Philippine History/The Philippine-American War
The Philippine-American War, also called the Philippine Insurrection by the United States, was a war fought from 1899 to 1902 by forces of the First Philippine Republic (also called the Malolos Republic) under Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo (1898-1901) and Gen. Miguel Malvar (1901-1902) against the American forces under the command of Gen. Elwell Otis (1899-1900) and Gen. Arthur MacArthur (1900-1901). The immediate cause of the conflict was the fatal shooting of several Filipino soldiers over the San Juan Bridge by Pvt. William Grayson, an American soldier on February 4, 1899. It officially ended with the surrender of Gen. Miguel Malvar of the Philippine Republic in Batangas on April 16, 1902. However, there were generals who refused to recognize his order to surrender and sought to continue the war, considering themselves as spiritual heirs of the Katipunan. The most prominent of the latter group was led by Macario Sakay and his Republikang Tagalog. He was hanged for brigandage in 1907.
The Filipino-American War
When Intramuros was already completely surrounded by the U.S. naval and land troops, diplomatic negotiations were secretly conducted by Admiral Dewey and the Spanish governor-general through the Belgian consul. These negotiations led to the agreement of stating a mock battle to justify the turnover of Manila to the U.S. imperialists by the Spanish colonialists and were parallel to negotiations being held abroad towards the general settlement of the Spanish-American War through the mediation of the French government.
On August 13, 1898, the mock battle of Manila was staged by the U.S. imperialists and the Spanish colonialists. After a few token shots were fired, the latter surrendered to the former. The U.S. imperialists made it a point to prevent Filipino troops from entering Intramuros. It was thus that the Filipino revolutionary forces were conclusively deprived of the victory that was rightfully theirs. From then on, however, hatred of the U.S. imperialism became more widespread among the Filipino masses and their patriotic troops.
The Philippine revolutionary government shifted its headquarters from Cavite to Malolos, Bulacan in September in anticipation of further U.S. imperialist aggression. Here the Malolos Congress was held to put out a constitution that had for its models bourgeois-democratic constitutions. During the same period, the U.S. imperialists kept on insisting in diplomatic terms that Filipino troops withdraw further from where they had been pushed. The U.S. aggressors maneuvered to occupy more territory around Manila.
Attempts of the Aguinaldo government at diplomacy abroad to assert the sovereign rights of the Filipino people proved to be futile. On December 10, 1898, the Treaty of Paris was signed by the United States and Spain ceding the entire Philippines to the former at the price of $20 million and guaranteeing the property and business rights of Spanish citizens in the archipelago. On December 21, U.S. President McKinley issued the "Proclamation of Benevolent Assimilation" to declare in sugar-coated terms a war of aggression against the Filipino people.
On February 4, 1899, the U.S. troops made a surprise attack on the Filipino revolutionary forces in the vicinity of Manila. In the ensuing battles in the city, at least 3,000 Filipino were butchered while only 250 U.S. troops fell. Thus, armed hostilities between U.S. imperialism and the Filipino people began. The Filipino people heroically stood up to wage a revolutionary war of national liberation.
Before the Filipino-American War was decisively won by U.S. imperialism in 1902, 126,468 U.S. troops had been unleashed against the 7,000,000 Filipino people. These foreign aggressors suffered a casualty of at least 4,000 killed and almost 3,000 wounded. Close to 200,000 Filipino combatants and noncombatants were slain. In short, for every U.S. trooper killed, 50 Filipinos were in turn killed. More than a quarter of a million Filipinos died as a direct and indirect result of hostilities. However, an estimate of a U.S. general would even put the Filipino death casualty to as high as 600,000 or one-sixth of the population in Luzon then.
The U.S. imperialist aggressors practised genocide of monstrous proportions. They committed various forms of atrocities such as the massacres of captured troops and innocent civilians; pillage on women, homes and property; and ruthless employment of torture, such as dismemberment, the water cure and the rope torture. Zoning and concentration camps were resorted to in order to put civilians and combatants at their mercy.
As U.S. imperialism forced the Aguinaldo government to retreat, it played on the weaknesses in the ranks of the ilustrado leadership of the revolution. The imperialist chieftain McKinley dispatched the Schurman Commission in 1899 and then the Taft Commission in 1900 and issued to them instructions for the "pacification" of the country and cajolement of capitulationist traitors.
The liberal-bourgeois leadership of the old democratic revolution once more proved to be inadequate, flabby and compromising. Aguinaldo failed to lead the revolution effectively. He turned against such anti-imperialists as Mabini and Luna and increasingly relied on such capitulationists as Paterno and Buencamino. These two traitors who in previous years were notorious for their puppetry to Spanish colonialism had sneaked into the revolutionary government and usurped authority therein. They headed a pack of traitors who were deeply attracted to the siren song of "peace," "autonomy" and "benevolent assimilation" which the U.S. imperialists sang as they butchered the people.
In every town occupied by the U.S. imperialist troops, puppet municipal elections were held and dominated by the old principalia. These puppet elections excluded the masses who could not comply with the property and literacy requirements. These sham elections were used mainly to break off the principalia from the revolution and to attract its members into becoming running dogs in the same way that the Spanish colonialists had done.
As soon as traitors led by Paterno and Buencamino were in the hands of the U.S. imperialists, they were used to serve imperialist propaganda, chiefly to call on the people to lay down their arms. Under the instigation of the aggressors, particularly the U.S. army intelligence, Trinidad Pardo de Tavera organized the Partido Federal in 1900 to advocate the annexation of the Philippines by the United States. At the same time, the imperialists promulgated laws to punish those who would advocate independence.
The people and their revolutionary leaders who refused to take the oath of allegiance to the U.S. flag were persecuted, imprisoned or banished to Guam. Mass organizations, especially among the workers and peasants, were suppressed every time they surfaced.
In 1901, Aguinaldo himself was captured by the imperialists with the help of Filipino mercenaries. From then on, the treacherous counterrevolutionary forefathers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines were systematically organized and employed to help complete the imperialist conquest of the Filipino people. The first puppet constabularymen were used extensively in "mopping up" operations against persistent revolutionary fighters in Luzon and Visayas as well as in the subjugation of Mindanao.
Even when the main detachments of the Aguinaldo government had been defeated, armed resistance against U.S. imperialism still persisted in practically every town of the entire archipelago. The people of Bicol continued to wage armed struggle until 1903 when their leader Simeon Ola betrayed them by surrendering. In the Visayas, particularly Cebu, Samar, Leyte and Panay, the Pulahanes fought fierce battles against the U.S. aggressor troops and the puppet constabulary. So did the masses of Cavite, Batangas, Laguna and Quezon even after a general amnesty was issued. In Central Luzon, a religious organization, the Santa Iglesia, also waged armed resistance. In the Ilocos, associations that proclaimed themselves as the New Katipunan conducted a guerrilla war for national independence against U.S. imperialism. As late as 1907, puppet elections could not be held in Isabela because of the people's resistance. The most prominent of the final efforts to continue the revolutionary struggle in Luzon was led by Macario Sakay, from 1902 to 1906 in Bulacan, Pampanga, Laguna, Nueva Ecija and Rizal. It was only in 1911 that guerrilla war completely ceased in Luzon. However, the fiercest armed resistance after 1902 was waged by the people of Mindanao until as late as 1916.
For some time, U.S. imperialists succeeded in deceiving the Sultan of Sulu that his feudal sovereignty would be respected under the Bates Treaty of 1899 which he signed. When the foreign aggressors begun to put what they called the "Moro Province" under their administrative control, they had to contend with the Hassan uprising of 1903-1904; Usap rebellion of 1905; Pala revolt of 1905; Bud Dajo uprising of 1906; Bud Bagsak battle of 1913 and many others. This heroic resistance of the people was quelled with extreme atrocity.
The Sedition Law of 1901, the Brigandage Act of 1902 and the Reconcentration Act of 1903 were passed by U.S. imperialism to sanction military operations against the people as mere police operations against "common criminals." Patriots were called bandits. People in extensive areas were herded into military camps in order to separate them from the patriotic guerrillas.
The war expenditures of U.S. imperialism in the conquest of the Philippines were paid for by the Filipino people themselves. They were compelled to pay taxes to the U.S. colonial regime to defray a major part of the expenditures and the interest on bonds floated in the name of the Philippine government through the Wall Street banking houses. Of course, the superprofits derived from the protracted exploitation of the Filipino people would constitute the basic gains of U.S. imperialism.
Agoncillo, Teodoro. The History of the Filipino People. Quezon City: R.P. Barcia, 1974.
Agoncillo, Teodoro. Malolos: The Crisis of the Republic. Quezon City: UP Press, 1997 (reprint).
Constantino, Renato. The Philippines: A Continuing Past. Manila: Tala Pub. Services, 1978.
Dowell, Rebecca and Kuhl, Kendra. The Philippine American War.