The Jones Law of 1916
The Jones Law, otherwise known as the Philippine Autonomy Act, was a United States statute
enacted in 1916, which was the first formal and official declaration of the United States’
commitment to grant independence to the Philippines, since it took over the territory after
the Spanish-American War in 1898. However, the grant of independence would come only “as
soon as a stable government can be established,” and it left to the United States to
determine when this “stable government” had been achieved. The Jones Law aimed at providing
the Filipinos broader domestic autonomy, though it reserved certain privileges to the
Americans to protect their sovereign rights and interests.
It replaced the Philippine Bill of 1902 or the Philippine Organic Act, which served as the
de facto constitution of the territory or the guideline for the administration of the
Passage into law
The first bill seeking to grant the Philippine Islands autonomy and eventual independence
was introduced in 1912 by William Atkinson Jones, a Democrat from Virginia, chairman of the
U.S. House Committee on Insular Affairs. It planned to grant the Philippine Islands
independence on July 4, 1921. The bill passed committee deliberations, but it did not
progress from there.
A second version of the bill was filed by Rep. Jones in 1914, this time it did not set a
definite date for the granting of independence. Several amendments were introduced to the
bill, as the Republicans tried to defeat it. It was only passed after the preamble was
revised to: “that it is the purpose of the people of the United States to withdraw their
sovereignty over the Philippine Islands and to recognize their independence as soon as a
stable government can be established therein”. On August 29, 1916 it was signed into law by
Pres. Woodrow Wilson.
Among the salient provisions of the law was the creation of an all-Filipino legislature. It
created the Philippine Senate to replace the Philippine Commission, which had served as the
upper chamber of the legislature. The Senate of the Philippines is the upper chamber of the
bicameral legislature of the Philippines, the Congress of the Philippines. … The
Philippine Commission was a body appointed by the President of the United States to
exercise legislative and limited executive powers in the Philippines. …
* Rosario, Cortes M., et. al, The Filipino Saga: History as a Social Change. Quezon City:
New Day Publishers, 2000: chapter 11. ISBN 971101131X
* Philippine Historical Commission, Philippine Legislature, 100 Years. Quezon City:
Philippine Historical Commission, 2000: chapter 4. ISBN 9719224509
* Castañeda, Anna Leah Fidelis T. “The Origins of Philippine Judicial Review, 1900-1935″.
* Encyclopedia Britannica. Jones Act. URL accessed on 12 August 2006.