Exceedingly Rare Signed Copy of the 1935 Constitution Surfaces
An exceedingly rare and historical piece of Filipino heritage that has been sitting in a vault for nearly 100 years. Through Esquire Philippines, the signed copy of the 1935 Constitution is being shown to the public for the very first time.
The copies belonged to nationalist and statesman Claro M. Recto himself, who was president of the constitutional convention that drafted this constitution. His grandson, Ricky Recto, is the current owner of the documents, who provided photos of the documents.
“I have checked with the Malacañang, Congress, the Senate, and the National Museum. There are no other copies of the 1935 Constitution with the complete signatures of its convenors,” said Recto.
“There might be some other copies lying around, but I have never seen one with all the signatures of all the members of the Convention. This is the only one. Lolo Claro was the president of the Convention. This is his copy, signed by all of them except by one person who died in the middle of the convention.”
A Constitution By Filipinos, Pressured by the Americans
The 1935 Constitution bears the hallmarks of today’s Constitution. It provided for a supreme court, a legislative body, and an executive body, creating the three branches of government. It was the constitution that gave birth to the present-day bicameral legislature composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
But it also had subsequent drawbacks.
“How special is this Constitution? It was a convention that was put together by Filipinos for Filipinos. Was it pressured by the Americans? Of course!” Said Recto.
In 1946—eleven years after the constitution was passed—the Americans pressured the Philippines to accept the Bell Trade Act, a treaty that required Filipinos to amend the 1935 Constitution to include what is called “Parity Rights Agreement.” The Parity Rights allowed the Americans to extract unlimited resources from the Philippines at no cost.
The Signed Copies
Recto’s copies of the 1935 Constitution comes in four separate documents, all bound in leather with wet marks from the pens of its convenors.
One copy is called the Discurso. “After the draft was voted on and approved, Lolo Claro was given privilege of writing the last words. It is called the ‘Discurso,’ which is a discourse put on paper, book-bound in leather. A copy of that was given as a gift by my Lolo Claro to my grandma. His dedication on the first page reads, ‘Para mi adorable esposa.’ (To my beloved wife.)” This copy contains all the signatures of the members of the Convention, many of whom are ancestors of society’s movers and shakers today. Among them are Faustino Galang, the youngest member of the Convention.
“Galang inevitably became the governor of Tarlac. His granddaughter became my wife,” shares Recto. “And then of course, signatories include Manuel Roxas, Jose Laurel, Wenceslao Vinzon, who became a war veteran in World War II, and a few others.”
A separate copy with Claro M. Recto’s handwritten dedication in English reads, “To my beloved wife.”
The Most Significant Original Copy
A third copy, which is also the most significant in the set, contains the intellectual musings of Claro M. Recto about politics, governance, and political philosophies.
“The third copy is Lolo Claro’s personal copy without signatures but contains annotated pages in different colored pens by Claro M. Recto. Here, you can read his thoughts on political matters and governance,” says Recto.
“The writings are so interesting and so very appropriate in our time. He’s talking about human rights in 1935! He talks about the writ of habeas corpus, saying it is a privilege, not a right. Of course, Marcos would later use this to his advantage when he declared Martial Law.”
“It’s been in the bank vault almost all my life, and I get to see it very rarely. This document is our heritage and I want it to be preserved for Filipinos.”
The historic documents will be sold at Leon Gallery's online auction.
Leon Gallery's online auction will be held on April 10 and 11, 2021 starting at 11 a.m. For more information and to register to bid, visit www.leonexchange.com or email [email protected]
This article has been updated following claims of the existence of another signed copy of the Constitution.