|Believing and trusting the United States:
Confident that the right moment has arrived,
General Emilio Aguinaldo, who just recently revived the second phase of the Philippine Revolution after his return from Hong Kong and Singapore exile, declared the Philippine independence on June 12, 1898, unilaterally freeing the Philippines from centuries of Spanish colonial rule, without the blessings of the United States or any foreign powers.
Commodore George Dewey's historic naval victory at the Battle of Manila Bay on May 1, 1898 stunned the whole world. Even the U.S. itself was caught unprepared what to do with the Philippines --whether to give its blessings to the recently self-declared Philippine independence, to give up the "spoil of war" to England, to sell it to other friendly superpowers such as Japan, or to keep it as a model colony, but not to Germany, accompeting superpower that was also interested in acquiring territorial positions in the Pacific.
While the whole world watched as America ponders on the Philippine question, Dewey's naval victory had unexpectedly brought a sudden revival in the United States of the spirit of Manifest Destiny, the silent driving force behind its long history of territorial expansionism. Thus, America was carried by the tide of imperialism thereupon casting aside its fundamental Constitutional principle of "government by the consent of the governed," disregarded the sanctity of the Monroe Doctrine, and annexed the Philippines for the purpose of Christianizing and civilizing its inhabitants.
The land Battle of Manila on August 13, 1898 would have delivered a complete victory to the Americans over the Spaniards in the Spanish-American War had it not for a minor hitch caused by the untimely delivery of the copy of the Peace Protocol which was signed in Washington the day previous to the land battle. On technical and legal grounds, the existence of the Peace Protocol prior to the war had nullified the U.S. victory in the Battle of Manila, thus reverting Spain and the U.S. back to a state of war. But financially and morally exhausted, Spain wanted no more war. As a last desperate act, Spain opted instead to demand for an "indemnity" blaming the U.S. for the damage suffered by the Spanish combatants causing their inability to quell the Filipino rebellion, for having to defend simultaneously from two enemies -the Americans and the Filipino nationalist army, prior to the Battle of Manila, and a reimbursement for the infrastructure improvements made in the Philippines, among others.
As far as Filipinos are concerned, they consider the Treaty of Paris of December 10, 1898 was a "$20 Million Superpower Real Estate Deal" described in the following manner:
of the United States must and will be enforced throughout every part of
There was a thorn in the Philippine annexation, however, for the United States took for granted the existence of the independence movement of the Filipinos who were tired of centuries of colonization. Barely thirteen days old after its formal inauguration the young Philippine Republic, a representative form of government that had evolved from previous revolts, had to be pitted against the military might of the United States in a bloody confrontation that broke on February 4, 1899 and to last for many years. The outbreak of the war two days before the ratification of the Treaty of Paris in the U.S. Senate certainly hastened its ratification.
At the very height of the Independence War, the U.S. high command sent
Gen. John Gates to Jolo, in order to negotiate a treaty with Sultan
of Jolo, Hadji Mohammed Jamalol Kiram II. The Bates-Sultan
Treaty was singed on August 20, 1899 providing for the Sultantate's
recognition of the U.S. sovereignty in exchange for U.S. protection and
payoff to the Sultan and his datus. When the Independence War was over,
the U.S. turned its
The Philippine annexation and the ensuing Independence War and Moro Resistance Wars is a tragic consequence of irreconcilable forces of colonialism and nationalism clashing each other, compounded by misleading information furnished to Washington on the actual Philippine political situation and the sentiments of the Filipino people by battle seasoned American commanders, many of them war veterans who saw action first in the Civil War, matured in the Indian Wars and Spanish-American War, who were more motivated to pursue their eagerness for "action and glory" in the "new frontier," that made war with the gugus inevitable.
The Philippine annexation was never an inexpensive one, for it left a staggering number of war casualties from both sides which was high under the standard in those days. In the absence of modern weapons of mass destruction and annihilation, it is mind boggling to think how could hundreds of thousands of civilians perish. This leaves no doubt about the use of a combination of barbaric methods, such as: the Cuban-style reconcentrados, bending of established military rules, lowering the standards of civilized warfare, and application of injun warfare.
The war against the Christian Filipinos was thought by many U.S. military commanders to be a short one but it lasted ten times longer than the short-lived Spanish-American War, hailed as the "First War For Humanities," the precipitant of the Philippine conflict. Suffering from lack of weapons and ammunitions, and with practically no foreign support, the Filipinos fought valiantly by utilizing ingenuity and improvisation. But the military might of the U.S. was just too overwhelming that the Filipinos have to use an unorthodox methods of warfare. Thus, the guerilla warfare was born to become an accepted tactic in the military science.
Although the Philippine Insurrection was officially closed by President Theodore Roosevelt on July 4, 1902, the war did not really end there. In fact, the proclamation formally recognized and activated the "second front" of the war --the Moro resistance in Mindanao, a bloody conflict that would last for many years. This is where General John "Black Jack" Pershing made his name in his military career as a MoroPacifier before he came back to the U.S. to led a fruitless punitive expedition in Mexico against Pancho Villa in 1916, and subsequently as commander of the U.S. expeditionary forces in France during World War I.. The Morolandia also became the perfecting ground of the newly-invented automatic .45 Colt pistol which made a legend as an effective juramentado stopper, thereupon becoming the standard U.S. military sidearm.
This wss a needless war, if not an embarrassing war for the U.S. which was forgotten and buried by the honorable and civilized future wars. Had the war been remembered and lessons learned, it certainly would have changed America's whole conduct of the Vietnam War!
Finally, if an epitaph of the war were to be written, the following is appropriate:
PHILIPPINE-AMERICAN WARS (1899-1915)
A "BAPTISM OF FIRE" FOR THE UNITED STATES ---AS IT
GIVEN BY THE "RAGTAG ARMY" AND THE "MOROS,"
Gen. Emilio F. Aguinaldo, President of the First Philippine (Malolos) Republic, and Commander-in-Chief of the Philippine Army.
General Elwell S. Otis, over-all commander of the U.S. forces in the Philippines at the outbreak of the Independence War.
"My nation cannot remain indifferent in view of such a violent and
aggressive seizure of a portion of its territory by a nation which has
arrogated to itself the title: champion of oppressed nations. Thus
it is that my government is disposed to open hostilities if the American
troops attempt to take forcible
I denounce these acts before the world in order that the conscience of mankind may pronounce its infallible verdict as to who are the oppressors of nations and the tormentors of mankind.
Upon their heads be all the blood which may be shed."
A day after the war broke: February 5th Manifesto
"I have done everything possible to avoid armed conflict, in the
hope of securing our independence through peaceful means and without entailing
|"Fighting, having begun, must go on to the grim end."
Gen. Elwell Otis, telling a party of Fillipino peace negotiators, April 28, 1899
[Note: Ragtag army was a description given by Gen. Elwell
Otis to the Christian Filipino army; Moros for
Muslim Filipinos given by the early Spanish colonialists.]
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Philippine-American War Centennial Initiative (P.A.W.C.I.)