The Philippine Revolution

by Apolinario Mabini


Copyright 1969
By Leon Ma.Guerrero


Permission to post this text on the Austrian-Philippine Website is provisionally granted by the estate of Leon Ma. Guerrero. It is intended for academic use. Commercial exploitation of this is explicitly prohibited. Copyright Estate of Leon Ma. Guerrero. All rights reserved.


Scanning and proofreeding of the text by Robert L. Yoder


Development of the Revolution

Because I had been a member of the Liga Filipina and one of the compromisarios, I too was indicted and imprisoned as one of the instigators of the rebellion. However, I had suffered a paralytic stroke six months before the uprising and I attribute to this circumstance my not having been beaten up and shot together with Don Domingo Franco and others. In the event I was covered by General Primo de Rivera's amnesty proclamation and set free by virtue thereof after having been confined for almost nine months in the prisoners' section of the San Juan de Dios hospital in Manila. Months afterwards, I moved to the town of Los Baños, and thence to Bay, in the province of La Laguna, where I drafted a scheme for the organization of a general uprising, which I judged to be imminent in view of the general restlessness. This transpired two months before the declaration of war between the United States and Spain, which was soon followed by the annihilation of the Spanish fleet in the Philippines by Admiral Dewey on the 1st May 1898, and Mr. Aguinaldo's return to, the island s. When the latter, upon arrival, proclaimed to the people the readiness of the United States to help the Filipinos regain their natural rights, everyone thought that the government of that country, recognizing Mr. Aguinaldo as the representative of the Filipino people, had entered into a formal agreement with him, and so each province, acknowledging his indisputable leadership, went into action to fight the Spanish forces within its boundaries. This impression was confirmed by the vague and equivocal statements of the American commanders.

One of the copies of the scheme which I had drafted reached Mr. Aguinaldo's hands by chance, and he thereupon wrote, although he did not know me, asking me to help him. Although I was just as unacquainted with him, I wanted to help in the common endeavour as far as I was able, and I called on him at Cavite port on the 12th June 1898, the very day on which the independence of the Philippines was being proclaimed in the town of Kawit. I immediately asked him about the agreement he had concluded with the United States Government, and to my great surprise learned that there was none, and that the (American) consul in Singapore, Pratt, and Admiral Dewey had only given him verbal assurances that the United States Government did not want any part of the islands and it designed only to help the natives destroy the Spanish tyranny so that all the Filipinos could enjoy the blessings of an independent government. I realized then that the American representatives had limited themselves to ambigu ous verbal promises, which Mr. Aguinaldo had accepted because he ardently desired to return to the islands, fearful that other influential Filipinos should (rob him of glory and) reach an understanding with the Americans in the name of the people. I realized also that the proclamation of independence which was being made that day was premature and imprudent because the Americans were concealing their true designs while we were making ours manifest. I foresaw, of course, that because of this want of caution the American commanders and forces would be on guard against the revolutionists, and the United States consuls on the China coast would sabotage the purchase of arms for the revolution. However, unable to prevent the proclamation because I had arrived too late to do so, I kept my peace and set myself to studying in detail the measures most urgently called for in the existing situation.

The sudden general uprising had at one blow destroyed the structure established by the Spanish administration in the provinces and towns of the archipelago, and it was therefore urgently necessary to found a new structure so that anarchy might not lead to fatal consequences. I proposed a scheme reorganizing the provinces and towns in the most democratic form possible in the circumstances and, with Mr. Aguinaldo's approval, it was carried out without loss of time. I followed this up with another proposal for the creation of the (government) departments needed for the orderly working of the central administration, as well as of an assembly or congress composed of two prominent residents of each province to advise Mr. Aguinaldo and propose measures for the common welfare and the attainment of the longed for rights. This congress would not have legislative functions because the state of war required an concentration of powers necessary for swift action, but I considered its creation indi spensable so that the provinces should not distrust the dictatorial authority of Mr. Aguinaldo. He approved my proposal and offered to make me the head of one of the new departments. I was not sure I was fit for the job because of my illness, and declined the offer, but for the time being I handled the limited amount of business regarding foreign relations until such time as Mr. Arellano, who had been offered this portfolio because of his recognized competence, should take over.

By this time General Anderson's brigade had already landed in Cavite, and the remaining forces commanded by General Merritt were beginning to arrive, making relations with the Americans more troublesome. On the other hand, the siege of Manila by the Filipino forces was stalled because of the lack of coordination in the activities of the columns operating in the different zones, and Aguinaldo, who, by virtue of his prestige, could alone impose such unity, could not make up his mind to take personal command of the operation. If the Filipinos had been able to take Manila before the arrival of General Merritt's forces, relations with the Americans would have been cleared up from the start. But it did not turn out that way. The Americans landed in Paranaque and attacked Manila, ignoring the Filipino besieging forces. Many Filipino military commanders were of the opinion that this behaviour was sufficient cause for the opening of hostilities against the Americans, but I advised Mr. Aguinald o to try to avoid the conflict at all costs because otherwise we would be facing two enemies, and the most likely result would be the partition of the islands between them.

After the capitulation of Manila, the Philippine, Government moved from Bacoor, Cavite, to Malolos, Bulacan, where the newly created Congress held its first session. The first results of this assembly's deliberations were the ratification of the proclamation of independence prematurely made in Kawit, and the decision to draft a constitution for the establishment of a Philippine Republic. I should note that, although Mr. Arellano had not yet assumed office as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, his deputy, Don Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera, had taken over the business of the department, so that I was then simply Mr. Aguinaldo's private adviser. As such I advised him to address a message to Congress, reminding it that Congress should not draft a constitution because it was not a constitutional convention; that neither could Congress enact laws because it had no legislative functions; and that its principal and urgent duty was to determine the best system for the organization of our armed forces and the raising of the funds needed for their maintenance, the plans agreed upon to be submitted to him. He was to add further that it was not the opportune time for the drafting of a constitution since the ind ependence of the Philippines was not yet officially recognized; that, once independence had been embodied in a constitution, the Philippine Government would be violating the fundamental law of the State; and that, in those arduous circumstances, I was of the opinion that the Government should have freedom of actin to negotiate an agreement which would prevent the horrors of war with the United States, on condition that such an agreement should bring positive benefits to the country and recognize the natural rights of the citizens. Mr. Aguinaldo submitted my opinion to the consideration of the members of his cabinet, I do not know in what terms; what I certainly know is that not only was my advice rejected but I was also bitterly criticized for holding tyrannical ideas and inculcating them in the head of the government. On account of these unfortunate services political scandal-mongers nicknamed me "Devil's Advocate to the President". Seeing that my advice was not only useless but even resented by th e cabinet members, and fearing that they would blame me for their own failures, I tried to disassociate myself from Mr. Aguinaldo moving to another house against his wishes, but he immediately ordered the installation of a telephone connexion between his house and my new residence, so that, to my discomfiture, I continued to play the part of devil's advocate. I limited this to giving my opinion on matters of great gravity and importance, and suggesting to Mr. Aguinaldo that it was his duty to lend his support to the actuations of his secretaries so long as they did not give evidence of unfitness or sufficient motive to believe they were abusing his confidence.

After a long wait, Mr. Arellano finally stated that he could not discharge the office of Secretary of Foreign Affairs, in view of which Mr. Aguinaldo insisted that I should take charge of the department. I accepted for the purpose of seeking an understanding with the United States Government before the proposed constitution was voted upon by the Philippine Congress, and assumed office on the 2nd January 1899. All my efforts failed because the Treaty of Paris, concluded on the 10th December the previous year, had vested in the Congress of the United States the authority to determine the civil rights and the political status of the Filipinos, and Congress -- according to the emphatic assurances of General Otis -- would not exercise that authority so long as the Filipinos were up in arms. Since the administration in Washington had a majority in Congress, it was very likely that the latter would take a decision, in accordance with the wishes of the administration; but if we surrendered unco nditionally, leaving our political fate at its mercy, the Americans would no longer have any doubts about our unfitness because, by not defending our freedom, we would be showing our little understanding and love for it. We had therefore to choose between war and the charge of unfitness. Amid this crisis, the Constitution of the Philippine Republic, already definitely voted upon and approved, was sent to the government for promulgation. I was still trying to delay it because of the gravity of the situation, but seeing that on the one hand, the representatives were obdurate and threatened a scandal, and that, oh the other hand, an understanding with the American Government was impossible because of its refusal to recognize our juridical existence and its insistence on unconditional surrender, I had to give in especially since Mr. Aguinaldo too was in favour of the promulgation. I did not yet have reason to even suspect that the most determined advocates of the promulgation of the Constitution would be the leas t ready to defend it at the least sign of danger to their persons and interests. Apprehending that war was inevitable, I limited my efforts to preventing the aggression from coming from our side, convinced that our weakness could not justify any provocation.

Meantime, on the other side of the sea, in the capital of the Republic of the United States, things were happening which merit all possible attention. The ratification of the Treaty of Paris was being postponed and delayed in the Senate by the stubborn opposition of the Democrats, and this persuaded President McKinley to stage what is called a coup d'etat. In the night of the 4th February, 1899 the American forces started an action that led to the outbreak of hostilities, and the news was immediately communicated to Washington. The likelihood of new complications with Spain, and perhaps with other powers, put an end to all opposition, and the treaty was ratified by the Senate on the 6th February. 'The amount, of $20,000,000 stipulated for the cession of the Philippines was appropriated by Congress on the 2nd March. The instruments of ratification having been exchanged on the 11th April, the price for the cession was paid on the lst May, thus consummating the purchase and sale.

Elsewhere Senator McEnery, explaining the administration's objectives, proposed in the Senate, that the United States declare it did not intend to annex the islands permanently, but rather to prepare the inhabitants for an autonomous government which would promote American and Filipino interests. For his part, Senator Bacon, expressing the wishes of the opposition, proposed an amendment asking the United States to declare that it renounce all purpose of exercising sovereignty, jurisdictions and control over the islands since its intention was to hand over their government and administration to the Filipinos when the latter should have established a stable government worthy of recognition. This amendment was put to a vote and 29 senators voted in favour, and another 29 against. The Vice-President of the United States, Hobart, as President of the Senate, broke the tie by giving his casting vote to those against, thus leading to the approval of the McEnery proposal, that is to say, the administration's policy. Under this proposal the Philippines can be neither a territory nor a state because it should not be permanently annexed to the United States, but, as property bought by. the United States, the latter can dispose of the Philippines at its discretion, that is to say, without the limitations of its Constitution. If the United States is the absolute owner of the islands, Congress has absolute power to legislate on them, and hence can fix at it's discretion the political status and civil rights of the inhabitants. If the latter enjoy life and liberty, it is not because they have an inborn right to them, by virtue of natural law, but because the United States Congress so wishes.. Undoubtedly President McKinley destroyed the Spanish tyranny, but, apparently, only in order to replace it with another in the American manner. It is interesting to observe that the Republican Party, led by a Lincoln in its beginnings, freed many millions o f slaves in the United States, while, led by a McKinley in its greatest period of vigour and prosperity, it made the United States the absolute owner of many millions of Filipinos. Immortal Washington, speaking of the Constitution of the United States, said that so long as the civic virtues did not wholly vanish among the classes of North-American society, the distribution of powers made in that Constitution would not permit an unjust policy to become permanent. God grant that the Americans do not, forget the father of their country, or defraud his fond hopes!

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