Alternative Parties in the Philippines: Partido Democrata

The period traversing the years 1907 to 1941 featured our first experience of nationwide politics, with the country having 13 elections in all. Although conducted under auspices of American administration, it is without doubt that this period began forming the Filipino statesmen (or politicians for that matter) whose valuable service our nation still remembers until today. However, with the many political parties these people brought forth during the period, only the Nacionalista Party dominated the scene. Also, only the Nacionalista Party survived from this era and is continuing to operate until today. What were almost neglected in the mainstream political history of our country during this period were the political parties formed in opposition to the gargantuan Nacionalista, but failed to survive to see America grant independence to her only colony in Asia. With this in the fore, introducing these parties, their formation, their members, platforms, successes, failures and their eventual dissolutions are being aimed in this series.


See the first part of the Alternative parties series by clicking here.


Partido Democrata Nacional (1914-1917)

   The Partido Democrata Nacional, or Democrata Nacional Party was officially founded by former Nacionalista members on April 2, 1914. The party members were also known as Terceristas for the formation of the Democrata Nacional made it the third party, which served as the second opposition party against the dominant Nacionalista Party. The Progresista Party was the only opposition party up to this time. The Terceristas were headed by Teodoro Sandiko, a general of the Filipino-American War and a member of the Malolos Congress. Being a breakaway organization from the Nacionalistas, the Terceristas had proclaimed in their publication Consolidacion:
The Nacionalista Party, and its leaders, have been deaf to fraternal entreaties to desist from playing the role of “Mazarins” in politics, their conduct causing the American imperialists to assert that an independent government would be tantamount to the rule of a few at the expense of the masses.
Teodoro Sandiko (Photo courtesy of
The only election participated by this party was the 1916 elections, wherein it proved to be the second opposition party by winning 2 out of 90 seats in the House of Representatives. The following year, the Terceristas fused with the Progresistas to form the Democrata Party.

Partido Democrata (1917-1932)

   On April 22, 1917, the Progresista Party joined forces with the Democrata Nacional Party to form the Partido Democrata, or the Democrata Party. Teodoro Sandiko, head of the Democrata Nacional, was elected party president of the new party. Although, despite the Progresistas showing a better performance than the Terceristas as late as 1916, the former had been unable to retain their 1907-1909 position in the polls. Also, the election of Sandiko as head of the new party was by itself a testament of the Progresistas being the weaker link of the amalgam by this time. Thus, the party name was made Democrata, making it distinct of the older Democrata Nacional. The Democrata Party program slated for the following:
1) Greater and more direct people’s participation in public affairs

2) Absolute separation of powers in the three major branches of government (executive, judicial, legislative)

3) Clean and honest suffrage

4) Genuine autonomy of local government

5) Economic development of the country through the promotion of agriculture, commerce and industry

6) The establishment of any institution which would assist in developing the country’s natural resources, of the protection of the working class, of the founding of pension houses, and of obligatory insurance
   The fusion into the Democrata Party made it possess nine out of the 90 seats voted upon in the 1916 elections. However, the Democratas did not fare well in the 1919 elections, despite being the only opposition party by this time. Significant gains were made by the Democratas in the 1922 elections, wherein they emerged as a strong opposition party by having 21 out of 93 seats in the House of Representatives. The combination of the Progresistas and the Terceristas is only a minor cause of the solid performance of the new party in 1922. What the Democratas had capitalized on was the split within Nacionalista ranks.

By February 1922, which was a mere four months before the elections, a schism occurred within the ranks of the Nacionalista Party. Quezon had created his own faction taking up the name Nacionalista Collectivista or Nacionalista Consolidato. The Quezon wing had accused Osmena, who was the overall party head up to this point, exercising his leadership similar to that of a single strong man. Those who remained with Osmena came to be known as Nacionalista Unipersonalista or Nacionalista Pro-Independencia. The Quezon wing had 32 seats in the Lower House and 12 seats in the Senate, while the Osmena wing garnered 26 seats in the Lower House and 3 seats in the Senate. Majority in the House of Representatives required 47 seats. In this situation, wherein neither of the two Nacionalista factions possessed an outright majority, the Democratas held the balance of power in this legislative body.

Eulogio "Amang" Rodriguez (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
   Another victory of the Democratas at this point was the appointment of their member, Eulogio Rodriguez, as the new Mayor of Manila in 1923. However, since this was an appointment by Governor-General Leonard Wood, Quezon hit the Democrata Party in this issue. He even asserted that the Senate would not accept the nomination of Rodriguez. This attack was made on the eve of the 1925 elections, thus providing the Democratas a good excuse to answer Quezon. In line with this, Iloilo Governor Ruperto Montinola, one of the Democrata leaders, addressed the party in the residence of Juan Sumulong. In response to Quezon’s strike at his party, Montinola said in part:
The answer is simple. They had no reason to present to the public as an “issue” what is really a political trick to garner votes.
In the same speech, Governor Montinola had predicted:
Let us all work hard this time and make our victory certain. With the Democrata party winning in this special election our triumph in 1925 will even be greater than in 1922 and our party will be in power.

Ruperto Montinola (Photo courtesy of

However, this was not to be. In preparation for the 1925 elections, the two factions of Quezon and Osmena had decided to rejoin their forces and carry the original Nacionalista Party to the polls. With this, the Democratas were unable to overcome the dominance still held by the Nacionalistas by this time. In the 1925 elections, the party carried only 22 out of 92 seats in the House and eight out of 24 seats in the Senate. After the 1925 elections, the Nacionalistas offered to form a coalition with the Democratas. The central theme that shall be carried was the continuing campaign for independence. With both parties realizing that they possess a common goal, a joint conference was conducted on January 6, 1926.

The formation of the coalition was based on the following:
1) To create a National Supreme Council which shall be composed of ten members, five Nacionalistas and five Democratas, eight of whom, at least shall be members of the legislature. This council shall have the high command of Filipino policy in everything concerning the independence campaign in all matters that may affect the relations between the United States and the Philippines, and in the administration of the interest of the country at large

2) The supreme council shall organize a commission which shall permanently reside in the United States and which shall not be dissolved until independence of the Philippines is obtained. One half of the members of this commission shall be appointed by the Supreme Council

3) That there shall be elected by the legislature a Democrata resident commissioner as soon as a vacancy occurs, in order that in the future the Filipino people may be represented in the Congress of the United States by commissioners elected and recommended by the Nacionalista and Democrata parties of the Philippines

4) Any appeal to the Filipino people of contribution for the independence campaign shall be made by and in behalf of the supreme council, which shall exercise control and supervision of the collection, custody and disbursements of such funds

5) The present covenant shall apply to all the purposes sought after its approval by the directorates to the Nacionalista and Democrata parties
However, this coalition did not mean a formal fusion of the two parties. The formation of this coalition was only for the purpose of achieving Philippine independence.

Claro M. Recto (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
   The Democratas showed poor performance in the 1928 and 1931 elections. The Nacionalistas continued to dominate by winning 71 and 66 seats in the House of Representatives, and 24 and 20 seats in the Senate, respectively. After Sandiko’s entry to the Nacionalista Party even before these poor performances, the mantle of leadership of the Democratas went to Claro M. Recto. However, his successful victory for Senate against Jose P. Laurel in 1931 still did not mean victory for his party elsewhere. This same year, only three Democratas won seats in the Senate, and 10 seats were garnered in the House. Thus, after the 1931 elections, Recto was into the dissolution of the Democrata Party.

A national convention was held in October of 1931, and the decision to dissolve the party was reached on January 31, 1932. When the issue of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act broke out soon after the dissolution of the Democrata Party, the dominant Nacionalista Party broke up into two factions once more: the Pros (those who are for the approval of the law) being headed by Osmena and Roxas, and the Antis (those who are against the approval of the law) being headed by Quezon. This same issue further broke up the disbanded Democratas. They either took the side of the Pros or the Antis. Recto, now under the fold of Quezon, joined the Antis. He would later say, “I’ve found the role of a minority leader extremely unprofitable and I’ve been poor enough.” Only Sumulong remained steadfast into being neutral in the issue for he saw this as temporary.

The eventual breakup of the Democratas, however, made the Nacionalistas fear of an absence of opposition. As Dapen Liang put it, “The disappearance of opposition from without would mean an inevitable opposition from within.” This was evidenced by the internal conflict among the Nacionalistas, which actually resulted from the issue on the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act. It was only to be resolved by 1935.


Alternative Parties in the Philippines: Partido Democrata Alternative Parties in the Philippines: Partido Democrata Reviewed by Al Raposas on Thursday, November 06, 2014 Rating: 5

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