by Apolinario Mabini
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
Although from May 1899 until the following December, when I was captured by the American forces, I not only held no official position but did not even reside, near the seat of the Philippine Government, nevertheless, having felt obliged to take up the people's cause, I believe it also to be my duty to give my countrymen an accounting of my activities now that I think it time to consider them at an end.
From my capture until my banishment to Guam I had the honour to discuss at length the termination of the war and the pacification of the islands with Generals MacArthur and J. F. Bell. A glance at the results of those discussions will give an idea of my conduct.
The said generals began by expressing to me their eagerness that I should contribute to the pacification of the islands for only by these means would the Filipinos attain their welfare. I, replied that I ardently desired, the same thing and asked them to tell me in. what form my cooperation would be of value. They then told me that they would have confidence in me and accept my services only when I had unconditionally recognized American sovereignty in the Philippines, especially if I also helped them in the establishment of the government they judged most conducive to the happiness of. the Filipino people. Again I demurred, saying that as soon as I did what they required, my countrymen, in their state of mind at that time, would forthwith withdraw their confidence from me, and, having thus lost my influence over the Filipinos, I would be useless. for the purposes of pacification or any other advantageous objective.
The aforesaid generals thought my reply was only a pretext to remain in a position which they considered to be one of systematic opposition to the American's plans. For this reason, they told me, they were convinced that my intransigent attitude and that of Mr. Aguinaldo were the only obstacles in the way of the sought-for peace, and, since they were determined to achieve it for the good of the Filipinos themselves, they might find it necessary to remove these obstacles by deporting the irreconcilable. I stated that in my judgment the Revolution had been caused, not by mere personal ambition, but by the ungratified aspirations of the people, and I was fully convinced that, if Mr. Aguinaldo and I acted in open disagreement with public opinion, we would be discredited and by the same token unable to prevent, the resumption of hostilities, sooner or later, by new leaders. True peace, I said, could be attained only if the Americans should come to know how to win the confidence of the Filipinos, and arbitrary and violent processes would never arouse such confidence; the experience of the Spanish regime had shown that deportations only served to excite hatred and hostility since it was cruel and unjust to impose the double penalty of imprisonment and indefinite exile on persons whose offenses had not been proven in court. I said finally that, far from opposing the plans of the Americans, I had tried to make known in all sincerity the true sentiments of the Filipinos in general and the revolutionists in particular, so that ignorance of these sentiments might not lead to the formulation of a mistaken policy prejudicial to the cause of peace, and that I wanted to preserve my good repute at all costs to be useful not only to the Filipinos but also to the Americans. The latter might err in their estimates; it might happen that despite banishment and the capture or surrender of Aguinaldo the islands were not pacified; and in that case the help of, those Filipinos who had not forfeited the trust of the revolutionists would be indispensable for the achievement of peace, for which end I wanted to keep myself in reserve in default of others better qualified, or at the very least to help these and be of some use to them if need be.
Reflecting now on subsequent events, I find no evidence that my banishment to Guam contributed in any way toward the capture of Aguinaldo and Lukban or the surrender of Malvar and other Filipino leaders; on the contrary, there is reason to believe that this error had more than a little to do with the prolongation of hostilities and loss of lives. Diplomacy having been despised as a weapon fit only for the weak, the struggle could cease only when the revolutionists no longer had the means to continue it. It is not in the ordinary and natural course of events that the weak should overcome the strong. We fought in the conviction that our dignity and sense of duty required the sacrifice of defending our freedoms as long as we could, since without them social equality between the dominant class and the native population would be impossible in practice and perfect justice among us could not have been achieved. Yet we knew it would not be long before our scant resources were exhausted, and our defeat inevitable. The struggle thus became unjustified and indefensible from the moment that the vast majority of the population chose submission to the conqueror, and many of the revolutionists themselves joined his ranks, since, unable to enjoy their natural freedoms -- being prevented from doing so by the American forces -- and lacking means to remove this obstacle, they deemed it prudent to yield and put their hopes on the promises made in the name of the people of the United States. The surrender of the last partisan bands was followed by an amnesty proclamation, and on 24th August 1902 those banished to Guam were told that they could return to their country should they freely swear to recognize and accept the supreme authority of the United States in the Philippines, and to observe sincere, loyalty and obedience to the same, without mental reservation or purpose of evasion. To satisfy a scrupulous conscience -- it did not seem to me reasonable or correct to pledge my word without first making sure I should do so -- I asked to be taken prisoner to Manila in conformity with the proclamation which provided that "the oath be taken before any authority in the Philippine Archipelago authorized to administer such oaths." The governor of Guam promised to transmit my petition to the competent authorities, without, however, advising me that he would not know the decision until toward the end of the following December. Nonetheless, I preferred to wait. Then, on the 9th February 1903 the commanding officer of the prison camp handed me letter from the governor, advising me that I was free to go anywhere except the Philippines, whither I could not return without taking the oath of allegiance.
I asked for time to think it over since it was not so easy for me to come to a decision as it seemed at first sight. In the first place, like any other man, I hold to certain truths which rule and guide my conscience and which constitute my articles of faith. They. enjoin me to believe that all authority over the people resides, by natural law, in the people themselves; whence, faced with the idea of taking the oath of allegiance to the authority of the United States in the Philippines, it seemed to me that I would be asking God to sanction an act contrary to the law or order which He had himself imposed on the world from the beginning of time. My conscience told me it was blasphemy to ask God's help in doing something He himself abhorred. Furthermore, if freedom of thought and speech was one of the privileges of every citizen of the. Philippines, would it be lawful to require me to forswear my beliefs at the very moment that I was promising to lead a peaceful and honourable life? If the practices observed by all civilized nations extended this freedom to include all doctrines which did not promote the subversion of social order and the depravation of customs, could an oath, imposed by the executive power contrary to the spirit of American institutions and a fair interpretation of the, laws in force in the Philippines, be considered valid? Having taken an unconditional oath of allegiance to the authority of the United States in the Philippines, would it be lawful for me, without betraying my sworn allegiance, to advocate afterwards the diminution of that authority, asking for the people the self -government publicly promised to the Filipinos for such time as they, were fit for it? If any obligation contrary to natural law is essentially null and void, would it not be more practical and salutary to seek another formula which would reconcile the respect due to the law and to the fulfillment of the state's obligations, with the sanctity of an oath and the promises of the government, so that the Filipinos might not grow to look on perjury as legitimate?
It is true that whoever attempts to govern on the basis of theories alone is bound to fail because the science of government is essentially practical; but it is also true that all practices contrary to theory, that is to say, contrary to reason and science, can fittingly be termed abuses, that is to say, corrupt practices, since they corrupt society. The ruler's success is always to be found in the adjustment of his practical measures to the natural and immutable order of things and to the special needs of the locality, An adjustment that can be made with the help of the theoretical knowledge and experience. The source of all failures in government can, therefore be found, not in (mistaken) theories but in unprincipled practices arising from base passions or ignorance. If the Government of the United States has been able to lead the Union along the paths of prosperity and greatness, it is because its practices have not diverged from the theories contained in the Declarations of Independence and of the Rights of Man, which constitute an exposition of the principles of natural law implanted by the scientific revolutions in the political field. If truth is to be found in the synchronization of reason and experience, rectitude lies in the synchronization of theory and practice.
Nevertheless, after many vacillations and soul-searching anxiety, I attained at last the tranquillity produced by a firm conviction. My conscience is clear that it was licit for me to take the oath because it was unavoidable, the reason being that a need more imperious than the love of truth demanded my return to the islands. The more we read the history of humankind, the more must we observe that, in the frequent wars which have inflamed the peoples of the earth from the remotest times to our own days, just as fortresses and cities always had to surrender, to the victor, so also reason and justice, many times if not always, had perforce to yield to the exigencies of power. Conquered peoples have submitted to the impositions of the conqueror in order to survive, survival being indispensable for the preservation of the human race nature's paramount need or law. Now that the Filipino people have submitted themselves to the authority of the United States to escape their ruin, my continued stay in Guam could have been interpreted as contravening the will of the people, as persisting in a desperate prolongation of the strife. When the people went to war, I thought it my duty to be, at their side and help them endure it to the end; now that they feel they lack the strength to continue fighting for their rights, I believe I should likewise be at their side, to tell 'them not to despair but have greater confidence in themselves, in justice, and in the future.
The truth is that I never had the courage to rouse up my countrymen when they preferred to live undisturbed. I worked enthusiastically with Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar and others who, after exposing the evils inflicted on the Filipinos by a willful or arbitrary regime, once asked the Spanish Government for the political assimilation of the Philippines as a Spanish province just so that many Filipinos should not seek the remedy for those evils in separatism by organizing a society like the Katipunan or an uprising, like that of 1896. Conscious of the calamities and miseries that arise from the subversion of public order, I was not a member of the first nor did I join the second. But when in 1898 I saw on ill sides the vexation and indignation caused by the blind obstinacy of the Spanish Government, and the cruelties with which it rewarded the services of those who had shown it the dangers of its maladministration in the Philippines and suggested the remedies to avert them, I saw clearly the avowed will of the people and my manifest duty to abide by it and to influence the Revolution so that, destroying only what was outworn and useless in the old regime, it should establish a new one more suitable to the true needs of the Filipinos and more adaptable to the changes or reforms demanded by its advancing civilization. I joined the struggle in the belief that I was following the voice of the people; I quit it now for the same reason.
My past sets the standard for my actions in the future. Instead of organizing fresh uprisings I shall seek the means to avoid them, for that, it seems to me, is the duty in times of peace of every honest citizen who truly loves his country. The same tenacity with which I defended our natural rights during the war is now called for by the conviction that the recognition of those rights by the United States constitutes the surest guarantee of peace and the most trustworthy safeguard against future insurrections. Fighting to the limits of our strength and of reasonableness, all we have accomplished has been to show our love of freedom; now that the United States have seen fit to recognize we are entitled to a measure of that freedom, guaranteeing to each citizen the exercise of certain rights which make our communal life less constricted, it is incumbent upon us to show that all we want are those rights, that all we desire is freedom of action to increase our treasury of culture and welfare, thus accrediting the capacity which justifies our claim to the promised recognition of the remainder of our freedom.
I can avow that the United States will very probably try to fulfill their pledges inasmuch as they know: (1) that their sovereignty has not been sought by the Filipinos but rather has been imposed upon them; (2) that whether the present cessation of hostilities is to become a true peace or a simple. truce, more or less extended, will depend on their treatment of, the Filipinos; (3) that Spain, in prohibiting in the Philippines the organization of associations or political parties to prevent their becoming spokesmen of. the desires of the people, fomented the organization of partisan bands, and, in proscribing the Liga Filipina, opened the way for the Katipunan; and (4) lastly, that any colonial regime, which does a not know how to adjust itself to the needs aroused by, the ever increasing culture of the colonized and by their ever easier and more intimate intercourse with civilized countries, encourages the separation of the colony and, at the same time, political corruption and decadence in the metropolis. If we should add to these counsels of reason and lessons of history the pride of a people that knows its own power and greatness and thinks it knows the way of the world, we could well affirm that there is-no reason for mistrust at this time when we should forget past grievances and sacrifice them for the sake of the reconciliation and brotherly union of Americans and Filipinos. Not only have the United States assured that this union is the most certain guarantee of our happiness but, by making themselves the arbiter of our fate, they have compelled us perforce to think it so. So be it, then but meantime let us labour to make our minds and hearts fit for whatever is worthy and honourable in life in the expectation that time will lift the veil of the future to show us the true way of our progress and happiness.
Now, since my illness requires a less strenuous life, I return, driven by circumstances to the obscurity, from whence I came in order to hide my shame and sorrow, not at having. acted dishonorably, but at not having rendered better service. It is not for me, of course, to say whether, I have acted well or badly, correctly or mistakenly. However, I cannot close without saying. that I have no other balm to sweeten the bitterness of a harsh and melancholy life than the satisfaction given by the conviction of having always done what I believed to be my duty. God grant that I can say the same at the hour of my death.
updated: December 22, 1998
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger