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PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE DECLARED June 12, 1898

Posted by Editor on July 15th, 2007

During the Spanish-American War, Filipino rebels led by Emilio
Aguinaldo proclaim the independence of the Philippines after 300 years
of Spanish rule. By mid-August, Filipino rebels and U.S. troops had
ousted the Spanish, but Aguinaldo’s hopes for independence were dashed
when the United States formally annexed the Philippines as part of its
peace treaty with Spain.

The Philippines, a large island archipelago situated off Southeast
Asia, was colonized by the Spanish in the latter part of the 16th
century. Opposition to Spanish rule began among Filipino priests, who
resented Spanish domination of the Roman Catholic churches in the
islands. In the late 19th century, Filipino intellectuals and the
middle class began calling for independence. In 1892, the Katipunan, a
secret revolutionary society, was formed in Manila, the Philippine
capital on the island of Luzon. Membership grew dramatically, and in
August 1896 the Spanish uncovered the Katipunan’s plans for rebellion,
forcing premature action from the rebels. Revolts broke out across
Luzon, and in March 1897, 28-year-old Emilio Aguinaldo became leader
of the rebellion.

By late 1897, the revolutionaries had been driven into the hills
southeast of Manila, and Aguinaldo negotiated an agreement with the
Spanish. In exchange for financial compensation and a promise of
reform in the Philippines, Aguinaldo and his generals would accept
exile in Hong Kong. The rebel leaders departed, and the Philippine
Revolution temporarily was at an end.

In April 1898, the Spanish-American War broke out over Spain’s brutal
suppression of a rebellion in Cuba. The first in a series of decisive
U.S. victories occurred on May 1, 1898, when the U.S. Asiatic Squadron
under Commodore George Dewey annihilated the Spanish Pacific fleet at
the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines. From his exile, Aguinaldo
made arrangements with U.S. authorities to return to the Philippines
and assist the United States in the war against Spain. He landed on
May 19, rallied his revolutionaries, and began liberating towns south
of Manila. On June 12, he proclaimed Philippine independence and
established a provincial government, of which he subsequently became
head.

His rebels, meanwhile, had encircled the Spanish in Manila and, with
the support of Dewey’s squadron in Manila Bay, would surely have
conquered the Spanish. Dewey, however, was waiting for U.S. ground
troops, which began landing in July and took over the Filipino
positions surrounding Manila. On August 8, the Spanish commander
informed the United States that he would surrender the city under two
conditions: The United States was to make the advance into the capital
look like a battle, and under no conditions were the Filipino rebels
to be allowed into the city. On August 13, the mock Battle of Manila
was staged, and the Americans kept their promise to keep the Filipinos
out after the city passed into their hands.

While the Americans occupied Manila and planned peace negotiations
with Spain, Aguinaldo convened a revolutionary assembly, the Malolos,
in September. They drew up a democratic constitution, the first ever
in Asia, and a government was formed with Aguinaldo as president in
January 1899. On February 4, what became known as the Philippine
Insurrection began when Filipino rebels and U.S. troops skirmished
inside American lines in Manila. Two days later, the U.S. Senate voted
by one vote to ratify the Treaty of Paris with Spain. The Philippines
were now a U.S. territory, acquired in exchange for $20 million in
compensation to the Spanish.

In response, Aguinaldo formally launched a new revolt–this time
against the United States. The rebels, consistently defeated in the
open field, turned to guerrilla warfare, and the U.S. Congress
authorized the deployment of 60,000 troops to subdue them. By the end
of 1899, there were 65,000 U.S. troops in the Philippines, but the war
dragged on. Many anti-imperialists in the United States, such as
Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, opposed U.S.
annexation of the Philippines, but in November 1900 Republican
incumbent William McKinley was reelected, and the war continued.

On March 23, 1901, in a daring operation, U.S. General Frederick
Funston and a group of officers, pretending to be prisoners, surprised
Aguinaldo in his stronghold in the Luzon village of Palanan and
captured the rebel leader. Aguinaldo took an oath of allegiance to the
United States and called for an end to the rebellion, but many of his
followers fought on. During the next year, U.S. forces gradually
pacified the Philippines. In an infamous episode, U.S. forces on the
island of Samar retaliated against the massacre of a U.S. garrison by
killing all men on the island above the age of 10. Many women and
young children were also butchered. General Jacob Smith, who directed
the atrocities, was court-martialed and forced to retire for turning
Samar, in his words, into a “howling wilderness.”

In 1902, an American civil government took over administration of the
Philippines, and the three-year Philippine insurrection was declared
to be at an end. Scattered resistance, however, persisted for several
years.

More than 4,000 Americans perished suppressing the Philippines--more
than 10 times the number killed in the Spanish-American War. More than
20,000 Filipino insurgents were killed, and an unknown number of
civilians perished.

In 1935, the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established with U.S.
approval, and Manuel Quezon was elected the country’s first president.
On July 4, 1946, full independence was granted to the Republic of the
Philippines by the United States.

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