The Bonifacio Monument – ‘Monumento’ sa Kaloocan (Facebook)
(Ed’s note: As we celebrate National Heroes Day today (November 30) in the Philippines, we present two views on the two prominent figures in Philippine history – Jose Rizal, whose day is celebrated very December 30, the day he was executed by the Spanish colonizers in 1896 and Andres Bonifacio, on November 30, as Bonifacio Day in commemoration of his birthday on November 30, 1863.)
The case for Andres Bonifacio as the first Philippine president
Bonifacio, often portrayed with a bolo in hand, is most known for leading the Katipuneros’ revolt against the Spanish colonizers.However, he died not in battle but under orders from another Katipunero, Emilio Aguinaldo, who is currently recognized as the first Philippine president.
Aguinaldo won in a snap election during the Tejeros Convention between the Magdiwang and Magdalo — two rival factions of the Katipunan.
The belief that Bonifacio should be recognized as the first President of the Philippines is based on his position as Supremo of the Katipunan revolutionary government from 1896 to 1897.
“From that point on, the Katipunan ceased to be a mere revolutionary organization into a revolutionary government. Ang unang pambansang pamahalaan sa Pilipinas,” historian Xiao Chua said.
The first Philippine government?
On August 24, 1896, Andres Bonifacio convened the Kataastaasang Kapulungan (Supreme Council), declaring an armed revolution against Spain.
It was in the same meeting that they established the Katipunan as a national government, and held an election of officials to lead the army and the nation.
“The Katipunan was more than a secret revolutionary society; it was, withal, a Government. It was the intention of Bonifacio to have the Katipunan govern the whole Philippines after the overthrow of Spanish rule,” Gregorio F. Zaide, who wrote a history of the Katipunan, was quoted in an article by historians Milagros C. Guerrero, Emmanuel N. Encarnacion, and Ramon N. Villegas.
Bonifacio referred to the country as Haring Bayang Katagalugan (“Sovereign Tagalog Nation”), Guerrero wrote in “Reform and Revolution, Kasaysayan: The History of the Filipino People 5.”
In letters addressed to Emilio Jacinto in 1897, Bonifacio’s titles and designations included Ang Kataastaasang Pangulo and Pangulo ng Haring Bayang Katalugan—his concept of the Philippine nation.
Bonifacio defined “Tagalog” as the term for all Filipinos, and not only those who spoke the language. In referring to the nation as Katalugan, Bonifacio went against the colonial “Filipinas.”
Should the Katipunan revolutionary government be recognized, this would predate the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897.
Bonifacio arrived at the meeting, which was intended to resolve the issues between the two groups. However, Aguinaldo wanted to dissolve the Katipunan and establish a revolutionary government.
“Iyon ay isang masasabi mong maneobra para matanggal na si Bonifacio sa puwesto. Habang andoon ang Katipunan hindi siya matatanggal. So pinalitan nila ang agenda,” UP Manila professor Danilo Aragon said in “Case Unclosed: Ang Lihim ng 1897”.
Snap elections were held, and Aguinaldo was voted president. Meanwhile, Bonifacio was voted as Director of Interior.
Daniel Tirona, a Magdalo, protested Bonifacio’s election, claiming he was not qualified for the job. Insulted, Bonifacio, who presided over the election, declared the assembly dissolved. The next day, Bonifacio and other Magdiwang members created the Acta de Tejeros, a document stating they did not adopt the election results of the convention.
“Yung klase ng trapo politics na mayroon tayo ngayon, ay nagsimula pa noong panahon pa nila Aguinaldo sa Tejeros Convention. Nandoon na ‘yung lokohan, panlalait sa mga kandidato na walang pera,” Aragon said.
On May 10, 1897, Bonifacio and his brother Procopio were killed under orders from Aguinaldo, who issued a statement 50 years later saying he had authorized the death sentence as advised by members of the Council of War.
A photo of Aguinaldo’s statement dated March 22, 1948 was published in Teodoro Agoncillo’s “Revolt of the Masses.”
“Kawawa si Bonifacio, dahil parang hindi siya binigyan ng tamang respeto bilang nagtatag ng Katipunan at nagsimula ng rebolusyon,” Villegas said in “Case Unclosed”.
Aguinaldo ordered the commutation of the death sentence, but was convinced otherwise. The brothers were killed in the mountain of Maragondon, Cavite, and reports say Bonifacio’s wife Gregoria De Jesus was raped by one of Aguinaldo’s men.
Aragon said De Jesus searched for Bonifacio in the mountains for one month, because she had not been told that her husband was already dead.
“Kung binuhay mo din si Bonifacio, manggugulo naman siya. Kung na sa sitwasyon ka nung kampo ni Aguinaldo, hindi mo rin siya puwedeng hayaan na buhay,” Villegas said.
Unsurprisingly, the descendants of the two men hold different opinions on the matter. “Kaya yan ang kinikilala naming hero ng pamilya sapagkat siya ay nakipaglaban sa Kastila at naproklama niya ang ating kasarinlan,” said former Prime Minister Cesar Virata, Aguinaldo’s descendant.
“Yung pagpatay sa kanya, state-sponsored killing ‘yan eh. Kasi para maging legitimate yung pagpatay sa tao kailangan idaan sa isang due process,” said attorney Gregorio Bonifacio, Procopio’s great-great-grandson.
According to the late former Supreme Court Justice Abraham Sarmiento, Bonifacio and his brother were not given due process. Sarmiento, in “The Trial of Andres Bonifacio: The Appeal” also said that Aguinaldo’s camp did not have enough evidence against the brothers.
But Aguinaldo’s kin believe Bonifacio’s actions were a crime against the country. “Mayroon din kaming mga storya at mga history books at sources na magsasabi na nararapat lang ang naging desisyon ni Emilio Aguinaldo noon, considering yun ay panahon ng digmaan,” said Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, great-great-grandson of Emilio Aguinaldo.
The boy from Tondo
The eldest child of a tailor and a factory worker, Bonifacio was able to reach the equivalent of second year high school and took care of his five siblings after their parents died.
In 1892, he joined La Liga Filipina, which was founded by Jose Rizal. In the same year, he established the KKK (Kataastaasan Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan).
With Rizal’s exile to Dapitan, La Liga Filipina collapsed. Meanwhile, the Katipunan grew over the next few years, and the revolution was launched in August 1896. Apart from historians, others have pushed for Bonifacio’s recognition as the first president, including Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) and Bonifacio’s own kin.
“Para sa kanya, ang kalayaan ay nangangahulugan ng kaginhawaan. Magkakaroon lang ng kaginhawaan ang mga mamamayan kung ikaw ay malaya sa kahirapan, malaya sa kamangmangan, malaya ka sa pangaapi,” Josua Mata, secretary general of Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) and co-convenor of SENTRO said.
Meanwhile, Bonifacio’s descendant Gregorio said they want to correct what is wrong. “Bilang apo ni Bonifacio, natural gusto naming itama kung ano ang mali. Not for anything else, because para yung susunod na henerasyon at nabasa nila na ito ang tama, alam nila kung ano ang gagawin nila,” he said.
But while the National Historical Council of the Philippines is open to such petitions, they maintain that Bonifacio was not the first President.
“We do not think of him as the first President, but rather we think of him as the leader of the Katipunan. Because for one reason, we do not yet have a government to call our own at that time,” said commission member Bryan Anthony Paraiso.
“It does not diminish his contribution to Philippine history,” Paraiso also said. — BM, GMA News
Illustration by Manix Abrera
Why I hate Jose Rizal
By Joel Pablo Salud
Editor in Chief,
Some Filipinos hate Jose Rizal. I am one of them.
Reasons vary. For some, Rizal was too much a part of the bourgeoisie to soil his hands with blood and gunpowder. Others stress he was a lackey of the Americans, a “safe” choice for a Filipino national hero all because his image as a writer fit into their “democratic” and “savior of the world” molds, unlike the revolution’s Supremo Andres Bonifacio.
Likewise, there are those who insist that Rizal’s refusal to be rescued from his prison in Dapitan and to take part in the revolution, regardless of Bonifacio’s prodding via Pio Valenzuela, did much to reveal Rizal’s “true” intentions: assimilation into the Spanish government rather than complete and utter independence from the colonizers.
To many, Rizal was a traitorous pencil pusher, a self-willed Ivory Tower recalcitrant.