The Enigma of Bonifacio's Execution Recalled from the Frozen Memory of His Horse"
Ink on Board
It is interesting to know how History itself have been the product of 'facts' agreed upon by Men whose intentions are to memorialise their Truimph and the Fall of others...or better yet, Dan Brown's characted said it best : 'What is history, but a fable agreed upon?' By its very nature, history is always a one-sided account." -Sir Leigh Teabing
Andres Bonifacio Y De Castro was one of the Country's "heroes" whose Execution have become a mere whisper, a trace of smoke, a blurred highlight in the annals of Philippines history...
Let us glimpse through time and see how obscure history leads us to this dark enigma...
Born on November 30, 1863 – May 10, 1897 he was a Filipino nationalist and revolutionary. He was the founder and later the supreme leader of the Katipunan movement which sought the independence of the Philippines from Spanish colonial rule and started the Philippine Revolution. He is considered a de facto national hero of the Philippines. Bonifacio is also considered by some Filipino historians to be the first president of the Philippines, but he is not officially recognized as such.
Bonifacio and others founded the Katipunan, or in full, Kataastaasang Kagalanggalangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan ("Highest and Most Respected Society of the Childre 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. Within the society Bonifacio used the pseudonym May pag-asa ("There is Hope")...
Bonifacio in Cavite
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 Álvarez, 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, 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 travelled to Cavite accompanied by his wife, his brothers Procopio and Ciriaco, and some troops.
In Cavite, friction 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 Álvarez, 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". Another time, 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 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, 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. Bonifacio suspected the rumor-mongering to be the work of the 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 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 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 really 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 voted 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, the present-day government of the Philippines being the fifth.
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 Trías of the Magdalo (originally 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 has been approved and resolved."
The next day, Aguinaldo took his oath of office as President. 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 Álvarez (son of Mariano) and Gregoria de Jesús both alleged that many ballots were already filled out before being distributed, and Guillermo Masangkay contended there were more ballots prepared than voters present. Álvarez 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 gone over 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 forces. 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.
A party of Aguinaldo's men led by Agapito Bonzon and José Ignacio Paua met with Bonifacio at his camp in Indang. Unaware of the order for his arrest, Bonifacio received them cordially. The next day, Bonzon and Paua attacked Bonifacio's camp. Bonifacio did not fight back himself and ordered his men to hold their fire, though shots were nevertheless exchanged. In the crossfire Bonifacio was shot in the arm. Paua stabbed him in the neck and was prevented from striking further by one of Bonifacio's men, who offered to be killed instead. One of his brothers Ciriaco was shot dead, his other brother Procopio was beaten senseless, and his wife Gregoria may have been raped by Bonzon.
Bonifacio's party was brought to Naik, where he and his surviving brother stood trial, accused of sedition and treason against Aguinaldo's government and conspiring to murder Aguinaldo. The jury was entirely composed of Aguinaldo's men; Bonifacio's defense lawyer himself declared Bonifacio's guilt; and Bonifacio was not allowed to confront 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.
Bonifacio and his brother were found guilty despite insufficient evidence to prove their alleged guilt 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, upon learning of this, persuaded him to withdraw the order for the sake of preserving unity. They were supported by other leaders including Artemio Ricarte on which in his later memoirs, made a mistake in giving the names of the executioners. He went on to suggest that Aguinaldo had the Bonifacio brothers executed because they were his rivals, conveniently leaving out the detail that it was he who had argued for their execution when Aguinaldo considered exile. The Bonifacio brothers 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.
The historical assessment of Bonifacio involves several controversial points. His death is alternately viewed as a justified execution for treason and a "legal murder" fueled by politics. Some historians consider him the rightful first Philippine President instead of Aguinaldo. Historians have also called that Bonifacio share or even take the place of José Rizal as the (foremost) Philippine national hero. The purported discovery of Bonifacio's remains has also been questioned.
Bonifacio's trial and execution
Bonifacio's actions after the Tejeros Convention have been called counter-revolutionary, the charge of treason justified, and his elimination even necessary to ensure unity of the Filipino revolutionaries. 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 they may be considered 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 writes: "All the electors [at the Tejeros Convention] were friends of Don Emilio Aguinaldo and Don Mariano Trías, 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."
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..
In an attempt to rescue the Truth from History's claws, i decided to take on the challenge in portraying the first image in philippines history to depict Bonifacio's Execution...without any qualms for bias i depicted what might have been the near truth about his execution, the political factors,the "historical evidence" that does not deny the hidden political intentions of Aguinaldo,his jealous megalomania, his 'cruel' lust for power...Bonifacio's death and execution should be shown with a 'periscopic view',its significance must be memorialised...its lessons should never be forgotten..we must not be afraid to show the truth...history must be kicked in the ass sometimes...
Aguinaldo chose "Magdalo" as his nom de guerre because Mary Magdalene was the patron saint of his hometown, Kawit, Cavite. That info was from the book "A Question of Heroes" by Nick Joaquin.