Aguinaldo’s ‘confession’ letters about Bonifacio execution sell for Php5 million

MANILA, Philippines – The ‘confession’ letters of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo about his hand in the execution of Andres Bonifacio fetched Php5 million in a recent auction at the León Gallery. It’s amazing how such papers could fetch such a huge sum of money, but these were valuable for historians as they give us a glimpse of a major part in Philippine history.
Aguinaldo’s ‘confession’ letters about Bonifacio execution

Aguinaldo vs. Bonifacio

Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo was the first President of the Republic of the Philippines; though a number of historians believed that Andres Bonifacio should have been the one given that distinction despite not being the officially declared president.

Both Aguinaldo and Bonifacio fought in the Philippine Revolution, but it was Bonifacio who started the revolutionary movement and Aguinaldo had only joined the organization through a friend’s encouragement.

Aguinaldo’s ‘confession’ letters about Bonifacio execution
Photo credit: Ces Drilon / Twitter

History had been rife with stories of factions and problems in the Katipunan, the revolutionary movement. This would lead to the Tejeros Convention, presided by Bonifacio. This gathering was called to establish a revolutionary government in place of the Katipunan.

Though Bonifacio already considers the Katipunan as the government, he agreed to the convention. With Bonifacio presiding the meeting, Aguinaldo was voted as President. Other officials were also voted, and Bonifacio was chosen as Director of the Interior.

When Daniel Tirona questioned Bonifacio’s qualifications for the position, the latter was insulted and declared, “I, as chairman of this assembly, and as President of the Supreme Council of the Katipunan, as all of you do not deny, declare this assembly dissolved, and I annul all that has been approved and resolved.”

Bonifacio refused to recognize the government led by Aguinaldo but this would eventually be the one officially recognized by the Filipino people and the world. The guerilla leader continued to oppose the now-president Aguinaldo.

According to historians, Aguinaldo’s faction continued to find ways to silence Bonifacio’s faction. When Bonifacio and his brother, Procopio, stood trial before Aguinaldo, many believed this was a farce because the witnesses and the jury were all Aguinaldo’s men – and even Bonifacio’s lawyer declared him guilty.

While the execution was supposed to be valid and in accordance with the law after a military trial on charges of treason, considering that Bonifacio was a rebel, many believed he was simply eliminated for being Aguinaldo’s political rival.

Letters of Confession

Historian and scholar Epifanio de los Santos (the man after whom EDSA was named) had in his possession a number of Aguinaldo letters, including one that ‘confessed’ to this involvement in Bonifacio’s execution.

“I had to yield,” Aguinaldo wrote in a typewritten account that was amended in his handwriting.

Aguinaldo’s ‘confession’ letters about Bonifacio execution
Photo credit: Lisa Guerrero Nakpil / ABS-CBN News

While this wasn’t exactly a direct confession that he ordered Bonifacio’s execution, Bonifacio’s family isn’t convinced.

“What Aguinaldo meant by 'I had to yield' is that he saw the wisdom in his men’s advice and so freely chose to order Bonifacio killed. It did not mean 'I had no choice in the matter.' Of course he did,” said Lisa Guerrero Nakpil, the great grandniece of Bonifacio's widow Gregoria "Oryang" de Jesus.

“He was the commander and decision-maker. By his own account, his guys did not act unilaterally, not without his knowledge, not without consulting him and never without getting a by-your-leave on any decision, big or small. He was after all ‘Dictator’ and master of the universe.”

— Joy Adalia, The Summit Express

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