American personnel in the Islands, in order to hold our good men and give them the feeling that there is a career for them. Otherwise we shall see the best Americans in the Islands making use of their leaves of absence to find new jobs in the United States; while those who prove unsuccessful in the effort to place themselves in the States will be the ones to return; with the result that we shall lose our more successful and desirable men.

The most important step in the gradual process of giving self-government to the Philippines was the establishment of the Assembly or Lower House of the Legislature. There had been parties before to vote for provincial governors, but the vote for a general legislature crystallized the formations. The principal parties which developed were the Nacionalista, favoring immediate independence, usually with some vague qualification as to a protectorate; and the Progressista, the reorganized Federal Party, favoring ultimate independence but continuance of the present form of government.

The result of the election for the Assembly held in July, 1907, can be tabulated as follows: —

Total registration 104,966

Nacionalista 29,119

Progressista 18,142

Independent 13,822

Immediatista 4,417

Independista 908

Catholic 504

P. I. Independent Church 91

Rejected 251

Scattered 1,459

Total number of votes cast 68,713

The delegates elected are thus divided among the parties: —

Nacionalista 32

Progressista 16

Independent 20

Immediatista 7

Independista 4

Catholic 1

Total 80

Those classed as Independent were affiliated with no party. The Immediatistas wanted to emphasize the urgency of their desire for immediate independence. There were several parties with small followings, which did not vary much in platform but followed different leaders. These could be generally counted on to follow the lead of the Nacionalistas.

The Assembly was formally opened on October 16, 1907, by Mr. Taft, Secretary of War, who came to the Philippines for that purpose. The conduct of the Assembly was marked with great decorum, the organization proceedings were regular, and the sessions were not marred by a single disorderly act. The Assembly elected for Speaker the Honorable Sergio Osmeña of Cebu, a young man under thirty years of age, who had been Governor of his province, which he administered with great ability. He had, furthermore, served with success as President of the Convention of Provincial Governors in Manila.

Mr. Osmeña, having made a careful study of the parliamentary rules governing the administration of many legislative bodies, came to the conclusion that those in effect in the House of Representatives in Washington were suitable for his purposes, and accordingly prepared a system of rules modeled upon these, which was adopted before many days of the session had passed.

One feature of the first session was the evident desire of the Nacionalista party to get along amicably and to coöperate with the Upper House. The members and committees of the two Houses were in frequent consultation, and there seemed to be a general desire on the part of the Lower House to sink factional causes of dispute and to unite with the administration to better the condition of the Islands.

Throughout the session the attitude of the members was extremely friendly to the American officials of the government, and if it had not been for the ante-election pledges on the part of the Nacionalistas, and taunts from their political enemies that they were not living up to them, the session would have shown very few causes of dispute or difference. The Nacionalistas, however, found themselves placed in an embarrassing position. They had come in with a good list of reforms which they were pledged to put through. One of these was a general reduction in the expenses of the government, which, through loose and careless expressions by newspapers and public speakers not conversant with the facts, they had been led to believe were excessive and supported by too heavy taxation. As a matter of fact, the taxation was small compared with the burdens borne by other peoples, and not at all beyond the capacity of the Filipinos to pay. This was evidenced by the fact that the Provincial Boards, themselves elective bodies, voted that same year to double the poll-tax in order to raise money for road construction and maintenance. This wise and necessary measure meant an additional tax imposed on the people of one and one-half million pesos a year.

One of the most important results of the inauguration of the Philippine Assembly has been to draw the Filipinos and Americans much more closely together. The Filipinos feel that they have a share in the administration of their own affairs, and the Americans know that in order to get appropriations for administrative work they must interest the Filipinos, and satisfy them that the things they want are necessary. The members of the Assembly thus have an opportunity to present their views upon each measure, and before it is undertaken they must be convinced of its necessity. They, in turn, have to defend their action before the people and thus become the champions of the administration, and from the stump, or through the press, have to explain the reason for each action.

The Appropriations Committee of the Assembly, dividing itself into many subcommittees, made a careful study of the work of the different bureaus of the Insular Government and the duties which they perform. They were particularly anxious to find places where a saving could be made, but each sub-committee returned, apparently convinced that no saving could be made on the bureau that they had investigated. Some of them went further and expressed themselves as determined to secure an increased appropriation.

When the various sub-committees met in the general committee, it was found that in order to bring about the general cut in expenses to which the party was pledged, something radical had to be done, and it was finally agreed to recommend a horizontal cut in salaries. The Assembly accordingly passed a salary bill providing in effect for a ten per cent reduction of salary, from the members of the Commission down, including a reduction of their own salaries, which, however, they had previously raised. I have never believed that the more conservative members of the party would have been pleased to have this law approved by the Commission, as I believe their investigations had convinced them that such a cut was not necessary ; but they had to face their constituents for reëlection and felt it necessary to show their votes in favor of some sort of a reduction, especially as their political opponents were not slow to see their embarrassment and to endeavor to make capital from it. Thus it was left to the Commission, that is the Upper House, to avoid disorganization of the service by refusing to agree to the bill.

In discussing the problems of the Philippine government we must keep the country as well as the people in mind. The Philippine Islands are a group of somewhat over three thousand islands, which form a barrier between Southern China and the Pacific Ocean. Their area is one hundred and fifteen thousand square miles, or about three-fourths the area of Japan, and a little more than twice that of Java.

Immediately north of the Philippines lies Formosa, and next, the other islands belonging to Japan, which reach to the coast of Siberia and Russian dominion.

The islands can be roughly divided into three parts. The large and populous island of Luzon on the north, the large and thinly populated island of Mindanao on the south, and between the two a group of seven or eight medium-sized and densely populated islands, known as the Visayan group.

The total population of the Philippines is about eight millions, and its density seventy to the square mile, as contrasted with three hundred to the square mile in Japan and six hundred to the square mile in Java. As there is no reason to believe that the soil and climate of the Philippine Islands are less productive than those of neighboring countries, it is reasonable to believe that the Islands can be made to support a population many times as large as the present one, say, at the least, three hundred to the square mile, a total of some thirty-five millions.

There are so many ways of administering dependencies that a volume could be written upon the varying degrees of paternalism, exploitation, altruism, and political affiliation, without beginning to exhaust the subject. These vary in proportion to the degree of civilization attained by dependent peoples, and are affected by questions of consanguinity, and similarity of institutions between the mother country and its dependency. It is needless to say that different governments are necessary for different peoples; that a system which will work well with people in one stage of development will not work well with people in another. We have an example of this in the Philippine Islands, where there are three forms of government, established for the three different stages of civilization we there encounter.

The civilized Filipinos, who are Christians, and well along in the scale of civilization, including something like nine-tenths of the total population, hold high offices and participate most intimately in their government.

In the Moro country, where the population is Mohammedan, not so far advanced in civilization as the Christian Filipino, and exceedingly hardy and intractable, we have a government which is more paternal and military in form, the Governor being a general of the United States Army, and the troops being used more freely for the maintenance of order, whereas in the rest of the islands order is now maintained wholly without the assistance of troops.

There is a third group of peoples who are for the most part savages, who have a purely paternal government, very much as do the Indians in the United States, administered without representation of any kind by the civil government in Manila, although the officers appointed to the minor positions are very often natives.

There is no doubt that up to a certain degree of civilization an absolutely paternal form of government is necessary, and I believe that the centuries of Spanish rule in the Philippines were the direct cause of the present civilization and degree of development of the Christian Filipinos. A German traveler visiting the Philippines in the fifties predicted American intervention in Philippine development, stating that the Spaniard began the work of civilization with the cross and the sword, and that it remained for the American to carry on the work with the schoolbook and the plough.

The English and Dutch colonies, which are the nearest and most important of neighboring dependencies, are managed with a very keen eye to the material advancement of the country, but there is no general campaign in favor of the individual unit, and itseems to be part of the plan to induce the people to work hard for low wages. The personal surroundings and conditions of the laborers are improved in many ways. They are made sanitary, and men are induced to have good houses. Questions of public order, of justice in local disputes, and the like, could probably not be very much better administered, but the Americans are trying to accomplish something more in the Philippines. By means of education we are trying to leaven the whole mass of the Filipino people and raise them to new levels higher than any which have been attempted by other countries in administering similar peoples. We believe that in general the world pays for what it receives, and that if a higher rate of wages can be established and maintained in the Philippines it means that the Filipinos are giving a better class of labor and are getting value for what they give. Thus, if we cause the rate of wages to rise to $1.00 or $2.00 a day, as is the case in the United States, it ought to mean that the productiveness of the islands has increased a corresponding amount, which would be many times as great as the present. Then also, if the American administration in the Philippines can succeed by increasing the physical welfare of the people, it should result in very largely increasing the population. This would mean increasing proportionately the number of laborers, and by increasing at the same time the rate of proficiency of the individual laborer, I believe that the result will show that the Philippines have before them a future literally golden.

There is a very great amount of potential labor in the Islands. When properly handled, the Filipino has proved himself to be a good workman. We have no need of Chinese immigration. The Chinaman does not stick to the plough, but soon becomes a trader and sends out of the country a large part of what he receives. It is better that the Filipinos should be left free to multiply and become their own traders, and that these avenues of advance should be left open for the natives and not taken by a less scrupulous, though more thrifty race, which by tradition and nature is not ready to conform to our ideas of civilization.

In good years the Islands produce nearly enough rice for their own consumption, and rice is the principal article of diet. The waters yield a plentiful supply of fish, which is the other main product of the Islands. Large quantities of hemp are raised, which grows better here than in any other part of the world, thus giving almost a monopoly to the Philippines for that product. Other important products are copra, rubber, tobacco, and sugar. The undeveloped resources of the Islands are very great; there are very large tracts of uncultivated land which would yield a profitable return to industry properly applied.

Our way of going at this problem has not the approval of our brethren overseas. We are criticised for letting the Filipino think he is as good as anybody else. We are criticised for making living more expensive, and for doing the very thing which we believe to be the best indication of our success, namely, increasing the rate of wages. We have been criticised very greatly for the cost of administration of the Islands; but while our results may not have come yet, while the Philippines may be economically retarded and our advance made slower by the very nature of the effort we are making, by the fact that we are beginning at the roots, yet it is my belief that the Filipino people will respond to the newly offered opportunity in a continually increasing measure; even now they are responding to it in the localities where American advance has been most prominent, as in Manila and the provinces where the railroads are in operation.

The Islands are at the present time in the depths of poverty. This is the result of the long years of domination under a government that favored the privileged classes, and of the throes accompanying the change of sovereignty which shook the country to its foundations. In the course of the insurrections against Spain and the United States, immense amounts of property have been destroyed, thus setting the under-developed industries of the Philippines back to a still more primitive condition. Following the wars, there have been many scourges common to a tropical country, which gained greater headway and did greater damage under the weakened conditions of administration than they would have with a long established government, trained to meet and overcome the difficulties as they arose. Among these can be mentioned the rinderpest, which has swept through the Islands, destroying great quantities of draught-animals, in many cases whole herds; surra, a fatal disease among horses, which has caused great losses; cholera, and the necessity for quarantine during the cholera period, which handicaps commerce; swarms of locusts; untimely droughts, and destructive typhoons. Some of these can be overcome, some will be recurrent, and the harm from all can be minimized.

Given a people of physical development able to stand the work, a soil and area such as we have, and resources such as the United States has behind it to insure development, results will follow as a matter of course.

Disraeli once wrote: —

“ Public health is the foundation upon which rests the happiness of the people and the power of the State. Take the most beautiful kingdom, give it intelligent and laborious citizens, prosperous manufactures, productive agriculture; let arts flourish, let architects cover the land with temples and palaces; in order to defend all these riches, have first rate weapons, fleets of torpedo-boats —if the population remains stationary, if it decreases yearly in vigor and in stature, the nation must perish. And that is why I consider that the first duty of a statesman is the care of Public Health.”

This concisely sets forth the necessity of one of our great movements, namely, the upbuilding of the physique of the Filipino people. They are too poorly nourished, and too much weakened by disease, to do the work which an ablebodied and healthy people ought to do, or to resist disease, and bring up children able to resist disease. Thus the population does not increase with natural rapidity, nor does it accomplish as much work as should be expected, even if we remove from consideration the economical disadvantages under which the laborer now struggles. The fact that the infant mortality is fifty per cent during the first year of life is sufficient evidence of the necessity for some constructive development in the care of public health. Great progress has already been made. The lepers are now concentrated on one island, where they will in the course of time die out, leaving the Islands perfectly free from that taint. Small-pox has been robbed of its terrors: the whole population is now vaccinated, and instead of losing hundreds of thousands of lives by this disease the loss is so small as to be no longer a factor in the problem. Under the wise precautions adopted by the Board of Health, bubonic plague has been successfully kept out of the islands for years, and recently several threatened invasions of that disease from Hongkong have been warded off. Cholera, while appearing and reappearing from time to time, is not allowed to gain the headway which it had before, and is no longer a menace to those who observe the simple rules of health. Thus the epidemics that swept unchecked through the country, carrying off great multitudes of the population, are kept down.

While barriers have been put up against the inroads of the agencies of destruction, there lies before us a great constructive field, upon the confines of which we have only just entered. A supply of pure water for drinking purposes must be provided for all of the centres of population, and the people must be taught by a long, slow, and arduous campaign in the schools to protect themselves and their children from the impure waters of the surface. Artesian wells ought to prove of immense benefit, and the government has a number of well-boring machines which are in great demand and constantly in operation. The fact that in several municipalities the death-rate decreased twenty per thousand after the opening of artesian wells, demonstrates the usefulness of these measures. Ultimately their usefulness ought to be even greater.

Tuberculosis prevails in the Islands, and a general campaign against that disease cannot but prove to be beneficial.

Beri-beri, a destructive tropical disease, is common, but attacks only the people who are poorly nourished, showing us how fundamental is the necessity for a better class of food for the Philippine people in general. The prevailing diet of fish and rice should be supplemented by meat and bread. This can be done only by placing these articles within the reach of the people, making the community sufficiently prosperous to afford their purchase.

There is a great opportunity for intelligent effort and the wise expenditure of the resources of the Philippines, to develop the economical method of transportation and movement of the products of the country to the markets of the world.

As I have already said, the Philippines are composed of two large islands, a group of intermediate, moderate-sized ones, and a vast number of little ones. An ordinary map, however, does not show that these islands are seamed with rivers capable of being made useful for navigation. The torrential rains scour them to a depth that enables steamers to navigate them for considerable distances. But these rivers are usually closed at the mouths by bars, which should be dredged and kept open. Moreover, many of the harbors are not charted or lighted, and there are no facilities for getting the merchandise and products of the interior to the deck of the ship, except lightering on small boats, a matter of very considerable expense and still greater delay. Encouragement given to the construction of wharves and warehouses must be most beneficial.

The roads throughout the Archipelago are in most unfortunate condition. For the first ten years of American administration, the measures taken for construction and preservation did not include a comprehensive scheme for a complete road system of well-constructed roads, well maintained, throughout the Archipelago. Such a scheme has now been put into effect. It depends for its success upon the coÖperation of the different entities of government, — provincial, municipal, and insular; but the enthusiasm which the local authorities have shown for this object is one of the most encouraging signs of our administration in the Philippines. The result should be that in the course of twenty years a very complete and perfect system of roads will have been constructed, and the system as now established gives assurance that every bit of road once put in order will be continuously maintained. It is proposed to open an account with each section of completed road, and charge against this the appraised amount of deterioration, wherever noted. The officer charged with the duty of the maintenance of the road will have to explain why public property to the value of the estimated deterioration has been allowed to be lost under his direction. As the Governor General has power of removal of these native officials, we believe that by this means a sense of responsibility can be aroused among the natives that will insure us good roads.

I believe it possible that government aid can be used to assist the natives in bettering their methods of agriculture, and to obviate in some degree the lack of capital. One of the next steps will be for the Bureau of Agriculture to take a more aggressive position in the administration, by establishing more experimental farms, from which seeds as well as instruction can be distributed. Possibly, also, in connection with these farms the agricultural schools of the government could educate the people to modern methods of cultivating their fields and harvesting their crops, and carrying on the business of agriculture and other industries. It might even be advisable to carry it so far as to have the government supply agricultural machinery, which, bought originally for use on the government farms and experiment stations, can be made available for the use of people owning neighboring farms and unable to purchase machinery. Experience has proved that the same soil will yield a much better crop when ploughed with a machine than by a bull, owing to the greater depth reached by the steam plough; and it is an incontrovertible fact that much labor and produce are lost by the antiquated methods of harvesting and preparing the different classes of produce for the market.

The mechanical schools, or Schools of Arts and Trades, established in the provinces could be made useful as machineshops for the manufacture and repair of machinery actually needed in the agricultural provinces.

Another most potent factor in stimulating the development of the Philippine agriculture is irrigation. The seasons are divided there into a rainy and a dry season, which vary according to the locality, whether on the east or the west coast of the islands. Rice is especially dependent upon water for its proper cultivation, but proper irrigation will make a great difference in the uniformity and value of many other crops. By irrigating the fields we can enable the farmer to cultivate two crops from the same land in the course of a year, both full crops, whereas one is all that the land can now produce. This will prevent a recurrence of the calamity of 1907, when the failure of the fall rains caused a loss of about one-half of the rice crop of the Islands, amounting to many millions of dollars in value, a misfortune which fell heavily on the impoverished people. The natives themselves have been very alert in seeing the value of irrigation, and one of the laws passed by the first legislature was a bill appropriating the sum of $375,000 a year to be paid into the Department of Commerce and Police, and used solely for the purpose of irrigation. It is proposed with this money to start a reimbursable fund. The first use is the establishment of several surveying parties to ascertain the most desirable and profitable irrigation projects to be started. Work has already begun on some, but mainly in the way of repairing old systems which have been in operation under the Spanish rule. The water will be sold to the owners of land wishing to use it, and the money so received will be returned to the original fund and used for further construction work. Thus gradually the new amount paid in each year, and the accretions to the fund from the sales of water, will make a very respectable sum of money, which will grow with each year until the Islands are properly supplied with systems of irrigation. When this desirable result is consummated, the price can be lowered to the users of water.

One enterprise undertaken by the Insular Government which has aroused a great deal of interest among the people who have investigated it, is the Penal Colony. The prison in Manila, called Bilibid, contained several thousand prisoners, but the work on hand was not sufficient to keep them all employed, and a good deal of criticism was evoked by the effort to give them work of a commercial nature. No criticism, however, can be made of their use for the development of the agricultural resources of the Islands, and accordingly a number of picked prisoners were sent on parole to a distant and sparsely settled island where twentytwo thousand acres had been laid aside for their use. The success of this kind of an experiment quite often depends upon the personality of the man sent in charge, and it was only after two unsuccessful trials that a man was found who could master the situation, and who turned this penal reservation into a veritable garden of beauty. Under his able direction the experiment succeeded, and the prisoners, called “ colonists,” took particular interest in the proper development of the settlement. The mortality from malaria was at first very severe, but the colonists themselves cleaned up the dangerous spots and brought about a condition of health whch is most gratifying, the last year’s report showing a death-rate of only eight per thousand. This colony would be a profitable study for sociologists. In the beginning, the plans of the George Junior Republic were studied; and the whole scheme upon which the colony was devised rests upon the inducement to effort offered to the prisoners by a series of rewards for those who succeed. These include promotion to positions of dignity, such as foreman of work-gangs and police; and pay when sufficiently advanced. The prisoners are allowed to carry a short knife, or bolo, axes, and other implements which colonists are given, and which can be used as weapons. They maintain a considerable number of boats, and colonists who have proved their trustworthiness are given the privilege of having their families join them and are allotted tracts of land which they may develop and farm.

I do not feel that anybody who believes in American ideals can go to the Philippine Islands, study the work of the American government there, and come away dissatisfied with the general plan which has been adopted and the results thus far achieved. I do not think that anybody can see these people helped step by step on the road to self-government and prosperous development, and not sympathize with what we are doing. I do not believe that any person who believes in the fundamental theories of democracy can find fault with the general effort which is being made to give the individual his rights and a means of maintaining them. The criticisms of those well-wishers of the Filipino who wish to see him advance most rapidly, would probably be that we have gone a little too fast for his own good. It is a case where it is wise to make haste slowly. However that may be, there can be no doubt about the honesty of the purpose and consistency of the policies which have been outlined and followed by the administration through its various officials.

The record of the Americans in the Philippines is one of which no American need be ashamed. It is a record upon which we need not hesitate to dwell on Independence Day. We have given to people unused and unaccustomed to such privileges, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of opportunity, and freedom of labor. We are casting off the shackles which held down the laboring classes of the Philippines, and, with the laboring classes raised, we are raising all the people to a higher and nobler plane. We may not as yet have given independence to the Philippines, but we are certainly giving independence to the Filipinos.