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The Period of Suppressed

Early American Colonial Policies
and the
Fight for Philippine Nationalism

American Rule and Philippine Independence In spite of McKinley’s

instruction to the Taft
• The establishment of American rule was a challenge Commission that “no law
to Filipino nationalism and independence shall be passed abridging the
freedom of speech or the
• As the Americans settled in to rule the islands, the press or of the right of the
Filipinos continued their fight against U.S. people to peacefully
sovereignty and the continuing oppression by the assemble and petition the
military government for a redress of
• Agoncillo gives two challenges faced by the grievance” the commission
nationalists after 1898 passed laws suppressing
basic rights “for the safety of
a) whether it could endure the obstacles to
the sovereignty of the United
States in the Philippines”
b) if they could overcome the objectives of
One of the laws passed was
Act No. 292 or the Sedition

Act No. 292 or the Sedition Law was passed on

November 4, 1901. Its pertinent portions are:
Sec. 1: Every person, resident in the Philippine Islands, owing Sec. 10: Until it has been officially proclaimed that
allegiance to the United States or the Government of the Philippine a state of war or insurrection against the
Islands, who levies war against them, or adheres to their enemies, authority or sovereignty of the United States no
giving them aid and comfort within the Philippine Islands or elsewhere, is longer exists in the Philippine Islands, it shall be
guilty of treason and, upon conviction shall suffer death or, at the unlawful for any person to advance orally or by
discretion of the Court, shall be imprisoned at hard labor for not less
than five years and fined not less than ten thousand dollars. writing or printing or like methods, the
Sec. 8: Every person who shall utter seditious words or speeches, write, independence of the Philippines Islands or their
publish, or circulate, scurrilous libels against the Government of the separation from the United States whether by
Philippine Islands or which tend to disturb or obstruct any lawful officer peaceable or forcible means, or to print, publish
in executing his office, of which suggest or incite rebellious conspiracies or circulate any handbill, newspaper or
or riots or which tend to stir up the people against the lawful authorities
or to disturb the peace of the community, the safety and order of the publication, advocating such independence or
Government, or who shall knowingly conceal such evil practices, shall separation.
be punished by a fine not exceeding thou thousand dollars, or by
imprisonment not exceeding two years, or both in the discretion of the


• The Sedition Law effectively suppressed several

aspects in society that the Filipinos may use for
their expressions of independence and
The Seditious Theater
a) The theater and other art expressions
b) Political parties
c) Publications
d) Political movements

The theater was a In the seditious theater,

form of playwrights spoke up on
entertainment for stage, disguising their
many Filipinos during anti-Spanish and anti-
the Spanish times.
American sentiments in
In the period of
suppressed the costumes, manners
nationalism, it and scenography of
The staging of Severino Reyes’
became the means traditional theater. Walang Sugat
to express the anti- When they were
American sentiments discovered by American
of the nationalists.
authorities, the cast and
In 1902, the crew, sometimes the
seditious theater was audience were arrested.

Using traditional stage methods, the The Seditious Plays and their Authors
actors and crew inserted bits of
subversive stage business: costumes 1. Juan Abad - Tanikalang Guinto (Golden Chain) is about Ligaya (light;
would suddenly form the the the spirit of independence), daughter of Dalita (extreme poverty and
suffering; the Mother Country), who is forbidden to see Kaulayaw
Philippine flag (the display of which (sweetheart; Filipino hero) by her uncle Maimbot (greedy; the American
was forbidden by law); the insular government). Ligaya receives a golden bracelet from Maimbot
that becomes a chain to bind her to his control.
unscheduled singing of the National
Anthem (also forbidden by law); the - first staged at the Teatro Libertad on July 7, 1902, and
surprise appearance on stage of an subsequently in other theaters in Manila, Laguna and Cavite. On May
Artemio Ricarte 10, 1903, provincial authorities shut down its Batangas performance and
underground hero, like General indicted the author for sedition. Abad was sentenced to two years
Artemio Ricarte; or new stage imprisonment and a fine of $2000. The decision was later reversed by
the Supreme Court in 1906.
business, like the trampling of the
American flag, or, in the case of - While Abad was out under bail, he wrote Isang Punlo ng Kaaway (An
Severino Reyes’ Walang Sugat Enemy Bullet) which was performed at the Teatro Rizal in Malabon on
May 8, 1904. The show was stopped by authorities which resulted in
(Unwounded), the replacement of Abad’s second arrest.
the friar-villain by Uncle Sam.


2. Juan Matapang Cruz - Hindi Aco Patay (I Am Not Dead) was presented 3. Aurelio Tolentino
at the Teatro Nueva Luna in Malabon on the night of May 8, 1903.
- he was a revolutionary long
The play features the story of Karangalan (honor) who loves Tangulan
(defender, patriot), and resists Macamcam (one who usurps power; the before he concentrated on
American insular government). Tangulan is thought killed in a duel with playwriting. He was a member of
Macamcam, but he springs up and declares, “I am not dead!” The red
sun on a Katipunan flag rises behind the stage, representing freedom the Katipunan and later wrote for
won, and the loyal Filipinos take the villains and traitors captive. various nationalist newspapers.
In August 1900 he headed a secret
- A riot occurred when a drunken American soldier hurled an empty beer
bottle at the Katipunan flag, then climbed the stage with some others society called Junta de Amigos,
and tore the scenery apart. This led to the arrest of the theater “with authority from Aguinaldo to
manager, the banning of the play, and the confiscation of “seditious”
props, among them Katipunan flags and revolutionary emblems. Ten of form and organize guerrillas” He
the actors were arrested a month later while Cruz was arrested two became involved in various
months later.
revolutionary activities during the
- During the trial, Cruz denied he was the author of the play and even American period and was arrested a
pointed to his wife as the one who wrote the play. Nevertheless, Cruz number of times.
was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, and apparently served them
in full. In his lifetime, Tolentino suffered
nine imprisonments.

At one point, the script

His most popular play was
called for the actor playing
Kahapon, Ngayon at Bukas. Tagailog (the Tagalog
It was about attempts to provinces) to haul down the
subjugate the Philippines in American flag and to
the past (by the Chinese), in trample on it as a sign of
the present (the Spanish victory. Since the actor was
officials and friars) and the reluctant to do this in full
future (the Americans), and view of the Americans in
how Inangbayan (Mother the audience, Tolentino
Country) and her son Tagailog reportedly took over the
role himself. This angered
(Tagalog; the Filipino) win
the Americans in the
over them.
audience, who then rioted
This was played on May 14, As a result, Tolentino and
1903 at the Teatro Libertad in several other members of
Manila. the company were arrested

Other suppressed plays:

Tolentino was charged with sedition and defended by a
1. Ang Kalayaan Hindi Natupad (The
young lawyer, Manuel Quezon. He was sentenced to two Unattained Freedom) by an anonymous
years imprisonment and a fine of $2000 gold. The playwright - Obando, Bulacan on May
sentence was appealed but on March 6, 1906, the 15, 1903, cast and crew arrested.
Supreme Court upheld the decision and found Tolentino 2. Pulong Pinaglahuan (Subjugated Island)
guilty as charged. He was jailed in the Bilibid Prison in by Mariano Martinez - Navotas, Rizal on
Manila. January 23, 1904; author and 20
performers arrested
3. Dahas na Pilak (Silver Force) by
anonymous author - Teatro Nueva Luna
in Malabon, Rizal, May 1, 1904; manager
and eleven actors arrested.
4. Ang Katipunan (The Katipunan) by
Gabriel Beato Francisco; February 21,
1905 in Laoag, Ilocos Norte; the entire
audience reportedly arrested


Even though the Sedition Law wasn’t enacted yet, the American colonial
government was hesitant about political parties being founded which
advocated independence. Although the Filipinos wanted to participate in
political exercises, Taft wasn’t ready yet to allow them to do so especially if
the parties advocated independence.
In August, 1901, the Nacionalista Party was organized by Pascual Poblete
and had among its members, ardent nationalists like Santiago Alvarez,
Political Parties Cecilio Apostol, Macario Sakay, Lope K. Santos, and some former

The party’s objective was to secure autonomy then

independence for the Philippines. But Taft refused
to recognize it .
Other parties attempted to form themselves with an
independent platform like the Partido Democrata
but the Americans refused to acknowledge them.

Another party, the Federal

Party, was organized in 1900.
In 1902, Pedro Paterno The officials of this group were
formed the Liberal well-known americanistas
headed by Trinidad Pardo de
Party (Partido Liberal) Tavera and they proposed to
with an objective for make the Philippines a part of
“self-government.” He the United States. The Federal
Party remained in power for
deliberately left out the several years and participated
word “independence” in the colonial government
activities including handling
from the party platform. positions in the Philippine
The party was Commission. But the party
was unpopular especially for
immediately accepted the remaining nationalists at
by the government. that time.

Editorial cartoon
in the satirical
Lipang Kalabaw
on the Partido
Federalista The Flag Law


Though the national flag was

As Teodoro Kalaw narrates:
still displayed during political
"During the tumultuous celebration of
affairs, it soon became
his [Guerrero's] victory, the Filipino
noticeable by the Americans Flag was very openly displayed, and
as a symbol of the aspirations with great emotion. In contrast, the
of Philippine independence. American flag received very little
In 1907, as the elections for attention. Many American officers
the First Philippine Assembly considered this an aspersion cast on
were about to be held, the American sovereignty of the
Islands. As a consequence, the Civil
Fernando Ma. Guerrero, a
Commission, a few days later,
journalist and poet, decided to declared illegal the display of the
run as a candidate in Manila Filipino flag, and, in general, the use
for the newly-organized Liga of any emblem used in the
Popular Nacionalista. He won Revolution."
an overwhelming victory

On October 30, 1919, Governor General Francis

On 23 August 1907, the Philippine Commission passed
Burton Harrison signed into law the Philippine
Act No. 1696 also known as the Flag Law.
Legislature's Act repealing the Flag Law. The bill
It prohibited “the display of flags, banners, emblems, or
had been sponsored by Senator Rafael Palma.
devices used in the Philippines for the purpose of
insurrection or rebellion against the United States, and
of Katipunan flags, banners, emblems, or devices.”
The law also covered the display of the Philippine flag.
For over 10 years, in spite of the Filipino control of the
legislature, the lawmakers failed to repeal the Flag Law
after the bills that they passed was vetoed by the
governor-General. It was only in 1919 when a more
lenient American leader signed it into law after the
Philippine Legislature passed it.

Gov. Gen. Francis Burton

Harrison with Senator
Rafael Palma and Censorship and Suppression of
businessman Vicente
Madrigal during the Publications
presentation of the
Philippine flag in
Malacanang after the
repeal of the Flag Law on
October 30, 1919.


Censorship was first done by the military

regime before the Philippine Commission
passed the Sedition Law. Nationalism was
expressed through writings that promoted either
self-government or independence directly or

The El Renacimiento Libel

indirectly. Once these writings were spotted by
the military, and later, civil authorities, the
newspaper was closed down and its editors
and writers were penalized.
One such newspaper was El Nuevo Dia in
Cebu founded by Sergio Osmena and Jaime de (1908-1914)
Veyra in 1900. The newspaper was closed
down twice by the American military and its
offices subjected to searches. Its staff was also
threatened with arrests and banishment. But
the newspaper outlasted even the American
military government. It would close down in
1903 after Osmena and De Veyra left for Manila
to toss their hats in the political arean

El Renacimiento
- was founded in 1901 by Rafael Palma and
and fellow nationalist writers in Manila
- it’s meaning was “Rebirth”
- the newspaper was put up as a result of a
perceived growth by Filipino nationalists of - the newspaper became well-known for its anti-American
their countrymen’s inclination to accept stance and nationalist ideals
- it constantly drew threats of libel cases from American
American sovereignity officials but cooler heads and diplomacy intervened
- less than a year later, the Tagalog section - in 1903, Palma left the Renacimiento and he was replaced by
Muling Pagsilang was added to the his father-in-law Martin Ocampo as publisher. In 1907,
Teodoro M. Kalaw became director while Fidel Reyes was
newspaper. appointed as editor-in-chief.

The El Renacimiento administration in 1908

The Aves de Rapiña Editorial

October 30, 1908

Martin Ocampo Teodoro M. Kalaw

Fidel Reyes


Dean C. Worcester
- first arrived in the Philippines
in 1887 as a junior member of a
- the editorial came scientific expedition
out on page 4 of the
- appointed to the First
October 30, 1908 issue
Philippine Commission
of El Renacimiento
(Schurman Commission) in
- It was written by 1899
Fidel Reyes and was - became a member of the civil
directed against administration in 1901 when, as
Secretary of the a member of the Second
Interior Dean C. Philippine Commission (Taft
Worcester Commission), he became
Secretary of the Interior
- scientist, writer, propagandist,

- what is not known in our history was that the editorial was
an offshoot of an earlier editorial cartoon that appeared in
Lipang Kalabaw, a satirical magazine.
- the cartoon depicted Worcester as King Belshazzar of
Babylonia who was warned by God for his persecution of
the Jews through the words “Mene Thekel Phares” written
on the walls of the palace
- the cartoon itself showed that the oracle (the Filipino people)
- the editorial was a reaction against Worcester for his warning “King” Worcester to “abdicate” his leadership over
racist and self-serving policies in government his subjects
- this included the Special Government Province Act of - it wasn’t surprising to note that the last words of the Aves de
1905 which placed the ethnic Filipinos under special Rapina piece was the same warning to Belshazzar by the
administration by the Interior Department and his Hand of God.
investments for commercial and economic ventures in
tribal lands

November 5, 1908
- the staff and officials of El Renacimiento were
informed of their arrest for the charge of libel filed
by Worcester
According to Muling Pagsilang:
“ang dahil ng sakdal ay isang salaysay na lumabas
noong ika-30 ng Oktubre sa El Renacimiento at
pinamagatang Aves de Rapina. Ang nilalaman ng
salaysay ay pinaghanguan di umano’y pagsirang-
puri kay Dean C. Worcester…”


Charged with Libel before the sala of

Judge Chas H. Smith at the Manila
Court of First Instance were:
El Renacimiento
1. Martin Ocampo - administrator
2. Teodoro M. Kalaw – director
3. Fidel Reyes – editor-in-chief
Muling Pagsilang
1. Lope K. Santos – director
2. Faustino Aguilar – editor-in chief

The defense team were composed of the best

lawyers headed by Felipe Agoncillo.
The Trial
Their bail money was put up by friends and close
contacts - the libel case would drag for six years and was a test
run between American colonial policies and the freedom
of the press
- the defendants became instant celebrities equal to the
unpopularity of Worcester
- Filipino, Spanish, and even some American newspapers
lent their support to El Renacimiento and condemned the
suit for its interference to press freedom
- but the defense was not just fighting a libel suit, it was
fighting a government enforcing laws to suppress the
nationalism of a people

The Verdict - on appeal to the Supreme Court, on 22 December

- On January 9, 1909, Ocampo and Reyes 1910, Ocampo’s conviction was upheld; Reyes
were found guilty and sentence to six months was cleared for insufficient evidence and Kalaw’s
imprisonment and a P2000 fine plus payment penalty was raised from nine to twelve months.
of one-fifth of legal costs The case was later argued in the US Supreme
- On March 8, Kalaw was pronounced guilty Court and the decision was affirmed in 1914.
and sentenced to nine months imprisonment - But still not satisfied with the verdict, Worcester
and a P3000 fine plus payment of one-fifth of filed a civil suit against the newspaper. In a letter
the legal costs to a friend, he said that he was intent on putting
“this particular mischievous newspaper out of
- Both Santos and Aguilar were found not business.”


The verdict on the civil suit put the El Renacimiento

out of business. In a decision penned on January - The last issue of the
19, 1910, the defendants were ordered to pay the Renacimiento was an issue of
amount of P60,000 divided as follows: homage to the people who
helped them in their time of
need. The editorial was a
P35,000 “for damages on account of wounded message of thanks from the
feelings, mental suffering, and injuries” on editors and writers as well as a
cry against the continuing
oppression by the Americans
P25,000 “for punitive damages - In 1914, Governor-General
Francis Burton Harrison issued
pardons for both Ocampo and
- In order to pay the penalty, the equipment of the
Kalaw. Both didn’t spend a day
newspaper was sold in public auction on January in jail.

The period of suppressed nationalism was more

- But the Renacimiento libel case was not than a period of oppression for the Filipinos. It was
an entire victory for Worcester. a time of challenge for the independence that they
lost in the American colonization. As self-rule was
By the time, the case ended, Kalaw was a
granted to them during the civil government, the
Batangas representative in the Second Filipinos took up the fight again, this time in the
Philippine Assembly while Ocampo and realm of politics.
Reyes continued their careers as writers
and businessmen.
In 1910, Ocampo put out a new weekly
magazine that again was nationalist in
nature. It was called Renacimiento

The End