Federalism: Entering into the Future, Remembering the Past

Originally authored on January 23, 2018

Historical facts were obviously omitted or deliberately hidden in our history books. Until when can they be sidelined?
History reveals that federalism had long been desired by our forebears which had long been clamored by many regions and provinces.

No less than our national hero Jose Rizal had advocated in his time that the Philippines should be a federal republic. After his death, Aguinaldo pursued Rizal’s federalist idea which explains why the flag of the revolution and First Philippine Republic had the three stars within the triangle representing the major island groups constituting the archipelago as a federation.” (Historical Basis of Federalism, Rita Jimeno)

Even before General Emilio Aguinaldo was proclaimed Philippine President in January 23, 1899, the last Spanish Governor General Diego de los Rios had already delivered the death blow to his embattled First Philippine Republic seated in Malolos, Bulacan upon De los Rios’ formal surrender to the Federal Republic of the Visayas where he also relinquished Spain’s banner and official saber to the victorious revolutionary forces in Iloilo. (Rise and Fall of the Federal Republic of the Visayas, Dinggol Divinagracia)

It was an act that reduced Aguinaldo to insignificance while it legitimized and recognized the formative Federal Republic of the Visayas led by General Martin Delgado, head of the revolutionary government based in Santa Barbara, Iloilo. It must be noted that the Independent Visayan Republic had never been under the authority and jurisdiction of Aguinaldo’s Katagalogan Republic in Luzon.

Before departing for his retirement in Spain, De los Rios executed the formal surrender documents Acta de Capitulacion in Bacolod, duly acknowledged by General Aniceto Ledesma Lacson, president of Independent Negros Republic. It was during the victorious parade of the revolutionaries to Plaza XII in Iloilo City when immediately they renamed it Plaza Libertad where General Delgado unfurled the symbolic tristar Philippine flag to ceremoniously declare independence of the Federal Republic of the Visayas on Christmas day, 1898.

A paper written by Jose Velmonte from the UP Third World Studies Center, found that the Visayan revolutionary elites not only had sophisticated political ideas but also resented attempts by Malolos to assert its authority. A Tagalog military expedition sent by Malolos to Panay to uphold its presence was met with hostility. The Luzon force led by Generals Ananias Diokno and Leandro Fullon was regarded by the Visayan revolutionaries as an invasion of force.

Likewise, the Bangsamoro nation’s Mindanao, Sulu and the rest of its islands never fell under Aguinaldo’s politico-military control and sovereignty, Dr. Luis Dery wrote.

The Malolos Congress adopted a unitary form of government with powers firmly exercised at the center. However, the independence which the Filipinos declared in 1898 was wrested away by the Americans. They rejected the two proposals to establish Federal form of government because decentralization would make it difficult for them to control the islands they seized for their own benefit.

In April 1899, Aguinaldo issued a decree abolishing the Federal Republic of the Visayas, but was openly ignored by the Visayan leaders since they were “not under Aguinaldo’s authority”. The embattled republic, however, continued to function moving from Santa Barbara to Jaro, Cabatuan and other towns in the province. The same resistance was met in Cebu, Bohol, and Panay.

In 1935 Constitution, the Commonwealth, and the 1946 Independence saw the institution of a highly unitary form of government patterned after the American Constitution minus its significant federal foundations, Pablo Trillana wrote. While the unitary system worked in 1896 as we were at war, it no longer works in this day and age. It only paved the way for the selfish elites residing in the enclaves of Metro Manila for control while the other regions wallow in poverty and destitution. (Erwin Fernandez, historian)

In war, winners write history according to their own terms, no matter how they won.


* – credits to the owner/s for the pictures


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