General Emilio Aguinaldo’s decrees of 18 and 19 June 1898 comprised what we now call the Local Government Code. They contained some 45 rules of how town meetings were to be conducted, the formation of a police force for internal security, how to conduct trials, local elections, compile a civil registry of births, deaths and marriages and how to take a census. Also included in those prodigious decrees were procedures for tax collection, administration of public funds “and all work relating to the encouragement of every class of industry.” Officials (called delegates) were put in charge of these administrative functions. There were also heads or chiefs of towns, poblaciones and provinces.
All delegates, chiefs, heads of town and poblaciones constituted a popular assembly with a town chief as president, a poblacion head as vice-president and a justice delegate as secretary. The chiefs of towns always consulted with their respective popular assemblies in matters regarding the election of provincial chiefs and councilors. The provincial chief was seated in the capital of a province while councilors made up the provincial councils that were tasked to supervise the dissemination of government instructions and decrees in their respective provinces.
Had peace reigned, the delegates to the Malolos Congress were supposed to be elected by an assembly of town chiefs. Manila and Cavite were entitled to three delegates each while provinces classified as first class in colonial records had the right to two delegates each. Provinces under military rule and newly liberated ones had one delegate. Congress was mandated, among other things, to “propose to this government the measures concerning the preservation of internal order and external security of these islands. “
In his outstanding book, Malolos, the Crisis of the Republic, historian Teodoro Agoncillo stated that municipalities and provinces were immediately reorganized as fast as they )were taken over by the revolutionaries. As expected, Cavite took the lead followed by towns in Batangas and Pangasinan which elected their town officials, civil governors and delegates to the Malolos Congress. Agoncillo pointed out: “ It is doubtful whether under the circumstances then prevailing (the Philippine-American War was imminent) the entire territory controlled by the rebel government was ruled in accordance with decrees issued by Aguinaldo. But, one thing is, however, clear: That by and large, the officials with the exception of a few of the military, were imbued with high idealism and comported themselves in such a manner as to make the business of government a study in public morality.”
Masterfully, Agoncillo continued: “ Aguinaldo himself in the years that he had been in public service, both before and after the proclamation of Independence, acted scrupulously and honestly. The men around him and those who advised him were men of integrity and vision whose advice on public morality, added to his own sense of honesty and integrity spelled the difference between the clean and the corrupt government.” Aguinaldo was surrounded by patriots like Apolinario Mabini, Felipe Agoncillo ( to name only two) who according to the cited historian, “ …never compromised integrity for popularity and power…” and that Aguinaldo’s rule, though often considered personal and dictatorial was “ the cleanest in the history of Philippine self-government.” Whoever said we were incapable of self-government was definitely a traitor.