Philippine Assembly

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Philippine Assembly
Preceded by Philippine Commission
Succeeded by House of Representatives of the Philippines
Seats 81
Meeting place
Manila Grand Opera House

The Philippine Assembly was the lower house of the bicameral Philippine Legislature from 1907 to 1916, during the American Colonial Period of the Philippines, and therefore one half of the legislative branch of the Insular Government, as established by the Philippine Organic Act of 1902 passed by the United States Congress.

The first Philippine Assembly elections were held on July 30, 1907 and the Assembly was inaugurated on October 16, 1907 with Sergio Osmeña as Speaker of the Assembly, and Manuel L. Quezon and Vicente Singson representing the majority and minority floor leaders, respectively.[1]

The inauguration of the assembly marked a "turning point in the country’s history, for its creation marked the commencement of Filipino participation in self-governance and a big leap towards self-determination." [2] The Philippine Assembly was the first legislative body in the Philippines fully chosen by national elections. It is a direct precursor of the current House of Representatives of the Philippines.

When the Jones Act was passed in 1916, the Assembly was renamed the House of Representatives of the Philippines and was the lower house of a new bicameral legislature with the elected Senate of the Philippines replacing the appointed Philippine Commission as the upper house.


William Howard Taft addressing the First Philippine Assembly in the Manila Grand Opera House.

The United States of America gained control of the Philippines following the 1898 Spanish–American War and the subsequent Philippine–American War.[2] In 1902, the United State Congress passed the first organic act for the Philippines, the Philippine Organic Act, which acted like a constitution from 1902 until the Jones Act of 1916.

In accordance with the act, the Philippine Commission conducted a census in 1903, which was published on March 25, 1905.[3] Two years after the census' publication, the U.S. Government would create the Philippine Assembly, a group of elected Filipino officials who would participate in legislative decisions.[2] When the act was passed in 1902, the appointed Governor-General to the Philippines, William Howard Taft, envisioned that the Assembly would improve Philippine-American relations, and prepare the Filipinos for eventual self-rule. President Theodore Roosevelt hesitated to grant the Philippines greater authority, however, and viewed the Assembly as more of an experiment rather than a true step toward Philippine autonomy.[4] Regardless, when the Philippine Commission reported in 1907 that the two-year waiting period had passed peacefully, Roosevelt allowed Governor-General Luke Edward Wright to call for the Assembly's formation.

First elections and inauguration[edit]

Plaque where the Manila Grand Opera House used to stand, site of the inauguration of the assembly.

On July 30, 1907, the first national elections were held for the Assembly.[3]

Although several parties and independent candidates vied for positions in the Assembly, two political groups—the Nacionalista Party and the Progresista Party—dominated. The Nacionalista Party, which espoused "immediate and complete independence" and was headed by future Vice President/President Sergio Osmeña, captured a majority of the 80-seat Assembly.[5]

On October 16, 1907, the Philippine Assembly was inaugurated at the Manila Grand Opera House.[3] The event was attended both by Taft (at this time appointed Secretary of War), and the new Governor-General James Francis Smith.

After its inauguration, the Assembly convened and was led by Osmeña and Manuel L. Quezon, later to become the Vice President and President, respectively, of the new Filipino Commonwealth government in 1935. Upon the creation of the Assembly, Philippine legislature was to take after the model of the U.S. House of Representatives.[1]

The Assembly was the lower house of Philippine Legislature. The Philippine Commission was transitioned into the upper house.[6]

First Philippine Legislature[edit]

While the candidates representing the Nacionalistas won majority of the seats in the assembly, the maneuvering to the election for the Speaker of the Assembly began, as the Speaker would be the most powerful Filipino in government. Quezon and Osmeña focused on aggregating the delegates around Osmeña's leadership, a task that became easier than the two had anticipated. With less than two dozen delegates, the Progresistas won't be able to elect a Speaker from their ranks and were marginalized from the talks amongst the Nacionalistas. Osmeña found two opponents for the Speakership: Gomez who defeated Lukban by 31 votes, and Pedro Paterno. However, Gomez's citizenship was questioned, and Paterno found himself to be Osmeña's leading opponent.[7]

Gomez was found to be a Spanish citizen and a new election for his seat was called. Gomez still ran in the election and beat Lukban by a larger margin, about 400 votes. Gomez was permitted to take his seat, but not after seven months has passed, and after Osmeña was elected Speaker[8] on October 16, 1907, with Quezon as the majority floor leader.[9]

The defeat of the Progresistas in the elections hastened their downfall; the Nacionalista Party will continue to dominate the elections for the legislature, and the Progresistas, and later their successor the Democratas, will remain in opposition.[10]

The First Philippine Assembly is best remembered to reigniting efforts towards independence and for improving education in the Philippines.[2]

Election, qualifications, and responsibility of members[edit]

In the first 1907 election, 80 members were elected in a first past the post electoral system. In subsequent elections, 81 members were elected. There were three elections: in 1907, in 1909, and in 1912.

Major issues[edit]

Throughout the Assembly's history, there was conflict in the legislature between the elected Assembly composed entirely of Filipinos and the appointed Commission made up of mostly American officials.

Reorganization under the Jones Law of 1916[edit]

Under the Jones Law of 1916, and following elections to both houses, a bicameral legislature composed exclusively of Filipinos was inaugurated on October 16, 1916.[11] The Philippine Commission was replaced by the elected Senate of the Philippines and the Assembly became the House of Representatives of the Philippines.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b National Historical Commission Of The Philippines | Republika Ng Pilipinas
  2. ^ a b c d Piedad-Pugay, Chris Antonette. "The Philippine Bill of 1902: Turning Point in Philippine Legislation". The National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "The History of the First Philippine Assembly (1907-1916)". Official Website. National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Archived from the original on 2012-02-24. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  4. ^ Wertheim, Stephen (September 2009). "Reluctant Liberator: Theodore Roosevelt's Philosophy of Self-Government and Preparation for Philippine Independence". Presidential Studies Quarterly 39 (3): 494–518. doi:10.1111/j.1741-5705.2009.03688.x. Retrieved 2 April 2013. 
  5. ^ Philippine House of Representatives elections, 1916
  6. ^ Robertson, James Alexander (July 1917). "The Philippines since the Inauguration of the Philippine Assembly". The American Historical Review 22 (4): 811–830. doi:10.2307/1836242. Retrieved 2 April 2013. 
  7. ^ Cullinane (1989)[citation not found], p. 318
  8. ^ Cullinane (1989)[citation not found], p. 326
  9. ^ Halili (2004)[citation not found], p. 184
  10. ^ Brownlee (2007)[citation not found], p. 75
  11. ^ Zaide 1994, pp. 285–286


  • Zaide, Sonia M. (1994), The Philippines: A Unique Nation, All-Nations Publishing Co., ISBN 971-642-071-4 

External links[edit]