by Jesusa Bernardo & Tony Donato (updated August 30, 2011)
May 10, 1897. Time of the Philippine Revolution against Spain. The infamous tragic day of the Katipunan. A day of combined shame and mourning for Tagalog/Filipino people. At Mt. Buntis, Maragondon, Cavite, the assassination-cum-execution of Andres Bonifacio y de Castro, Supreme President of the secret-society-turned-revolutionary-government Kataastaasang Kagalanggalangang Katipunan nang manga Anak nang Bayan, along with his brother Procopio. Killed under orders of Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, that Katipunero the Supremo personally inducted but who managed to depose and eliminate him within only nine months from the outbreak of the Himagsikan.
Aguinaldo Camp's Account. True Account?
The story on the tragedy of the Philippine revolutionary government that was Katipunan when its co-founder, soul, driving force, and Generalissimo was eliminated is anything but clear and settled. The seemingly official Philippine government story embraces the Tejeros Convention all the way to the Council of War court martial records. This is seen in this History Today post of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines:
--Andrés Bonifacio is arrested by Aguinaldo’s men at barrio Limbon, near Indang, Cavite. --General Mariano Noriel sends a brief letter to President Aguinaldo in Naic informing him of the report of Colonel Agapito Bonzon, who arrested Andrés Bonifacio and some twenty followers, after an armed encounter in Barrio Limbon, Indang, Cavite.
Judging from how the title "Supremo" or Katipunan "Supreme President" was nowhere to be found while Aguinaldo and the 'arresting' men were equipped with the titles "President," "General" and even the relatively lowly "Colonel" respectively. Also, the choice of the word "arrest" is so loaded with the assumption that Aguinaldo at that point wielded authority while Bonifacio did not.
This rather apparent critical tendency favoring Aguinaldo is seen as well in how he has dislodged the Supremo's position in the design of peso bills and coins. From having absolutely no presence in Philippine money, the Supremo's nemesis came to be featured in Philippine bills and coins. Aguinaldo's face first appeared in the P5 bill in the latter part of the Marcos presidency at a time when Bonifacio was in the P2 bill, second in billing only to Jose Rizal. By the time of Fidel Ramos, Bonifacio was relegated to the P10 bill, ironically sharing limelight with a figure historically associated not with him but with Aguinaldo--the Great Paralytic, Apolinario Mabini y Maranan.
The devaluation of Bonifacio and appreciation of Aguinaldo in Philippine historiography, money, and government-sponsored textbooks/web posts seem to have begun with the administration of President Diosdado Macapagal, a descendant of Lazaro Makapagal. President Macapagal, in a move that can be applauded for defying the imperialist United States' continuing hegemony, changed the independence day of the Philippines from the American-sponsored July 4, 1946 to the date declared by Aguinaldo, June 12, 1898. Some history-conscious critics charge that Macapagal's move was designed to cleanse the family from the stigma of their ancestor Makapagal being the berdugo (executioner) of the Supremo. Whether President Diosdado acted from sheer nationalist motivations or from the impulsion to restore family honor, the change in independence day would help pave the way to elevating a dubious, if not antagonist revolutionary figure that was Aguinaldo. [Check out: The Devaluation of a Hero & Promotion of a Counter-Hero: Where's Andres Bonifacio in the P5 Coin?]
The bottom line is that with the depreciation of the Father of the Philippine Revolution and the appreciation of his murderously power-grabbing nemesis, Aguinaldo, the great injustice of the coup and kangaroo-court trial and execution committed against the Supremo is glossed over.
Perhaps, this should not be that surprising considering that the Aguinaldo family's influence lives on. A granddaughter of Aguinaldo became, Ameurfina Herrera, became Associate Justice while two grandsons became mayor of Kawit. A great grandsons became congressman to the 13th and 14th congress--Joseph Emilio Abaya. Presently, two Aguinaldo descendants occupy the top government posts in Kawit, Cavite--Mayor Reynaldo Aguinaldo and Vice-Mayor Emilio Orange Aguinaldo IV. Former Prime Minister Cesar Virata is Aguinaldo's grandnephew to his cousin Baldomero. There's even a great grandson serving as shrine curator for, well, the Aguinaldo Shrine.
The Supremo's history from their memoirs
The same cannot be said of the Bonifacios with nil descendants given that the Supremo's family was nearly entirely wiped out by Aguinaldo's orders. In fact, a television documentary shows a descendant apparently through the Supremo's sister--the only one spared of the Bonifacio carnage--recounting how their ancestors had to hide from the Supremo's enemies to keep safe.
Fortunately for the Supremo, there survive accounts that give the side of Bonifacio and the Magdiwang faction--his letters to Emilio Jacinto y Dizon or Julio Nakpil, the memoirs of generals Artemio Ricarte alias "Vibora" and Santiago Alvarez, and also Nakpil's "Notes on the Philippine Revolution" ('Apuntes Sobre La Revolucion Filipina'). These documents and accounts mostly counter the version of Aguinaldo's Magdalo, which dominates Philippine history books. To cite, the Katipunan phase of the Himagsikan as written by Teodoro Agoncillo mostly speaks from the perspective of Aguinaldo. The "Revolt of the Masses" by Agoncillo, whose books have for a long time been used as virtual standard reference in at least some colleges including the University of the Philippines, actually proceeds as if the Alvarez memoirs did not exist.
CHRONOLOGY of the TRAGEDY
December 1985 - Andres Bonifacio y de Castro becomes Supremo of the Katipunan; according to Pio Valenzuela, Bonifacio's assumption of KKK leadership, along with the earlier entry of Emilio Jacinto, is mainly responsible for the growth of the movement.
14 March 1896 - Supremo Andres Bonifacio inducts Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy into the Katipunan, the latter assuming the nom de guerre Magdalo. The initiation process took a particularly longer time than usual, as Aguinaldo keeps wrongly responding in a "Masonic" manner instead of in the Katipunan manner (Alvarez).
Middle-later March 1896 - Aguinaldo figures in an altercation with Ramon Padilla y Garcia, future martyr of Bagumbayan, who is supposedly boastful and uncouth; the Supremo intervenes, noting that it may be necessary "to defend the honor of our brother [Aguinaldo] here,"and sends an emissary to Padilla to ask him to apologize to Aguinaldo but if he refuses, they are to engage in a duel: Santiago notes Aguinaldo's nervousness over the prospect of a duel and feels his pounding heart but Padilla eventually apologizes.
1st Week April 1896 - Supremo, Pio Valenzuela, Emilio Jacinto, and Pantaleon Torres arrive at Noveleta, Cavite to establish a provincial council of the KKK, with Mariano "Mainam" Alvarez as president; to be known as Magdiwang, said chapter would later be acknowledged as responsible for successful campaigns against the enemy Spaniards by the time the Himagsikan breaks out. (Alvarez)
1st Week April 1896 - Supremo, Pio Valenzuela, Emilio Jacinto, and Pantaleon Torres arrive at Noveleta, Cavite to establish a provincial council of the KKK, with Mariano "Mainam" Alvarez as president; to be known as Magdiwang, said chapter would later be acknowledged as responsible for successful campaigns against the enemy Spaniards by the time the Himagsikan breaks out. (Alvarez)
Andres Bonifacio, Supremo/President
Teodoro Plata, Secretary of War
Emilio Jacinto, Secretary of State
Aguedo del Rosario, Secretary of Interior
Briccio Pantas, Secretary of Justice
Enrique Pacheco, Secretary of Finance.
(This election would be recorded in the February 8, 1897 issue of the Spanish-American publication La Ilustracion Española y Americana about the Philippine revolution. The article featured an engraved portrait of "Andres Bonifacio, Titulado 'Presidente' de la Republica Tagala," clad in a dark suit and white tie. Nineteenth century Spanish historian Jose M. del Castillo also document the first national elections in his 1897 writing "El Katipunan" or "El Filibusterismo en Filipinas.")
Latter part of May 1896 - Bonifacio sends Pio Valenzuela as emissary to Jose Rizal, seeking advice as to whether to push through with the revolution.
- Valenzuela returns, talks with Bonifacio in private and the two thereafter keep their silence on the issue, triggering speculations that Rizal is against the Revolution (Alvarez).
21 Aug. 1896 - Bonifacio and Jacinto change the Katipunan code to numeric two days after the Spanish colonial authorities confirmed the existence of the Katipunan; as arrests continue, some 500 Katipuneros leave Balintawak for neighboring Kangkong.
24 Aug. 1896 - Katipuneros arrive at the barn of Melchora Aquino for their hurried National Assembly, with Supremo Andres Bonifacio and members of the Supreme Council (Kataastaasang Kapulungan), heads of the supramunicipal (sangunian) and chapter (balangay) units of the Katipunan in attendance; American colonial military historian John R. M. Taylor will later come to the conclusion that the Katipunan was the first national government of the Philippines, writing that Bonifacio turned the Katipunan "lodges into battalions, his grandmasters into captains, and the supreme council of the Katipunan" into a revolutionary body fighting for independence against colonial Spain.
25 Aug. 1896 - Revolutionary Filipinos led by Bonifacio win the first skirmish of the Himagsikan against colonial Spain, forcing the retreat of Spanish civil guards and infantrymen who opened fire at the Katipuneros in their temporary headquarters at the barn of Melchora Aquino in Caloocan.
26 Aug. 1896 - Bonifacio unfurls the Katipunan flag in Balintawak five (5) days after the Spaniards ascertained the existence of the KKK.
27 Aug. 1896 - Katipuneros led by the Supremo proceed from Marikina to Hagdang Bato. (NHI/NHCP)
28 Aug. 1896 - Bonifacio issues a manifesto setting August 29 as the start of the general uprising against Spain. (NHI/NHCP)
29 Aug. 1896 - The Katipuneros led by its Supremo Bonifacio, start the general uprising against Spain midnight of this day, a Saturday, with its first offensive attacking an isolated colonial garrison in Luzon; Aguinaldo's group from Cavite fails to arrive as planned and the initial major salvo is unsuccessful. (Salazar)
30 Aug. 1896 - Spanish Governor-General Blanco declares the state of war and martial law in eight provinces: Manila, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Laguna, Cavite, and Batangas.
5 September 1896 - Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy, mayor of Kawit wins a signal victory in Imus against the Spanish forces led by Gen. Aquirre. From then, on he was known as Gen. Miong, hero to the Magdalos, if not Cavitenos.
19 Sept. 1896 - Antonio San Agustin Salazar, Filipino mason, confesses to knowing Bonifacio and would become one of the Bagumbayan Martyrs executed within a few months in connection with the Himagsikan--ushering in the "reign of terror" by the Spanish colonizers.
31 October 1896 - Aguinaldo issues two manifestos: (1) defines the revolution's aims as independence and "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity," and (2) calls for the formation of a central revolutionary government.
18 December 1896 - Bonifacio receives a warm welcome: riding, along with Sec. Emilio Jacinto, a luxurious horse-driven carriage, Col. Santos Nocon provides the honor guard of cavalry detachment; Magdalo secretary of war Daniel Tirona rides abreast on the right side of the Supremo and with his sword drawn, shouts "Long Live the Supremo" every time they pass by large crowds. (Alvarez)
- at the San Francisco de Malabon, a Magdiwang territory, some people in the crowd would shout "Long Live the King," with the Supremo shouting back "Long Live Motherland!" (Alvarez)
Circa Mid-to-Late Dec. 1896-- Baldomero Aguinaldo proposes the establishment of a revolutionary government, with Edilberto Evangelista submitting a constitution for the proposed government;the Supremo rejects the charter, finding it plagiarized. Those who favor the Katipunan argued that it has its own constitution & by-laws and that it is already a (revolutionary) government.
Post-Christmas 1896 - Smear propaganda against the Supremo circulates, including in the form of poison letters, in rebel towns particularly in San Francisco de Malabon where Bonifacio is greatly respected and admired, with Tirona as suspect: Bonifacio is villified for supposedly not believing in God; having low education; being mere lowly hired help in a firm dealing with tiles and with no other income; that he was an agent of the friars, with his sister being a paramour of a Spanish curate. (Alvarez)
- With some of the poison letters reaching the Supremo when a number of disbelieving recipients voluntarily turn over the poison letters to him, Bonifacio demands an explanation from Tirona at the home of Col. Nocon: Tirona haughtily & defiantly dismisses the accusations, prompting the Supremo to nearly shoot at Tirona if not for the intercession of some women present. (Alvarez)
29 December 1896 - Magdiwang and Magdalo leaders meet to discuss how to settle differences in revolutionary struggle and also a plot to snatch Rizal on the eve of his execution scheduled by the Spanish colonial authorities:
- exploration of unified leadership fails because of dispute over which leadership should prevail; Bonifacio asks Aguinaldo, secretary of the meeting, to record a motion forwarded re the framing of a constitution [despite the fact that the KKK already had one] but Aguinaldo asks that the matter be deferred at the moment; (Alvarez)
- plot to snatch Rizal fails because Paciano Rizal arrives and relays Jose Rizal's insistence that any rescue of him put at risk only one other life and no more (Alvarez).
Circa early 1897 - Magdiwang faction building up secret enemies--Katipuneros who had been rebuffed or dismissed for insubordination, including Mariano Trias who refused to give up his private army. (Alvarez).
February 1897 - Supremo Andres Bonifacio, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Mariano Trias and Procopio Bonifacio were poised to come to blows over defamatory idle talk but was prevented by Santiago "Apoy" Alvarez and Artemio Ricarte who manage to soothe the feelings of the four men. (Alvarez).
14 Feb. 1897 - The Spaniards begin their 52-day offensive at Cavite. Within days, the colonizers would begin to successively retake rebel towns under the Magdalo faction of the Katipunan but not so much the Magdiwang. The council and members of Magdalo would withdraw to San Francisco de Malabon and try to hold meetings in other Magdiwang territories (Delos Santos; Alvarez)
1st/2nd week of March 1897 - The Magdalo faction invites the Magdiwang for a general assembly purportedly to draw up some revolutionary strategy; Baldomero Aguinaldo, Emiliano Riego de Dios, Santiago, Daniel Tirona, Severino de las Alas, etc. from the Magdalo camp mainly prepare the arrangement. (Alvarez).
22 March 1897 - Instead of being a general assembly to map up some joint revolutionary strategy, the Tejeros Convention elects officers of a new revolutionary body in a scandalous and fraudulent fashion. The Supremo has agreed to the hasty elections provided everyone respects the results. "Elected" are the following:
Emilio Aguinaldo - President
Mariano Trias - Vice-President
Andrés Bonifacio - Director of Interior
Artemio Ricarte - Captain-General
Emiliano Riego de Dios - Director of War
-- Tirona scandalously objects to Bonifacio's election on supposed grounds of the latter's lack of qualifications, prodding (unsuccessfully) the crowd to elect lawyer Jose del Rosario instead. Bonifacio, as chairman of the Convention, declares the proceedings null and void on grounds of grave violations of the prior agreement to honor the electoral results.
23 March 1897 - Bonifacio, along with over 40 other Katipuneros, signs the Acta de Tejeros that nullifies the fraudulent and anomalous Tejeros Convention.
24 March 1897 - Aguinaldo takes his office as "President" in secret, with Catholic priest (under Spanish authority) Cenon Villafranca officiating, despite Bonifacio's nullification of the Tejeros polls in the latter's capacity as presiding officer and the manifestos and speeches circulated in connection with the scandalous elections. (Alvarez)
-- Artemio Ricarte y Garcia reluctantly also takes his oath of office after being elected the General-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Army during the anomalous Tejeros Convention. He insinuates that his eventual oath-taking came under a sort of duress: "That they kill me that same night, for the reasons above cited, or that they give me three hours, or at least one hour, to think over what I must necessarily do in order to accept said office; this second request was but a mere pretext, in order to enable me to absent myself from that Assembly. I obtained nothing of what I requested, because not even one of them gave me his assent."(Ricarte)
-- that same day, Ricarte makes a declaration stating his "great reluctance" over the oath-taking amidst what he described as "dirty or shady practices in the manner" of the Tejeros Convention elections and his doubts about his capacity to serve as chief general. (Alvarez's memoirs describes the oath-taking a having been done surreptitiously and with posted guards ready to eliminate unwanted Magdiwang figures who would try to break through the proceedings).
28 (or so) March 1897 - the Supremo leads the Magdiwangs and Gen. Apoy in intercepting the enemies who three days earlier had captured and occupied Imus: with the arrival of great enemy reinforcements, Bonifacio ordered a tactical retreat. (Alvarez)
3 April 1897 - the Supremo even fought in the bid to recapture Noveleta that had earlier fallen into Spanish hands, inflicting heavy losses to the enemy but still unable to dislodge them. (Alvarez)
7 April 1897 - the Supremo warmly welcomes Emilio and Baldomero Aguinaldo at his office at a friar estate in Naic, discussing the need to punish Tirona and Cailles who had betrayed the revolution by surrendering to the Spaniards; the Aguinaldos agree. (Alvarez)
Around 7- 14 April 1897 - for a week, the Aguinaldos would exhibit close cooperation and comradeship, leading to the agreement for the Magdiwang to lend guns to the Magdalos who volunteered to fight to enable the Magdiwang troops to briefly rest. Bonifacio blesses the plan, and even had his Balara contingent contribute to the gun loan (Alvarez)
15 April 1897 - Bonifacio appoints Jacinto as Supreme Commander of all revolutionary forces in Manila.
16 April 1897 - The Supremo writes Jacinto, ascribing the failure of the Katipunan in defending Cavite against Spanish troops to factionalism and relays the deceitfulness of Magdalo faction led by Capitan Aguinaldo in apparently scheming to abandon the Revolution and forge a deal with the enemy Spaniards.
-- Bonifacio adds that he needed to nullify all the resolutions that were adopted in the fraudulent and scandalously anomalous Tejeros Convention owing to the dirty tactics of Magdalo in the bid to discredit him and the Katipunan.
17 April 1897 - Aguinaldo forms his [nearly all-Caviteno] cabinet or officers of the "republic" (Alvarez):
Emilio Aguinaldo - President
Mariano Trias - Vice-President
Pascual Alvarez - Secretary of the Interior (Executive Offices)
Baldomero Aguinaldo - Secretary of Finance
Jacinto Lumbreras - Secretary of State
Severino de las Alas - Secretary of Justice
Mariano Alvarez - Secretary of Development
Emiliano Riego de Dios - Secretary of War
Artemio Ricarte - Captain General
19 April 1897 - The Supremo and other signatories sign the Naik Military Agreement declaring that several Filipino revolutionaries (referring to but not naming the camp of Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy) had committed treason against the nation and the revolution by negotiating for peace with the enemy Spaniards. They declare that they are not bound to recognize the authority of the traitors and that all revolutionary forces shall be unified under the command of Gen. Pio del Pilar.
24 April 1897 - Bonifacio confides his fear that his company seems to be in danger not only from the Spanish enemy but, also, from the local [Caviteno] revolutionary leaders in a letter to Jacinto. The Supremo also writes about the detestable acts of treason/collaboration with the enemy Spaniards that was engaged in by certain Magdalo members, partisans of Aguinaldo such as Tirona, Mtro. De Guerra, Jose del Rosario, Jose Caelles, and "almost all Tanza residents along with the priest there," as well as the fraud and anomaly that characterized the Tejeros Convention.
27 April 1897 - "President" Aguinaldo sternly orders that the Bonifacio brothers be seized and brought before him dead or alive. Assigned were Col. Agapito Bonzon (alias Intong/Yntong), Felipe Topacio, and Jose Paua/Pawa (alias Insik Pawa) who, along with some men, leave Naic for Indang in the afternoon. (Alvarez) [Note: Other sources place this day of order as April 26]
-- Reaching Indang, Bonzon and company apparently survey the size of Bonifacio's forces. They are warmly greeted by the Supremo who even address them as "my brethren" before they leave, claiming they are only looking for enemy trails. (Alvarez)
28 April 1897 - The Supremo and brother Procopio are treacherously abducted by the forces of Bonzon and Paua who return in the morning. They violently attack the Bonifacio brothers and men in a surprise move that instantly kills Ciriaco Bonifacio. (Alvarez). [Note: Other reports will point to the afternoon of April 27 as the time of the Bonifacio abduction].
-- Bonzon shoots the Supremo in the arm. Paua then moves to kill the Katipunan Supreme President by stabbing him in the throat with a dagger but one of Bonifacio's men plead that his life be taken instead. (Alvarez) [According to Julio Nakpil, it was Lazaro who stabbed the Supremo]
-- Procopio is badly beaten; Andres Bonifacio's wife, Gregoria de Jesus, is also abducted and brought to Naic, with the weakened Supremo brought in a hammock. His wife is raped by Yntong. (Court martial record tell of unsuccessful rape; but recent sources tell rape did occur, such as Ocampo, cited in Duka).
29 April 1897 - Several Magdiwang leaders meet at a house in Naic to discuss a plan to rescue the Supremo; Generals "Mainam" and his son "Apoy" were not invited because the former was included in the Magdalo line up as welfare director as the latter was said to be opposed to any move that would cause civil war. The formation of a bolo regiment to pretend to reinforce the Naic estate house guards but would suddenly and simultaneously strike at a given signal is approved. The plan fails to materialize because of the unexpected Spanish attack on Indang and Naic. (Alvarez)
30 April 1897 - Luciano San Miguel tells Apoy of news circulating among the military top brass of Aguinaldo's "Republic" about the general objection among the revolutionary government's chiefs and military officers to the arrest of the Supremo. (Alvarez)
Bonifacio "Trial" Proper: 28 April - 4 May 1897
Noriel, head of the court martial body, unabashedly prejudges the Supremo by asking the "Most Respected and Distinguished President" Aguinaldo to judge the extent of the evil and treacherous intentions of Andres Bonifacio. Fourteen persons testify in the very swift course of the court martial, with the trial proper taking only a mere 6 days: Benito Torres; Procopio Bonifacio; Nicolas Guzman; Rafael Non; Narciso Tiolo; Julian Aguila; Cayetano Lopez; Bibiano Rojas; Pedro Giron; Domingo Denlaso; Domingo San Juan; Gervacio Santiago; Andres Bonifacio; Gregoria de Jesus. (Court martial records).
The Supremo testifies that he did not know of the existence of any other revolutionary government (other than the Katipunan) because Aguinaldo was not validly elected, as partly based on the statement of Artemio Ricarte and that he was unaware if any oath-taking has taken place. (Alvarez).
The Supremo also belies the accusation that he ever fired his gun: evidence based on his gun as confiscated byYntong's group shows that, indeed, the gun was unfired.
Only Pedro Giron testifies about the supposed plot by the Supremo to have Aguinaldo assassinated. All the other witnesses summoned are unaware of said plots or never even heard of them. (Alvarez)
Investigating officer Pantaleon Garcia submits his findings to Emilio Aguinaldo who endorsed the same to his cousin and court auditor Baldomero Aguinaldo.
Council of War and Decision: May 5-8 1897
Noriel calls for a meeting of the Council of War on May 5. The Supremo would not be allowed to deliver a defense speech, despite requesting the panel twice for that right, with the official records showing that the request has been turned down supposedly because Bonifacio has only been repeating his account made during the court examination.
The counsels make their speeches: Placido Martinez for the Supremo and Teodoro Gonzalez and for Procopio. The prosecutor is Jose Elises. The court-appointed lawyer of the Supremo, Martinez, is rather scandalously a Council of War panel member. He attacks the Supremo, prejudging him for his supposed "evil" act of trying to kill Aguinaldo, before begging the court that clemency be granted his 'client.'
The court martial proceedings are suspended, with the minutes of the hearing signed by Noriel, Mariano Riego de Dios, Crisostomo Riel, Estevan Ynfante, T. Mascardo, Sulpicio Antony, and Placido Martinez.
The court martial declares the Bonifacio brothers guilty and deserving of the punishment of being shot to death--despite Giron being the only one to testify about the supposed plan to assassinate Aguinaldo and the Supremo's gun actually having been unfired. The decision, subsequently for forwarding to Aguinaldo, are signed by Mariano Noriel, the Council President, Tomas Mascardo, and Esteban Ynfante, and attested to by Council Secretary Lazaro Makapagal.
Baldomero Aguinaldo upholds the Council of War decision declaring the Supremo and his brother 'guilty' of supposedly (a.) firing at "government soldiers;" (b.) intention of "overthrowing the government" and killing Aguinaldo based [mainly] on Giron's testimony; and (c.) using money to induce "government soldiers" to transfer allegiance to him:
...it appears true that the Bonifacio brothers, Andres, Ciriaco, and Procopio, had the intention of overthrowing the government of the Tagalogs, of killing the President, and of resisting the government army forces. Because of these crimes, they deserve the punishment [death by shooting] dictated by the Council.
On the morning of May 10, 1897, the Supremo and brother Procopio were taken out of their cramped prison and brought to the mountains of Maragondon, Cavite. The day before was the birthday of his wife but, of course, there was no celebration, not even physical union and, instead, torment and misery over the murderous injustice wrought he would dared put into revolutionary action the most patriotic aspiration for liberation against Spain.
There are differing accounts of how the end came to the great Supremo. Wikipedia sums up both the orthodox and unorthodox accounts of the "execution" a.k.a. power-grabbing murder, from Lazaro, Alvarez, and other recent scholarships:
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.
Aguinaldo's Coup. Clear as Day.
Aguinaldo's intent to grab Himagsikan power and supersede the Katipunan with his own revolutionary government is reflected in a series of developments that rather swiftly took place in a matter of nine months from the outbreak of the Philippine Revolution against Spain. Aguinaldo's October 1896 proclamation foreshadowed his controversial rise to revolutionary leadership via power grab as it revealed his ambitious intent from the start. From the October 1896 proclamation to the fraudulent Tejeros & subsequent surreptitious oath-taking, to their deliberate failure to return the guns lent them by the Magdiwang (enabling them to consolidate military forces), to the treacherous 'dead or alive' attack on and abduction of the Bonifacios, to the 'kangaroo court' Council of War trial, to the surreptitious "execution" [considered by Mabini as "assassination"], Aguinaldo's scheme to seize power is clear as day.
Additionally, the fact that Aguinaldo assigned a close relative--from the Magdalo camp at that--to the Council of War court that (seditiously) tried the Supremo perhaps shows the first case of nepotism in the Philippine government. This Aguinaldo nepotism of assigning Baldomero as the court martial Auditor exercised in a literally death-deciding and critically important body betrays not only distasteful lack of delicadeza but, moreover, lends further evidence to the apparently kangaroo court and seditious character of Bonifacio's "trial."
Beyond the issue of Bonifacio's assassination-cum-execution serving to seal Aguinaldo's coup, the developments from October 1896 to May 10, 1897 may perhaps trigger the question of whether Aguinaldo deserved the leadership more than Bonifacio. That is, amidst traditional or government-published history books/articles showing Aguinaldo's supposed excellent military and political skills, was his insubordination and power grab against Bonifacio justified?
While it is true that Bonifacio did not win any major battle under his direct leadership, all battles should be attributed to him, as historian Milagros Guerrero pointed out, he being the Supremo. Also, Bonifacio seemed to have reeled from the first major encounter, the Battle of Pugad Lawin that was lost because of the failure [suspiciously?] of the Aguinaldo's group to show up as planned (Salazar). More importantly, Manila, Bonifacio's battleground, was simply the area most difficult to win as it was the most heavily fortified and defended by the enemy Spaniards, it being the colonial seat of government. Even Aguinaldo, during the second phase of the Revolution, failed to get Manila, or at least potentially had it last (until he stupidly allowed the imperialist and racist Americans to stage the Mock Battle of Manila).
Another point negating any claim of pre-Council of War de facto Aguinaldo leadership is the fact that it was really the Magdiwang and not the Magdalo that was winning more battles against the Spaniards in Cavite. At least this was the case around January 1897: during around the time of the scandalous and fraudulent Tejeros Convention when the Spaniards concentrated on Cavite, Magdiwang still had its turfs but not so the Magdalo faction. This is reflected both in the Supremo's summer 1897 letter to Jacinto/Nakpil and in the memoirs of Gen. Alvarez. In fact, his Magdalo faction had already been driven out of their Cavite territories by the Spanish forces such that Aguinaldo had to surreptitiously take his oath of office in a parish in MAGDIWANG turf--even assigning LOOKOUTS to ensure that the unwanted Magdiwang figures didn't get hold of their seditious activity.
Making Sense of the Tragedy
There have been different interpretations of the deposing and killing, nay murder, of Bonifacio. An insightful, informed, and objective one comes no less than from Aguinaldo's own former Prime Ministers, Mabini. Aguinaldo's own handpicked adviser during the second phase of the Philippine Revolution, Mabini described Bonifacio's supposed execution as an "assassination"...as a "crime" on the part of Aguinaldo that "was the first victory of personal ambition over true patriotism."
Mabini supports his reading of Bonifacio's killing being criminal with a number of points:
- "Bonifacio had no less schooling than any of those elected in the aforesaid assembly" and has even exhibited "an uncommon sagacity in organizing the Katipunan."
- All the electors in the Tejeros Convention "were friends of Don Emilio Aguinaldo and Don Mariano Trias, who were united."
- "Bonifacio, although he had established his integrity, was looked upon with distrust only because he was not a native of the province".
- Despite Bonifacio's resentment, "he did not show it by any act of turbulent defiance, for, seeing that no one was working for reconciliation, he was content with quitting the province for San Mateo in the company of his brothers."
Close reading of other contemporary sources or authors lend support to Mabini's points and conclusions.
Pt. 1 The belittling of Bonifacio's intellectual capacity, despicably first used by Tirona to undermine Bonifacio's election in the Tejeros Convention, sadly continues to this day despite glaring evidence to the contrary. Ed Aurelio Reyes of Kamalaysayan writes about a high school teacher who ridiculously taught about the Supremo being illiterate. This well shows how continuing anti-Bonifacio propaganda from the pro-Aguinaldo camp can foster pathetic ignorance.
Contrary to such awfully ignorant claims, the Supremo was an intelligent, well-read man--in fact, a voracious reader of myriad volumes of books in several FOREIGN languages, such as The French Revolution, Les Miserables, The Wandering Jew, Lives of the Presidents of the United States, and Jose Rizal's La Solidaridad, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Beyond uncanny organizational prowess, Bonifacio exhibited considerable intelligence. For one, how can someone who wrote the Dekalogo, and poems like "Tapunan ng Lingap" and the beautifully moving "Pag-Ibig sa Tinubuang Lupa," the powerful July 1892 Katipunan founding speech, and a host of other Katipunan communications and personal letters to his Katipunero comrades and others be "no read no write"? In fact, even Teodoro Agoncillo concedes that the Supremo's work, Ang Dapat Mabatid ng Mga Tagalog, is responsible for the rapid geometric increase of the membership of the Katipunan in 1896. (Reyes)
Moreover, Bonifacio, presumably along with other Katipunan leaders, showed smart thinking by way of adopting secret codes for Katipunan communications that made them evade discovery by the Spaniards for some four years. The earlier codes involved “monoalphabetic substitution cipher” and was replaced by the Supremo with a numerical one by 1896.
And mind you, Bonifacio became chief propagandist of La Liga Filipina, that body populated by the ilustrados of their time. If the Katipunan Supremo were any bit unlettered and stupid, he could not possibly have assumed official position in the La Liga. That grossly misinformed teacher would probably find it hard doing propaganda work even in his/her own barrio.Bonifacio was also intelligent enough to be able to discern the plagiarism in the constitution proposed to him by Edilberto Evangelista and Severino de las Alas. Alvarez writes that the Supremo turned down the constitution because it would have been embarrassing to use a charter mainly copied from one written done by a Spanish minister, Antonio Maura. [Compare that with Aguinaldo's decision to use the plagiarized-from-the-Cuban-Constitution "Biak na Bato" constitution.]
Pt. 2 Mariano Trias was a former Magdiwang who defected to Aguinaldo's Magdalo because he was earlier embarrassed and hurt by Ricarte's criticism of his and others' anomalous use of private armies that refused to be subordinated to the Katipunan. Tirona was not only close to Aguinaldo but was months earlier responsible for engaging in the character assassination of Bonifacio using poison letters and gossips to maliciously discredit the Supremo as godless Mason, a lowly hired employee, etc. (Alvarez). Beyond the electors being close to Aguinaldo, the Tejeros Convention was also grievously fraudulent as attested by Ricarte, Molina and recorded by Alvarez.
Pt. 3 Mabini was essentially pointing to Cavitism when he wrote about the "distrust" the Supremo suffered despite his display of integrity. That regionalism figured in the tragedy of the Katipunan can be gleaned from the events and writings during the fateful summer months of 1897.
Around February or March, Bonifacio wrote to Jacinto about "the enmity [in Cavite] between the two factions is very great," with the Magdalo wishing "to rule all and the entire Katagalugan "(Philippines) as they exclusively talk of the "Government of Imus" (Gobierno ng Imus) [being] recognized there and throughout Europe..." Bonifacio continues:
The government they try to establish here is as follows: President and General-in-Chief "Magdalo" (Magdalo); Director of Military Work "Baldomero" (Baldomero) and those of "Magdiwang" (Magdiwang) will simply act as subdirector or subminister.** This plan truly "disgusted" (ikinapuot) the "ministers of Magdiwang" (Ministros ng Magdiwang), who saw through their "game that if Imus is elected" (politica na kung napipili ang Imus) "they will govern here in Malabon" (mamahala dito sa Malabon). The selfishness of "Magdalo" (Magdalo) is truly "disgusting" (nakasuklam) and has been the cause of their many reverses."
The nearly all-Caviteno composition of the winners in the anomalous Tejeros Convention, along with the cabinet that Aguinaldo will subsequently form, also perhaps betrays the issue of Cavitism. Apart from Bonifacio, Ricarte, who was an Ilocano, was also elected in Tejeros; it should be noted, however, that Ricarte was already a permanent resident there who transferred from teaching from Manila to Cavite. While Bonifacio's letter points to the factionalism within Cavite itself, it seemed that the fraudulent Tejeros Convention was used to cement Caviteno hold on the Revolution. Why so? Amidst the fact that Ricarte was a Magdiwang who took his oath of office, no matter his great reluctance and pressure tactics applied on him, one can argue that Aguinaldo and province mates tried to resolve the Magdiwang-Magdalo factionalism by booting out an outsider, namely Bonifacio.
Did Cavitism prevail? That is debatable. Gen. Mariano "Mainam" Alvarez, a Caviteno, refused to fight the Spaniards under the forces of Aguinaldo after the tragic murder-cum-execution. Besides, his son, Santiago, wrote memoirs showing the Magdiwang account or perspective of the Katipunan tragedy that, of course, countered the version of Aguinaldo's camp.
Pt. 4 Mabini well recognized Bonifacio's magnanimity and moral discipline when he noted how the Supremo showed NO "turbulent defiance" despite Aguinaldo's seditious maneuverings. This point of Mabini, along with how he dubbed the Supremo's killing as a crime effectively shows he found the Council of War findings as fabricated and but utter lies.
Indeed, Bonifacio was so faithful to and focused on his vision of seeing the liberation of the Tagalog (Filipino) nation that he continued to believe that the Magdalo were mainly driven by patriotic intent, causing him to throw caution to the wind at least thrice. Firstly, despite he and Procopio nearly coming into blows with Aguinaldo a month earlier, and the supposed Tejeros Convention's agenda being a strategizing for the revolution, the Supremo acceded to holding an election for a new government. Moreover, and this is the second instance, Bonifacio also even dismissed Mojica's warning that the ballot had been pre-filled with Magdalo names.
Thirdly, despite the insult despicably attempted by Tirona, a Magdalo, at the Tejeros Convention, the Supremo did not hesitate to warmly welcome the Aguinaldos at his office in Naic but also, within a week, blessed the plan for the Magdiwang to lend arms to the Magdalo, supposedly to enable the latter faction to rest from the fighting. The Supremo was so focused on attaining liberation for the country and so magnanimous willing to give his compatriots the benefit of the doubt that he even graciously had his Balara contingent lend the guns to the Magdalo. All these despite the seemingly vile pattern of Magdalo moves and acts. As history has unfolded, the Magdiwang guns being in the hands of Magdalo provided the crucial military component to Aguinaldo's revolutionary power-grab, so to speak.
Legally Kangaroo & Naught
Approaching the tragedy from a legal standpoint would even lead one to see the utter baselessness , stark 'kangaroo-ness,' and sheer nefariousness of what they did to the Supremo and his brother. Attorney Marvin Aceron writes that he doesn't only agree that Bonifacio was not only given a kangaroo court martial but that the entire trial was legally baseless for two reasons: the absence of law on treason and absence of jurisdiction under Aguinaldo's 'government.'
Aceron wonders how Council of War could have possibly tried and punished anyone for treason--one of the charges against the Bonifacio brothers--when at that time Aguinaldo had not issued any law against it under the 'Philippine Republic.' Indeed, Aguinaldo and his camp seemed rather bereft of common legal sense that the 'President' failed to issue even a dictatorial decree defining treason. Herein, it appears that his and Tirona's lawyer candidate friend, del Rosario, was legally inept so much so that he was unable to receive a counsel on the need to issue or make a criminal law before it can be enforced and be used to punished anyone.
Additionally, it perhaps ought to be understood that it was actually the Supremo who had the right to charge Aguinaldo with treason, if ever, because the Katipunan leader had the sense to issue the Naic Military Agreement signed on April 19, 1897. The third clause of the Agreement which goes as: "Any disloyal person shall be punished on the spot, according to his desserts," provides the punitive clause to the introductory paragraph of the document that condemns the treason against Motherland committed by "certain officers who have been sowing discord...."
Atty. Aceron also finds the Council of War as having had no jurisdiction to try the Supremo and his brother because the supposed crimes took place in territories that were already retaken by the Spaniards by the time of the trial. He adds that if there's anyone who had the right to put anyone on trial (especially a criminal one), it was only the Spanish colonial government who wielded actual power in Indang and Naic, among others at that time.
This is a particularly noteworthy point here because it raises the issue of jurisdiction. If one wishes to counter this legal argument by philosophizing that it was a revolutionary and, thus, fluid government that was at work then, then one can go further and claim that Aguinaldo did not even have jurisdiction in Indang and Naic and even Maragondon where the abduction, trial, and execution took place, respectively. Why so? Because these three Cavite towns were under Katipunan's Magdiwang and not Magdalo jurisdiction even prior to the Spanish offensive.
The Magdiwang territories were actually under Gen. Mainam Alvarez, who was months earlier, based on surviving draft notice, was appointed by Bonifacio's Supreme Council as revolutionary chief in Cavite. While Alvarez presented extreme prudence when he opposed the rescue of the Supremo, he was loyal to the latter whose tragic death so demoralized him. Despite Aguinaldo's appointment of him as Secretary of Development, Alvarez refused to further fight the Spaniards under Aguinaldo after the Bonifacios' killing. Besides, another of his 'officers,' Ricarte, seemed to have been only coerced into serving under Aguinaldo's government. This can be gleaned by Ricarte's apparent insinuation that he was subjected to heavy pressure--if not subtle death threat--that's why he ultimately took his oath as Captain-General.
In simple terms, while the Magdalo/Aguinaldo already possessed Magdiwang's guns, they didn't really have their loyalty. Thus, their 'government' that was also under Spanish siege at that point did not really have actual or dominant/full control of the Cavite territories relevant to the Supremo's case. In short, Aguinaldo camp's jurisdiction over the Bonifacios was naught.
To conclude, even if one were to assume that the Tejeros elections were not fraudulent and that Bonifacio didn't nullify its proceedings (in his capacity as presiding officer); that neither did he issue the Acta de Tejeros; that Aguinaldo did not scheme a coup despite the Magdalo's abrogation of Magdiwang guns; that Aguinaldo did not order the abductions 'dead or alive'; and that the court martial was not rigged, one still gets to conclude that the Katipunan Supreme President could not possibly have been found "guilty." How could Aguinaldo's court martial pass