Hawaiian lessons for Filipinos
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-03-06

Like a flu virus, proposals to change the Constitution will always resurface. The most recent was Senator Miriam Santiago’s assertion that “legal luminaries prefer the Parliamentary form of government.” Very soon, expect to hear anew that proposal to open Philippine land to foreign ownership.

Senator Kiko Pangilinan concurred with your Chair Wrecker’s January 16 column (“Wrong solution to the wrong problem”) about the folly of allowing foreigners to own Philippine land, as proposed by some of the Charter change advocates.  

Sen. Kiko remarked: “Some one hundred ten or so years ago, Hawaii, then a monarchy, allowed foreign ownership of land. The sugar planters from the mainland soon owned more than 90 percent of all land. A few years later, at the behest of the White Sugar Barons, the monarchy was abolished and Hawaii was annexed by the US. Huge land holdings by foreigners if allowed will mean the loss of our sovereignty as a nation.”

From the Digital History website we can read this narration about the sad history of the Hawaiians, as follows:

“After a century of American rule, many native Hawaiians remain bitter about how the United States acquired the islands, located 2,500 miles from the West Coast.

In 1893, a small group of sugar and pineapple-growing businessmen, aided by the American minister to Hawaii and backed by heavily armed US soldiers and marines, deposed Hawaii’s queen. Subsequently, they imprisoned the queen and seized 1.75 million acres of crown land and conspired to annex the islands to the United States.

On January 17, 1893, the conspirators announced the overthrow of the queen’s government. To avoid bloodshed, Queen Lydia Kamakaeha Liliuokalani yielded her sovereignty and called upon the US government “to undo the actions of its representatives.” The US government refused to help her regain her throne. When she died in 1917, Hawaii was an American territory. In 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state after a plebiscite in which 90 percent of the islanders supported statehood.

The businessmen who conspired to overthrow the queen claimed that they were overthrowing a corrupt, dissolute regime in order to advance democratic principles. They also argued that a Western power was likely to acquire the islands. Hawaii had the finest harbor in the mid-Pacific and was viewed as a strategically valuable coaling station and naval base. In 1851, King Kamehameha III had secretly asked the United States to annex Hawaii, but Secretary of State Daniel Webster declined, saying “No power ought to take possession of the islands as a conquest...or colonization.” But later monarchs wanted to maintain Hawaii’s independence. The native population proved to be vulnerable to western diseases, including cholera, smallpox, and leprosy. By 1891, native Hawaii’s were an ethnic minority on the islands.

After the bloodless 1893 revolution, the American businessmen lobbied President Benjamin Harrison and Congress to annex the Hawaiian Islands. In his last month in office, Harrison sent an annexation treaty to the Senate for confirmation, but the new president, Grover Cleveland, withdrew the treaty “for the purpose of re-examination.” He also received Queen Liliuokalani and replaced the American stars and stripes in Honolulu with the Hawaiian flag.

Cleveland also ordered a study of the Hawaiian revolution. The inquiry concluded that the American minister to Hawaii had conspired with the businessmen to overthrow the queen, and that the coup would have failed “but for the landing of the United States forces upon false pretexts respecting the dangers to life and property.” Looking back on the Hawaii takeover, President Cleveland later wrote that “the provisional government owes its existence to an armed invasion by the United States. By an act of war...a substantial wrong has been done.”

President Cleveland’s recommendation that the monarchy be restored was rejected by Congress. The House of Representatives voted to censure the US minister to Hawaii and adopted a resolution opposing annexation. But Congress did not act to restore the monarchy. In 1894, Sanford Dole, who was beginning his pineapple business, declared himself president of the Republic of Hawaii without a popular vote. The new government found the queen guilty of treason and sentenced her to five years of hard labor and a $5,000 fine. While the sentence of hard labor was not carried out, the queen was placed under house arrest.

The Republican Party platform in the presidential election of 1896 called for the annexation of Hawaii. Petitions for a popular vote in Hawaii were ignored. Fearing that he lacked two-thirds support for annexation in the Senate, the new Republican president, William McKinley, called for a joint resolution of Congress (the same way that the United States had acquired Texas). With the country aroused by the Spanish American War and political leaders fearful that the islands might be annexed by Japan, the joint resolution easily passed Congress. Hawaii officially became a US territory in 1900.

When Capt. James Cooke, the British explorer, arrived in Hawaii in 1778, there were about 300,000 Hawaiians on the islands; however, infectious diseases reduced the native population. Today, about 20 percent of Hawaii’s people are of native Hawaiian ancestry, and only about 10,000 are of pure Hawaiian descent. Native Hawaiians were poorer, less healthy, and less educated than members of other major ethnic groups on the islands.

Sugar growers, who dominated the islands’ economy, imported thousands of immigrant laborers first from China, then Japan, then Portuguese from Madeira and the Azores, followed by Puerto Ricans, Koreans, and most recently Filipinos. As a result, Hawaii has one of the world’s most multicultural populations.

In 1993, a joined Congressional resolution, signed by President Bill Clinton, apologized for the US role in the overthrow. The House approved the resolution by voice vote. The Senate passed it 65 to 34 votes.” (End of Digital History narrative)

The US had annexed Hawaii at just about the same period when they colonized the Philippines. This was the period of Westward expansion of the US Empire. Filipinos who have not yet been enlightened should realize that the US did not expand westward in order to spread Christianity and democracy. The US simply wanted to establish an empire.

The same imperial power that had annexed Hawaii — the US — has an unusual interest these days in Mindanao. Filipinos better start learning fast the lessons from Hawaiian history.

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