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The Independence Day That Wasn’t

Note: Originally posted in my FB account on June 12, 2011

Happy Independence Day!!

Today is the 113th anniversary of the  declaration of independence by Filipino revolutionaries led by General Emilio Aguinaldo. On that day, June 12, 1898, Aguinaldo was made to believe by the Americans that the latter were just facilitating the transfer of power from the Spaniards to the Filipinos when, in fact, they were secretly negotiating the surrender of the Spanish forces, who demanded as a precondition that the Filipinos would not be allowed to enter Manila’s walled city during the turnover as it is too humiliating to the former colonial masters to bear. What followed was the “benevolent assimilation”, according to President William McKinley, of the country that led to the war (or insurrection, as some in American media viewed it) against Filipino “bandits” and the death of somewhere between a quarter and a half million Filipinos. The brutality of the war was exemplified by the Balangiga massacre made infamous by Ramon Revilla’s movie “Sunugin Ang Samar” and the Balangiga bells still kept as war booty in Wyoming. The war was America’s first “Iraq”, a quagmire as described by the famous writer Mark Twain, who was among those who strongly opposed the occupation.

Why President Diosdado Macapagal chose to change the independence day from July 4 – on July 4, 1946, America granted the Philippines political freedom – to June 12 is beyond me. For those among us who continue to believe America’s pure benevolent intent for the Philippines, they will surely be disappointed once they learn that the US Congress forced the Filipino leaders to ratify the much-maligned Bell Trade Act two days before granting the Philippines political freedom. The Bell Trade Act prohibited the Philippines from manufacturing or selling any products that might “come into substantial competition” with U.S.-made goods and required that the Philippine constitution be revised to grant U.S. citizens and corporations equal access to Philippine minerals, forests and other natural resources. In 1955, the treaty was replaced by the Laurel-Langley Agreement which is more favorable to the country. The Filipino nationalists were not so happy with the limited sovereignty granted to the country that they convinced Macapagal to change the date of independence from July 4th to June 12th, which does not make sense at all. At least, the 1946 declaration of sovereignty, albeit limited, resulted in a true political freedom recognized by the international community. That cannot be said of the 1898 declaration. In fact, on April 19, 1901, the captive Aguinaldo took an oath of allegiance to the United States and recognized its sovereignty over the Philippines.

Why are we still fooling ourselves to believe that June 12th is our real independence day?

Just the same, I wish all Filipinos a happy Independence Day celebration!

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