Treachery in Tejeros
“Fear history,” Andres Bonifacio declared like a curse, “for in it none of your acts will be hidden.”
History has indeed caught up with other characters who should figure more prominently in the deaths of Andres Bonifacio and Antonio Luna; controversial deaths that have been unfairly blamed solely on Emilio Aguinaldo, who was physically absent from Maragondon and Cabanatuan to be involved in the deed.
History being based on written records, it is to Aguinaldo’s great misfortune that Bonifacio documents and Katipunan memorabilia have recently come out from the darkness of private collections into the public glare of auctions, where these have sold way over the psychological threshold of P1 million. Nothing is priceless to a determined buyer with the requisite funds.
One needs more than 10 fingers and 10 toes to count the writings left by Jose Rizal that, when compiled, fill 25 volumes — which nobody reads. Not that Bonifacio wrote way less, but what has survived of his writings can be counted with two hands, and of this meager number three handwritten letters to Emilio Jacinto and his Decalogue have been sold at auction this year.
Auction hype described the Bonifacio letters as “explosive,” an adjective best used for bombs and diarrhea; it was even suggested that the Decalogue was written in his own blood!
Historians know that some Katipuneros, fired by zeal and love of country, signed their oaths with blood, drawn from an incision on the arm. But it challenges the imagination to even ask how much blood Bonifacio needed to fill two and a half pages of the Decalogue.
Anyway, the remainder of the Bonifacio papers from the collection of Epifanio de los Santos — the Acta de Tejeros and the Acta de Naik — go on the block this weekend, billed as “extremely historically important.”
These documents are sometimes referenced in college history when a more detailed exposition of the birthing pains of the nation is discussed. I am familiar with these documents, having studied and transcribed them in 1989.
The Acta de Tejeros fills four leaves with eight pages of handwritten text, and is dated March 23, 1897, a day after the turbulent election that dissolved the Katipunan and established a revolutionary government under Emilio Aguinaldo as president.
Looking back, Aguinaldo once said that the turning point in his life was an interplay, a choice between a gracia (boon) or a desgracia (bane): He was captured by the enemy in Palanan in 1901 the day after he celebrated his 32nd birthday; and his election in Tejeros came on his 28th.
Forty-five Katipuneros affixed their signatures to the Acta de Tejeros, which should be seen as the first election protest in Philippine history, the first of many up to the present. Then and now, elections are meant to decide the choices for leadership, but as we have seen time and again, nobody ever loses in a Philippine election: The loser always claims he was cheated.
Recent examples would include Miriam Santiago protesting against Fidel Ramos’ marginal victory, and Fernando Poe Jr. against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s; in the vice presidential race, Leni Robredo’s position is currently being challenged by Bongbong Marcos.
Back in 1897, the 45 Katipuneros of the Magdiwang faction, signatories to the Acta de Tejeros, rejected Emilio Aguinaldo’s election for the following reasons: irregularities in the proceedings; almost all the ballots were in the hand of one person; ballots from people not eligible to vote were counted against their candidate and faction; and electors from outside Cavite, and outside the Magdalo and Magdiwang factions, were not present to cast their votes.
Licking their wounds, the Magdiwang consoled themselves by drawing a litany of gripes against Magdalo: Two Magdalo towns were retaken by the enemy, while theirs were intact; Magdalo solicited aid from Magdiwang, while they had, not once, done so; Magdiwang fought battles with Magdalo, who stole the presidency from them by fraud; Magdiwang began the rebellion in Cavite, while Magdalo were latecomers.
Naturally, the victorious Magdalo viewed the document as Magdiwang merely sour-graping.
What are we to make of this once forgotten historical document? Aguinaldo was the only Magdalo elected to a government dominated by Magdiwang. Aguinaldo did not need to attend or cheat in the Tejeros Convention; the presidency was handed to him by the Magdiwang that betrayed Bonifacio.
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