ON his 150th birth anniversary, Andres Bonifacio is praised and honored across the country, from the halls of Congress to the city of Lucena, not only for being the head of the Katipunan but for being the country’s first Tagalog president.
The city council of Manila filed a resolution urging Congress and President Benigno Aquino 3rd to recognize Andres Bonifacio as the first president of the Tagalog Republic, citing numerous historical chronicles by known local and foreign historians and documents issued by Bonifacio using this as his official title.
Authored by John Marvin “Yul Servo” Nieto, the resolution said that based on original and authentic documents of the Philippine Revolution against Spain, as attested by historians of note such as Milagros C.
Guerrero, Emmanuel Encarnacion and Ramon N. Villegas, Bonifacio founded the first national government of the Philippines and served as its president from August 24, 1896 until his tragic death on May 10, 1897.
On August 24, 1896 at the convention of the Kataastaasang Kapulungan (Supreme Council) or National Assembly of the Katipunan at Melchora Aquino’s barn in Barrio Banlat, now part of Caloocan, the assembly passed three major resolutions namely: the declaration of a nationwide armed revolution against Spain; the establishment of a national government and the election of officials who would lead the nation and the army.
Assembled at the convention were members of the Supreme Council and the heads of the sanggunian (supra municipal) and balangay chapter units, according to the 2003 edition of the “1896 Revolution” authored by Guerrero, Encarnacion and Villegas.
From Manila, the Katipunan established sizeable chapters in Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija and smaller chapters in Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan and the Bicol region with estimated membership of 30,000 to 400,000.
Since the convention, the Katipunan under Bonifacio’s leadership ceased being a secret society and was forced to come out in the open as a revolutionary government with its own laws, bureaucratic structure and elective leadership, a fact borne out by the research of John R.M. Taylor, Gregorio Zaide and Teodoro Agoncillo.
In August 1896, the transformation of the Katipunan into a revolution government and the ensuing election of Bonifacio to the presidency were also confirmed by Pio Valenzuela in his testimony before Spanish authorities upon his surrender on Sept. 2, 1896.
At least three letters and an appointment paper written by Bonifacio addressed to Emilio Jacinto had printed letterheads dated from March 8 to April 24, 1897 with Bonifacio’s titles and designations varying as president of the Supreme Council, the supreme president; the president of the sovereign nation of Katagalugan; the president of the sovereign nation, founder of the Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan, initiator of the revolution and office of the supreme president, government of the Revolution.
Jose Bantug, a pre-war scholar, referred to Bonifacio as the Kataastaasang Pangulo and Heneral Blg.1. A similar conclusion was reached by Jose P. Santos, son of Epifanio de los Santos in 1933 and Zaide in 1939, who both recognized Bonifacio’s presidency.
Bonifacio was further acknowledged in contemporary Spanish publications like the Feb. 8, 1897 La Ilusraction Espana y America. An article on the Philippine revolution accompanied by a portrait of Bonifacio in a black suit and white tie had the caption: Andres Bonifacion/titulado (Presidente) de la Republica Tagala.”
The resolution added that even before the Tejeros Convention of March 22, 1897, the Katagalugan government headed by Bonifacio had long commanded the loyalty of a significant portion of the population, holding territories where it exercised the functions of a state and having armed forces that fought for and defended its existence.
Thus, the Manila city council declared Bonifacio as the true father of the Filipino nation and founder of Philippine democracy.
It said that Bonifacio is “the hero who, next to Jose P. Rizal, occupies the biggest place in the hearts of Filipinos.”
At the House of Representatives, a bill was also passed that seeks to declare Bonifacio as the national hero, replacing Jose Rizal.
Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list filed the measure.
Bayan Muna noted that while Rizal was able to put across the need for changes and influenced intellectuals to fight for reforms through his writings, Bonifacio, also an intellectual, impassioned by the need to change the oppressive and exploitative system not merely by writing about it but also by acting on it through the Katipunan or KKK.
“Bonifacio’s heroism inspires in us the patriotism and nationalism that is resolute and uncompromising which the people and especially the youth must learn and imbibe,” they added.
The lawmakers noted that there has never been a legislation declaring a national hero, but only a number of proclamations that gave recognition and honor to a few historical figures for their contribution to society such as Bonifacio and Rizal.