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Without a doubt, Emilio Aguinaldo is certainly one of the most polarizing figures in Philippine history. While his achievements on the battlefield cannot be discounted, Miong’s legacy continues to be stained with the deaths of Andres Bonifacio and Antonio Luna—two revolutionary figures whose demise will always be connected to his name.
It’s surprising to know for some that while Aguinaldo denied having anything to do with Luna’s murder until his dying day, he readily confessed to having ordered Bonifacio’s execution.
On March 22, 1948 (the day before his birthday), Aguinaldo released a letter saying he was indeed the one who ordered the execution of Bonifacio and his brother Procopio (the letter was certified authentic by Teodoro Agoncillo and published in his book ‘Revolt of the Masses’).
In his letter bearing his signature, Aguinaldo said that while he initially commuted the brothers’ death sentence to banishment, he was prevailed upon by his generals Mariano Noriel and Pio del Pilar who were part of his Council of War to carry out the execution for the country’s sake.
“Kung ibig po ninyong magpatuloy ang kapanatagan ng pamahalaang mapanghimagsik, at kung ibig ninyong mabuhay pa tayo, ay inyo pong bawiin ang iginawad na indukto sa magkapatid na iyan,” they told him.
In reply, Aguinaldo said: “Dahil dito’y aking binawi at inutos ko kay Heneral Noriel na ipatupad ang kahatulan ng Consejo de Guerra, na barilin ang magkapatid, alang-alang sa kapanatagan ng bayan.”
So, was Aguinaldo to blame for everything?
According to historian Xiao Chua, while Miong may indeed have had his faults, the blame should be also placed on his inner circle especially the elite for their negative influence on the country’s youngest president who was undeniably a greenhorn in the world of politics.
Remember, the only offices Aguinaldo held before becoming president was cabeza de barangay of Binakayan and gobernadorcillo capitan municipal of Cavite el Viejo.
“We have to consider that he was 28 or 29 when he became president,” Chua said. “He was surrounded by traditional politicians.”
“It was the elite system—“elite democracy” that killed the Supremo,” he added.
Agoncillo, T. (1956). The Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan. University of Philippines.
Chua, M. (2013). Ang Pagpaslang Kay Supremo Andres Bonifacio. It’s Xiao Time!. Retrieved 2 October 2015, from http://goo.gl/7MFYAI
Quintos, P. (2015). Hero or traitor? Historian weighs in on Aguinaldo, Luna. ABS-CBNnews.com. Retrieved 2 October 2015, from http://goo.gl/y4fgb8