Disastrous Protocols—did Aguinaldo know?

The “Protocol of Agreement “signed by Spain and the USA in Washington on 12 August 1898 brought about  a lull. But, the  USA  kept sending troops to the Philippines. The USS Arizona arrived with 4 companies of the 18th Infantry, detachments of the Ist  Nebraska, 1st  Colorado  and   10th Pennsylvania Volunteers Infantries.  A day  after, the Light Battery D, the 6th US Artillery, 5 companies of the 14th US Infantry, detachments of the 23rd US Infantry and 3rd Artillery, plus Volunteer Infantries from the 1st California, 1st Wyoming, 13th Minnesota and three batteries of the Utah Volunteer Infantry headed for Manila. There were also troop disembarkations in Cavite: The Light Battery of the 6th US Artillery, the 4th US Cavalry, the 1st Montana and South Dakota Volunteer Infantries staked territory.

The Filipino revolutionary fighters under Emilio Aguinaldo and his generals must have been discombobulated, to say the least. Apolinario Mabini and General Paciano Rizal had warned Aguinaldo about the perfidy of his American allies, but what could he have done about the interminable flow of invading troops? Lawyer-historian Saul Hofileña wrote: “Amidst the flurry of reorganizations and troop disembarkations brought about by the August Protocol, the Filipinos were busy forming an independent state to consolidate their victories against Spain.  In late August 1898, Major-Gen. Elwell S. Otis relieved Major-General Westley Merritt as military governor of the islands and Brig.-Gen. Arthur MacArthur replaced General Thomas Anderson as Commander of the Second Division…”  Aguinaldo formed revolutionary committees abroad, de facto embassies, to seek foreign recognition of the fledgling Philippine government

On 4 September, Aguinaldo named 50 delegates to a Revolutionary Congress which convened on 15 Sept in the Barasoain church of Malolos, Bulacan.  There were 85 delegates, partly appointed, the number increased to 110.  On 8 September 1898, Gen. Elwell Otis imperiously demanded the withdrawal of Filipino troops from the city of Manila. “Against this foreboding backdrop, the American and Spanish delegates convened in Paris on Oct. 1, 1898 to open the conference that would eventually decide the fate of the Philippines. “(Hofileña, 2011). Aguinaldo sent Felipe Agoncillo and Juan Luna as emissaries but both were barred from joining the meetings.

Curiously, the Spanish commissioners demanded a cease of hostilities when at that point there was none between Spain and the USA.  They pointedly referred to the “Tagal rebels” as the “auxiliary force “of the American troops and blamed them for “endangering the status quo”. The American commissioners said the preservation of the status quo was not a proper subject for the commissioners to resolve because the purpose of the pre-treaty conference was to discuss the annexation of the Philippines to the USA.  That was when Gen. Merritt called the Filipino revolutionaries’ “insurgents” to cleverly avoid recognition of the First Philippine Republic being formed in Malolos. He asked the US War Department whether he should consider the Filipino “insurgents “as enemies, but received no official reply.  When asked about Aguinaldo, Merritt said the latter will definitely resist the occupation and annexation of the Philippines, but if only Luzon were ceded to the USA, with Spain holding   the rest of the archipelago, the conflict between the USA and Spain might never end.

Merritt’s position was reinforced by General F.V. Greene who warned of anarchy and civil war if the USA withdraws because “Filipinos are incapable of governing themselves…” The Belgian Consul offered his unsolicited advice:  The USA should take all or nothing as the ‘Indians” do not desire independence but trust that the USA would treat them rightly and quell rebellious chiefs. The statement of John Foreman, a British resident of Manila, was taken seriously because he raved about the rich natural resources of the Philippines like Mindoro molave which was superior to mahogany and oil reserves discovered in Toledo, Cebu.

George F. Becker of the United States Geological Survey whetted imperialist appetites by submitting a detailed report about the mineral resources in the Philippines. Even then, the strategic importance of the archipelago was highlighted by Ensign Everett Hayden of the US Navy. All that influenced the USA and Spain as they haggled over Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Marianas and the Philippines.  Meanwhile, Filipinos relentlessly constructed a constitutional republic, set up educational institutions and a military academy. More American troops poured into our homeland: The 33rd Infantry and a detachment of Oregon Volunteers, 4 companies of the Washington Volunteers Infantry and a battalion of California artillery, the 51st Iowa Volunteers, the   1st Tennessee Infantry arrived one after another.

On 22 Nov 1898, the USA agreed to pay Spain 20 million dollars, a fifth of the original asking price, for the inclusion of the Philippines in the “Articles of Cession”.  That Article 13 was embodied in the disastrous Protocol 19.

(Source:  Saul Hofilena, Jr, Under the Stacks, 2011)


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