Thursday, November 17, 2005

Part Two of the Famous Trial of Andres Bonifacio: The Testimony of Pedro Giron

In Part One of this Famous Trials Series, we had an inside view of the proceedings in the Tejeros Convention based on the memoirs of Artemio Ricarte, the secretary of the meeting during the elections. Then, we noted Andres’s efforts to nullify the proceedings with the signing of the Acta de Tejeros and the Naic Military Agreement. We concluded with the arrest of Andres and Procopio Bonifacio in Indang, Cavite.

The Government’s Story

The arrest of Andres and Procopio Bonifacio and the death of their brother Ciriaco are matters that were themselves in issue, along with the charges of treason and sedition against the brothers, in the trial that followed.

The report of General Mariano Noriel (a signatory to the Naik Military Agreement) to Emilio Aguinaldo laid down the version of the Revolutionary Government, as follows:

“Honorable and Eminent President:

“I should like to inform Your Excellency of the report given me by Colonel Agapito Bonzon, who was ordered to Indang together with our soldiers, on the matter regarding the Supremo, and this is no other than what follows.

“When he met the said Supremo, he used on him sweet words in order to convince him to accept his well-meant invitation, but in spite of this he was not able to soften the hard heart, which, besides refusing it, behaved like a real enemy and ordered his soldiers to open fire, which our side returned; for this reason, the unfortunate shedding of blood came to pass, a thing which he (Bonzon) would not have wished to happen on account of his love for the brothers; but in the pursuit of his duty, he deemed it proper to pursue this line of action and, consequently, paid with the lives of a rifleman from Imus and a boloman from Gargano (Bakood); however, they were able to kill a brother of the Supremo and the latter they left in the Tribunal of Indang in a somewhat serious condition because of the wound he had received in the throat; they were able to capture the twenty riflemen with him and a brother of the said Supremo.

Regarding this occurrence, it is up to your good judgment to determine just how grave is the erroneous and treasonable thought of Andres Bonifacio.

May the Lord God keep us safe for many years. Maguagi (Naik) twenty-eight of April one thousand eight-hundred and ninety-seven.
(From the translation of Virginia Palma-Bonifacio as it appears in Teodoro Agoncillo’s Writings and Trial of Andres Bonifacio and cited by Justice Abraham Sarmiento’s The Trial of Andres Bonifacio: the Appeal, published in 2005 by the UP Press. This is the basis for most quotations of this entry.)

Aguinaldo endorsed the case to the Council of War. Colonel Pantaleon Garcia began the investigation with Lazaro Makapagal as secretary. From April 29 to May 4, 1897, the Council of War took testimonies of the trial.

The Evidence

The inventory of guns seized from Bonifacio consisted of 28 firearms. The testimonies of the following people were obtained: Benito Torres, Nicolas de Guzman, Rafael Non, Narciso Tiolo, Julia Aguila, Cayetano Lopez, Biviano Roxas, Domingo Deulaso, Domingo San Juan, and Gervacio Santiago. Most of these testimonies, however, were remotely relevant, if at all, to the charges against the Bonifacio Brothers. The testimonies of the above witnesses did not support the allegation that the Bonifacio Brothers were plotting against the Revolutionary Government. Benito Torres testified, though, that in Limbon, Indang Cavite, Ciriaco was the first to fire against the government soldiers.

The Testimony of Pedro Giron

The testimony that stood out was that of Pedro Giron, another one of the signatories to the Naic Military Agreement that placed the revolutionary forces under the command of General Pio del Pilar. His statement based on the original transcription of Lazaro Makapagal and translated in the book of Teodoro Agoncillo was as follows:

“Barracks at Naik, the thirtieth day of the month of April of the year one thousand eight hundred and ninety-seven. Before the Colonel Judge Advocate and myself, the Secretary, appeared the person of Pedro Giron, single, twenty-seven years of age, native of the town of Baliuag, and in order to conduct the proper investigation, he stated the following:

“He was asked: If the one testifying knew that here in this province there is a Government, and if this Government had an army; having understood the question, he answered that there is a Government and an Army.

“He was asked: If Andres Bonifacio had authority here in the Province and, because of this, if the said Andres should properly have an Army; having understood the question, he answered that he knows of no authority coming from this Government.

“He was asked: How many were the guns of Mr. Andres Bonifacio and also how many were his soldiers; he answered that he does not know how many were the guns and the soldiers of Mr. Andres Bonifacio, for the one testifying, in his opinion, was being passed off as one of the soldiers of Mr. Andres, although he did not want to be one of them because he knows that Mr. Andres had evil intentions ever since the meeting held in the town of Tanza regarding the election of a President and other officials; one day, the date of which he could not remember, in the town of Malabon, Andres Bonifacio told him, Let us leave this place because the officials lead badly, so the good thing is for you to join me and you will be better off because, without fail, power would become his (Bonifacio’s), since he was the one who started the fight for freedom; one day when all the forces from the town of Tanza were already in this town, which, in his estimate, was already about twenty days later, more or less, Andres Bonifacio had the one testifying summoned, and when he arrived in the house where he was, Bonifacio said, What will become of us here? But even then, inasmuch as he was the one in power, Kapitan Emilio (Aguinaldo) would be forced to submit to him and should he disobey, he would have him killed, so on that very day the one testifying was given ten pesos as payment to kill Kapitan Emilio if he does not yield to his authority and he told the one testifying that any time, so long as he carries out his wishes, he will not neglect to give anything that might be needed; in this regard, thinking this would end in trouble, he separated from Mr. Andres and he went to Buenavista in Malabon and to Pasong Kauayan with a few soldiers of Malabon on the excuse that he was going to get a number of infantrymen who were his fellow townsmen and acquaintances in the towns of Silang, P. DasmariƱas, Malabon and Tanza; the one testifying also knows that Mr. Andres was assembling soldiers because if, as he said, our troops would be defeated, he would take them out with him, and if they would not be defeated, he would then stay here because everybody would be forced to submit to his authority, so he induced a few of the officers here to join him; in truth, the one testifying knows that a number of the soldiers of Mr. Andres were the ones asking that they leave in order to avoid trouble of any kind, but Andres would not accede to this, replying to the one who presented the proposal that if this should happen and we depart then many will say that he had taken fright and submitted completely to the authority of the few who are in power here.

“He was asked: If everything stated in his answer to the third question was known to the two brothers of Mr. Andres Bonifacio, Ciriaco and Procopio, or if they were privy to it; having understood the question, he answered, No.

“He was asked: If he knew that at the house which was occupied by Mr. Andres Bonifacio at Limbon, there had been meetings, at what time these had been held, and what had been talked about, and who were the people meeting there; having understood the question, he answered that he knows meetings were always being held, that he could not recognize these people because he is not from this place and also does not know what they were conferring about.

“He was asked again: If the one testifying knew where the food of the soldiers of Mr. Andres Bonifacio came from, and who were the persons giving them food; he answered that he does not know where it came from.

“He was asked: If the one testifying had anything more to say besides what he had already said; having understood the question, he answered that very early the previous Wednesday he was at Limbon, and at the time of the shooting between the soldiers of this Government and the three Bonifacio brothers, because of his desire that such a thing should not happen, the one testifying placed himself in the middle to influence, perhaps by his good argument and sweet persuasion, Ciriaco Bonifacio who not only refuse to be restrained but also discharged his gun, causing the death of the two soldiers of the Government; in this regard he thought they could not be pacified and he shouted, Brothers, we are not enemies; find out who are the ones who do not want peace. This examination was ordered stopped, so that after it had been read to him and certified, the Judge Advocate then signed and also the one testifying, and I, the Secretary, attest to the truth of this. Between the lines: one day: at Limbon:


For the part of the accused, Procopio Bonifacio testified, among others, that he was not resisting and was in fact surrendering his firearm. He was not aware of the existence of the Revolutionary Government, and learned of it only from passers-by.

Gregoria de Jesus, Bonifacio’s wife, testified likewise, that Colonel Bonzon’s men started the fighting on April 26. No meetings took place. She did not know that there is a President of the archipelago. She also testified that Col. Yntong Bonzon attempted to abuse her.

How did Andres Bonifacio answer the charges against him? How did his counsel Placido Martinez defend him? In the face of this evidence, how did the Court Martial justify its decision?

(To be continued)

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