CHAPTER XVII. Impolitic Acts

At such a critical juncture as this, and before the anxiously-awaited Civil Commission arrived, it occurred to General Otis, Commandant of the American forces, to commit two more impolitic acts. One of them was the order to search our telegraph offices in Sagunro Street, in Tondo, where the searching party seized the apparatus and detained the officer in charge, Sr. Reyna, in the Fuerza Santiago [6] under the pretext that he was conspiring against the Americans.

How and why was Sr. Reyna conspiring? Was not this sufficient for the Filipino Government to give the order to attack and rescue Reyna and thereby we (eight thousand strong) be plunged immediately into war with the United States? Was there any reason for conspiring when the power was in our own hands? And, above all, would a telegraphist, be likely to interfere in affaires de guerre when there was an army near by to attend to such matters?

It was abundantly manifest that the object was by wounding the feelings of and belittling the Filipino Government to provoke a collision, and it was clear also that this system of exasperating us was not merely the wanton act of the soldiery but was actually prompted by General Otis himself, who, imbued with imperialistic tendencies, regarded the coming of the Civil Commission with disfavour and especially would it be unsatisfactory that this Commission should find the Philippines in a state of perfect tranquility, because it was evident to the said General, as well as to the whole world, that the Filipinos would assuredly have arrived at a definite amicable agreement with the aforesaid Commission if it reached the islands while peace prevailed.

We, the Filipinos, would have received the Commission with open arms and complete accord as honourable Agents of the great American nation. The Commissioners could have visited all our provinces, seeing and taking note of the complete tranquility throughout our territory. They could have seen our cultivated lands, examined our Constitution and investigated the administration of public affairs in perfect peace and safety, and have felt and enjoyed the inimitable charm of our Oriental style, - half negligent, half solicitude, warmth and chilliness, simple confidence and suspiciousness; characteristics which cause descriptions of contact with us to be depicted by foreigners in thousands of different hues.

Ah! but neither did General Otis nor the Imperialists wish for such a landscape. It was better for their criminal designs that the American Commission should view the desolation and horrors of war in the Philippines, inhaling on the very day of their arrival the revolting odour emitted from American and Filipino corpses. It was better for their purposes that that gentleman, Mr. Schurman, President of the Commission, should return from Manila, limiting his investigation to inquiries among the few Filipinos, who, seduced with gold, were siding with the Imperialists. It were better for them that the Commission should view the Philippines problem through fire and slaughter, in the midst of whizzing bullets and the uncontrolled passion of infuriated foes, thus preventing them from forming correct judgment of the exact and natural conditions of the problem. Ah! it was, lastly, better that the Commission return to the States defeated in its mission of obtaining peace and blaming me and other Filipinos for its inability to settle matters, when, in reality, I and all the Philippine people were longing that that peace had been concluded yesterday, - long before now - but an honest and honourable peace, honourable alike for the United States and the Philippine Republic in order that it be sincere and everlasting.

The second impolitic act of General Otis was the issue of a proclamation on the 4th of January, 1899, asserting in the name of President McKinley the sovereignty of America in these islands, with threats of ruin, death and desolation to all who declined to recognize it.

I, Emilio Aguinaldo - though the humble servant of all, am, as President of the Philippine Republic, charged with the safeguarding of the rights and independence of the people who appointed me to such an exalted position of trust and responsibility - mistrusted for the first time the honour of the Americans, perceiving of course that this proclamation of General Otis completely exceeded the limits of prudence and that therefore no other course was open to me but to repel with arms such unjust and unexpected procedure on the part of the commander of friendly forces.

I protested, therefore, against such a proclamation - also threatening an immediate rupture of friendly relations, - for the whole populace was claiming that an act of treason had been committed, plausibly asserting that the announcement of the Commission applied for by Admiral Dewey was a ruse, and that what General Otis was scheming for was to keep us quiet while he brought reinforcement after reinforcement from the United States for the purpose of crashing our untrained and badly equipped Army with one blow.

But now General Otis acted for the first time like a diplomatist, and wrote me, through his Secretary, Mr. Carman, a letter inviting the Filipino Government to send a Commission to meet an American Commission for the purpose of arriving at an amicable arrangement between both parties; and although I placed no trust in the professions of friendly intentions of the said General - whose determination to prevent the Commission arriving at a peaceful solution of the difficulties was already evident - I acceded to the request, partly because I saw the order, dated 9th January, given by the above mentioned General confirmed, and on the other hand to show before the whole world my manifest wishes for the conservation of peace and friendship with the United States, solemnly compacted with Admiral Dewey.