Seats of power, 1

After Independence was declared on 12 June 1898, a Revolutionary Government was formed and almost immediately President Emilio Aguinaldo signed two decrees, on 18 and 19 June, that established local governments all over the islands. Pres. Aguinaldo must have assessed the situation from a military strategist’s perspective; he saw that Spain’s defeat was irreversible which meant that Filipinos would soon have to govern themselves. It was also time for civilian rule and what better way than to start at the local level.

As the Spanish commanding generals abandoned their posts in Cavite and Pampanga, as the Revolution spread like prairie fire to northern Luzon, the Bicol peninsula, Iloilo and Panay, Samar and Leyte, the ignominious mock battle of Manila took place on 13 August. Spain and the United States of America conspired to prevent the Filipino Revolutionary Forces from taking over Intramuros because the Spaniards did not want to surrender to Filipinos, it would have been too humiliating. Be that as it may, the founding fathers were determined to form the First Republic so they went on to Malolos, beyond the range of American gunboats anchored in Manila Bay.

There were remnants of local governments established by Spain, but those were hardly responsive to the people’s needs and had become even more useless in the new revolutionary dispensation. The population had risen to the patriotic occasion, sacrificing lives and personal resources to support the revolutionary fighters who, incredible as it may sound, received no salaries since the outbreak of armed conflict. Exigencies clamored for immediate attention, yet, the nation’s fathers knew that solutions had to be long-term to be effective.

That was why, in October 1898, Aguinaldo signed a forward-looking decree creating an educational system. Nationalistic centers of learning were opened like the Universidad Literaria de Filipinas which taught civil, criminal and administrative law as well as medicine, surgery and pharmacy, languages, economics, science and philosophy. The Instituto Burgos focused on secondary and vocational education. Private schools that fulfilled government requirements were accredited. To professionalize the army, a military academy was established under Gen. Antonio Luna’s direction.

In accordance with the decrees signed in June, local civilian governments were established; curiously enough, these were headed by generals. Manila was under Gen. Artemio Ricarte; Bulacan had Gen. Gregorio del Pilar while Nueva Ecija, General Mariano Llanera; Pampanga was led by Gen. Tomas Mascardo, Batangas by Gen. Miguel Malvar and Laguna by Gen. Paciano Rizal; Gen. Manuel Tinio was in charge of the Ilocos province. Civilian governments were also set up in Cavite, Zambales, Bataan, Morong, Mindoro, Olongapo, Pangasinan and Tayabas. By the first of December 1898, thirty more provinces and districts had their own local governments. Today, the heritage municipal house of Argao, Cebu still bears a marker celebrating the first local elections under the First Philippine Republic.

According to Dr. Jaime Veneracion ( UP Department of History) in those days, constructing the republic was a euphoric and enthusiastic time for Filipinos. While the Malolos Congress was in session, debating on the Constitution and putting the government machinery in motion, people formed “propaganda” groups that went around municipalities and communities accompanied by musical bands, calling one and all to assemble at the plazas where the success of the Revolution was extolled, the Malolos Constitution and Aguinaldo’s decrees explained. It was of vital importance to inform the people of how the First Republic was being established.

Those civilian governments became the seats of power where representatives to the Congress were elected. Unfortunately, due to politico-military constraints brought about by the invasion of the USA and the Filipino-American war, many provinces could not send their delegates to the Malolos Congress and Pres. Aguinaldo had to appoint representatives for places where elections could not be held. (more)