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Discerning the synodality path for Filipinos, Part 4

The Philippine Catholic Church in tandem with Cardinal Antonio Tagle, head of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Evangelization of Peoples, should address three different areas to help Filipinos discern their synodality path: Communist inspired insurgency, Filipinos incomplete conversion to Catholicism, and the form of government best suited for the Filipinos.

The fact that over 80% of the country’s population is Catholic, means that the Church has an outsized role in redirecting the trajectory of the country. Whether it is in government, private corporations, institutions of learning, or the general public, a Catholic is always involved in one way or another. Thus, the pulpit will be an important tool if used properly and effectively. But to do that, it is time for it to fully embrace and redefine what is liberation theology in the context of the Philippines.

Manila Archbishop Jose Advincula was right when he said the “Church does not know the poor,” but is wrong to say that “the poor do not know the Church.” The poor do and they have a long memory of their plight. Thirty-one million Filipinos in the last presidential election, mostly Catholics, associated their disgust with the Aquino Yellows to the Church because of its perceived closeness with the rich and the so-called elites of society.

So, where do they need to begin? For starters, review the history of Philippine democracy in the context of the unfinished Philippine revolution. It is timely too with Andres Bonifacio Day celebrating its 70th year. The Katipunan movement is the rightful marker in history to reinvent the Philippines because the Katipunan-inspired Philippine Revolution in 1896 was a true revolution from the masses that Bonifacio was part of, against a colonial power, Spain.

Andres Bonifacio was the founder and supreme leader of the Katipunan that was founded in Biak-na-Bato, Bulacan and grew to several chapters in neighboring provinces. The revolutionary movement was divided between two feuding factions, Magdiwang and Magdalo who had their own ideas of how to conduct the revolution. Bonifacio was allied with the Magdiwang faction.

The factionalism consumed the movement and resulted in multiple loses and defeats. The Magdalo (named after Mary Magdalene) faction was based in Cavite and led by Aguinaldo. Aguinaldo invited Bonifacio to come to Cavite to hash out differences between the two factions, thus the Tejeros Assembly.

The Tejeros assembly that became a Convention in 1897 exposed the genesis of today’s sad state of political discourse in the country and the seeming irreversibly wrong trajectory of Philippine governance. Assembled to discuss the defense of Cavite against the Spaniards, it became an election to decide who will lead the revolutionary government. Bonifacio who convened the assembly as the Supremo (Supreme President) had no choice but to accede to the vote.

The election was clearly staged to embarrass Bonifacio. First, the Assembly voted that everyone honor the result of the election. Then, the election itself gave Aguinaldo (and the Magdalos) a resounding majority (146 votes of 256) with Bonifacio finishing second with 80 votes.

Four other elected officials were from the Magdiwang factions and the last position that Bonifacio was elected to, Director of the Interior, was contested by Daniel Tirona because Bonifacio did not have a lawyer’s diploma. Bonifacio, who did not have good education, was deeply embarrassed, outsmarted and declared the election void due to allegations of electoral fraud (pre-filled ballots, more ballots cast than those present (dagdag-bawas)).

Since Bonifacio did not recognize the election, viz-a-viz, Aguinaldo’s ascendancy as the first president of the republic, he and his brother were ordered executed. Aguinaldo actually commuted their sentences to life imprisonment but was prevailed upon by Aguinaldo’s well-educated and well-off advisers “for the good of the country.” Another casualty of Aguinaldo’s regime three years later was another Magdiwang firebrand, General Antonio Luna who was also executed by Aguinaldo’s men after being lured into the lion’s den like Bonifacio.

The Pact of Biak-na-Bato was a truce signed by Aguinaldo in 1897 with the Spanish Governor-General thereby ending the Philippine Revolution and sending Aquinaldo and five others in exile to Hong Kong. The rebels were paid $MXN800,000 (Mexican Pesos) in three installments after each condition was met (departure and surrendering of arms).

When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898 Admiral George Dewey sailed from Hong Kong to Manila Bay where he defeated the Spanish Fleet in the Battle of Manila Bay. Later that month, Aguinaldo was transported back to the Philippines by the U.S. Navy where he took control of the Philippine revolutionary forces on land and surrounded Manila while the U.S. Navy blockaded the city.

Aguinaldo declared the Philippine Declaration of Independence on June 12, 1898, and subsequently, elected the Malolos Congress which was composed of wealthy and educated men. The Malolos Constitution embodied many things including the Kartilya and the Sanggunian-Hukuman, the charter of laws and morals of the Katipunan. These were espoused by Apolinario Mabini (Aguinaldo’s chief adviser) and President Emilio Aguinaldo, both members of the Freemasonry.

The most contentious issue during the crafting of the Political Constitution of 1898 that became known as the Malolos Constitution, was about the Filipinization of the Catholic Church but under a church-state unity that Aguinaldo and Mabini supported. This concept espoused what Fr. Jose Burgos fought for the secularization of the clergy and allowing native priests to become parish priests. Fr. Burgos along with two other priests, Mariano Gomez and Jacinto Zamora were martyred in connection with the Cavite Mutiny of 1872.

The preponderant concern of the national movement was supportive of the Filipino clergy. The vote was held, and the church-state separation won by one vote despite the lobbying of the only Filipino Catholic clergy in the Revolutionary Congress, Gregorio Aglipay.

Aglipay’s contention was that Catholicism was the basis of society and government because it is the religion of the majority of Filipinos. Mabini fought hard to have the separation, but Aguinaldo needed the cooperation of the Filipino clergy for the revolution. As prime minister, Mabini recommended that the voting was inadmissible and convinced Aguinaldo to postpone the implementation. Consequently, the Malolos Constitution never saw the light of day as fighting broke out between Philippine and American forces.

A year later, Fr. Gregorio Aglipay convened the Paniqui, Tarlac assembly that declared itself independent of the Spanish ecclesiastical hierarchy, confirmed allegiance to Rome, and vowed it would not accept any foreign bishop “unless approved by native priests.” Aglipay was excommunicated for “usurpation of authority,” but Aquinaldo kept him as the movement’s Chief Vicar.

General Emilio Aguinaldo’s revolution against the Spaniards and the Americans were revolutions against colonial rule but the Malolos Congress showed it was dominated by, and included Aguinaldo, the principalia, the ruling class in Spanish Philippines. Aguinaldo was captured by the United States in 1901 and swore allegiance to the same, thus ending the war. History tells us that the principalia or the ruling elite soon collaborated with the United States to protect their economic privileges. To be continued…


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