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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Module 2: Trial and Execution of Andres Bonifacio

The unjust trial of Andres Bonifacio

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 BonifacioMabini writes: "All the electors [at the Tejeros Convention] were friends of Don Emilio Aguinaldo and Don Mariano TrĂ­as, 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."

Agoncillo’s Account on Trial and Execution of Andres Bonifacio

Weak and assailed by fearful thoughts as he lay on a cot in the dark stuffy prison of the Maragondon tribunal, Bonifacio waited for the result of the trial. He was hungry and he has wounds in his neck and left arm. Meanwhile, on May 6th, 1897, the members of the Council of war, now composed of only three members namely, General Mariano Noriel, presiding officer, Tomas Mascardo and Esteban Ynfante, met and studied the records of the trial. Several questions were threshed out and finally voted upon.

First: Did Andres Bonifacio know that there was a revolutionary government?

Second: Did he possess any permit to keep arms and maintain an army as well as the right to make prisoners of men in Limbon?

Third: Did he, together with his brothers, Ciriaco and Procopio, order his soldiers to fire upon the government soldiers?

Fourth: Did he induce the government officers to renege so as to join his forces?

Fifth: Did he, in thus inducing said officers to turn against the government, bribe them?

Sixth: Did he and his brothers offer any resistance to the government soldiers which resulted in the death of Ciriaco and two government soldiers?

Seventh: Was Bonifacio’s intention in staying in Limbon and in maintaining an army of his own to revolt against the government?

Eighth: Do the two brothers, Andres and Procopio, due to the gravity of their crimes, deserve capital punishment?

Ninth: Do the officers and soldiers of said Andres Bonifacio deserve punishment for obeying him?

The members of the Council unanimously decided that the two brothers were guilty as charged and that, with respect to the ninth question, the officers and soldiers of the Supremo shoul;d be transferred, as punishment for being his soldiers and subordinates, to the government army in order to make them work in the barracks. It was furthermore decided that as compensation for the death of the two government soldiers killed in the battle, Andres and Procopio Bonifacio should be held responsible for pensioning the widows of the deceased, with the government throwing in an allowance for their maintenance.

General Noriel immediately announced the result of the Council’s deliberation and ordered that the necessary papers be forwarded to General Emilio Aguinaldo for action. Studying the papers one by one, general Baldomero Aguinaldo, Auditor of War, on May 8th wrote his recommendations to President Aguinaldo. These recommendations reached General Aguinaldo’s headquarters the same day. Without losing a moment, General Aguinaldo, acting in his capacity as President of the Republic, prepared a statement on the case commuting the death penalty meted out to the two brothers to banishment. Maragondon, the rebel capital and headquarters of General Aguinaldo and the place where Andres Bonifacio was tried four days before was then undergoing the experience of a city besieged and threatened by the enemy from all sides.

In so far as the documents are concerned, it appears that the Executive Order pardoning the two brothers were shown to the defense attorneys by Macapagal. However, only the signature of Placido Martinez appears on the document, together with that of Makapagal as attesting to the fact. The same notice of commutation of sentence was apparently shown to Procopio Bonifacio who sight the papers but Makapagal, the secretary, maintained that when the notice presented to Andres Bonifacio, the latter, “after understanding it, agreed, but on account of some trouble with his arm, he was not able to affix his signature. Two witnesses testified and the secretary attests to it.” No signature, either by Makapagal or by Bonifacio or y the two witnesses mentioned, appears on the document.

As soon as Aguinaldo’s order of pardon was released, General Mariano Noriel and General Pio del Pilar rushed to his headquarters and argued their case against Bonifacio. They regarded that he should withdraw his order of pardon because for them to keep Bonifacio alive is to endanger the cause of the Revolution, they couldn’t afford to be divided at the critical moment. Under such powerful pressure, General Aguinaldo withdrew his order of pardon.

Early morning of May 10th, 1897, General Noriel ordered and instructed Major Makapagal to get the prisoners (Andres and Procopio) and take them to Mount Tala; open the sealed letter when they arrive there and read it aloud to the two prisoners; and follow the instructions to the letter. The soldier did everything what he was instructed to do. When they arrived at Mount Tala he read aloud:

"Major Makapagal,In accordance with the order of the Council
held at Maragondong on May 8 against the brothers Andres and Procopio Bonifacio,
who have been sentenced to be shot to death, you and your soldiers under you are
ordered to carry out the judgment."
For a time Major Makapagal stood as if stunned by a heavy blow that made him insensible to his surroundings. The order was precise. He pitied the men before him, imploring his forgiveness as if their lives were in hollow of his hands. He had only one thought for the moment: he was a soldier and as a soldier he had to obey the orders of his superior officers. Before him were his own countrymen, people of his own race, who spoke the same language, and nursed the same ideals as he. He did not relish his mission. It was MURDER, no less. But again he heard the voice of duty and the thought of it seared his mind and rudely brought him face to face with a tragic reality.

Andres, in the brief moment give his word, he must have collected strayed pieces of the past and wove them in his mind into a clear pattern of recollection: the founding of the Katipunan, the despair and the hope of its ultimate success, the discovery, the first cry of the Revolution, the series of battles he had fought against the enemy, the bulled that passed through the collar of his coat in a heroic attempt to save his dear friend, Emilio Jacinto, his sufferings and privation in the mountains of Montalban and San Mateo, his travels through the thick forests or Morong in an attempt to mediate between the quarreling faction of Cavite.

When they were done with the assignment given to them the soldier dug a shallow hole with their bayonets and buried Andres Bonifacio. On the grave, Major Makapagal place a few twigs. The major and the four soldiers marched back to the town and saw the convent and the church tower being bombarded by the enemy. A shot hit the church tower, and a tremendous explosion blew the cap off the Major’s head. Another bullet whizzed at him and hit his left arm, he fell to the ground. Then before losing consciousness, he remembered the letter that he had not finished reading. He took the letter out of the envelope and read:

"You are hereby warned that for any negligence or carelessness
that you commit in carrying out this order, you will be held responsible and
subjected to the rigor of the loaws in the code of Spanish military courtMay God
guard you for many years."

(sgd) M, Noriel

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