La Frailocracia Filipina/Article I
Filibuster, a word of recent coinage from the word filibustero, meaning freebooter, appears in recent critiques of events in the Philippines. Although this word has been used only lately, the same is already accepted freely. It is labelled to anybody or everybody suspected of either harboring feelings of hatred or initiating acts of vengeance against Spain. It does not matter if there is no evidence to become a filibustero. The slightest suspicion marks the victim to a tragic fate. Since the government is highly sensitive to antagonistic feelings or inimical acts, it retaliates with unrelenting and indiscriminate arrests. Many reputed persons inclined to principles contrary to conservatism have already been sentenced to the gallows or doomed to exile.
The monachal pamphlet whose arguments we are refuting, confident that it can impress the people with the grave effects of filibusterism, evokes the controversy a new.
The earnest desire of its author is to exaggerate the role of the convents in the moral and physical growth of the government; to inculcate by all means the need of tolerating the friars, providing their personal necessities, and helping their projects to enrich themselves; and to make known that any form of government by the laity is tyrannical for the pulpit and the confessional box will expose its despotic acts.
Such is the modus operandi of dominating the people being undertaken by the friars in the Philippines. They accuse the government of all kinds of despotism before the people; conversely, they also accuse the people of rebellion and filibusterism against the government. By instigating one group against the other, they are able to maintain a state of perpetual confusion and, since they can decide at pleasure and over the will of the contending factions, they emerge as arbitrators.
The actuations of the friars would not have merited any attention if the interest of these religious leaders was only confined within the limits of their mystical institutions. Fortunately, favored by a multitude of circumstances and propelled by their aspirations, they successfully invade the domain of politics and economics. An indifferent attitude of the Filipinos toward this transgression is unpardonable.
Does filibusterism, this ideology which appears to be dissolving the relationship between Spain and the Philippines, really exists in our society? Are there tangible proofs of our country's aspirations to break off the ties that binds her with the mother country? Let us make an impartial investigation.
Without a priori justification for an affirmative answer, those who claim that filibusterism exists in the islands give the following a posteriori proofs: the troubles in Luzon caused by the uprisings in Manila headed by one Novales; and Nueva Ecija led by Cuesta, a brother of Novales; and the insurrection in Cavite. The leaders were influenced by a desire to make known to all their hatred for Spain. Each of them manifested his hatred in an uprising. However, not one of these skirmishes was politically motivated and the masses did not even participate solidly behind them.
Notwithstanding, attempts were made to make mountains out of molehills. Prejudiced and paid writers readily contributed false and distorted reports of the uprisings to justify the partial accusations against the leaders. Fortunately, there were conditions which the writers could not conceal—the uprisings were narrow ranged and poorly planned, and the Filipinos were responsible for their own failure.
Cuesta named himself military leader of a group of twenty men. They secretly planned to invade the public treasury building to steal the funds kept in the vaults and scatter the money in the streets. This plot was not approved by Novales who knew that it was illegal. Cuesta and his men however did not care whether the scheme was legal or illegal. They were happy because the robbery was successful. Cuesta did not count on public support. This revolt, like the Cavite insurrection, was not inspired by vehement civic aspirations. The Cavite mutiny was staged by only a handful of soldiers under a sergeant. It was easily suppressed a half hour later when Filipino soldiers commanded by a Spanish corporal came to the scene of action. They landed from a wooden ship alongside the walls of the plaza and moored their ship to the foot of the wharf. A small Filipino team was left behind as guard.
The insurrection spreads over an unprecedented number of pages in our history. It has become the topic of discussion everywhere because it implicated and condemned to the gallows three illustrious secular clergymen who distinguished themselves in defending the rights of the secular priests against the regular clergy relative to administering the care of souls and it imprisoned illustrious jurists, respectable citizens and other secular clergymen in Ceuta and the Marianas.
Those sentenced behind the bars were arrested peacefully and found without arms in their respective homes. Their cases, however, were tried by the military courts because the civil government washed its hands and preferred not to interfere while the judicial courts which undisputedly had jurisdiction over political matters chose not to try the same.
From the decisions on the Cavite insurrection which were concluded in strict official secrecy, the proceedings of the military court revealed that the case was not a political delinquency nor an attempted assault upon the sovereignty of Spain and that the incident must have been due to the lack of discipline among the citizen-soldiers who were enemies of the regular clergymen because of the same principles for which the three secular priests had stood. This is our knowledge of the case. On the other hand, we have to admit whether the government likes it or not, that those condemned to the gallows and confined in prisons were convicted.
by an authority shockingly bereft of jurisdiction and that they were victims sacrificed to the law of brute force. The verdict dictated by these courts cannot therefore be a criterion for the evaluation of this significant episode in Philippine history.
Mr. Meliton Martinez, then Archbishop of Manila, signed a pastoral condemning with great vehemence and indignation the conduct of the secular priests involved in the insurrection. This important document was printed and circulated with notorious profusion; but His Illustrious Excellency refused to degrade the seculars whom he threatened with excommunication in the pastoral. The removal from their posts was officially petitioned with a firm demand that the degradation be also applied to the prisoners in the Marianas. His Grace, in spite of his pastoral, refused to grant the formal request. Why this illogical reasoning of our Venerable Prelate? Why? Let us waive further discussion on the subject.
Mr. Martinez later renounced the archbishopric of Manila much to the regret of the country.
Without pretensions of rendering a critical judgment on the legality of the proceedings and decisions on the Cavite mutiny and without in any way making excuses of the crimes that caused the disturbances of public peace and order in certain parts of Luzon, let us study the records of past events.
We find from the data the true nature of the disorders which without plans, motives or aspirations, and support of any prominent social class were perpetrated in the Philippines. Besides, neither the antecedent or immediate causes nor the nearest or remotest effects of all these uprisings allow us to deduce any desire of separation from Spain or sign of social and political unrest. These petty revolts are just explosions of aberrations, if not manifestations, stupid intrigues and refined malevolence.
Separation from Spain will adversely affect the interests of the Filipinos. The topographical location of the archipelago with numerous islands situated far apart, her newly acquired culture, and various related factors need for development and enhancement a strengthening of political ties and substantially effective fusion of aspirations with the mother country.
The Philippines lack the intrinsic and extrinsic conditions of the ultramarine provinces of America. The country is already adjusted to the customs and laws of the Latin race and she is surrounded by nations with whom she has little in common as far as religions, principles, ideals and languages are concerned. Exposed to the covetousness of international powers, the initial stage of her progress requires for further development the enhancement of the prestige of Spain, a requisite which the Philippines needs more strongly than Spain herself.
Taking into account the conditions of the archipelago, the desire to separate must be a suicidal intent. But the idea of suicide arises only from hopelessness wherein the Filipinos are not in a state at the moment.
To push the Filipinos to such a position has been the friars' dream for a long time. Monastic interests have reached a stage of decadence that the friars can no longer defend themselves without the handy weapon of accusation of filibusterism and its consequent punishment.
A petition was presented by the residents of Manila to the Governor General of the Philippines requesting him to entreat His Royal Highness to enact drastic measures to save the country from the alarming oppression of the friars without prejudice to the prescription of penal laws relative to the resistance contrived and preached by the ecclesiastical ministers against legal ordinances on public health. The appeal was labelled as an act of filibusterism.
There were others, due to personal interests or lack of conviction, in favor of the assertion that the exposition directed to the metropolis was anti-Spanish. This violation of common sense demands that we set aside the case until we are ready to conduct the corresponding unbiased investigation.
The case of these laws on sanitation governing cemeteries and burials in the Philippines dates back to October 1887. These promulgated ordinances strictly prohibited the custom to utilize the precincts of churches as funeral parlors for the dead to lie in state. Europe, for hygienic reasons, adopted this sanitary measure to safeguard public health. There is even more reason in the Philippines to urgently adopt this precaution for its tropical climate accelerates decomposition of organic matter much faster than that in temperate countries. The miasma of decaying bodies in the churches where large numbers of relatives and friends of the deceased congregate becomes the obscure causes of public diseases of which a good administration must remedy.
The friars could not see how public health would be benefited with the strict enforcement of health laws. They saw only the dwindling of parochial fees. So, they campaigned for the non-observance of health laws that pitted them against the authorities.
The prohibition of a traditional custom, according to these holy men, can hurt religious sentiments and may cause an insurrection. The friars advocated disobedience of sanitary ordinances through pastorals and sermons from the Iglesia del Espiritu Santo (Holy Spirit Church) where the pulpit was converted into a demagogical rostrum.
With all the eloquence they could muster, the friars tried to convince the people through a thousand and one ways to believe the statement: "Qui vos audit, me audit (Who hears you, hears me); qui vos spernit, me spernit" (who despises you, despises me). Luckily, no insurrection occurred during the enforcement of the public health laws.
The result, exactly the opposite of what was expected, proves that influence does not necessarily mean domination. A letter of gratitude of the country for the achievements of government officials was sent by several Filipinos to His Royal Highness. The friars counteracted with an expression of episcopal displeasure that greatly affected the sentiments of the nation.
The celebration of the feast of St. Andrew—an event of great historical significance in the Philippines—was approaching. An unusual decree, signed by the Archbishop, which was believed to be intentional appeared in the press, proclaiming that the feast of St. Andrew would be held in Intramuros. In spite of the decree, business firms within the walls of the district opened their doors to the public.
In the Cathedral, attended by the highest authority of Manila, funeral honors for the eternal repose of the soul of King Alfonso XII were offered. It was noted that the bishop of the diocese did not attend the celebration. Later, it was known that he had gone to say Mass in a neighboring town. Finally, it was confirmed that he had granted an indulgence of eighty days to devotees who would pray for the eternal repose, not of the soul of the late Alfonso XII, but of one who became president of the Real Audiencia (Royal Audience Chamber).
These disgraced the Filipinos; so, several petty officials and residents of Manila decided to write to the Governor General, through the Civil Governor, an indignant protest against the friars.
This is the story of the celebration of the feast of St. Andrew. A fair evaluation of the case shows that the event constitutes nothing more or less than an act of fidelity to civic authority of both government officials and the people; while the fanatics, attached to the monks' cowl, consider this as filibusterism. For these followers, it would perhaps have been more patriotic and almost proper to appreciate and support the insubordination of the friars and then sing hymns of praise to their scornful and contemptuous attitude towards government institutions.
Writers receptive to bribery may be made to write preposterous evaluations of historical facts but they cannot always successfully ignore events of plain truth with only partial appraisals of the status quo. We must therefore insist on an impartial evaluation of the facts in our country for this is worth more than all the gold in the convents.
We cannot deny that political ideas are seething within the country. Politics is inherent in groups of people. Where society exists, people pay taxes and submit to the exigencies of the ruling government; thus, it is most natural and expected that the inhabitants should desire to improve its government for they cherish political ideas. Father Balmes, a noted Spanish teacher on Christian doctrines, has always affirmed that in the course of life it is not possible to avoid politics because nobody in society escapes its power. If the Philippines is not an exception from other human societies, relative to existence, it would be impossible for us not to think of her politics.
Her principles on politics and government, though she cannot express, are latent. It has already been said by a distinguished Filipino, Mr. Giovantes, in a splendid conference given at the Ateneo de Madrid, that the country cannot openly declare her ideals because she is not in a position to do so.
Between these contradicting aspirations will naturally appear the questions: Who is the filibuster? Who is anti-Spanish? One who desires and asserts the principles of the mother country or the other who malevolently denies the same by directly and categorically impugning and annulling them?
Let us not deceive ourselves. Filibusterism is not in the heart of the Filipinos; it is in the conscience of their adversary who continuously invoke the same—being fully convinced that these alleged filibusters are developing an essentially contentious policy that will eventually arouse resentment, disillusion and desperation among the people.
The Filipino race, for many centuries vilified by the very people sworn to educate and defend them, is shedding blood generously to uphold the banner of Spain in the Oceania. In spite of their unimpeachable acts of fidelity and sacrifice, the friars cannot find a better reward for them except insult, mockery and calumny.
The aspirations of the Philippines do not and cannot impair the integrity of Spain. The Filipinos do not ask too much; they are not actively desirous of another—for a more resolute form of government; they do not aspire for the fulfillment of anything which would sacrifice the interests and principles of the mother country. All they ask is sincerity. Their aspirations are resolved into the following: that what is accepted as true in Spain may also be the same in the Philippines; that what is authorized by law in the Peninsula may not be regarded as illegal in the islands; and that what is considered just and right in the metropolis may not be inferred as unjust and wrong in this colony. In short, the Filipinos' greatest desire is that the principle of assimilation—proclaimed as basis of the policy of Spanish colonization—may be applied to the Philippines with sincerity and without any reservation; that the enforcement of the Constitution of the monarchy in the Peninsula and other ultramarine colonies may be extended fully to the Oceanic Archipelago; and that the legislative body of Spain— congress and senate—may exercise over the islands similar authority under the same conditions as in other provinces of Spain.
The convents consider these aspirations of the Filipinos as subversive which would likely cause loss of love for Spain. Hence, they issue false and malicious statements against these aspirations. They really want that what is accepted as true in Spain may be considered big lies in the Philippines; that what is lawful and right in the Peninsula may be regarded as illegal and wrong in the islands; that what is morally commendable in the metropolis may be criminally punishable in the colony; that the principle of assimilation may be no more than an ostentatious promise; that instead of a representative form of government, this country may be governed by monachal authority; and that the powers of the congress and senate of Spain may be transferred to their co-legislative bodies in the Philippines—the convents of San Agustin and Sto. Domingo, and of the Recollects and Franciscans. Briefly, that the 8,000 inhabitants of this archipelago may become slaves of the friars instead of Spanish citizens and that the Philippines as a colony may be under monachal administration supported by taxes of the Filipinos.
These antagonistic aspirations disturb the Philippines. Both countries, the islands and her mother country, earnestly desire assimilation but the friars and their loyal acolytes are pursuing great efforts to alienate the people from the noble institutions of Spain, to which they have a right, in order to subject them exclusively to monachal power. The country is earnestly strengthening the government of Spain to enable them to shape to perfection the future of the inhabitants while the friars are surreptitiously crippling the government to gain its control and validate the interests of their monasteries.