Open Chapters of the War 

Like a book, the Philippine-American Wars has some chapters left open that is difficult to close. Until the questions are answered, the sad chapters of the history of the war will keep nagging the present and future generations of Filipinos as well as affect the relationship between the Philippines and the United States.   These open chapters are: 
Chapter 1. Bells of Balangiga: The Bone of Contention 
Chapter 2. Downplaying the "War" to mere "Insurrection"
Chapter 3. Century-old U.S. Silence on the War Atrocities 
Chapter 4. U.S. PURCHASE of the Philippines from Spain for $20,000,000
Chapter 5. U.S. Dismantling of the Sultanate of Sulu
Chapter 6. U.S. Oversight on the Morolands

Chapter 1. Bells of Balangiga: the Bone of Contention

American point of view: 

"We are not involved in the business of dismantling memorials to our comrades that have fought in other wars." 

Joe Sestak, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who
commands the American Legion in Wyoming
 Filipino point of view: 

"The bells signify the heroism of a people fighting for its independence and sovereignty." 

Angela Mascarinas, producer of Pintig Cultural Group, 
a Chicago-based Philippine-American cultural group
At left is photo of one of the Bells of Balangiga taken from the Church of Balangiga, Samar by the American troops when they conducted their retaliatory expedition after the Balangiga Incident of September 27, 1901, known in many history books as the Balangiga Massacre.  When Company "C", 9th Infantry Regiment, returned to the U.S. in 1904, it brought back with them the bells.  The bells are currently on display at the F.E. Warren Air Force in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Centennial Questions: 

  • Is it proper to use war booties as memorial to dead comrades? 
  • If the U.S. can return the war booties taken from Japan during World War II, why can't they likewise return the Bells of Balangiga to their rightful owners -the Philippines? 
  • Where is the consistency in the U.S. policy in dealing with war booties? 
Chapter 2. Downplaying "War" to mere "Insurrection" 

Definition of insurrection : a rising up against duly consituted or established authority. 

The downgraded and humiliating title of Philippine "insurrection" has many possible theories, such as: 

  • The 1899 Philippine Republic headed by Emilio Aguinaldo was never recognized by any foreign power. 
  • The U.S. War Department downgraded the title of the war in order to avoid combat pay. 
  • At the beginning of the conflict, it was considered "war", but as Aguinaldo's forces crumbled and the Filipinos resorted to guerrilla warfare, the title was changed to "insurrection." 
  • The "automatic" transfer of Philippine insurrection from Spain to the United States by virtue of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. 
  • The term "insurgents", an appropriate term when describing the Filipinos ( insurrectos ) during the Philippine Revolution, was a 'carried-over' term adopted by the Americans to conveniently describe the Filipinos dating back to the days of Major-Gen. Wesley Merritt when he assumed command as the first Military-Governor of the Philippines during the Spanish-American War of 1898. 
  • The term "insurgent" is an imperialistic way, if not a racially-prejudiced way, of describing an 'inferior' enemy. 
  • To cover the embarrasment of the United States from being laughed at by other superpowers for fighting a "rag tag" army?
Centennial Questions: 
  • Which of the above theories is correct? 
  • Was the U.S. considered the "established authority" when the war broke out  on February 4, 1899? 
  • When does "established authority" start? After the enemy's forces has crumbled and retreated? 
Chapter 3. Century-old U.S. Silence on the War Atrocities 
    "In substantially every case the report [of atrocity] has proved to be either unfounded or grossly exaggerated."
Elihu Root, U.S. Secretary of War 

The census figures done by the Spanish authorities in the late 1890s when the Philippines was acquired by the United States from Spain indicate a population of roughly 7.9 million Filipinos.  However, in the 1903 census taken by the U.S., a year after the official closing of the Philippine-American War, the population drastically shrank to 6.9 million, a reduction of roughly one million. 

There are many factors that contributed to the unaccounted population, such as the war (casualties), evacuation of foreigners, inaccuracy of the Spanish census (Mindanao areas), and natural calamities (diseases, famine, typhoon, flood, etc.). 

Centennial Questions: 

  • Out of the total unaccounted population of almost one million, how many were war casualties? 
  • Is the 100-year old U.S. official denial still true until today? 
Chapter 4.  U.S. PURCHASE of the Philippines from Spain for  $20,000,000 

Article III of the Treaty of Paris, Dec. 10, 1898, provides: 

    "The United States will pay Spain the sum of twenty million dollars within three months after the exchange of the ratifications of the present treaty." 
The Philippine Islands, as a colony of Spain, was self-sustaining in its revenue during the period prior to the Independence War.  Individual Filipinos were paying their cedula personal taxes, businesses were paying taxes, and the customs houses were earning from duties imposed on imports. In return for such revenues, it was expected of Spain to  reinvest the income for its colony's infrastructure (transportation, communications, water supply, etc.) projects. 

Centennial Questions: 

  • Where is the morality behind Spain's desperate act of selling the Philippines to the U.S. for $20 Million? 
    • As a goodwill to satisfy a claim of sovereignty by a defeated power? 
    • Because the Protocol of Peace signed a few hours before the "Sham" Battle of Manila voided the American victory? 
    • As a reimbursement for Spain's infrastructure investment in the Philippines? 
    • As part of the purchase terms which included the "assets and liabilities", the Philippines being the "assets" and the insurrection (previous revolt against Spain) being the "liabilities?" 

  • In the presence of a Philippine Revolutionary Government when the Treaty of Paris was signed on December 10, 1898 which evolved into a legitimate First Philippine (Malolos) Republic when the treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate on February 6, 1899 , should it not be proper for the Philippines to recover the $20 Million, including interest, from Spain? 
 Chapter 5.  U.S. Desmantling of the Sultanate of Sulu 

At the height of the Independence War, the Sultan of Jolo entered into a treaty of friendship with the Americans without knowing that such Bates-Sultan Treaty was a only tool of "divide and conquer" strategy of the U.S. When the Moro Resistance Wars was over, the U.S., afraid that the Sultan of Sulu might assert is sovereignty claim over the Sulu Archipelago, orchestrated the Carpenter-Sultan Agreement requiring the Sultan to reliinquish his Sultanate and other quasi-governmental powers thereby reducing him to a mere religious symbol of the Muslim people.

Centennial Question:

  • Was it right for the U.S. to dismantle a centuries-old Sultanate that was duly revered and respected by the Moro people?
Chapter 6.  U.S. Oversight on the Morolands 

The Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934 that was passed by the U.S. Congress provided for the framework of the Philippine Commonwealth Government and its Constitution and a transition period of ten years after the inauguration of that government. In the framing of the Constitution by the delegates, mostly Christians, they failed to incorporate Constitution safeguards for the retention and protection of the ancestral lands of the Moro people from homesteadal and commercial exploitation by the majority Christians.

Centennial Question:

  • Did the U.S. then, possessing veto powers over the Philippines, failed in its supervisory power to oversee the provisions of the Constitution that would have guaranteed the interest of the politically and economically disadvantaged Moro people?




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Philippine-American War Centennial Initiative (PAWCI)