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Did You Know…? (Aguinaldo’s Counter Proclamation)

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Did You Know…? (Aguinaldo’s Counter Proclamation)

Did you know that today in 1899, General Emilio Aguinaldo issued a counter proclamation to the declaration of “benevolent assimilation” by then US President William McKinley?

The term “benevolent assimilation” referred to the policy in which the United States was to take over the “future control, disposition and government” of the entire Philippines. The proclamation was made by President McKinley on December 21 of the previous year and was made after the US victory during the Spanish-American War.

McKinley’s proclamation was then transmitted to General Elwell Otis, US Military Commander and Governor General of the Philippines at the time, who then decided to alter its content. Among the words that were omitted include “exercise future domination”, “stress our benevolent purpose”, “offend Filipino sensibilities”, and “Supremacy of the United States” (which was replaced with “free people”).

This edited version was then sent to General Aguinaldo, who at the time, was et to establish the first Philippine Republic. Unfortunately (for the occupying US forces), Otis also sent the unaltered version of the declaration to a General Marcus Miller in Iloilo City. Miller, unaware that a modified version of the document existed, gave a copy of the unaltered proclamation to a local Filipino official. As a result, the original version of the document eventually made its way to Aguinaldo.

In his counter-statement, Aguinaldo warned that his government was prepared to fight any attempts by the Americans to forcibly take over the Philippines. “I protest with all my soul, conscience, and strength against the unjust authority, which Major General Otis, as Military Governor, has resumed, in relation to our politics”, he declared.

Aguinaldo also clarified that “in Singapore, Hong Kong, or here, I did not enter into any compromising agreement with the Americans.” He also related that during an earlier meeting with the Americans that they “did not desire the conquest of the Filipines [sic], but would guarantee us our liberty and independence”.

Nevertheless, representatives from the Philippine government pursued negotiations with General Otis in the weeks that followed. However, Otis was merely biding his time, waiting for six regiments of the US Army to arrive in the country and supplement the occupying force. When they did arrive in late January of that year, Otis cancelled the meetings with the Filipino representatives altogether.

It was not long after that the shooting incident at Sociego Street at Santa Mesa, Manila occurred signaling the beginning of active hostilities between the two countries and officially starting the Filipino – American War.

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