The Tejeros convention according to General Artemio Ricarte

Sunday August 05, 2012 ()

The Tejeros convention according to General Artemio Ricarte
(An artist concept of Bonifacio being furious at Tirona at the Tejeros convention)

The presence of Andres Bonifacio in Cavite until his death which occurred on the 10th of May, 1897, is described in the Memoirs of General Artemio "El Vibora" Ricarte. Andres Bonifacio, the "Supremo" (Supreme head) of the Katipunan arrived there about the latter half of December, 1896. He was called by the Magdiwang government which, with the Magdalo government, had just given battle to the Spanish forces in the province.

The triumphs achieved by the two revolutionary organizations in their respective territories in Cavite bred a certain rivalry among its men which Bonifacio was called upon to stop. To receive him, Emilio Aguinaldo, Daniel Tirona and others, went to Imus. From Imus, Bonifacio proceeded to San Francisco de Malabon, which was under the jurisdiction of the Magdiwang government. There he was given a big reception.

The "Supremo" conferred on plans of reorganizing the Revolution with the chiefs of the Revolution, among whom was Edilberto Evangelista. Evangelista, himself, had with him a draft of his own. For the purpose of discussing these plans an assembly was called in Imus which failed to come to any definite agreement save on the appointment of a committee to draft rules under the chairmanship of Bonifacio.

The Tejeros convention according to General Artemio Ricarte

In March another assembly was convened in Tejeros, San Francisco de Malabon, which was better attended. Of this General Ricarte speaks as follows:

   Artemio Ricarte
   Artemio Ricarte (Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons).
On the day and hour fixed in the summon signed by Jacinto Lumbreras, a large number of the chiefs within the jurisdiction of the Magdiwang government attended but owing to some skirmishes in Salitran, Molino and Presa (Imus), the meeting was postponed till the next day.

From the early hours of the day set for the assembly, the Hacienda Tejeros was filled not only with the chiefs of the Magdiwang jurisdiction but also with many of the Magdalo government. Among the leading Magdiwang men, besides the chief of the Katipunan, were the following: Mariano Alvarez, Pascual Alvarez, Santiago Alvarez, Lucio San Miguel, Mariano Trias Closas, Severino de las Alas, Santos Nocom, and among those of the Magdalo government were Baldomero Aguinaldo, Daniel Tirona, Cayetano Topacio and Antonio Montenegro.

As soon as the meeting was opened under the chairmanship of Jacinto Lumbreras who briefly explained its object, Severino de las Alas asked for permission to speak, which was granted. He said. that before taking up the question of the defense of a small territory of the province of Cavite it is desirable to speak first of the kind of government the country ought to have under the circumstances; this government to consider later all desired plans of defense. The presiding officer answered that the country has been ruled since the formation of the Katipunan ng Mga Anak ng Bayan, by its supreme council, the provincial councils and the popular councils. The chairman again explained the purpose of the meeting which was of the utmost importance in those critical moments. Andres Bonifacio with the permission of the chairman spoke in support of the stand of Jacinto Lumbreras on the government which was actually reigning in the country. He explained, also, the significance of the letter K in the center of the rising sun on the flag which is: Kalayaan" (Liberty). Severino de las Alas again spoke and said that the letter K in the flag and the flag itself do not precisely specify the kind of government the present insurrection has, that is, whether it is monarchical or republican. Andres Bonifacio replied that the Katipuneros from the "Supremo" of the Superior Council to the Inferior Council, recognized as their principle; Union. Fraternity, and Equality; from which it could be seen clearly that the government of the Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, is rigorously republican in form.

After an exchange of words between Antonio Montenegro and Santiago Alvarez which caused temporary adjournment, the meeting was again resumed proceeding to transact business in the following manner, quoting again from Ricarte's Memoirs:

Jacinto Lumbreras said: 'As the question under discussion is completely outside of what is mentioned in the call for the meeting and the establishment of general government for the insurrection, I should not continue to preside over this meeting'. Andres Bonifacio, the president of the Supreme Council of the Katipunan ng Mga Anak ng Bayan, that plunged the country in its present state, was then acclaimed by all to preside over the assembly. Vibora (Artemio Ricarte) acted as secretary.

Andres Bonifacio opened the meeting saying: "As you desire to set up a supreme government to direct the insurrection, abolishing what was organized by the Katipunan and the resolution approved in the assembly of Imus, as President of the Supreme Council of the Katipunan, I accede to your just petition, but first of all I desire to ask you to recognize a principle as a basis of agreement in this or in other meetings, which is: that we respect and obey the will of the majority". All gave their approval to this.

The Republic of the Philippines was agreed on and proclaimed, with enthusiastic hurrahs. Then followed the election of those who were to occupy the following offices in the government of the Republic of the Philippines: President, Vice-President, Captain-General, Director of War, Director of Interior, Director of State, Director of Finance, Director of Fomento and Director of Justice.

Before putting it to a vote, Andres Bonifacio called the attention of the electors who represented different provinces of the Archipelago that those who would be elected by majority vote should be recognized and respected regardless of the degree of culture of each, to which the mass shouted its assent. Ballots were then distributed and after one hour the result was announced. Emilio Aguinaldo was elected President of the government of the Republic of the Philippines, by majority vote, against Andres Bonifacio and Mariano Trias. The President-elect was proclaimed by means of applause and hurrahs.

Immediately after they proceeded to the election of Vice-President, Severino de las Alas stood up and said that as Andres Bonifacio secured second place in the election of President, he should be declared and proclaimed Vice-President of the government of the Republic of the Philippines. Nobody spoke for nor against the proposition of de las Alas so the presiding officer decided that they should proceed to vote. The result was the election by majority vote of Mariano Trias Closas against Andres Bonifacio, Severino de las Alas and Mariano Alvarez.

The election of Captain-General immediately proceeded. This resulted in the selection, by a majority vote, of the secretary of the assembly, (Vibora) against Santiago Alvarez. The secretary of the assembly stood and protested against his election, stating: 'None better than I know my own limitations and fitness: the position with which this assembly honors me, is beyond my scant ability and strength; to me it is a very honorable position but its horizon is too wide for me; so I request the assembly not to resent my refusal to accept it. Cries of disapproval reverberated in the hall, and the chairman called the meeting to order, and said: 'It is getting dark, so we have to proceed to the election of the other positions'. A proposal, that in order to expedite the election all those who are in favor of one person for a certain position step to one side of the hall and those in favor of another step to another side, was approved. In this way the Director of War was elected which resulted in the choice, by a majority vote, of Emiliano Riego de Dios against Ariston Villanueva, Daniel Tirona, and Santiago Alvarez. The election of Emiliano Riego de Dios who belonged to the Magdiwang government was received with stentorian acclamation. The same procedure was followed in the election of the Director of the Interior which resulted in the selection, by a majority, of Andres Bonifacio against Mariano Alvarez and Pascual Alvarez. Amid the din of hurrahs, acclaiming Andres Bonifacio, rose the voice of Daniel Tirona asking for permission to speak and he commenced thus:

The position of Director of the Interior is an exalted one and it is not meet that a person without a lawyer's diploma should occupy it. We have in our province a lawyer, Jose del Rosario, therefore we should protest against the elected and acclaimed'. And, shouting with all his might, said: 'Let us vote for Jose del Rosario!' His personal feeling wounded, Bonifacio stood and said: Did we not agree that we have to abide by the decision of the majority whatever may be the social conditions of those elected?" Having said this, he asked Daniel Tirona to repeat all that he had said, and to give satisfaction to the assembly for his phrases defamatory to the one elected. As Daniel Tirona tried to hide himself in the crowd without paying any attention, Bonifacio pulled his revolver and was about to fire at Tirona when the secretary of the assembly grabbed his hand and prevented the incident from becoming more than a scare. As the people began to leave the hall, Andres Bonifacio, in high tone, said: 'I, as chairman of this assembly, and as president of the Supreme Council of the Katipunan, as you all do not deny, declare this assembly dissolved, and I annul all what has been approved and resolved'. He and his followers then left the room."

This narrative essentially coincides with what Andres Bonifacio, himself, wrote to Emilio Jacinto in a letter dated at Indang April 24, 1897. The proceedings of the assembly were again the object of a written protest subscribed to by more than forty persons, among whom were Andres Bonifacio, Mariano Alvarez, Antonio Ricarte and Diego Mojica, on the ground that fraudulent means were used in the elections for the different offices in the government. Notwithstanding this, Emilio Aguinaldo, president elect, and Mariano Trias Closas, Vice-President elect, took their respective oath of office in the convent of Santa Cruz de Malabon, before a crucifix, on the day following the election.

After taking part in subsequent battles against the Spaniards who again invaded the province, Andres Bonifacio, with his men went to the barrio of Jalang, and then to Limbon, both within the municipality of Indang, with the object of returning to Manila. When Aguinaldo received charges that Bonifacio was recruiting in Limbon to overthrow the revolutionary government, he sent some of his loyal followers to that place under the command of Colonels Bonzon, Pawa and Topacio. These forces engaged the forces of the "Supremo" at dawn of April 28, which resulted in the death of two of the followers of Andres Bonifacio and one of his brothers. Andres Bonifacio, himself was seriously wounded. This tragic incident caused the government of Aguinaldo to create a courtmartial to try the Bonifacio brothers and some of his soldiers, on a charge of sedition. Colonel Pantaleon Garcia was appointed Judge Advocate. The decision of the courtmartial was forwarded to a Council of War presided by General Mariano Noriel which condemned to death the Bonifacio brothers. When the document reached President Aguinaldo, however, he commuted the sentence to a mera exile. The whole proceedings which we publish in toto reproduce the testimonies of both sides and the condemnatory decision. The leading witness of the prosecution was Pedro Giron, a confidential man of Bonifacio, of whom it was said, at least by Mrs. Andres Bonifacio that he was bribed. The principal witnesses for the defense were Andres Bonifacio and his wife, Gregoria de Jesus.

Whoever reads the briefs of both sides, will understand that the conflict between the two leaders of the Revolution, had, in its foundation, a legal nature, within the relative legality, possible in a revolutionary situation. Did Bonifacio continue being the Head of the Katipunan with jurisdiction all over the Archipelago, or was he subrogated by Aguinaldo from the time the latter took the oath of his new office? Such was the real issue. Aguinaldo and his followers maintained the negative, and for this reason they considered Bonifacio as seditionist. On the other hand, Bonifacio and his men, not recognizing the legality of the Tejeros Assembly, maintained that the Katipunan organization was still in force. The court martial was called upon to review this legal conflict. Even if this court could be charged with partiality because it was composed of men of only one side, the fact that Bonifacio and his followers submitted to it without any protest, prevented them from taking exceptions to its decision. Such decision having been given, it had to be complied with.

Tejeros Marker   
The impartial judgment of history would find nothing unusual in the development of this unhappy event had the final decision been strictly followed. It is true that the facts, judged a posteriori, sustained Aguinaldo's point of view. Unity had to be maintained, discipline and the spirit of organization had to be insured. All these Bonifacio, perhaps, could not have done with the same success that Aguinaldo attained. Aguinaldo was better fitted to lead; Bonifacio because of his aggressiveness, was not. All opposition, therefore, had to be put down with an iron hand. For this reason, the military hearing under the supervision of a Council of War was a timely measure, affecting as it did the very founder of the Katipunan.

Thus far everything went well. But, since some ordinary process of law was adopted, why did they not abide by the final decision? Why was not the President order followed as drafted? Mysterious as it was, the death of the two Bonifacios, when the final order was only for exile, will always be a black page in the history of the Revolution, and a stain to those who planned and brought it about. The life of a man is precious, and even under the most abnormal conditions, when absolute powers over life and property are given to a dictator, capital punishments require an order that explains their reason. If the procedure followed was legal; the disappearance of the accused, being illegal, was a crime; if the procedure was a farce, it carried in itself its own condemnation. In brief, if the accused had to die, why were they pardoned? And if they were pardoned, why were they executed?

Manila, July, 1926

The court martial of Andress Bonifacio
Teodoro M. Kalaw, 1926


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