DELGADO, Francisco A.

DELGADO, Francisco A.
Image courtesy of the Filipinas Heritage Library
1886–1964

Biography

Francisco Delgado served little more than a year as the Philippine Islands’ Resident Commissioner, bridging the brief period between passage of the landmark Tydings–McDuffie Act of 1934 and the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1936. Delgado spent his time in Washington mostly as a caretaker, protecting Philippine interests by criticizing tariffs and taxes that threatened to restrict economic growth. “There is a fine market in the Philippines for American goods, provided that the buying capacity of the Filipinos is not reduced,” Delgado told a House committee. “But every time that you pass legislation which in any way hampers, or is liable to hamper, the economic situation out there, wages are affected, values go down, and, of course, when the laboring man earns less, he has less money, no matter what you do in the way of tariff legislation, he cannot buy anything but what he can afford, whether he likes it or not.”1

Francisco Afan Delgado was born in Bulacan, Bulacan Province, Philippines, on January 25, 1886, to Nemesio and Manuela Afan Delgado. His mother hoped that he would become a priest, but Delgado was drawn toward a career in law after serving as a stenographer for a judge. He studied at San Juan de Letran and Ateneo de Manila schools for his primary education. He also attended Colegio Filipino, a law school. As a pensionado (a student sent by the government to study abroad), he attended Compton High School in Compton, California, for his senior year. He later recalled that his motto as a student was “Industry and Concentration.” He was among the first group of Filipino students to study in the United States and “a member of the brain aristocracy of his times,” according to a later observer.2

Delgado moved to Bloomington, Indiana, and earned a bachelor of laws degree at Indiana University in 1907. He then attended the University of Chicago and Yale, earning a master of laws degree at the latter school in 1908. After graduation, Delgado passed the Indiana state bar and briefly worked in an Indianapolis law firm. According to one source, he was the first Filipino to serve as an active member of the American Bar Association. He eventually led the Philippines Bar Association and directed the International Bar Association. Delgado married Rosario Montenegro in 1915, and the couple had three children, Rosario, Concepcion, and Arturo.3

When Delgado returned to the Philippines in 1908, he was employed as a law clerk and later as chief of the legal division of the executive bureau. In 1913 he left government service to start his own law firm, where he worked for the next two decades building a reputation as one of the islands’ top lawyers. During World War I, Delgado served in the Philippine national guard and was a member of the islands’ national council of defense.4

In June 1931, Delgado won popular election to the Philippine house of representatives, where he represented Bulacan, his home province. He was re-elected to a second term in June 1934.5 Delgado chaired the committee on external relations, a panel specially created by the legislature to help in the transition from colonial rule to independence.6

In the legislature, Delgado often won arguments by combining his natural charisma with sheer willpower. He was “handsome … with an aristocratic moustache,” the Philippines Herald Mid-Week Magazine said in 1934. Colleagues respected him and often bent to his forceful, lawyerly arguments. “When he is discussing important bills and wants them to be approved, he … pounds the table, and issues forth arguments after arguments, and delivers the goods home.”7 On August 22, 1934, by unanimous resolution, the Philippine house of representatives, with the senate concurring, elected Delgado as Resident Commissioner to the post being vacated by Camilo Osias.8 On the same day, the senate, with the backing of President Manuel L. Quezon, chose Pedro Guevara to another term in the other Resident Commissioner post.9 The Herald welcomed the selection of Delgado, calling it an “appointment that inspires the confidence that our case in the United States will be in safe keeping.”10 Delgado’s work on the external relations committee made him familiar with the issues and ensured he would follow the legislature’s instructions. Moreover, the Herald observed, “he knows the peculiar American psychology.”11

But for a man used to being in the center of things, there was concern that Delgado would “feel homesick in Congress.” On Capitol Hill, the Herald noted, “he will be expected to discuss only matters that pertain to the Philippines, and only when some congressman implores the speaker that the privilege of the floor be extended to him.”12

Delgado headed to Washington during a unique, uncertain period in Philippine history. When Congress passed the Tydings–McDuffie Act in April 1934, the very nature of the Philippines’ relationship with the United States changed: as a first step toward independence, the islands quickly drafted and approved a constitution creating the commonwealth of the Philippines. As a result, Delgado inherited a responsibility devoid of what had traditionally been the Resident Commissioner’s foremost political concern.13

With the establishment of the commonwealth, many Filipinos began focusing on other issues. Moreover, Congress had grown less hospitable to Philippine concerns now that the islands were on the path to independence. As a result, Delgado faced strong headwinds delivering his message in Washington. The vocal isolationist camp on Capitol Hill was unreceptive, eager to wash their hands of U.S. entanglements in the Pacific, and commercial interests, especially the powerful southern agriculture sector which had for decades competed with Philippine exports, looked to stifle trade and regain to expand its market share.

Delgado also did not have much time to pursue an agenda in the House: He and Guevara were the last Resident Commissioners elected by the territorial legislature. For the previous 30 years, the Philippines had sent Resident Commissioners to Congress in pairs, one elected by the assembly and the other by the commission. Under Tydings–McDuffie, however, the new Philippine Commonwealth agreed to a change limiting the islands to only one Resident Commissioner appointed by President Quezon. Delgado’s term, like Guevara’s, was set to expire once a constitutional convention had been held and the new form of government ratified. The compressed legislative schedule for the 74th Congress (1935–1937) also worked against Delgado. The House adjourned sine die in late August 1935 and did not come back until early January 1936 for the next session, about a month before Delgado’s term in office lapsed.

Delgado’s first significant statement as Resident Commissioner, given in an interview with the New York Times, revealed that he and Guevara were not on the same page. Both hoped to maintain the strong commercial relationship with the States, but the two disagreed about Japan’s goals in the Pacific.14 Even as Japan bolstered its navy, Delgado downplayed the threat of Japanese expansion, claiming that it had no “immediate intentions” toward the Philippines or its resources, and rejected the idea that the United States should boost its military presence. He went on to suggest that the Philippines could become “the Switzerland of the Far East”—a neutral country without a military, he added. “Our strength will lie in our weakness.”15

The unevenness of that approach—rejecting the U.S. military while pressing for a preferential economic relationship with Washington—seemed to contradict Quezon and Guevara, who accepted that the price of maintaining special access to U.S. markets would be an ongoing political relationship. Otherwise friendly observers in Manila looked dimly on Delgado’s statement. “Such sophistry and naïveté on the part of the new resident commissioner reminds one indeed of Osias in his first days on Capitol Hill,” declared the Philippines Free Press. “The more Delgado talks the more he sounds like his predecessor.”16

When the 74th Congress opened in January 1935, Delgado took the oath of office and settled into his office in the House Office Building (now the Cannon building). Since House Rules prevented Delgado from serving on committees or voting on the House Floor, he treated his role in much the same manner as his predecessors, more like a diplomat than a legislator. Delgado made connections with prominent Filipinos living in the States, including Vicente Villamin, an economist and the head of the Philippine American Chamber of Commerce. He testified before congressional committees and lobbied key lawmakers and administration officials in the War and Treasury Departments. For a legislator without any actual legislative power, he worked to build personal relationships and expected to entertain colleagues at his home in Washington. “We have to do this to make up for our lack of a vote in Congress,” he explained. “I don’t want to be a four-flusher but I don’t want to be called stingy either. I will stay within my means and do my best.”17

The first time Delgado appeared before a congressional committee was on February 5, 1935, when he testified before the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry to address the precipitous decline in Philippine imports of finished U.S. cotton products and the massive inroads made by Japanese exporters in 1934. After the United States raised rates on Philippine exports, he noted, the purchasing power of the average Filipino plummeted. But Japanese goods were cheaper and, by 1935, accounted for more than half the textile imports.18

Delgado struck a theme he repeated throughout his tenure, that Filipinos could only be good consumers of U.S. products if they had money in their pockets.19 If U.S. agricultural interests “look at the commerce between our two countries in its entirety and from a national viewpoint,” he told the committee, “they will reach the conclusion that it is as much to their best interests, as it is to ours to maintain and reinforce the purchasing power of the Philippine people by encouraging their material development and refraining from advocating legislation that might blight or blast their economic life.”20 It was not enough for the Philippines to simply hike tariff rates on Japanese goods, he said. America and the Philippines needed a long-term deal to keep supply up and prices down.21

The same day he offered his inaugural testimony, Delgado appeared as a witness before the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization to testify on a repatriation program for unemployed Filipinos living in the United States. While he understood why the United States would want to send the jobless back to the Philippines, he encouraged the committee to make repatriation voluntary and to allow repatriates to later return to the United States, arguing in both cases that this would encourage Filipinos to return to the islands.22

But the overwhelming bulk of Delgado’s legislative emphasis concerned tariffs, taxes, and quota reductions that adversely affected the Philippines’ primary agricultural exports. In May 1935, for instance, Delgado testified before a special House subcommittee of the Agriculture Committee, protesting the implementation of a special 10-cent-per-pound tax on U.S.-produced oleomargarine that used unprocessed imported fats or oils as ingredients.23 That excise tax would have doubled the rates set by the Revenue Act of 1934 (H.R. 7835).24

According to Delgado, the taxes in both the existing law and the new bill—H.R. 5587, authored by Richard Kleberg of Texas—encouraged American oleomargarine makers to replace Philippine coconut oil with domestic cottonseed oil to save money.25 Delgado cast the Kleberg bill as an especially egregious “violation of the covenant and trade agreements” established in the Tydings–McDuffie Act. Moreover, he said, the high taxes threatened to ruin America’s reputation in the Philippines and “mar the high plane and moral value” that previous policies had helped create.26

The Kleberg bill never cleared committee, but the 5-cent coconut oil excise tax that had been inserted into the 1934 revenue bill was included in the annual revenue bill in the summer of 1935. When the Revenue Act of 1935 (H.R. 8947) came to the House Floor for consideration in late August, Delgado again denounced the coconut oil tax as “a flagrant violation of the trade compact contained in the Tydings–McDuffie Act.27 Several days later, after passing both the House and Senate, the revenue bill, complete with the new tax, was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

During the 74th Congress, Delgado also attacked the Jones–Costigan Act of 1934 as especially injurious to the Philippines’ sugar industry, particularly since federal officials had persistently urged Philippine sugar producers to increase their crop for more than a decade. But now that yearly production had been ramped up to about 1.5 million long tons, Jones–Costigan limited duty-free entry of Philippine sugar to the United States to just 850,000 tons, leaving the islands with a huge surplus. “What perplexes us is that you virtually tell us in this law of March 24, 1934, to make preparation to enter the competitive markets of the world, on the one hand, and on the other you set up barriers in that same law that would render such preparations impossible of realization,” he said.28 Delgado also sought to secure a nearly $24 million line of credit for the Philippines through the U.S. Treasury that Congress had authorized in the 73rd Congress (1933–1935). The act was intended to offset losses incurred by the commonwealth’s reserve fund in the United States when Treasury officials failed to convert a nearly $56 million Philippine deposit into gold. When the price of gold increased a short while later, the Philippines missed out on millions in profit. The line of credit at the Treasury Department was meant to cover the difference.29

Congress, however, had only authorized the Treasury credit and had yet to appropriate the funds to pay for it, and, by the time Delgado arrived in Congress, the Senate was considering whether to repeal the credit altogether.30 In early January 1935, Delgado and Guevara appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee to try and convince it to approve the necessary funds to cover the credit. In oral and written testimony, the Resident Commissioners pointed out that not only did the credit have the backing of the White House and the Treasury and War Departments, it had also been codified into law.31 Despite their impassioned plea, the issue remained unresolved by the end of Delgado’s term. The Senate eventually passed a measure to repeal the credit, and Delgado’s successor, Quintin Paredes, took up the cause again in 1936. In the fall of 1935, Delgado ushered a large congressional delegation trip to the Philippines to attend the inauguration of Manuel Quezon as commonwealth president. It was a lavish, around-the-world junket funded by the commonwealth, which Delgado called a necessary “gesture of goodwill” and demonstrated “the profound gratitude and friendship” between the United States and the Philippines. Nearly 50 Members of Congress joined Vice President John Nance Garner in attending the inauguration.32 This was, in some aspects, part of a larger lobbying and diplomatic effort by commonwealth officials to convince key members of Congress to revise harmful trade provisions in Tydings–McDuffie and other bills.33

On February 14, 1936, when the Philippines inaugurated its commonwealth government, Delgado’s term of service in the House came to an end. Earlier the Philippines Herald Mid-Week Magazine had predicted the islands would call on Delgado for some other service, “knowing that whatever task is assigned or sacrifice demanded of him, he will always be at the service with the best that there is in him.”34 President Quezon appointed Delgado to serve as an appeals court justice in the Philippines, where he remained for about a year.35

For much of the next decade, he worked as a private attorney. In 1945 President Harry Truman appointed Delgado to the Philippine War Damage Commission. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Delgado served in that capacity for five years. He also served as a delegate to the United Nations Conference on International Organization in San Francisco in 1945. Delgado was elected to the Philippine senate and served there from 1951 to 1957.36 From September 1958 to January 1962, he served as the Philippines’ ambassador to the United Nations. Delgado died in Manila on October 27, 1964.37

Footnotes

1Congressional Record, House, 74th Cong., 1st sess. (30 July 1935): 12127. This is part of Delgado’s testimony before a House Special Subcommittee of the Committee on Agriculture, which he inserted into the Record. The full transcript is on pages 12122–12131. See also Alfonso Ponce Enrile, “An Appraisal of F. A. Delgado,” 27 November 1935, Philippines Herald Mid-Week Magazine: 5.

2Francisco Delgado, Box 46, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Research Collection, Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives; Zoilo M. Galang, ed., Leaders of the Philippines: Inspiring Biographies of Successful Men and Women of the Philippines (Manila, PI : National Publishing Co., 1932) : 197–199; “Our Resident Commissioners,” 25 August 1934, Philippines Herald: n.p.

3Congressional Directory, 74th Cong., 2nd sess. (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1935): 130; Galang, Leaders of the Philippines: 197–199.

4“Francisco A. Delgado,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000218.

5Congressional Directory, 74th Cong., 2nd sess.: 130.

6Eugenio E. Santos, “Within The Committee Rooms,” 22 August 1934, Philippines Herald Mid-Week Magazine: 7, 23.

7Santos, “Within The Committee Rooms”: 7.

8Creed F. Cox (War Department) to South Trimble (Clerk of the House), 12 October 1934, House Committee on Elections, 74A-J1, Record Group 233, National Archives and Records Administration (hereinafter NARA), Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC; President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Speaker Joseph Byrns, 3 January 1935, House Committee on Elections, 74A-J1, Record Group 233, NARA.

9“Solons Select New P.I. Envoys to Washington,” 21 August 1934, Philippines Herald: 1.

10“A Happy Choice,” 22 August 1934, Philippines Herald: 4 ; “Guevara, Delgado Elected to Congress Posts by Legislature,” 22 August 1934, Philippines Herald: 1.

11“Our Resident Commissioners”; “Delgado Promises to Abide by Legislature And Heads,” 23 August 1934, Philippines Herald: 1.

12“Our Resident Commissioners.”

13Enrile, “An Appraisal of F. A. Delgado”: 5.

14“Philippine Plots by Japan Scouted,” 30 December 1934, New York Times: 15; Congressional Record, House, 74th Cong., 1st sess. (6 February 1935): 1617.

15“Philippine Plots by Japan Scouted.”

16James G. Wingo, “Delgado Doings; Immediate Withdrawal Proposal,” 16 February 1935, Philippines Free Press: 9.

17Wingo, “Delgado Doings; Immediate Withdrawal Proposal.”

18Hearings before the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, Causes of the Loss of Export Trade and the Means of Recovery, 74th Cong., 1st sess. (5 February 1935): 457–463.

19“Philippines Seek a Trade Exchange,” 25 December 1934, Washington Post: 2.

20Causes of the Loss of Export Trade and the Means of Recovery: 461.

21Ibid., 462.

22Hearings before the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, Extending the Time for Voluntary Return of Unemployed Filipinos to the Philippines, 74th Cong., 1st sess. (5–6 February 1935): 26–30.

23Congressional Record, House, 74th Cong., 1st sess. (30 July 1935): 12122–12131; Hearing before a Special Subcommittee of the House Committee on Agriculture, Oleomargarine, 74th Cong., 1st sess. (May–July 1935): 92–96.

24Revenue Act of 1934, Public Law 73-216, 48 Stat. 680 (1934).

25Congressional Record, House, 74th Cong., 1st sess. (30 July 1935): 12125.

26Hearing before the House Committee on Agriculture, Trade Relations with the Philippines, 74th Cong., 1st sess. (28 May 1935): 303–304.

27Congressional Record, House, 74th Cong., 1st sess. (24 August 1935): 14636–14637.

28Ibid., 14638.

29“Monetary Issue Tangles Affairs of Philippines,” 15 February 1936, Christian Science Monitor: 1; Public Law 73-419, 48 Stat. 1115 (1934).

30“From Across the Sea,” 20 March 1936, Chicago Daily Tribune: 16; Vicente Albano Pacis, “After the Ball,” 16 March 1936, Washington Post: 9; “Monetary Issue Tangles Affairs of Philippines.”

31Hearings before the Senate Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, Second Deficiency Appropriations Bill for 1935, 74th Cong., 1st sess. (June 1935): 90–101.

32“Philippines to Be Host,” 11 September 1935, New York Times: 5; “Garner Acclaimed by Seattle Throng,” 16 October 1935, New York Times: 18.

33Enrile, “An Appraisal of F. A. Delgado”: 5.

34Ibid.

35“Francisco A. Delgado,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000218.

36Philippines Senate, “Francisco A. Delgado,” Former Senators’ Profiles, http://www.senate.gov.ph/senators/former_senators/francisco_delgado.htm (accessed 21 December 2015).

37“Francisco A. Delgado,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=D000218; “Delgado, Former UN Envoy, Dies,” 28 October 1964, Manila Chronicle: 1.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

University of Pennsylvania
Special Collections, Van Pelt Library

Philadelphia, PA
Papers: In the Marian Anderson Papers, 1957, 1 item. Contains letter from Francisco Delgado, Rotary Club of Manila.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

Delgado, Francisco Afan. "A Comparison Between the Status of the Roman Peregrinii and that of the Inhabitants of the United States Insular Possessions." L.L.M. thesis, Yale University, 1908.

___. Las Restricciones injustas sobre los derechos de la esposa en relación con sus bienes parafernales y la sociedad de gananciales deben desparecer del código civil... Manila, P.I.: Bureau of Printing, 1933.

___. Legal Ethics. Manila, P.I.: Afan Pub. House, 1946.

"Francisco A. Delgado" in Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress, 1900-2017. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of the Historian and the Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Publishing Office, 2018.

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