Revisiting June 12

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By Jonathan Llanes

The Maryknoller

Thursday, June 12, 2014


BEING a Filipino, it is very important to salute what are forefathers have fought for to attain what we are presently enjoying, namely, Philippine independence.

With yesterday's observance of our 116th Philippine Independence, and coming from a family lineage of the Trias of Cavite and the Llanes of Ilocos Sur and Norte, and with great thanks to online Wikipedia, I find it just right to revisit the chronology of our country’s independence.

Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over the territory. The opposite of independence is a dependent territory. Independence does not necessarily mean freedom.

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Whether the attainment of independence is different from revolution has long been contested, and has often been debated over the question of violence as a legitimate means to achieving sovereignty.

While some revolutions seek and achieve national independence, others aim only to redistribute power — with or without an element of emancipation, such as in democratization — within a state, which as such may remain unaltered.

The Philippine Declaration of Independence was proclaimed on June 12, 1898 in Cavite II el Viejo (present-day Kawit, Cavite), Philippines. With the public reading of the Act of the Declaration of independence (Spanish: Acta de la proclamación de independencia del pueblo Filipino), Filipino revolutionary forces under General Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed the sovereignty and independence of the Philippine Islands from the colonial rule of Spain.

In 1896, the Philippine Revolution began. In December 1897, the Spanish government and the revolutionaries signed a truce, the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, requiring that the Spanish pay the revolutionaries 800,000 pesos and that Aquinaldo and other leaders go into exile in Hong Kong. In April 1898, at the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Commodore George Dewey aboard the USS Olympia sailed from Hong Kong to Manila Bay leading the Asiatic Squadron of the US Navy.

On May 1, 1898, the United States defeated the Spanish in the Battle of Manila Bay. Emilio Aguinaldo decided to return to the Philippines to help American forces defeat the Spaniards, The U.S. Navy agreed to transport him back aboard the USS McCulloch, and on May 19, he arrived in Cavite.

The Proclamation of June 12

The original Flag raised by President Emilio Aguinaldo in declaring the independence in 1898 Independence was proclaimed on June 12, 1898 between four and five in the afternoon in Cavite at the ancestral home of General Emilio Aguinaldo some 30 kilometers South of Manila.

The event saw the unfurling of the National Flag of the Philippines, made in Hong Kong by Marcela Agoncillo, Lorenza Agoncillo, and Delfina Herboza, and the performance of the Marcha Filipina Magdalo, as the national anthem, now known as Lupang Hinirang, which was composed by Julián Felipe and played by the San Francisco de Malabon marching band.

The Act of the Declaration of Independence was prepared, written, and read by Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista in Spanish. The Declaration was signed by 98 people, among them an American army officer who witnessed the proclamation.

The final paragraph states that there was a "stranger" (stranger in English translation — extrangero in the original Spanish, meaning foreigner) who attended the proceedings, Mr. L. M. Johnson, described as "a citizen of the USA, a Colonel of Artillery". The proclamation of Philippine independence was, however, promulgated on 1 August, when many towns had already been organized under the rules laid down by the Dictatorial Government of General Aguinaldo.

Later at Malolos, Bulacan, the Malolos Congress modified the declaration upon the insistence of Apolinario Mabini who objected to that the original proclamation essentially placed the Philippines under the protection of the United States.

Struggle for Independence

The declaration was never recognized by either the United States or Spain.

Later in 1898, Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States in the 1898 Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War.

The Philippine Revolutionary Government did not recognize the treaty or American sovereignty, and subsequently fought and lost a conflict with United States originally referred to by the American forces, even officially, as the "Philippine Insurrection" but now generally called the Philippine-American War, which ended when Emilio Aguinaldo was captured by US forces, and issued a statement acknowledging and accepting the sovereignty of the United States over the Philippines.

This was then followed on July 2, 1902, by US Secretary of War Elihu Root telegraphing that the insurrection the United States had come to an end and that provincial civil governments had been established everywhere except those areas inhabited by Moro tribes. Pockets of resistance continued for several years.

Following World War II, the US granted independence to the Philippines on 4 July 1946 via the Treaty of Manila. July 4 was observed in the Philippines as Independence Day until August 4, 1964 when, upon the advice of historians and the urging of nationalists, President Diosdado Macapagal signed into law Republic Act No. 4166 designating June 12 as the country's Independence Day. June 12 had previously been observed as Flag Day and many government buildings are urged to display the Philippine Flag in their offices.

Current Location of the Declaration

The Declaration is currently housed in the National Library of the Philippines. It is not on public display but can be viewed with permission like any other document held by the National Library.

During the Philippine-American War, the American government captured and sent to the United States about 400,000 historical documents. In 1958, the documents were given to the Philippine government along with two sets of microfilm of the entire collection, with the US Federal Government keeping one set.

Sometime in the 1980s or 1990s the Declaration was stolen from the National Library. As part of a larger investigation into the widespread theft of historical documents and a subsequent public appeal for the return of stolen documents, the Declaration was returned to the National Library in 1994 by University of the Philippines professor Milagros Guerrero.

Philippine Declaration of Independence

The Act of Proclamation of the Independence of the Filipino People (Spanish: Acta de la proclamación de independencia del pueblo Filipino) is part of a long line of declarations of independence including the United States Declaration of Independence. It includes a list of grievances against the Spanish government stretching back to Ferdinand Magellan's arrival in 1521 and "confer(s) upon our famous Dictator Don Emilio Aguinaldo all the powers necessary to enable him to discharge the duties of Government, including the prerogatives of granting pardon and amnesty.

Happy 116th Philippine Independence!

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on June 13, 2014.

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