It had to be clarified in Memorandum 2022-066 dated May 22, 2022 by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) that directed the Independence Day flag-raising to local government units that it was the 124th Independence Day, reckoning from June 12, 1898 when Emilio Aguinaldo declared from his residence balcony in Kawit, Cavite that Pilipinas was free from the colonizer Spain. The DILG Memo is based on “Republic Act No. 4166 (An Act changing the date of Philippine Independence Day from July 4 to June 12 and declaring July 4 as Philippine Republic Day”).
But here we go again, debating and quarreling about when Filipinos really gained their independence. Perhaps the rise and fall of self-doubt are urged as historical events are celebrated (or generally ignored) such as Independence Day, the most significant marker of nationhood. But history is about concluded events more than emotional assumptions about the whys and wherefores that made it happen. Nor can post-facto emotions or changed principles and values justify any revision of what had already happened in history.
What better written history is there than the Official Gazette to review the events leading to the granting of Philippine Independence:
“The Philippine Revolution of 1896 was led by the Katipunan, a secret society led by Andres Bonifacio, which aimed to attain independence for the Philippines. The Katipunan expanded and affiliated with other revolutionary groups in Manila and other provinces in the Philippines. Due to political and other differences among the leaders, divisions arose in the organization. The Magdalo group headed by Emilio Aguinaldo of Cavite soon controlled the revolutionary movement. In the power play, Andres Bonifacio was accused of treason against the combined organization, and was arrested and sentenced to death in Maragondon, Cavite.”
When the Revolution was failing, “Aguinaldo entered into negotiations with the Spanish government. This resulted in an agreement under which Philippine Revolutionaries would go into exile in Hong Kong and surrender their arms in exchange for financial indemnities and pardons” (Official Gazette, “Araw ng Republikang Filipino, 1899”). That was just about the time that Spain was very busy, besieged and embattled by the United States of America, who came in to assist in the war for Cuban independence from Spain. That was the 10-week Spanish-American War for the colonies, fought in both the Caribbean and the Pacific, including the Philippines.
“The war ended with the 1898 Treaty of Paris (signed Oct. 1, 1898), negotiated on terms favorable to the United States. The treaty ceded ownership of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine islands from Spain to the United States and granted the United States temporary control of Cuba. The cession of the Philippines involved payment of $20 million to Spain by the US to cover infrastructure owned by Spain” (Benjamin R. Beede, The War of 1898 and US Interventions; 2013).
“Aguinaldo had returned to Manila on May 19, 1898 and declared Philippine independence on June 12. When it became clear that the United States had no interest in the liberation of the islands, Aguinaldo’s forces remained apart from US troops. On Jan. 1, 1899 following the meetings of a constitutional convention, Aguinaldo was proclaimed (by a rebel junta) president of the Philippine Republic. Not surprisingly, the United States refused to recognize Aguinaldo’s authority and on Feb. 4, 1899 he declared war on the US forces in the islands. After his capture on March 23, 1901, Aguinaldo agreed to swear allegiance to the United States, and then left public life. His dream of Philippine independence came true on July 4, 1946. He died in Manila in 1964.” (US Library of Congress: The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War: Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy 1869-1964)
“During the American occupation of the Philippines (1898-1946), the Filipinos were governed by the Commonwealth of the Philippines (since Nov. 15, 1935) and earlier by the Government of the Philippine Islands or PI, both under the Americans” (pna.gov.ph, July 4, 2021). Meantime, World War II broke out, and the Japanese Army overran all of the Philippines during the first half of 1942. “On Oct. 14, 1943, Japan symbolically granted independence to the Philippines by establishing a new government headed by its Filipino president, Jose P. Laurel. The government was branded by historians as a ‘Puppet Government’ because of the tight control that the Japanese wielded over its affairs.” (esquiremag.ph, June 7, 2019).
“The United States and Philippine Commonwealth military forces fought together to liberate the Philippines until the Japanese forces were ordered to surrender by Tokyo on Aug. 15, 1945.
“On July 4, 1946, pursuant to the provisions of the Tydings-McDuffie Law or the Philippine Independence Act, the Commonwealth of the Philippines became the Republic of the Philippines — the Third Republic. It was on this date that the United States of America formally recognized the independence of the Philippines and withdrew its sovereignty over the country.
“The independence of the Philippines — and the inauguration of its Third Republic — was marked by Manuel Roxas, third president of the Commonwealth, re-taking his oath, eliminating the pledge of allegiance to the United States of America which was required prior to independence, this time as the first President of the Republic of the Philippines. The Congress of the Commonwealth then became the First Congress of the Republic, and international recognition was finally achieved as governments entered into treaties with the new republic.” (officialgazette.gov.ph).
Yet despite the tight chronology of events that built up to the sure pinpointing of when is the factual date of Philippine Independence, President Diosdado Macapagal issued Proclamation No. 28 in 1962, moving the anniversary date from July 4 to June 12 — the date independence from Spain was proclaimed in Emilio Aguinaldo’s home in Kawit, Cavite. In his proclamation, President Macapagal cited “the establishment of the Philippine Republic by the Revolutionary Government under General Emilio Aguinaldo on June 12, 1898, marked our people’s declaration and exercise of their right to self-determination, liberty and independence” (Ibid.).
The Official Gazette says it for the record, “the move was made in the context of the rejection of the US House of Representatives on the proposed $73 million additional war reparation bill for the Philippines on May 28, 1962. The rejection, according to President Macapagal, caused ‘indignation among the Filipinos’ and a ‘loss of American good will in the Philippines.’ He explained that he deemed it the right time to push the change of the independence date, a political move he was planning even before his ascent to the presidency.”
There is surely no further protest or even the last whimper to review and possibly change Independence Day back to July 4, or to again consider yet another anniversary date. But it is still important that historical facts and events are accurate so that the remembering of a nation of its history is always in the context of the experiences, good or bad, that have shaped its soul and spirit.
It is thanks to President Corazon C. Aquino, president after the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, who by Executive Order No. 200 revived the Official Gazette that was stifled in Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law dictatorship 1972 to 1986. The Official Gazette, which is printed by the National Printing Office (NPO), is the public journal and main publication of the government of the Philippines. Its website only uploads what has been published; it is managed by the Presidential Communications Operations Office [PCOO] (based on the attribution found in the footer of the Official Gazette website).
Look it up, it’s there: “A History of the Philippine Political Protest — Official Gazette.” (www.officialgazette.gov.ph)
Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.