LOS ANGELES, June 12 (PNAFeatures) -- Former Philippine President Diosdado Macapagal, father of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is the Philippine leader who changed the country’s Independence Day from July 4, 1946 to June 12, 1898.
This year, the Philippine Independence Day, which is in its 108th year, is celebrated not only in the country but all over the world where Filipinos had immigrated such as the United States (US), the nation that rule the Philippines for close to four decades.
In his speech on the first June 12 independence day celebration, then President Macapagal said:
”A nation is born into freedom on the day when such a people molded into a nation by a process of cultural evolution and sense of oneness born of common struggle and suffering, announces to the world that it asserts its natural right to liberty and is ready to defend it with blood, life and honor.”
He also said that the promotion of a healthy nationalism is part of the responsibility of the leaders of newly independent nations.
After they lay the foundation for economic development, he said they promote nationalism and spur the search for natural identity.
”This we can do by honoring our distinguished forebears and notable periods in our history,” he added.
According to him, a step we took in this direction was to change the date for the commemoration of Philippine Independence Day.
”When I was a congressman, I formed the opinion that July 4 was not the proper Independence Day for Filipinos and should be changed to June 12 -- the date General Emilio Aquinaldo proclaimed the independence of Filipinos in Kawit, Cavite, in 1898,” he related.
Having served in the foreign service, he said that he noted that the celebration of a common independence day with the United States on July 4 caused considerable inconvenience.
The American celebration dwarfed that of the Philippines, he added.
As if to compound the irony, he said July 4 seemed tantamount to the celebration of Philippine subjection to and dependence on the United States which served to perpetuate unpleasant memories.
”I felt, too, that July 4 was not inspiring enough for the Filipino youth since it recalled mostly the peaceful independence missions to the United States,” he explained.
The celebration of Independence Day on June 12, on the other hand, would be a greater inspiration to the youth who would consequently recall the heroes of the revolution against Spain and their acts of sublime heroism and martyrdom, he declared.
He also said these acts compare favorably with those of the heroes of other nations.
”In checking the reaction to my plan to shift Independence Day to June 12, I found that there was virtual unanimity on the desirability of transferring the celebration from July 4,” he pointed out.
Likewise, he said there was a preponderant view for choosing June 12 as the proper day.
A few, he revealed, suggested January 21, the opening day of the Malolos Congress in 1899, or January 23, when the Malolos Congress, ratifying the independence proclamation of June 12, established a republican system of government.
The reason for this view, he said, was that the government temporarily led by Aguinaldo when he proclaimed independence on June 12 was a dictatorship.
He said there was no difficulty in adhering to June 12, however, because although the Aguinaldo Government was a dictatorship in view of the military operations he was then leading, he led in converting it into a republican government in the Malolos Congress.
He added that the celebration of independence refers to its proclamation rather than to the final establishment of the government.
In the case of America, when independence was proclaimed on July 4, he said the American Government was still a confederation and it was much later when it finally became a federal government.
The historical fact, he said, was that the Filipinos proclaimed their independence from foreign rule on June 12.
Even the national anthem and the Filipino flag which are essential features in the birth of a nation were played and displayed respectively at the independence proclamation of Kawit, he noted.
”When I became President, I knew that this was the opportunity to take action on what had been in my mind since entering public life,” he said.
The specific question, he said, was when to make the change.
He disclosed that the opportunity came when the US House of Representatives rejected the US$ 73 million additional war payment bill on May 9, 1962.
There was indignation among the Filipinos, he recalled.
There was a loss of American good will in the Philippines, although this was restored later by the reconsideration of the action of the US lower chamber, he said.
At this time, he said, a state visit in the United States had been scheduled for Mrs. Macapagal and him on the initiative and invitation of President John F. Kennedy.
Unable to resist the pressure of public opinion, he said he was constrained to obtain the agreement of Kennedy to defer the state visit for another time.
To postpone the state visit, he said, he wrote a letter on May 14, 1962 to Kennedy, which read in part as follows:
”The feeling of resentment among our people and the attitude of the US Congress negate the atmosphere of good will upon which my state visit to your country was predicated. Our people would never understand how, in the circumstances now obtaining, I could go to the United States and in all honesty affirm that I bear their message of good will. It is with deep regret therefore that I am constrained to ask you to agree in the postponement of my visit to a more auspicious time.”
On May 28, 1962, Kennedy reportedly wrote him explaining the situation on the war damage bill.
Kennedy’s letter said:
”In the meantime, I must respect your decision that your visit to the United States should be postponed. We do not want your visit to be less than first class, when it comes. But I do hope that we will be able to find another convenient time.”
The late President Macapagal said he decided to effect the change of independence day at that time not as an act of resentment but as a judicious choice of timing for the taking of an action which had previously been decided upon.
He said he called then Press Secretary Rufino Hechanova to consult him on his contemplated action.
He asked him outright what he thought of his step if he should move the celebration of Independence Day from July 4 to June 12.
Hechanova, he said, winced and said: “Please Mr. President, don’t act on that yet. Let us give it a thorough study. I am flying to Iloilo today and on my return on Monday I will come to discuss it with you.”
After Hechanova’s departure, he said he called on Legal Adviser Juan Cancio. “Johnny”, he asked, “do I have the power to change Independence Day from July 4 to June 12?”
Cancio, he said, readily answered: “Yes, sir, because July 4 is being celebrated as Independence Day not because it is so specifically designated by law but as an official holiday.”
Since the President has the authority to declare official holidays, Cancio said “You may declare June 12 as a holiday and hold an independence celebration on that day.”
According to President Macapagal, he immediately directed Cancio to prepare the proclamation, revised and signed it, and asked him to release it to the press through the Malacanang press office.
On May 17, 1962, he said he certified as urgent to the Congress the enactment of a measure to fix June 12 statutorily as independence day.
The change, he said, was justified by the successful celebration.
General Emilio Aguinaldo, he stated, was the guest of honor.
At least one million people attended whereas in previous celebrations on July 4, only from two to three hundred thousand came, he revealed.
Bespeaking of the nobility of the American people, he said President Kennedy was among the first to extend the congratulations of the United States to the Filipino people in celebrating their freedom on June 12, 1962.
In a message to him, Kennedy said:
”It is with pleasure that I join the people of the United States in extending our best wishes and warmest congratulations to Your Excellency and the people of the Republic of the Philippines on the occasion of the Philippine Independence Day.”
Macapagal said a letter of thanks in Spanish was also sent to him by General Aguinaldo on May 19, 1962.
A translation of the letter reads in part as follows:
”I cannot but send you this letter to express the most profound gratitude for the proclamation which Your Excellency has recently issued naming June 12 as independence day -- the date when we announced to the whole world that we were a free and independent nation. I, who took an active if modest part in the effort of our people to break the colonial yoke, we were subjected to feel joy and pride over the patriotic act which Your Excellency has just performed.”
According to him, General Aguinaldo thanked him again for the rectification of an erroneous historical practice and then asked: “When will there be an Aguinaldo monument at the Luneta like that of Rizal?”
He said he could not answer the question.
The next generation, he said, might have the answer.
On August 4, 1964, he said he signed at Malacanang Republic Act No. 4166 statutorily prescribing June 12 as Philippine Independence Day.
Special witnesses invited to the signing were children of Presidents, including Carmen Melencio-Aguinaldo, Manuel Quezon Jr., Maria Osmena-Charnley, Gerardo Roxas, Tomas Quirino, and his sons Arturo and Diosdado Jr.
In recent years, former Presidents Ferdinand E. Marcos, Corazon Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo continued to praise June 12 as the country’s true Independence Day. (PNAFeatures)