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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Andres Bonifacio's Untold Story

Andres Bonifacio
It's November 30, and it's Bonifacio's Day. So as a Filipino myself, I would like to commemorate his heroism by posting a brief documentary about his life. However, since we Filipinos already studied him way back in elementary under the subject Sibika at Kultura (Civic and Culture), perhaps we already knew about him. But, did you know that he had an untold story? The story that has been kept from us because of its controversial and perhaps, demoralizing nature.

For those who don't know the Filipino hero, here's a quick information about him:

Andres Bonifacio y de Castro (30 November 1863 - 10 May 1897) was a Filipino nationalist and revolutionary. He was the founder and later Supremo ("supreme leader") of the Katipunan (Society) movement, which sought the independence of the Philippines from Spanish colonial rule, that plague early Filipinos, and started the Philippine Revolution.

He was one of those who founded the KKK or otherwise known as Kataastaasang Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan ("Highest and Most Respected Society of the Children of the Country"). The secret society sought independence from Spain through armed revolt. It was influenced by Freemasonry through its rituals and organization, and several members aside from Bonifacio were also Freemasons. Among the Freemasons who influenced Bonifacio was Jose Rizal.

Rizal's liberal ideology incorporated into his two novels, Noli Me Tangere (Touch me not) and El Filibusterismo (The Filibuster) was said to had became among those things that inspired Bonifacio.

The Untold Story

There were two Katipunan provincial chapters in Cavite that became rival factions: the Magdalo, headed by Emilio Aguinaldo's cousin Baldomero Aguinaldo, and the Magdiwang, headed by Mariano Alvarez, uncle of Bonifacio's wife. Leaders of both factions came from the upper class, in contrast to Bonifacio, who came from the lower middle class. After initial successes in their revolutionary campaign, Emilio Aguinaldo issued a manifesto in the name of the Magdalo ruling council which proclaimed a provisional and revolutionary government despite the existence of the Katipunan government. Emilio Aguinaldo in particular had won fame for victories in the province. The Magdalo and Magdiwang clashed over authority and jurisdiction and did not help each other in battle. Bonifacio was called to Cavite to mediate between them and unify their efforts. In late 1896, he traveled to Cavite accompanied by his wife, his brothers Procopio and Ciriaco, and some troops.

In Cavite, tension grew between Bonifacio and the Magdalo leaders. Apolinario Mabini, who later served as Emilio Aguinaldo's adviser, writes that at this point, the Magdalo leaders "already paid little heed to his authority and orders." Bonifacio was partial to the Magdiwang, perhaps due to his kinship ties with Mariano Alvarez, or more importantly, due to their stronger recognition of his authority. When Aguinaldo and Edilberto Evangelista went to receive Bonifacio at Zapote, they were irritated with what they regarded as his attitude of superiority. In his memoirs, Aguinaldo wrote that Bonifacio acted "as if he were a king." At one instance, Bonifacio ordered the arrest of one Magdalo leader for failing to support his attack in Manila, but the other Magdalo leaders refused to surrender him. Townspeople in Noveleta (a Magdiwang town) acclaimed Bonifacio as the ruler of the Philippines, to the chagrin of the Magdalo leaders, Bonifacio replied: "long live Philippine Liberty!" Aguinaldo disputed with Bonifacio over strategic troop placements and blamed him for the capture of the town of Silang. The Spanish, through Jesuit Superior Pio Pi, wrote to Aguinaldo about the possibility of peace negotiations. When Bonifacio found it out, he and the Magdiwang council rejected the proposed peace talks. Bonifacio was also angered that the Spanish considered Aguinaldo the "chief of the rebellion" instead of him. However, Aguinaldo continued to arrange negotiations which never took place. Bonifacio believed Aguinaldo was willing to surrender the revolution.

Bonifacio was also subject to rumors that he had stolen Katipunan funds, his sister was the mistress of a priest, and he was an agent provocateur paid by friars to foment unrest. Also circulated were anonymous letters which told the people of Cavite not to idolize Bonifacio because he was a Mason, a mere Manila employee, allegedly an atheist, and uneducated. According to these letters, Bonifacio did not deserve the title of Supremo since only God was supreme. This last allegation was made despite the fact that Supremo was meant to be used in conjunction with Presidente (President), i. e. Presidente Supremo (Supreme President) to distinguish the president of the Katipunan Supreme Council from council presidents of subordinate Katipunan chapters like the Magdalo and Magdiwang. Apparently, this was a black propaganda whom Bonifacio suspected to be the work of Magdalo leader Daniel Tirona. He confronted Tirona, whose airy reply provoked Bonifacio to such anger that he drew a gun and would have shot Tirona if others had not intervened.

On December 31, Bonifacio and the Magdalo and Magdiwang leaders held a meeting in Imus, ostensibly to determine the leadership of Cavite in order to end the rivalry between the two factions. The issue of whether the Katipunan should be replaced by a revolutionary government was brought up by the Magdalo, and this eclipsed the rivalry issue. The Magdalo argued that the Katipunan, as a secret society, should have ceased to exist once the Revolution was underway. They also held that Cavite should not be divided. Bonifacio and the Magdiwang contended that the Katipunan served as their revolutionary government since it had its own constitution, laws, and provincial and municipal governments. Edilberto Evangelista presented a draft constitution for the proposed government to Bonifacio but this had earlier been rejected as too similar to the Spanish Maura Law. Upon the event of restructuring, Bonifacio was given carte blanche (Full Powers) to appoint a committee tasked with setting up a new government; he would also be in charge of this committee. He requested for the minutes of the meeting to establish this authority, but these were never provided.

The Tejeros Convention

The rebel leaders held another meeting in a friar estate house in Tejeros on March 22, 1897 on the pretense of more discussion between the Magdalo and Magdiwang, but in reality, it was meant to settle the issue of leadership of the revolution. Amidst insinuations that the Katipunan government was monarchical or dictatorial, Bonifacio maintained it was republican. According to him, all its members of whatever rank followed the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity, upon which republicanism is founded. He presided over the elections that followed, despite his misgivings over the lack of representation by other provinces. Before elections started, he asked that the results be respected by everyone, and all agreed. The Cavite leaders vote their own Emilio Aguinaldo President in absentia, as he was in the battlefield. A later iteration of Aguinaldo's government was inaugurated on June 23, 1899 as the Republica Filipina (Philippine Republic). It is considered the first Republic of the Philippines.

Bonifacio received the second-highest number of votes for President. Though it was suggested that he be automatically be awarded the Vice Presidency, no one seconded the motion and elections continued. Mariano Trias of the Magdalo, who was formerly a Magdiwang, was elected Vice President. Bonifacio was the last to be elected, as Director of the Interior. Daniel Tirona, who had helped distribute the ballots, protested Bonifacio's election to Director of the Interior on the grounds that the position should not be occupied by a person without a lawyer's diploma. Tirona suggested a prominent Cavite lawyer for the position. Hurt and angered, Bonifacio demanded an apology, since the voters had agreed to respect the election results. Instead, Tirona left the room, Bonifacio drew his gun and nearly shot Tirona again, but he was restrained by Artemio Ricarte of the Magdiwang, who had been elected Captain-General. As people left the room, Bonifacio declared: "I, as chairman of this assembly and as President of the Supreme Council of the Katipunan, as all of you do not deny, declare this assembly dissolved, and I annul all that had been approved and resolved."

The next day, Aguinaldo surreptitiously took his oath of office as President in a chapel officiated by a Catholic priest Cenon Villafranca who was under the authority of the Roman pope. According to General Santiago Alvarez, guards were posted outside with strict instructions not to let in any unwanted partisan from the Magdiwang faction while the oath-taking took place. Artemio Ricarte also took his office "with great reluctance" and made a declaration that he found the Tejeros elections "dirty or shady" and "not been in conformity with the true will of the people." Meanwhile, Bonifacio met with his remaining supporters and drew up the Acta de Tejeros (Act of Tejeros) wherein they gave their reasons for not accepting the election results. Bonifacio alleged the election was fraudulent due to cheating and accused Aguinaldo of treason due to his negotiations with the Spanish. In their memoirs, Santiago Alvarez (son of Mariano Alvarez) and Gregoria de Jesus both alleged that many ballots were already filled out before being distributed, and Guillermo Masangkay contended there were more ballots prepared than voters present. Alvarez writes that Bonifacio had been warned of the rigged ballots before the votes were canvassed, but he had done nothing.

Aguinaldo later sent a delegation to Bonifacio to get him to cooperate, but the latter refused. Bonifacio appointed Emilio Jacinto general of the rebel forces in Manila, Morong, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija. In Naik, Bonifacio met with Artemio Ricarte and others, including generals Pio del Pilar and Mariano Noriel of the Magdalo who had defected to his side. Bonifacio asserted his leadership of the revolution with the Naik Military Agreement, a document which appointed Pio del Pilar commander-in-chief of the revolutionary force. Bonifacio's meeting was interrupted by Aguinaldo himself, and del Pilar and Noriel promptly returned to Aguinaldo's fold. In late April, Aguinaldo fully assumed presidential office after consolidating his position among the Cavite elite - most of Bonifacio's Magdiwang supporters declaring allegiance to Aguinaldo. Aguinaldo's government then ordered the arrest of Bonifacio, who was then moving out of Cavite.

Capture, Trial, and Death

A party of Aguinaldo's men led by Agapito Bonzón and Jose Ignacio Paua met with Bonifacio at his camp in Indang. Unaware of the order for his arrest, Bonifacio received them cordially. The next day, Bonzón and Paua attacked Bonifacio's camp. Bonifacio did not fight back and ordered his men to hold their fire, though shots were nevertheless exchanged. In the crossfire, Bonifacio was shot in the arm, and Paua stabbed him in the neck, but was prevented from striking further by one of Bonifacio's men, who offered to be killed in his stead. Ciriaco, Bonifacio's brother was shot dead, while his other brother Procopio was beaten senseless, and his wife Gregoria may have been raped by Bonzón.

Bonifacio's party was brought to Naik, where he and Procopio stood trial on charges of sedition and treason against Aguinaldo's government and conspiracy to murder Aguinaldo. The jury was composed entirely of Aguinaldo's men and even Bonifacio's defense lawyer himself declared his client's guilt. Bonifacio was barred from confronting the state witness for the charge of conspiracy to murder on the grounds that the latter had been killed in battle, but after the trial, the witness was seen alive with the prosecutors.

The Bonifacio brothers were found guilty despite insufficient evidence and recommended to be executed. Aguinaldo commuted the sentence to deportation on May 8, 1897, but Pio del Pilar and Mariano Noriel, both former supporters of Bonifacio, persuaded him to withdraw the order for the sake of preserving unity. In this, they were seconded by Mamerto Natividad and other bona fide supporters of Aguinaldo. The Bonifacio were executed on May 10, 1897 in the mountains of Maragondon. Apolinario Mabini wrote that Bonifacio's death demoralized many rebels from Manila, Laguna, and Batangas, who had come to help those in Cavite, and caused them to quit. In other areas, some of Bonifacio's associates like Emilio Jacinto never subjected their military commands to Aguinaldo's authority.

Reactions to Trial and Execution

Historians have condemned the trial of the Bonifacio brothers as unjust. The jury was entirely composed of Aguinaldo's men; Bonifacio's defense lawyer acted more like a prosecutor as he himself declared Bonifacio's guilt and instead appealed for less punishment; and Bonifacio was not allowed to confront the state witness for the charge of conspiracy on the grounds that the latter had been killed in battle, where in reality, was still alive. Teodoro Agoncillo writes that Bonifacio's declaration of authority in opposition to Aguinaldo posed a danger to the revolution, because a split in the rebel forces would result in almost certain defeat to their united and well-armed Spanish foe.

In contrast, Renato Constantino writes that Bonifacio was neither a danger to the revolution in general for he still planned to fight the Spanish, nor to the Revolution in Cavite since he was leaving; but Bonifacio was definitely a threat to the Cavite leaders who wanted control of the Revolution, so he was eliminated. Constantino contrasts Bonifacio who had no record of compromise with the Spanish with the Cavite leaders who did compromise, resulting in the Pact of Biak-na-Bato whereas the revolution was officially halted and its leaders exiled, though many Filipinos continued to fight (though Aguinaldo, unofficially allied with the United States, did return to take charge of the revolution during the Spanish-American War).

Historians have also discussed the motives of the Cavite government to replace Bonifacio, and whether it had the right to do so. The Magdalo provincial council which helped establish a republican government led by one of their own was only one of many such councils in the pre-existing Katipunan government. Therefore, Constantino and Alejo Villanueva write Aguinaldo and his faction may be considered counter-revolutionary as well - as guilty of violating Bonifacio's constituted authority just as they considered Bonifacio to violate theirs. Aguinaldo's own adviser and official Apolinario Mabini writes that he was "primarily answerable for insubordination against the head of the Katipunan of which he was a member." Aguinaldo's authority was not immediately recognized by all rebels. If Bonifacio had escaped Cavite, he would have had the right as the Katipunan leader to prosecute Aguinaldo for treason instead of the other way around. Constantino and Villanueva also interpret the Tejeros Convention as the culmination of a movement by members of the upper class represented by Aguinaldo to wrest power from Bonifacio who represented the middle and lower classes. Regionalism among the Cavite rebels, dubbed "Cavitismo" by Constantino, has also been put forward as motivation for the replacement of Bonifacio. Mabini considered the execution as criminal and "assassination... the first victory of personal ambition over true patriotism." He also noted that "All the electors at the Tejeros Convention were friends of Don Emilio Aguinaldo and Don Mariano Trias, who were united, while Bonifacio, although he had established his integrity, was looked upon with distrust only because he was not a native of the province: this explains his resentment."

Manner of Execution

There are differing accounts of Bonifacio's manner of execution. The commanding officer of the execution party, Lazaro Macapagal, said in two separate accounts that the Bonifacio brothers were shot to death, which is the orthodox interpretation. Macapagal's second account has Bonifacio attempting to escape after his brother is shot, but he is also killed while running away. Macapagal writes that they buried the brothers in shallow graves dug with bayonets and marked by twigs.

However, another account states that after his brother was shot, Bonifacio was stabbed and hacked to death. This was allegedly done while he lay prone in a hammock in which he was carried to the site, being too weak to walk. This version was maintained by Guillermo Masangkay, who claimed to have gotten this information from one of Macapagal's men. Also, one account used to corroborate this version is of an alleged eyewitness, a farmer who claimed he saw five men hacking a man in a hammock. Historian Milagros Guerrero also says Bonifacio was bayoneted, and that the brothers were left unburied. After bones said to be Bonifacio's - including a fractured skull - were discovered in 1918, Masangkay claimed the forensic evidence supported his version of events. Writer Adrian Cristobal notes that accounts of Bonifacio's captivity and trial state he was very weak due to his wounds being left untreated; he thus doubts that Bonifacio was strong enough to make a last dash for freedom as Macapagal claimed. Historian Ambeth Ocampo, who doubts the Bonifacio bones were authentic, thus also doubts the possibility of Bonifacio's death by this manner.


Anonymous said...

mula noon hanggang ngayon corrupt pa rin.

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