With Annotations from Apolinario Mabini’s Memorias de la Revolución Filipina
by Adolfo Quizon Paglinawan
Part 2: Fast forward to the Americans.
As Mabini had anticipated, our improvised militia could not face up with the disciplined American troops.
Moreover, it must be admitted that the Filipino forces stationed around Manila were not in position to attack the Americans. General Artemio Ricarte, in command of the detachments in the south, and General Luciano San Miguel, commander of the eastern zone, were in Malolos.
The Katipunan was really a ragtag army. Little accustomed to war, the Filipino commanders and officers hardly appreciated the value of military coordination and discipline so that the emplacements were not appraised of any approaching order and precision.
Emilio Aguinaldo, who had scant appreciation of the advantages of a unified command and coordinated tactics, made no provision for the prompt restoration of communications. The Filipino general staff had not studied or laid down any plans for offensive or withdrawal movements in case of an outbreak of hostilities.
Aguinaldo wanted to keep the forces around Manila under his direct orders, commanding them from his residence in Malolos, following the Congress at Barasoain Church. He could not, however, devote himself completely to the duties of this command because of his preoccupations as head of the government and the conceit of personally micromanaging many matters which should have been channeled through the departments of the central administration.
Only after the outbreak of hostilities, when the telegraph lines had already been cut, did he name General Antonio Luna commander of the forces operating around Manila, but by that time the various army units had already evacuated their old emplacements, and communications among them had become slow, difficult and hazardous.
Furthermore, Luna resigned his command shortly afterward because Baldomero Aguinaldo, War Minister and the first cousin of President Emilio, disapproved one of his dispositions. He however resumed command of the defensive operations north of Manila when the Philippine Government was compelled to leave Malolos for San Isidro in the province of Nueva Ecija.
Luna was able to raise fresh forces in Calumpit, forming a number of companies composed of veteran soldiers from the former native army organized by the Spanish Government, and with these troops as a core he imposed a stern disciplinary system to stop the demoralization of our troops.
But many commanders, jealous of their authority, withheld from him the effective cooperation that was necessary. This led to the cashiering by brute force of commanders who did not recognize his authority, or the court-martialing of those who abandoned their posts in the face of the enemy, or the disarming of troops that disobeyed his orders.
In spite of all these obstacles, Luna would have succeeded in imposing and maintaining discipline if Aguinaldo had supported him with all the power of his prestige and authority, but the latter was also beginning to grow jealous, seeing Luna slowly gain ascendancy by his bravery, audacity, and military skill.
All those affronted by his actuations started inducing Aguinaldo to believe that Luna was plotting to wrest the power from his supreme authority.
Effusions on Luna’s assassination
After the Calumpit bridge in Bulacan had fallen to the American forces, due mainly to the scarcity of ammunition, Luna came to see Mabini in San Isidro, Nueva Ecija and entreated him to help convince Mr. Aguinaldo that the time had come to adopt guerrilla warfare.
In a twist of fate, Mabini could not keep his promise because he did not get to see Aguinaldo until after some time because he had to relinquish his office to his successor, Don Pedro A. Paterno, so in the first days of May 1899, Mabini had to leave for the town of Rosales near Bayambang, Pangasinan.
A few weeks later Aguinaldo sent a telegram asking Luna to see him in Cabanatuan for an exchange of views.
But when Luna arrived in Cabanatuan he did not find Aguinaldo. Instead, he fell into a trap Aguinaldo assumably laid, leaving him to die by treachery in the hands of the very same soldiers whom he had disarmed and court-martialed for abandonment of their post and disobedience to his orders.
Colonel Francisco Roman, who accompanied Luna, died with him.
Before his death Luna set up headquarters in Bayambang, and had reconnoitered Bangued to determine if it met the conditions for an efficacious defense in case of a retreat; what is more, he had already transported there heavier pieces of ordnance.
Mabini found it hard to believe that Luna was plotting to wrest from the presidency from Aguinaldo because Luna seriously aspired to be prime minister to replace Paterno, who was advocating an autonomy program that he thought was a violation of the fundamental law of the State and a punishable crime.
Note that Luna’s midset was already functioning here under a constitutional democracy as the Malolos Constitution went into effect January 21, 1899. The general was assassinated less than five months after in June 5, 1899.
This is shown by a report in the newspaper La Independencia, inspired by Luna and published a few days before his death, which stated that the Paterno-Buencamino cabinet should be replaced, in which Luna would be prime minister as well as war minister.
Thus, when Luna received Aguinaldo’s telegram summoning him to Cabanatuan, Luna most likely thought that the subject of their meeting would be forming the new cabinet. Besides, he would not have an attempt to assassinate him precisely at the critical juncture when the Revolution most needed his strong and skilled right arm.
Neither did Mabini believe that a licit and correct ambition should inspire fear in Aguinaldo who had named him commanding general of the Philippine army.
Luna had certainly allowed himself to say on occasion that Aguinaldo had a weak character and was unfit to be a leader, but such language was only an explosive outlet for a fiery and ebullient temperament which saw its plans frustrated by the lack of necessary support.
All of Luna’s acts revealed integrity and patriotism combined with a zealous activity that measured up to the situation. If he was sometimes hasty and even cruel in his decisions, it was because the army was in a desperate position due to the demoralization of the troops and the lack of munitions; only acts of daring and extraordinary energy could prevent its disintegration.
The execution of Andres Bonifacio two years before Luna, for sheer disagreements in the Tejeros Convention, had plainly shown in Emilio Aguinaldo a boundless appetite for power, and Antonio Luna’s personal enemies exploited this weakness of Aguinaldo with skillful intrigues in order to deliver Luna’s ruin.
To say that if Aguinaldo, instead of having Luna killed, had supported him with all his power the Revolution would have triumphed, would be presumption indeed. (Mabini) least doubts however that the Americans would have had a higher regard for the courage and military abilities of the Filipinos.
While Luna was being murdered, Aguinaldo was in Tarlac assuming command of the forces which Luna earlier had organized, establishing his government in Tarlac but wasting his time on political and literary activities.
This negligence, General Elwell Stephen Otis exploited by landing his infantry north in San Fabian, Pangasinan while his cavalry wheeling through San Jose, Nueva Ecija and Umingan, Pangasinan taking San Quintin and Tayug in Pangasinan, thus cutting all of Aguinaldo’s lines of retreat, and giving the deathblow to the Revolution.
Had Luna been alive, Mabini was sure that Otis’s mortal blow would have been parried or at least timely prevented, and Aguinaldo’s unfitness for military command would not have been exposed so clearly.
Furthermore, to rid himself of Luna, Aguinaldo had recourse to the very soldiers whom Luna had punished for breaches of discipline; by doing so Aguinaldo destroyed that discipline, and with it his own army.
Without Luna, its most firm support, fell the Revolution, and, the ignominy of that fall bearing wholly on Aguinaldo, brought about in turn his own moral death, a thousand times more bitter than physical death. The first Philippine president ruined himself, damned by his own deeds, in what were great crimes punished by Divine Providence.
To be continued. Read Part 3 (Final) on July 31, 2021 Saturday.