One of the most vicious accusations hurled against President Emilio Aguinaldo was the allegation that he sold the Revolution to Spain. The truth is President Aguinaldo saw in the peace agreement of Biak-na-bato an opportunity for a respite in the fighting and create a war fund available at his disposal for future use.
Here's how the peace agreement was negotiated and agreed upon.
After President Aguinaldo left Cavite to establish his headquarters in Biak-na-bato, the revolution spilled over to the other provinces. For the first time, the revolutionists became organized with a single political leadership and military command. Governor Primo de Rivera realized the impossibility of crushing the revolution by force of arms. "I can take Biak na Bato", he said to the Spanish Cortes. "Any Man can take it. but I cannot answer that I could crush the rebellion." (Gregorio and Sonia Zaide, 118)
In the same vein, Governor-General Camilo de Polavieja said before he returned to Spain: "Cavite is the scandal, but Bulacan is the danger." (Zaide, 155) The Spaniards realized that military option to suppress the rebellion would be too costly and results uncertain and decided that a negotiated peace was a more desirable option (Corpuz, 133).
The initiative for the peace negotiation was undertaken by Pedro Paterno who attended a meeting with the Governor General at Malacanang on August 1, 1897. His idea of a peace settlement was received favorably by the Governor General who at once reported it to the Prime Minister of Spain. On August 4, Paterno was issued a pass to cross Spanish lines and proceeded to Biak-na-bato. He arrived at the headquarters of President Emilio Aguinaldo on August 9 (Corpuz, 144).
President Aguinaldo told Paterno that no agreement was possible unless all the leaders of the revolution including those in the field were agreeable. So, Paterno travelled to Morong, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Tayabas, Nueva Ecija, Bulacan , Pampanga, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Infanta, Albay and Camarines and met with Vito Belarmino, Pantaleon Garcia, Pascual Alvarez, Doroteo Lopez, Perez Gil Manikis, Salvador Estrella, Mariano Noriel, Artemio Ricarte, Benito Natividad, Esteban Viola, Jose Alejandrino, and Anastacio Francisco. He had to go to Biak-na-bato four times to accomplish his mission (Corpuz, 145).
Apparently, a peace agreement was agreeable to the leaders of the revolution because among the items Taylor had in his Philippine Insurgents Records (PIR) is an undated document entitled "Draft of Agreement of Biak-na-bato" signed by President Aguinaldo, Llanera, and Mamerto Natividad (Corpuz, 145).
The inclination of the leaders of the revolution towards peace must have been the result of the recent reversal. Aguinaldo had exhausted his resources during the Spanish offensive to retake the province of Cavite. And now, at Biak-na-bato, they were left with meager supply to continue fighting, holed up in a secluded area far from the sources of food and other provisions with a reduced fighting force. The leaders of the revolution must have seen the offer of peace as an attractive opportunity to buy time, reorganize and create a war fund. In his letter to Ferdinand Blumentritt, Jose Alejandrino said: "In case peace is accepted it will only be for the money involved which we propose to use for the purpose of promoting immediately another decisive revolution." (Bell, 38 citing Agoncillo, 75)
Accordingly, On November 15 the formal agreement was signed in Malacanang by Primo de Rivera and Paterno, the latter in behalf of President Aguinaldo under the title "Arbitrator" (Corpuz, 146)
The Spanish government committed to pay 1,700,000 Mexican dollars to the revolutionists in consideration for the surrender of arms in exchange for amnesty and institution of specific reforms. Of the total amount, 400,000 Mexican dollars were paid in Hong Kong to Aguinaldo who went on exile together with eighteen other leaders, and 200,000 to the local leaders who stayed behind. The balance was never paid because both parties repudiated the agreement and the revolution entered a new stage.
President Aguinaldo issued the pacification order on December 16. At past noon on December 25, he and eighteen leaders of the revolution left Biak-na-bato on their way to Dagupan then to Sual where the steamer "Uranus" was waiting. They boarded at 3 o'clock on December 29, with them were Paterno and Col. Miguel Primo de Rivera, who was acting as security for the personal safety of the exiles and for compliance with the first payment (Corpuz, 147).
Governor-General Primo de Rivera did not tell the whole truth about the agreement to his superiors. In his December 12, 1897 letter to the President of the Council of Ministers of Spain, he said that the leaders of the revolution offered themselves to surrender with only the condition that their lives be spared and that they should be given means to emigrate (Foreman, 562).
He did not mention that there were commitments to pay war compensation and institute specific reforms. In any case, the peace agreement was a moral victory for President Aguinaldo and the leaders of the revolution because it was in effect a recognition by the Spanish government of the status of belligerency of the revolutionary government and President Aguinaldo being considered an equal in the negotiation for peace despite the efforts of the Spaniards to masquerade the true course of events.
An American officer had this to say of the peace agreement: "Instead of dividing the money they had received from General Primo de Rivera among themselves, or paying the indemnity to the families that had suffered, they turned the whole sum into a War Fund for future use." (Blunt, 140)
1. Ronald Kenneth Bell, "The Filipino Junta in Hongkong, 1898-1903: History of a Revolutionary Organization", San Diego State University, 1974;
2. Teodoro Agoncillo, "Malolos: The Crisis of the Republic", University of the Philippines Press, 1997;
3. Onofre D. Corpuz, "Saga and Triumph", University of the Philippines Press, 2002;
4. Captain J.Y. Mason Blunt, "An Army Officer's Philippine Studies", University Press, Manila, 1912;
5. John Foreman, "The Philippine Islands", Sampson, Low Marston & Co. Ltd., London, 1899;
6. Gregorio and Sonia Zaide, "Philippine History and Government", National Bookstore, 1984; and
7. Gregorio Zaide, "The Philippine Revolution", The Modern Book Company, Manila, 1968. #TUKLAS