Did Andres Bonifacio order Pedro Giron to assassinate Emilio Aguinaldo for ten pesos? Did Emilio Aguinaldo get lawfully elected as President of the First Republic? Could Bonifacio have committed treason against a government that was repudiated by an overt act of the same persons who who participated in its creation? It has been more than a century after Andres Bonifacio’s trial, and we still ask the same questions. To commemorate the birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio on the 30th of this month, I am posting the multi-part series on the Trial of Andres Bonifacio, founder of the Katipunan. More background material on Andres Bonifacio may be found here.
The Tejeros Convention
We begin our story on March 22, 1897. Cavite was liberated by the victorious but divided revolutionary forces, the Magdalo Wing, led by Baldomero Aguinaldo, and the Magdiwang Wing led by Mariano Alvarez. The Tejeros Convention was called originally by the Magdiwang faction to find out how the Magdalo controlled towns could be better fortified, as the Spanish Army began retaking the towns liberated by the revolutionary forces. The meeting took place in the Tejeros Estate, and first presided over by Jacinto Lumbreras.
Severino de los Alas rose at the start to the session to question the agenda. Wouldn’t it be better to determine first the kind of government existing in the country as upon that government would depend whatever defense might be needed? Lumbreras replied, it was a non-issue. The country is ruled by the supreme council of the Katipunan. Andres Bonifacio, founder of the Katipunan and head of the Supreme Council, spoke and supported Lumbreras. The “K” in the KKK means Kalayaan (Liberty). De la Alas argued, the “K” in the flag is irrelevant to the issue. Is the country a monarchy or a republic? That is the question. Bonifacio replied that the Katipuneros recognized the principles of Union, Fraternity and Equality. Clearly, the government of the Katipunan was a republic.
At this time, the hotheads appeared to be steaming, as Antonio Montenegro spoke to support de las Alas, and in a louder voice claimed that unless some definite understanding was arrived at, the insurgents were mere groups of tulisanes or much worse, brutes. With glaring eyes, Santiago Alvarez stood up, and addressed Montenegro: “We insurgents of Cavite especially of the Magdiwang government recognize and obey the government established by the Katipunan; if you wish to establish any other kind of government more suited to your fancy, retire to your province and conquer territory from the Spanish government as we have done here, and establish there whatever government you like, and no one will interfere with you. We Cavitenos do not need anyone of your caliber as an instructor. “
A commotion ensued. The session went on recess with the Magdiwang guards of Alvarez assuming a threatening attitude against Montenegro’s group. An hour later, heads have cooled down. Andres Bonifacio called the meeting to order. Lumbreras did not want to preside, because the agenda had been changed. Artemio Ricarte (Vibora) took the minutes of the continuation of the meeting.
Andres Bonifacio agreed to the call for the election of a new government on one condition: all must recognize the principle that they respect and obey the decision or vote of the majority. Everyone agreed, and the first elections of the First Republic took place.
Before taking a vote, Andres Bonifacio called the attention of the electors to the fact that whoever should be elected by a majority vote should be respected and obeyed, whatever his social status and whatever his degree of culture might be; that is to say even though he should be a casillero (toilet cleaner).
In the following elections, Emilio Aguinaldo was voted President over Andres Bonifacio and Mariano Trias. Santiago Alvarez suggested that Andres Bonifacio be considered the Vice-President having garnered the second highest number of votes as President. No one commented on his suggestion.
The elections continued with Vibora getting elected as Captain General. He protested claiming he was not qualified. But his protests were ignored as the voting continued, this time no longer by balloting. Instead, those who favored any person for a position were made to stand on one side, and those who favored other persons were made to stand on the other, in order to shorten the process as night was falling. Elected in this manner was Emiliano Riego de Dios, Director of War.
Thereafter, the elections for Director of Interior proceeded with Andres Bonifacio getting more people to stand on his side over Mariano and Pascual Alvarez. In the midst of the acclamation for Andres, Daniel Tirona spoke, “The position of Minister of Interior is a very important one and should not be occupied by a person who is not a lawyer. We have in our province a lawyer Jose del Rosario; hence we must protest against the election of the persons elected and acclaimed.” Then he cried “Let us vote for Jose del Rosario, the lawyer!”
Bonifacio rose to his feet and said, “Have we not agreed that we shall obey the will of the majority, whatever might be the social position of the person elected?” He asked Daniel Tirona to repeat what he said or apologize to the assembly for the insult offered to the person elected for up to that time none of those elected was fitted by the reason of his culture for the position to which he had been designated. Tirona hid himself among the crowd, as Bonifacio drew his gun on Tirona, but Vibora seized Bonifacio’s hand and the incident passed without further ado. As the people were about to leave the room, Bonifacio declared, “I, as President of the session and also as president of the supreme council of the Katipunan as you all know, declare this assembly closed, and annul everything that has been done therein.” He then left the room followed by his group. (The above was based on the memoirs of Artemio Ricarte a.k.a. Vibora)
The Acta de Tejeros
The following day, Bonifacio, Mariano Alvarez, Vibora, Diego Moxica and forty four others signed the Acta de Tejeros. declaring among others, that the elections held the day before invalid for lack of legality as the ballots were prepared by one person and distributed to unqualified persons to ensure majority.
That night, however, Emilio Aguinaldo took his oath of office in Sta. Cruz de Malabon.
The Naic Military Agrement
On April 19, 1897, Bonifacio led the signing of the Naic Military Agreement, which placed the entire revolutionary army under General Pio del Pilar. The agreement was signed by 44 generals and leaders including, General Pio del Pilar and one Pedro Giron. Full text of the Agreement may be found here.
Aguinaldo arrived at Naic and caught up with Bonifacio, Gen. Pio de Pilar and Gen. Mariano Noriel. Bonifacio with his two bothers then tried to make their way to Batangas, where a rival government had been set up for him to lead. In a letter to Emilio Jacinto dated April 2, 1897, Andres claimed that the Batangas provisional government was placed under his orders.
On April 26, 1897, Aguinaldo ordered Bonifacio’s arrest to Colonel Agapito Bonzon for “treason and other acts inimical to the safety and existence of the fledgling Republic.”
On April 27, 1897, the three Bonifacio brothers were captured in Indang, Cavite. Ciriaco was killed, and Andres and Procopio were taken to Naic for trial. Bonifacio was carried in a hammock, his left arm shot and neck wounded with a dagger. Soon after, Naic fell to Spanish hands, thus Aguinaldo moved his government to Maragondon where the trial of Andres and Procopio was held.
What really happened in Indang? What were the charges against Bonifacio? What were the evidence?
(To be continued)
La Vida Lawyer Notes