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Tuesday, December 12, 2023

The Aguinaldo ‘confession’

"Where is the ethic of doing business here?"



Again, the Leon Gallery is about to auction historical documents. This time, included in the lot is a letter presumed to be addressed to historian Jose P. Santos, from and in the penmanship of General and First President Emilio Aguinaldo.

Perhaps to create more excitement, and thus, more interest, and higher bids, the letter is dubbed as Aguinaldo’s CONFESSION on the issue of the execution of Katipunan co-founder Andres Bonifacio. (I say co-founder because Bonifacio was with others when they established the Katipunan and he was not the first, or second, but the third President of the clandestine revolutionary organization. This in itself is an interesting story that could be the subject of another piece.)

Calling the letter a confession is fake news. It is misleading. This is sensationalism in the name of big bucks. If people care to read the so-called “explosive” letter, they will realize that it is NOT a confession. Rather, it gives the bigger context of the execution. It is a narration of what happened the way the General remembered it. Aguinaldo DID NOT confess to anything but relayed the story about Bonifacio’s tragic end.

Confession is a loaded word. It is an admission that one committed a wrongdoing, even a crime. It is an admission of guilt. It will not take a minute to find out the word’s meaning, and certainly, those who labeled it as such purposely used that word to increase the letter’s value in pesos. After all, theirs is a business, and like many businesses, they want huge profit.

Never mind if it comes at the expense of one of the most important persons in the country’s history. Never mind if such profit is brought about by peddling falsehoods, “fake news.” Where is the ethic of doing business here?

It does not help any that Leon Gallery’s marketing person, Lisa Nakpil, seems to harbor an acute hatred of Aguinaldo. This is evident in her postings on social media and her description of the recently auctioned “smoking telegram” purportedly from Gen. Aguinaldo to Gen. Antonio Luna that led to the killing of the latter. The bomb was a dud because it was NOT what it was trumpeted to be as also written by Ambeth Ocampo.

The Aguinaldo papers that will be auctioned are, by themselves, quite important and there is no need to create controversies surrounding them. These were written by a person whose contributions to the country’s quest for independence are difficult to match. These are in the hand of one of the most important personalities in Philippine history, a leading revolutionary, and the first President.

The alleged “confession” letter is very similar to a document I have studied and transcribed. Entitled, “Ang pagka patay kay Andres Bonifacio,” (The killing of Andres Bonifacio) was also fully in the handwriting of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. This is one of those he wrote after keeping mum for more than forty years about the controversies involving him, primarily the ones of Bonifacio and Luna. Like the one that is to be owned by the highest bidder, the document I transcribed narrated the events involving Bonifacio based on what Aguinaldo knew. THERE WAS NO CONFESSION.

The document is mostly written in old Tagalog. Aguinaldo’s exact words were, “…ang sanhi o causa ng pagkapabaril kay Supremo Andres Bonifacio at kapatid pa nitong Procopio, na walang iba kung di sa hatol ng Tribunal Militar…” Indeed, for launching two failed coups d’ etat (Acta de Tejeros and Acta de Naik) against the elected officials by the Tejeros Convention, and for threatening to burn the town of Indang down, Bonifacio was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to be executed for treason by the Council of War (Military Tribunal).

I believe that this is the correct framing of what happened to Bonifacio. He was found guilty of crimes against the very revolution he was not only part of, but was also leading.

General Aguinaldo continued, “Kung napaurong man ang aking pakanang indultuhan sana, sapagka’t noong malaman ng mga bumubuu ng nasabing Tribunal Militar na pinangungunahan ng Heneral Mariano Noriel na sinamahan pa ng bagong Heneral Pio del Pilar, ay pagdaka natawag agad ang pansing ko, na dapat ko ngang iurong ang nasabing indulto, kung ibig ko pa dao magtagal ang buhay at huag masira ang Pinag-isang Pamahalaan ng Himagsikan, sa Tejeros, na ayao kilalanin ng Supremo Andres Bonifacio…” (emphasis, mine)

These words speak of the fact that Gen. Aguinaldo actually commuted the sentence of the Bonifacio brothers from execution to exile, something that not many know. However, members of the Council of War (Generals Noriel and Pio Del Pilar) pleaded with him to allow the carrying out of the original sentence to preserve his own life and the unity of the revolution. For the Council of War, Bonifacio would not stop creating problems and divisions that could spell failure for the revolution.

Aguinaldo relented with a heavy heart. He did not shirk from or deny this. He acknowledged that in the end, he gave in to the Council of War and ordered the carrying out of the sentence. Is this what Aguinaldo bashers call as “confession”? Far from it because he was not the one found guilty of committing crimes. It was Bonifacio. Aguinaldo listened to the Council, and chose the revolution. It must have been a very difficult decision for him.

We need to understand these things within the bigger context that they happened. It was a time of war. Battles were raging left and right. In fact, after the success of freeing Cavite, the province was about to fall again in the hands of the Spaniards. During his time in Cavite, Bonifacio was uncompromising in his refusal to help the Magdalo in fighting the war. He was with the Magdiwang. He was fostering division as proven by Acta de Tejeros and Acta de Naik, his attempts at wrestling authority from those elected during the Tejeros Convention. The last straw was when he threatened to burn down Indang because townsfolk refused to give him food and arms. He contributed to the fall of the revolution in Cavite. This was the backdrop of his tragic end.

Leon gallery should stop this disservice to our history and our country. Instead of propagating “hate history” by misrepresenting historical documents, it should use its clout so Filipinos better understand and appreciate our story as a nation.

@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook

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