‘Dagdag-bawas’ in 1897
A long and beautifully penned letter from Andres Bonifacio to Emilio Jacinto dated April 24, 1897, is perhaps the most historically important of the five lots originally from the Epifanio de los Santos collection that will be put on the block next weekend at Leon Gallery. Except for acid stains on the document that come naturally with age, and the previous use of tape to repair and contain a tear here and there, the document is in excellent condition. With proper conservation, the acid and tape stains can be washed off, the paper bleached to make it good as new so Bonifacio’s fluid penmanship in black ink will stand out. The document is written on printed letterhead that reads: “Andres Bonifacio MAYPAGASA P[angulo] ng K[ataastaasang] Kapulungan.” On the left of Bonifacio’s florid signature is stamped the seal of the “Haring Bayang Katagalugan— Kataastaasang Kapulungan [Sovereign Tagalog Nation. Supreme Council].”
What makes this document significant is Bonifacio’s own account of the meeting in Tejeros on March 22, 1897, that started out as a means for the two rival Katipunan factions Magdiwang and Magdalo to discuss and thresh out their differences for unity, but ended up as a “snap election.” A revolutionary government was formed over the Katipunan where Emilio Aguinaldo was elected president (in absentia). Things would have gone smoothly until Daniel Tirona contested Bonifacio’s election as secretary of the interior, insisting on another more qualified candidate leading Bonifacio to storm out of the meeting after declaring the results of the election null and void. The pertinent part of the letter, translated from the original Tagalog by Jim Richardson, reads:
“When the voting took place the outcome was that Don Emilio Aguinaldo was elected president of the Republic; Don Mariano Trias, vice president; Don Artemio Ricarte as general in chief; Don Emiliano R. de Dios, director of war. This was all by acclamation, and was cheered by all, in the same way as others who had been elected, but when the cheering was over and the election of a director [of] finance was about to begin, Don Daniel Tirona said there were voices shouting for Don Jose del Rosario to be elected director of the interior. He went on to say that the office of director of the interior was a most exacting one, and that a learned man was needed to fill this office, and he said this after stating that it was not his intention to offend me. My reply to him was that all the offices required learned men, but who among those who had been elected, I asked, could he point out to me as being learned? Still, he called out like this ‘Isigaw ninyo,’ he said, ‘Director del Interior, Jose del Rosario, Abogado!’ Only a few followed him the four times that he shouted it, and again people shouted for me. In view of this turmoil, the president of Magdiwang declared that this was not a convention of honorable men and so everything done there lacked validity. This aside, before the voting began, I discovered the intrigues of some of the Imus people, who had been saying it was not right for them to be governed by men from other towns, and that Capitan Emilio should therefore be elected as president. As soon as I heard of this, I also said that the meeting was truly dirty, because this was a deceit they were pressing on the people, and I asked whether they wished me to point out one by one, those who were conducting themselves in this manner. The majority said not to bother. I also said that if the manifest will of the people was not followed, I would not recognize any of the leaders elected, and that if I did not recognize them, they would likewise not be recognized by the people there in our place. Don Artemio Ricarte, who was chosen as general, also declared at that meeting that his election was due to bad practices.”
Together with other primary source accounts of the events in Tejeros, anomalies in the election have been hinted at: “dagdag-bawas,” forged ballots, etc. That our Founding Fathers cheated in the first elections is one thing but that Tejeros is not surprising shows we have not progressed since. Whether these documents find their way to a private or public collection is immaterial, what is important is not the high price paid for them, but the price we pay for not learning from the past to change our present and future.
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