Courtesy Reuters

The New Constitution of the Philippine Commonwealth

The Filipino people, imploring the aid of Divine Providence, in order to establish a government that shall embody their ideals, conserve and develop the patrimony of the nation, promote the general welfare, and secure to themselves and their posterity the blessings of independence under a régime of justice, liberty and democracy, do ordain and promulgate this constitution.

SO RUNS the preamble of the new Constitution of the Philippine Commonwealth, adopted by the Constitutional Convention February 8, 1935, approved by the President of the United States on March 23, and on May 14 ratified in a plebiscite of the Filipino people.

The first thing that a reader interested in Philippine affairs will probably inquire is as to the nature of the Commonwealth Government which is being established. Will it be a semi-independent state? There is no doubt that when the American Congress adopted the name "commonwealth" it was inspired by the precedents of Anglo-American history in which "commonwealth government" has always meant self-government or autonomy. It is probably the highest type of self-government compatible with a colonial or dominion status. The word "commonwealth" was used in England in the sixteenth century and was the accepted translation of the classical expression, res publica. Sir Thomas More in his famous "Utopia" so used it.

More specifically, the term "commonwealth government" was given to the English government which existed from the abolition of monarchy in 1648 until the establishment of Cromwell's Protectorate in 1653. Since that time, a commonwealth government has carried the significance and the traditions of a free, autonomous government. This idea was transported to America by the liberty-loving immigrants. James Russell Lowell referred to the colonies of America as the "sturdy commonwealths which have sprung from the seed of May-flower." The term has been applied both to governments with nominal kings and to purely republican institutions.

That this type of autonomous government is what is contemplated for the Philippines is also to be gathered from the various provisions of the Independence law. It seems to be the

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