On July 4, 1946, the United States formally recognized the independence of the Republic of the Philippines. This was the culmination of the process that began in 1916, when the Jones Law pledged the eventual recognition of Philippine independence, and the Philippine Independence (or the Tydings-McDuffie) Act of 1934, which provided for a ten-year transitional period to prepare for independence. The independence of the Philippines was marked by Manuel Roxas retaking his oath as President of the Philippines, eliminating the pledge of allegiance to the United States required prior to independence. Independence thereafter was celebrated on July 4th of every year until 1962.
I. Independence of the Philippines from the United States
On May 28, 1946, President Sergio Osmeña descended the stairs of the Palace accompanied by the President-elect Manuel Roxas—marking the formal act of leaving office for the incumbent. The President-elect then symbolically marked the start of his presidency by climbing the same stairs later in the day, an act which, according to President Manuel L. Quezon, was “a constant reminder to every president of the portion of the oath of office which pledges justice to every man.”
Later, in a temporary structure built in front of the ruins of the Legislative Building destroyed in the battle for the liberation of Manila, President Manuel Roxas took his oath as the third president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, still under the sovereignty of the United States. He delivered his first inaugural address, in which he said:
Our appointment with destiny is upon us. In five weeks, we will be a free Republic. Our noble aspirations for nationhood, long cherished and arduously contended for by our people, will be realized. We will enter upon a new existence in which our individual lives will form together a single current, recognized and identified in the ebb and flow of world events as distinctly Filipino.
On July 4, 1946, pursuant to the provisions of the Tydings-McDuffie Law or the Philippine Independence Act, the Commonwealth of the Philippines became the Republic of the Philippines—the Third Republic. It was on this date that the United States of America formally recognized the independence of the Philippines and withdrew its sovereignty over the country. In ceremonies held at the Independence Grandstand (a temporary structure built in front of the Rizal Monument), the flag of America was lowered and the Philippine flag was raised to fly alone over the country.
The independence of the Philippines—and the inauguration of its Third Republic—was marked by Manuel Roxas re-taking his oath, eliminating the pledge of allegiance to the United States of America which was required prior to independence, this time as the first President of the Republic of the Philippines. The Congress of the Commonwealth then became the First Congress of the Republic, and international recognition was finally achieved as governments entered into treaties with the new republic.
From Blue Book of the First Year of the Republic:
The Philippine flag, its red bar below the blue in token of beneficent and dearly bought peace at last, began to wave in the sweeping wind. The wind came in swift, low gusts… From the west came a rain-laden gale. And the long, slender crystal threads came down from the gray, white masses in the sky, as if to unravel the blending, shifting, immaterial fleece. And the rain blended with our tears—tears of joy, of gratitude, and of pride in supreme accomplishment. Above us flew for the first time and over this embattled land, alone, happy, and unperturbed amidst sweeping gales and whipping rain—the flag of the Philippines.
II. Independence Day moved from July 4 to June 12
In 1962, President Diosdado Macapagal issued Proclamation No. 28, s. 1962, effectively moving the date of Philippine independence from July 4 to June 12—the date independence from Spain was proclaimed in Emilio Aguinaldo’s home in Kawit, Cavite. In his proclamation, President Macapagal cited “the establishment of the Philippine Republic by the Revolutionary Government under General Emilio Aguinaldo on June 12, 1898, marked our people’s declaration and exercise of their right to self-determination, liberty and independence.”
Macapagal adopted the view of historians and many political leaders, that the foundation date of the nation should be June 12, since July 4 was the restoration of that independence.
Moreover, the move was made in the context of the rejection of the U.S. House of Representatives on the proposed $73 million additional war reparation bill for the Philippines on May 28, 1962. The rejection, according to President Macapagal, caused “indignation among the Filipinos” and a “loss of American good will in the Philippines.” He explained that he deemed it the right time to push the change of the independence date, a political move he was planning even before his ascent to the presidency.
I 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.
Prior to the moving of the date of Philippine independence, June 12 was celebrated as Flag Day, a holiday originally observed in October, since 1919, when the Philippine Flag was once again permitted to be displayed. In 1941, June 12 became Flag Day, in recognition of the importance of June 12 when independence was proclaimed, and the national flag and anthem formally presented to the Filipino people. Thereafter, June 12 was Flag Day until 1962.
Meanwhile, Congress had not yet approved the measure by statute. Rep. Ramon Mitra Sr. had been pushing for the House to approve the June 12 independence day bill. The bill was authored by Rep. Mitra and Rep. Justiniano Montano. President Macapagal also spoke with Senator Gerardo Roxas, son of President Roxas. Macapagal was concerned that the Senator might be “lukewarm” towards the bill since the “historical focus on the first Presidency of the Republic may shift from Roxas to Aguinaldo.” Apparently, the delay was not caused by ill-feelings but rather, out of the desire of some legislators to retain some significance for July 4. A compromise was reached in which Congress decided to include a provision in the bill making July 4 “Republic Day.”
Thereafter, in 1964, the Congress of the Philippines passed Republic Act No. 4166 in 1964, formally designating June 12 of every year as the date of Philippine independence. The date commemorates the anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence, because the date remains the foundation date for the modern, independent Republic of the Philippines and of our independent nationhood, as recognized by the world community. At the same time, July 4 was designated as Republic Day, the foundation date for our modern, independent republic. From 1964 until the 1984, Philippine Republic Day was celebrated as a national holiday.
III. From Philippine-American Friendship Day to Republic Day
The origin of Philippine–American Friendship Day dates to 1955, when President Ramon Magsaysay, by virtue of Proclamation No. 212, s. 1955, established the observance of “Philippine American Day.” The following year, by virtue of Proclamation No. 363, s. 1956, the celebration became a yearly event.
Sometime during the Marcos administration, Philippine–American Day was renamed Philippine–American Friendship Day and moved to July 4, overshadowing the observance of the date as Republic Day. Since the Third Republic and the 1935 Constitution were discarded by Martial Law, it was impolitic to remind the public of the old republic. This is why, when President Marcos issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2346 s. 1984, reference was made only to Philippine–American Friendship Day, which was relegated to a working holiday.
During the administration of President Corazon C. Aquino, the practice of celebrating Philippine–American Friendship Day and Philippine Republic Day as a non-working holiday was formally abolished. The Administrative Code of 1987 specified a list of non-working holidays that did not include July 4.
In 1996, President Fidel V. Ramos would once again commemorate the anniversary of Republic Day through Proclamation No. 811, s. 1996, not with a holiday but with public celebrations to commemorate 50 years of independence. On June 12, however, the country observes the anniversary of the proclamation of the independence that was lost after the defeat of the First Republic, and restored in 1946. That is why as of July 4, 2015, the Philippines has been an independent nation for sixty-nine years.
_____, Blue Book of the First Year of the Republic. Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1947.
Gleeck, Jr., Lewis, The Third Philippine Republic 1946-1972. Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1993.
Macapagal, Diosdado, A Stone for the Edifice: Memoirs of a President. Quezon City: Mac Publishing House, 1968.
Quezon III, Manuel; Alcazaren, Paolo, et al., Malacañan Palace: The Official Illustrated History. Manila: Studio 5 Publishing, 2005.
 Diosdado Macapagal, A Stone for the Edifice: Memoirs of a President, (Quezon City: Mac Publishing House, 1968), p. 248
 Ibid., p. 249.