By Severino Samonte
MANILA – Many of the millennial Philippine population may be interested to know that Filipinos, like the Americans, also used to go to the polls every two years in November under the 1935 Constitution, instead of today’s second Monday of May.
The Philippine elections under the 1935 Charter were classified as national, for the president and vice president; local (for congressmen, governors and vice governors, mayors, vice mayors and councilors); and senatorial for eight of the 24 members of the Senate.
The 1935 Constitution, patterned after that of the US, a former Philippine colonizer, was dismantled in early 1973 following the imposition of martial law in September 1972 by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
According to the book “Foundations of Freedom: A History of Philippine Congresses” published by Merriam and Webster Inc. and written by Jose P. Abletez, a veteran author and writer, the 1935 Charter was replaced by the 1973 Constitution which was ratified by Filipino voters on Jan. 17, 1973.
The 1973 Constitution moved the date of Philippine elections to the second Monday of May, which was also adopted by the current 1987 Charter.
Section 3, Article VI (Legislative Department) of the 1935 Constitution stated: “The first senators elected under this Constitution shall, in the manner provided by law, be divided equally into three groups, the senators of the first group to serve for a term of six years, those of the second group, for four years, and those of the third group, for two years.”
It is also worth mentioning that under Section 1 of Article V (Suffrage) of the same Charter, the right of suffrage was exercised only by Filipinos who were at least 21 years of age. This was different from the present voting age of 18 years as provided for in the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions.
The terms of office of the elected officials began on Dec. 30 following the elections. Again, this differed from June 30, the current start of the term of office of elected officials under the 1987 Constitution.
According to the Records and Statistics Division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the last election under the 1935 Constitution was held on Nov. 8, 1971 for eight of the 24 senators and local officials, such as members of the House of Representatives, governors, vice governors and provincial board members, city and municipal mayors, vice mayors and councilors.
The then opposition Liberal Party took five seats in the Senate while three seats went to the administration party, the Nacionalista Party. That election took place barely two-and-a-half months after the Plaza Miranda bombing on Aug. 21, 1971, which wounded most of the LP’s senatorial candidates.
Those who emerged winners were senators Jovito Salonga (LP), Genaro Magsaysay (LP), John Henry Osmeña (LP), Eddie Ilarde (LP), Eva Estrada Kalaw (NP), Ramon Mitra Jr. (LP), Ernesto Maceda (NP), and Alejandro Almendras (NP). However, their terms were cut short due to the declaration of martial law.
Following is a list of the 16 political exercises held under the 1935 Constitution (1946-1971), according to the Comelec’s Records and Statistics Division:
April 23, 1946, national election; March 11, 1947, plebiscite; Nov. 11, 1947, local and senatorial elections; Nov. 8, 1949, national election; Nov. 13, 1951, local and senatorial elections; Nov. 10, 1953, national election; Nov. 8, 1955, local and senatorial elections; Nov. 12, 1957, national election; Nov. 10, 1959, local and senatorial elections; Nov. 14, 1961, national election; Nov. 12, 1963, local and senatorial elections; Nov. 9, 1965, national election; Nov. 14, 1967, local and senatorial elections; Nov. 11, 1969, national election; Nov. 10, 1970, election of 1971 Constitutional Convention delegates; and Nov. 8, 1971, local and senatorial elections.
The special national election of April 23, 1946 was held in accordance with Commonwealth Act No. 725. It was won by Manuel A. Roxas as president and Elpidio Quirino as vice president.
According to Wikipedia website, the March 11, 1947 plebiscite ratified the parity amendment to Article XIII of the 1935 Constitution, which reserved the exploitation of the country’s natural resources only for Filipinos. That amendment granted United States citizens and corporations equal rights with the Filipinos in the exploitation of natural resources.
The Nov. 14, 1967 plebiscite was timed with the local and senatorial elections that year for the voters to decide on certain Charter amendments, including an increase in the number of congressional seats from 120 to 180 and allowing senators and congressmen to serve as delegates to the 1971 Constitutional Convention (ConCon) without forfeiting their seats. Both proposals were rejected in the plebiscite.
In the Nov. 10, 1970 election, the people voted for 320 delegates to the 1971 ConCon that was proposed to frame a new Constitution.
The delegates convened on June 1, 1971, but the deliberations of this body were also overtaken by the imposition of martial law. (PNA)