This page contains a series of communications extracted from the 1903 Report of the Philippine Commission1 between Batangas’ revolutionary figure Apolinario Mabini; General Luciano San Miguel, another figure of the Philippine Revolution; and William Howard Taft, at the time Civil Governor of the Philippine Islands and later President of the United States of America.
Background. Before General Luciano San Miguel was killed by American Forces in March of 1903 in the province of Rizal, Batangueño revolutionary Apolinario Mabini had returned to the Philippines from his exile in Guam. San Miguel, who was known to Mabini because of the revolution, had sent the latter a letter asking for advice. Mabini responded with a card in which he said he had not been back long enough to reply properly, but that he would do so in time. When San Miguel was killed, Mabini’s card was found in his body. The Americans, therefore, quickly inquired of Mabini why he would be in open communication with a fellow revolutionary so soon after taking the Pledge of Allegiance. Mabini, therefore, sent to the Civil Governor, William Howard Taft, a copy of the advice he had sent San Miguel but which, regrettably, the latter never got to read because he was killed. Taft would respond to Mabini while he was up in Baguio. These communications are part of a subsection of the Civil Governor’s report entitled “Conditions as to Tranquility.” The pages given are as they appear in the 4th Annual Report of the Philippine Commission, for the benefit of researchers who may need these for citation purposes.>
Letter of Apolinario Mabini to General Luciano San Miguel:
Manila, March 27, 1903.
SIR: Since you ask me my opnion concerning your action, I will clearly inform you in accordance with my method of thinking.
I do not consider that the liberty enjoyed today in this Archipelago can be followed by independence through means of arms at the present time. The people do not move because they have no arms, and even if they had them, they would have nothing to eat. Although you might find another nation that would like to furnish arms and supplies, this nation would also like to annex this territory, and if this should happen, our misfortune would still be greater.
If we should proceed gradually, as, in fact, you are doing, the war would continue and possibly our nation never would enjoy prosperity, because the war would finally turn into a poisonous disease which would greatly increase our weakness. Understand well that we are now killing each other.
It seems to me that at the present time, we should endeavor to secure independence through the paths of peace. Let us cease that the people may rest, that it may work to recover from its recent proprietary losses. Let us conform to the opinion of the majority, although we may recognize that by this method, we do not obtain our desires.
This, I believe, the surest and most fit method in obtaining the welfare of all.
Let us deliberate and hold an assembly to treat of these matters. In case you are in conformity with this and return to peace, determine upon the necessary conditions that you should ask in order to save yourselves from any whatever vexations,
and if you think that I should transmit your petition to the constituted authorities, I am disposed to comply at any time.Letter of Apolinario Mabini to William Howard Taft:
There are those who say that your procedure is the cause of many abuses and methods which are unfavorable to the country, but I believe that the remedy for this, if it were true, is not comparable to the great poverty which would be born of a war apparently interminable. I believe that as long as the Filipinos to not endeavor to liberate themselves from their bonds, the period of their liberty will not arrive.
Excuse me for telling you this. If, perchance, you are not in accord with my opinion, this will not, as far as I am concerned, be a motive for destroying our former friendship and companionship.
Order your humble servant whenever you see fit.
AP. Mabini.General LUCIANO SAN MIGUEL.
MANILA, P.I., April 9, 1903.
HONORABLE SIR: A few days after my arrival at this capital, I received a letter from the late San Miguel, sending greetings of welcome, and requesting my opinion in regard to his attitude. In reply, I sent him a card, thanking him for his welcome and informing him that I had not as yet formed any opinion, since I had only just arrived and did not know the conditions.
Weeks after, when I had acquired some knowledge of the true state of affairs, I wrote a letter, in which I endeavored to prove that armed contention is ruinous to the country and that the present condition of things permits only a pacific contention for the political ideals that one might strive after. I prepared this letter against the time when San Miguel should ask me for the second time for my opinion. On the morning of the 27th of March last, a messenger came for the said opinion, and I gave him the letter. But on the following day, the messenger came back to inform me that the letter had not reached the hands of San Miguel, who had been killed, but had been delivered to an officer of his band for him to deliver to the second in command. Later, I turned over the rough copy of the letter to Mr. Pedro A. Paterno, in order that he might inform you in regard to the contents.
I have just been informed that the letter is in the possession of Faustino Guillermo, chief of a band, who, with his people, is disposed, so they say, to follow the counsels given in the said letter. But there exists another and larger band, under the command of Alejandro Santiago and Apolonio Samson; This Alejandro Santiago is, according to reports, the successor to San Miguel. These chieftains have not received the letter yet, for the reason that the frequent expeditions and patrols of the constabulary render communication very difficult; no one dares to search for them, for fear of falling into the hands of the officers of public order. They tell me that it is necessary that the persecution should not be so active, if only for a few days, for them to secure an opportunity to hold intercourse; or that a safe conduct should be furnished them, so that they can send a person to look for them and deliver the letter.
I must confess frankly that the late San Miguel was an old acquaintance and even friend of mine; but the chiefs above mentioned, I do not know personally, and I am not acquainted with their antecedents.
With these data, I await your determination, signing myself your humble and obedient servant.
MABINI.Mr. WILLIAM H. TAFT,
Civil Governor of the Philippines.
[p. 28]Letter of William Howard Taft to Apolinario Mabini:
BAGUIO, BENGUET, April 18, 1903.
MY DEAR SIR: I have to acknowledge receipt of your letter of April 9, 1903, and to apologize for my delay in answering the same. The letter was delivered to me just before I left Manila for Benguet, and I had to delay answer until reaching here, and until the letter could be translated. I have also read the copy of your letter to San Miguel which you sent me by Señor Paterno. I thank you much for interesting yourself in the maintenance of law and order in the islands and in presenting as cogently as you do the necessity for peace and tranquility. If I have understood your letter to me and its request, you have in mind the surrender of the persons to whom you have directed your letter, on condition of their receiving immunity from ordinary prosecutions under law. Could I be assured that this leniency would secure quiet and freedom from robbery and invasion to the good people of Bulacan Rizal, and Cavite, whose welfare we both have at heart, I should be glad again to offer immunity to those to whom you desire your letter to be conveyed; but the difficulty is, my dear señor, that purely out of consideration for the welfare of the people of the three provinces, I ran the risk of allowing many criminals to go unwhipt of justice and did authorize an offer of immunity to these very persons should they come in and surrender all their arms — an offer which remained open for some six weeks from October 1 to November 15 of last year. Reports came from time to time that the offer was to be accepted, but ﬁnally nothing was done. There was for a time suspension of the police expeditions in order to permit a general surrender. The only effect of this was to exaggerate in the eyes of the poor people of the towns of Rizal and Bulacan the prestige of those to whom the offers of immunity were made, enabling them the better to terrorize such people, and to give to the individuals in arms an excessive idea of their own importance. The negotiation fell through chiefly because the men who made up the bands of these various individuals belonged to the criminal classes, were confirmed ladronee and escaped fugitives from justice, whom their leaders, even if they desired to do so, could not control to the extent of compelling them to give up their arms which they needed for their life’s profession. They were all bent on a lawless life, were outlaws and bandits, and would continue to be so whatever the government at Manila. True, they received reenforcement from time to time from the idle and worthless of the neighboring towns and doubtless had assistance from some of the municipal officials, who, acting from motives of fear or gain, reaped a beneﬁt from their complicity and assistance. After this experience, and after a conference with the members of the Commission, I reached the definite conclusion that patience with them had ceased to be a virtue, and that the worst possible course to pursue with them, having regard to the welfare of the Filipino people of the three provinces, was to temporize, negotiate, or offer immunity to them. Most of them were criminals and had been so since the Spanish times, and it could not reasonably be expected that they would, even if they surrendered, return to paths of peace. San Miguel was selected as nominal leader and figurehead because the real leaders were jealous of each other. Santiago, a very obscure person, with facility only for intrigue, has been selected on the same principle. Apollonio Samson, Faustino Guillermo, Julian Santos (now under sentence of death), Manilang (now dead), Felizardo, Montillon, and Contreras were the real leaders and they always have been robbers, kidnappers, and carabao thieves, and Guillermo, Santos, and Manilang, and possibly some of the others, were fugitives from justice under charge of murder. They are unworthy of either the encouragement or sympathy of any Filipino of honor and integrity, no matter what his views as to the present civil government, or the independence of the islands. It is difﬁcult for those who are sincely irreconcilable not to sympathize with any distubanoe involving attacks upon the peace and order of the community,
because they can hardly express the hope that such disturbance, whatever the motive, may embarrass the present government and ultimately germinate into a new insurrection. In the blindness of their zeal, they are willing to sacrifice their own people — for it is only their own people who suffer by each outlawry — to a vague hope that out of pure ladronism, murder, and robbery may grow a successful revolution based on patriotic sentiment. Those whose duty it is, however, to keep informed as to the character and nature of these persons who keep up such disturbances knew that while these persons may receive encouragement and even material assistance from irreconcilable persons of respectability, they are essentially only robber bands, thieves, murderers, and kidnappers for ransom, determined to live on their neighbors and willing to sacrifice any number of Filipinos to the enjoyment of an outlaw life. They masquerade at times as “revolucionarios” in order to win the assistance just mentioned, but they are nothing but ladrones and should be punished only as violators of the law. Were there established in these islands a self-respecting and responible independent Filipino government, almost its first duty would be the suppression and punishment of exactly this class of persons, who in their hearts recognize no law and wish no condition of affairs save that of violence and rapine, for in no other can they acquire a livelihood, or attain the position of prominence or influence which their vanity demands.
I have written, my dear Señor, to you with great frankness, not with the idea of publishing our correspondence, but merely to show you my exact attitude and to explain why it is that I cannot facilitate communication between you and the persons whom you name, whose past history you say you do not know, because if I were to do so, it would lend support to the view that I am willing to offer immunity in case of their surrender.
I have the honor to be, with sentiments of very great respect,
Very sincerely yours,
WM. H. TAFT, Civil Governor.Señor Don A. MABINI
Notes and references:
1 “Fourth Annual Report of the Philippine Commission, 1903, In Three Parts, Part 1,” by the Bureau of Insular Affairs, War Department, published 1904 in Washington D.C. by the Government Printing Office.