Is June 12 real independence?

By: Modesto P. Sa-onoy

EVEN before President Diosdado Macapagal changed the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day from July 4 to today, many historians and citizens question the shift as flawed from the perspective of history. But he was in control and Congress was also swayed by the temper of the times.

The observance of June 12 Philippine’s Independence Day took effect after Macapagal signed on August 4, 1964 the bill that became Republic Act No. 4166.  The historical basis was the Declaration of Independence from Spain on June 12, 1898 by General Emilio Aguinaldo and the raising of a new flag and playing of a national anthem for the first time. He signed the proclamation decree on July 5.

Not one country in the world recognized that proclamation and government, not by Spain or the Americans although there was an American army officer, a certain Colonel Johnson present during the ceremonies. At this time also, Spain and America were already huddled in Paris for the terms of the Spanish withdrawal from the Philippines and cession of sovereignty to the US. The peace treaty between them was signed in December of that year.

The treaty clearly means that Aguinaldo’s proclamation was without merit. However, a declaration of independence does not rest with what other countries think but what the people believed and did.

The Treaty of Paris that ended the war between Spain and the United States ceded the Philippines to the United States and thus we became an American colony. The rest of the world thus recognized the Philippines as American territory.

War between the Filipinos and the Americans began with hostilities in Manila in February 1899 and practically ended when Aguinaldo was captured in 1901 and he took an oath of allegiance to the US. His government ceased to exist although there were pockets of resistance in other parts of the country like in Panay and Negros which had established the Federal State of the Visayas. The last armed resistance to American rule ended with the surrender of Papa Isio, a colonel under Antique’s General Leandro Fullon of the defunct Aguinaldo army in 1909.

The desire for independence, continued until we were finally free in 1946. That will merit a different discussion.

Aguinaldo entered into a deal with the Spaniards for P800,000 in return for an end to the revolution, started by Andres Bonifacio, and an exile to Hong Kong. His government self-destructed but taking advantage of American incursion into Asia, Emilio Aguinaldo made another deal with the Americans. He came back to the Philippines with the thought that America would enthrone him but the Americans had a different idea – they used Aguinaldo as an icing to the real intention – establish a colony in the Pacific like the leading countries of Europe. It was, Mark Twain who opposed American rule in the Philippines noted, an attempt at imperialism.

The government that Aguinaldo established was not a democracy but a dictatorship. After his capture Aguinaldo and his leaders took an oath of allegiance to the US. One who refused to take that oath was Papa Isio and he was declared a bandit, treacherously induced to surrender and imprisoned until he died in 1911.

The defection of Aguinaldo to the US government, plus his deal with the Spaniards that ended his government indicated the character of the man. If we put in the plots they had to take Bonifacio out of the revolutionary leadership that, I believe opened the door for a deal with the Spaniards, then his government really deserved that early demise.

So, how can we reckon our independence to a government that was dissolved and sold out our struggle for freedom?

So were we ever independent? In fact, during the Japanese occupation Aguinaldo and one of his generals were accused of collaborating with the invaders and were charged for treason. The general amnesty proclaimed by President Manuel Roxas saved him and a lot of Filipino leaders who collaborated with the enemy.

Be that as it may, the choice of June 12 seems inappropriate because we are celebrating an independence that lasted a year or so and headed by people who made deals with foreign powers. Are Filipinos political masochists?

Will we ever revert to the July 4 independence of a government and a people that survived the war and until today?