Before Apolinario Mabini and General Arthur MacArthur Jr. met in person, he had stated in a letter that he had ceased to be officially affiliated with the Philippine revolutionary forces. As such, he demanded to be treated well and be allowed to be moved to a house where he may feel comfortable. The context of the demand was also indicated in the letter:
“I was not a prisoner; doubtless because I was not holding any public position either civil or military, in the Republic of the Revolution at the time of my capture and they could not find any justifiable cause to make me a prisoner. But, in reality, they have always treated me as a war prisoner, and even worse than one.”
Moreover, he argued that his arrest and the maltreatment he suffered were unlawful based on the very laws imposed by the American colonial regime in the Philippines in the guise of humanitarian concerns for the Filipino people.
On the 22nd of June 1900, Mabini wrote a report about his meeting with MacArthur. The Taft Commission was in Manila and General Elwell S. Otis had replaced MacArthur as Military Governor of the Philippines who gave amnesty to the prisoners of war and surrenderees. In the case of Mabini, in exchange for amnesty, he had to pledge his allegiance to United States of America and agree to the eight bases of peace offered by the colonial forces.
In that report, Mabini was firmly insisting that before his oath-taking ceremony which was required before he was to be given amnesty, Americans, should vow to respect the rights of the Filipinos as free citizens not through promises but as decreed by law. MacArthur tried to outwit him through selected provisions on freedom taken form the Constitution of the United States of America. He wanted Mabini to acknowledge the authority of imperialist forces in the archipelago.
Mabini demanded that laws must ensure the freedom of Filipinos. It must be passed and promulgated as soon as possible, in order to guarantee their independence. Moreover, he stated that if the Government of the United States had the gall to seize the sovereignty that by natural right belonged to the Filipino people, then it could also be bold enough to disregard the individual rights of the Filipinos, as long as doing so suits its aims. The tenacious refusal to make any formal promise or guarantee fueled the flames of distrust of Filipinos.
MacArthur expressed disappointment in Mabini when said that he regretted that he could not count on him for the pacification of the Philippines. Yet it seemed like all kinds of resistance at that point were useless and even pernicious.
In an undated and unsigned letter, Mabini advised President Aguinaldo, to send men abroad and spend their money on anyone who was willing to sell them arms. He also suggested that Aguinaldo hire foreign military officers who might teach them military strategy and tactics. He believed that once the colonial forces realized that Filipinos were ready to fight, they would be forced to come to terms with them – especially if they learned that the country that supplied them with officials and military armaments was a possible political ally. Further, he was determined to prepare for a prolonged war against American imperialist forces and strategizing it in an international scale. For him, the internal empowerment of revolutionary forces and strengthened external ties through diplomatic works were considered vital to attain a certain degree of strength.
In his essay ¿Cuál es la Verdadera Misión de la Revolución Filipina?, Mabini explained that a revolution was a reality born in the realm of action. A revolution involved a readiness to wage all forms of civil war, since it tended to dethrone a despotic power, especially the people who were arbitrarily and unjustly colonized. Territorial independence could also be gained from dominating powers or foreign intruders through international law, at least on the strength of the revolutionary events that had transpired. The scope and limitation of the usage of the term revolution is well defined in the first part of his Ordenanzas de la Revolución which consists of thirty-two rules for revolutionary forces and its sympathizers.
However, Mabini also gave importance to the morality of the Government. For him, Independence alone was not enough.
“A moral government is also indispensable. It must be very moral, that is, it should govern with truth, without deceit, sincerely complying with the laws in its promises to the people; a government that is appropriately progressive. This means a government that is not lagging much behind nor too advanced but one that is adapted to the culture and the growing needs of the people. In short, a government that is very patriotic, that is, one that seeks the general welfare, not that of the individual nor of the privileged class.”
He imagined a Republican welfare state that prioritized the interest of the Filipino people. For him, that was the way to make the Philippine nation great. On the quest for this historical project of national liberation, he believed the citizens could gain confidence and pride even amid inexperienced and diversified forces. Mabini’s optimism for social change by way of revolution was uplifting to the people’s morale. And his adversaries were annoyed by his sarcastic criticism.
Colonial authorities considered Mabini’s writings a real threat to the forcible colonization of the Philippines. A risk to colonial plans, he was deported to Guam due to his continued agitation through correspondence with Filipino revolutionaries while living in Manila and his persistent efforts to rally support for the cause of the revolution.
Down to his last, Mabini believed that the power resides in the people as the people are truly the sovereign force. Whoever is aspiring to be a nominee in the upcoming national election in 2022, better heed this lesson of Mabini whose teachings we memorialize.
Indeed, it is important to revisit Mabini’s works amid this pandemic, Kafkaesque state apparatuses, false promises of elected leaders, never-ending production of fake news and manipulated data, and territorial disputes and claims.
Continued criticism of mediocrity in government helps to strengthen the pillars of a democratic society and contributes to a real nation-building.
Dissent must not be silenced.