A militant group wants to rewrite Philippine history by declaring Andres Bonifacio as the first President of the Republic, in place of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo. The sentiment is apparently fueled by a deep rereading of Philippine history—lately reinforced by two highly successful films in which Bonifacio and Gen. Antonio Luna are killed — the first in Maragondon, Cavite on May 10, 1897, the second in Cabanatuan on June 5, 1899— after incurring Aguinaldo’s wrath.
It is not easy to temper this sentiment, nor refute the thesis that Aguinaldo had these two men executed because of politics. But it is absurd to propose that Bonifacio, who founded the Katipunan but never became President, should now be declared as our first President, as though Aguinaldo, who had assumed that office, had never held it.
The people’s esteem for Aguinaldo’s presidency might have been misplaced. He might have deserved to be pilloried for Bonifacio’s and Luna’s death and other crimes. But we cannot change the facts of history and declare that Bonifacio, not he, served as President of the First Republic. Our appreciation of his presidency may differ completely from that of the last generation; but we cannot, for that reason, declare that something that had existed before never existed at all.
Vaporizing the past
We would be living the lie in George Orwell’s novel, “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” in which persons unwanted by the State are completely “vaporized” so that they not only cease to exist but that any record of their having existed before is completely erased.
In a sense, this is also what some people would like to see happen to the late former President Ferdinand Marcos. His Martial Law regime thwarted the communist attempt to overthrow the government and replace it with a communist rule, but they would like to erase that fact and replace it with that which narrates how so many people suffered under Martial Law, a period during which he was in charge.
They would also like to vaporize the fact that he had fought for his country against the Japanese during World War II; that he had been awarded several medals, including the Medal of Valor, during that war; that he had been Secretary of National Defense; and that he had been elected President, not once but four times, first in 1965, then in 1969, then in 1981, and finally in 1986, even though the last one was protested by his enemies and spurred street demonstrations that led to his ouster.
And they would like to erase the official AFP rule, confirmed by the President and Commander-in-Chief, that anyone who had been a soldier, a Medal of Valor awardee, Secretary of National Defense or President, has a right to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, unless he or his family wishes otherwise, and to substitute for it the opinion of the public as to whether or not someone like Marcos should be buried in that place.
With further reference to Marcos, some militants would like us to believe that the communists, who had attempted but failed to overthrow his government in the seventies, were unjust “victims” of Martial Law rather than its immediate cause. They would not want the nation’s youth to ever ponder the thesis that had Marcos not imposed Martial Law, we might have long become a communist state.
President Claro M. Recto?
Back to the first Philippine presidency, it is possible that many Filipinos may want to identify with Bonifacio or Luna rather than with Aguinaldo for the most valid of reasons; but this cannot justify the call of the militants. In my own book of contemporary statesmen, I do not hesitate to rank Claro M. Recto above most of our Presidents after Manuel L. Quezon; but I would not propose that we honor Recto by giving him the title of “President” instead of simply Senator.
“Senator” used to be a highly honorable title before the utter lack of moral and intellectual worth became an apparent requirement for membership in the Senate. But we should be able to agree that a man’s inner worth does not derive from his official title; it is altogether possible that the poor miller who had nothing to his name could become the envy of the King, and the nameless widow with her mite could perform an act of infinitely greater worth than the most celebrated philanthropist.
Now, while so many would like to honor Bonifacio for founding the Katipunan, which lit the torch of revolution against Spain, a new book on Plaridel (Marcelo H. del Pilar) tries to offer a new perspective on both men’s role in the Katipunan. The book, “Plaridel, Dunong ng Katipunan” —(Mastermind of the Katipunan), written in Filipino by Cristano “King” Cortez and published by the Center for Bulacan Studies, Bulacan State University, awards to Plaridel the distinction of being the “ brains” of the Katipunan.
Launched at the Samahang Plaridel Forum last Monday, on the eve of Plaridel’s 166th birth anniversary at the Manila Hotel, the book quotes a January 1896 testimony by General Aguedo del Rosario, an officer of the Katipunan, which says:
“The Secret Society known as the Kataastaasan Kagalanggalangan Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (KKK) was founded on July 7, 1892 by the Filipino patriots Deodato Arellano, Andres Bonifacio, Teodoro Plata, Valentin Diaz and Ladislao Diwa at the initiative of the lawyer Marcelo H. del Pilar, who was at the time living in Barcelona, Spain, struggling in the field of politics in union with other Filipinos to secure from the metropolis reforms favorable to the Filipino people,” says the testimony.
Who’s the brain and who’s the implementor?
Investigations conducted by Spanish authorities, particularly by one Capt. Olegario Diaz, showed that Plaridel was the one who conceived the plot of the Katipunan, but Bonifacio acted to help the plan materialize: “the conception was of Pilar (Marcelo H.) and Bonifacio was but the foster father charged with the bringing up of the child.” A testimony given by Dr. Pio Valenzuela, M.D. (1869-1956), secretary of the Katipunan, quotes Bonifacio as saying Plaridel was the “President of the Associates of the Katipunan living in Spain.”
This is a valuable contribution to our knowledge of the Katipunan, but it does not demand a rewriting of Bonifacio’s role. He remains the leader of the Philippine Revolution. There is no need to declare him as our national hero at the expense of Jose Rizal, as some people would like to see. Both are our national heroes and we deserve to have a Pantheon of national heroes. One hero’s worth should not diminish that of another; Filipino citizens and patriots should be free to profess their secular devotion to whomsoever they are drawn.
These should be rewritten
But there are certain facts of our political and economic life, which this administration must now rewrite.
Summary killings. In the present war on drugs, the government has a duty to rewrite its earlier instructions to the police on the killing of drug suspects. As the Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said through Radio Veritas on Monday, all killings must stop—from the slaying of suspected drug users to the destruction of unborn babies.
Instead of pursuing a genocidal program of population control as proposed by its economic advisers, the government must now rewrite its constitutionally questionable reproductive health law, which puts the State on top of the sexual lives of married couples, discard its plan to limit births to a maximum of three children per couple, and to remove social benefits from senior citizens and the so-called “useless eaters.”
Industrialization. Finally, the government must rewrite major policies that have obstructed the nation’s development. Ferdinand Marcos once dreamed of fully modernizing the country’s economy and creating prosperity for all through an 11-point industrialization program that should have put the Philippines ahead of, or at least side by side with, South Korea. Hostile imperial policies shut down that program and reduced the country to a principally agricultural economy, which cannot even guarantee self-sufficiency in rice, and which has since produced more smuggling that has enriched corrupt officials than sufficient staple and other agricultural products. The agro-based economy has produced more overseas Filipino workers (at least 10 million of them) than any other agricultural crop.
Going nuclear. This policy must now be rewritten to revive manufacturing and industry, in place of smuggling, money laundering, drug-dealing, OFW deployment and call centers. This must begin by rewriting the policy on energy development, which Cory Aquino totally wrecked for no apparent reason when she abandoned the entire energy program, dismantled the Department of Energy and mothballed the all-but-completed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant. The economy has not been able to recover from this destructive policy until now; the country has the most expensive electricity in the world, bar none. The solution is to go nuclear, instead of enticing investors to develop fossil-fired projects with a guaranteed margin of at least 300 percent.
International energy conference
Yesterday, the Department of Energy, together with the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Science and Technology and the National Power Corporation, opened a conference on nuclear energy development at the Diamond Hotel in Manila, with 18 member-countries of the International Atomic Energy Agency participating. The conference was preceded by Senate hearings where Napocor President Gladys Sta. Rita was reported to have said the mothballed Bataan nuclear plant could be successfully rehabilitated at $1 billion within a period of four years, whereas it would cost $5 billion to $6 billion to build a new plant within 10 years.
This was a major story, which the major dailies ignored; it ran as a banner story in The Market Monitor, a weekly business newspaper.
Although the government had paid $2.3 billion to build Bataan, it has not used a single watt of electricity from the nuclear power plant. Allegations that it was built close to a fault-line played strongly in the press, especially after the 1979 Three Mile nuclear accident in Dauphin county, Pennsylvania, and the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident in the city of Pripyat, Ukraine. But Cory Aquino shut it down for purely political reasons, saying the agent who had facilitated the sale was purportedly a Marcos man who had allegedly received an industry commission of $80 million.
In the US, the anti-nuclear power propaganda generated by Jane Fonda’s film, China Syndrome, spooked more people than those willing to listen to Edward Teller, the nuclear physicist and longtime government adviser who had contributed to the development of the hydrogen bomb, and who spoke of the benefits of nuclear power.
Nuclear summit statement
The nuclear scare continued after the 2010 Fukushima Daichi tsunami, which closed down a nuclear reactor. There were no casualties from this “disaster,” but such was its propaganda impact that Italy, for one, immediately closed down its nuclear plants, while Belgium, Germany, Spain and Switzerland started phasing out their own. At the second Nuclear Summit in Seoul in March 2012, which I attended, however, the most significant statement from the delegates that included President Obama, China’s Hu Jintao and Russia’s Medvedev, was that no suitable alternative has so far been developed to replace nuclear energy. It remains the cheapest and most efficient source of power.
As of 2015, there were 440 nuclear power plants in the world, generating 386,276 MWe (megawatts of electricity). The US has 99, France 58, Japan 43, Russia 35, China 35, South Korea 25, India 21, Canada 19, UK 15, Ukraine 15, Sweden 10, Germany 8, Belgium and Spain 7, Taiwan and Czech Republic 6, Argentina 3.
Recommissioning the Bataan plant could be the first major step in rewriting the economic destiny of the Filipino people.