Friday, October 15, 2004

Sound advice

Sound advice

Updated 01:03am (Mla time) Oct 15, 2004
By Ambeth Ocampo
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A15 of the October 15, 2004 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

TOWARD the end of July 1899, Emilio Aguinaldo was in Tarlac province, hounded by advisers urging him to take drastic action against the newspaper La Independencia, which had published an article that members of Congress found offensive. The article, titled "Algo para el congreso," [Something for Congress] and signed by "Paralitico," had some sensational but rather timely lines like: "Such is the work of the first Congress: a work of obstruction and not of development."

You don't need a PhD in history to know that "Paralitico" was none other than Apolinario Mabini, who had once served as Aguinaldo's closest adviser. He lost in a power struggle, left government and retired to Rosales town in the province of Pangasinan to lick his wounds. He did not fade away quietly; he continued to be a thorn in the side of Congress and the Cabinet through his writings. Though physically handicapped, his mind was sharp and he provided a conscience for the Revolution.

There were two "revolutionary" papers during the period. The official organ of the government was La Republica Filipina under the direction of Pedro Paterno, and the other was La Independencia under Antonio Luna. One could say that the editorial policy of the papers followed the temperament and political leanings of their respective editors.

Although Luna was assassinated in Cabanatuan in the province of Nueva Ecija in June 1899, the paper, under Rafael Palma, continued Luna's independent and fighting stance. Luna, who had once worked with La Solidaridad, was disappointed with its editor Marcelo H. del Pilar and its editorial policy, which called for reform rather than the separation of the Philippines from Spain. Luna's letters to Jose Rizal were full of complaints. For example, he had to write almost all the articles in one issue of La Solidaridad because the editor was remiss. Thus, Luna urged Rizal to establish a more radical paper and promised his support.

On July 31, 1899, Emilio Aguinaldo signed a letter to the editor of La Independencia, presumably drafted by Interior Secretary Severino de las Alas, calling the ideas in an article by Paralitico "anti-patriotic." Worse, the article suggested that the government was not united and could affirm what the Americans were saying: that Filipinos were unfit to govern themselves.

Aguinaldo's letter went on to warn: "I hereby direct that the editor of La Independencia, whose talent and patriotism are well known to us, be ordered after today not to publish any article by any writer that could more or less prejudice the cause we defend, he being excused for this time, but hereafter in the event that he incurs faults of this character, the proper correctional measures shall be adopted with regard to him."

Mabini said that Congress, which was then in session in Tarlac, did not truly represent the people because the war made elections impossible, and so the resolutions passed did not reflect the popular sentiment. In reforming the judicial system, Congress disposed of all Spanish systems (both the good and the bad) resulting in chaos and slowed down the already slow delivery of justice. Mabini felt that good and working parts of the Spanish justice system in the Philippines should be maintained and further improved. Then he explained the need for a dictatorial government during a crisis, going as far as to say, "Drown the Constitution and save the principles."

Contrary to popular belief, Mabini was against the Malolos Constitution and the Malolos Congress, insisting that the times needed a strong president, a dictator who could move the struggle forward. Congress was necessary in stable and peaceful times but an impediment during war:

"It was necessary for the members of the first Congress to demonstrate to the world the capacity of the Filipino people to govern themselves, and for this purpose they copied the Constitution of the French Republic and that of some South American Republics. For what reason was there imported into a country disturbed or threatened by a revolution the Constitution adopted by another nation in time of peace for the purpose of securing the greatest development of its civil life? Why did they not copy the Constitution adopted by the French Revolution or by the North American one or by any other nation that fought for its independence? At least logic and common sense would so counsel."

We all know that common sense is not common. Aguinaldo censored La Independencia without reading the article. He told Teodoro Sandico on Aug. 2, 1899: "I have just heard rumors that there is an article published by SeƱor Mabini in La Independencia entitled 'Something for Congress' in which said body was severely criticized; and, that such an article should not have been published because it disgraces our people and is a charge against them, seeming to confirm our lack of union. I do not know much about it as I have not yet read it and even though I should have done so, I would not thoroughly understand it, (because) as you know, I scarcely understand the Spanish language. According to what I hear, the article mentioned is signed with the name of Paralitico."

When you go through the primary sources on the foundations of the nation, we see division rather than unity. Mabini provided sound advice, and that's why he wasn't popular and was forced to leave the government service.

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