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With all the flak Emilio Aguinaldo has been getting from contemporary Filipinos, it’s good to know the man had his redeeming qualities—namely, his willingness to resign as President in favor of someone more capable.
In the book The Development of Philippine Politics authored by Maximo Kalaw, Miong supposedly tendered his resignation as head of the government sometime in December 1898—a mere month before the formal establishment of the first Philippine Republic.
According to the book, even Aguinaldo’s closest advisers did not know he had written and circulated his resignation letter titled “Requesting a Christmas Gift From My Filipino Brethren.”
In the letter which he wrote in Tagalog, Aguinaldo cited “his acknowledged ignorance of matters of state” and the “favoritism, selfishness and bribery shown by other officials” as his two main reasons for stepping down.
The book also records Aguinaldo’s distrust with those who had flocked to his side after he had seemingly become successful in establishing a Philippine state:
“At about this time, the ablest and most prominent men of the Philippines had already come to his service. Wealthy men who originally paid no attention to his movements had become members of the Cabinet or Congress or had been called by him for cooperation. Yet he evidently did not have full confidence in them. Moreover, these men were naturally conservative, and would accept perhaps the best possible terms under American sovereignty.”
Apparently, even Aguinaldo knew he was surrounded by many subordinates looking out for their own interests and unwilling to risk their necks for the country
Successor’s Loyalty to Country–Not Wealth Or Brilliance–More Important
Again, according to the book, Aguinaldo—in writing his resignation—also described his ideal successor as someone totally devoted to his country and not someone who was merely rich or intelligent.
“For there are learned men who do not want to share the fate of their country when she is in peril…Nor is it enough that he should be wealthy, for there are rich men, and this is more frequent, who will not help with their wealth although they see the country menaced by a new slavery.”
So who was the ideal leader Aguinaldo was thinking of?
The book mentions that many thought Cayetano Arellano, the man who would become the first Supreme Court Chief Justice under the American period, was the one envisioned by Aguinaldo to be his successor. However, Miong admitted decades later it was Apolinario Mabini he was referring to as the ideal next President.
Unfortunately, Aguinaldo’s resignation never came to fruition because when his letters were discovered, “its circulation was suspended and many of its copies burned,” leaving the Filipinos of today to speculate what might have happened had Mabini been our President.
Kalaw, M. (1927). The Development of Philippine Politics (pp. 158-159). Manila: Oriental Commercial Company, Inc.
The Kahimyang Project,. (2015). Requesting a Christmas Gift from My Filipino brethren – Aguinaldo’s Proposed Resignation. Retrieved 19 November 2015, from http://goo.gl/EUPrBK