Philippine-American War, 1899-1902

by Arnaldo Dumindin

The Schurman Commission and "Ilustrado" Collaborators, July 24, 1899

When Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence on June 12, 1898, he appointed Filipino "ilustrados" (men from the upper social classes)  to draft the Philippine Constitution in the Malolos Congress. The constitution they crafted was intended to show the Americans that Filipinos were fully capable of self-government. But this same group ---including Cayetano Arellano, Benito Legarda, Pardo de Tavera, Florentino Torres and Pedro Paterno---deserted Aguinaldo at a critical moment. 

Mestizo hacienda owners and ilustrados wanted America to fill the power vacuum that formed following the defeat of the Spanish instead of what they saw as an illiterate, rag-tag Filipino peasantry.

             Cayetano Arellano at his desk in Manila. Photo was taken in 1899.

On July 24, 1899, Cayetano Arellano, Benito Legarda and Pardo de Tavera testified before the Commission that the Filipinos were not capable of self-rule and could not be abandoned, and that they welcomed American tutelage. The three men indicated their desire to serve in the autonomous government proposed by the Americans.

Issue of April 28, 1900

On April 25, 1900, Pedro Paterno, the head of Aguinaldo's cabinet, was captured in Tublay, Benguet Province. He was amnestied on June 21, 1900 and lost no time in jumping into the ilustrado bandwagon of opportunists.

He, along with Cayetano Arellano, Felipe Buencamino, Pardo de Tavera, Benito Legarda and Florentino Torres founded the Partido Federal on Dec. 23, 1900 at No. 37 Calle de Villalobos, Quiapo district, Manila; the meeting was attended by 119 other pro-American upper class Filipinos.

The Party proposed Philippine statehood. This platform proved unpopular to both the Filipino masses and Americans. Elihu Root (LEFT), US Secretary oF War,  told his colleagues: "Gentlemen, I don't want to suggest an invidious comparison, but statehood for Filipinos would add another serious problem to the one we have already. The Negroes are a cancer on the body politic, a source of constant difficulty, and we wish to avoid developing another such problem."

The collaboration of former top officials of the Aguinaldo government provided the Americans with a ready justification for colonizing the Philippines. Their presence in the American camp created an image of Filipino cooperation. US officials foisted on the American people the myth that the Filipinos welcomed American rule, and that a spirit of altruism had dictated the American decision to retain the Philippines. This allowed the US government to belittle the resistance that still raged.

The Partido Federal pursued the surrender of "insurrecto" leaders through discussions and appeals beginning in February 1901. The Federalistas claimed that in six months they brought about the surrender of 220  "insurrecto" officers and 2,640 soldiers.

Responding to this serious threat, on Feb. 28, 1901, Gen. Juan Cailles (LEFT), Aguinaldo's military governor of Laguna and half of Tayabas (now Quezon province), directed that all Federalistas and others seeking peace should be immediately shot without trial; 28 suspected collaborators were assassinated.

[Four months later, on June 24, Cailles himself surrendered;  three weeks later, on July 16, Gen. Miguel Malvar outlawed Cailles and threatened him with death for abandoning the Filipino cause. The following month, Cailles joined the Partido Federal and became a member of its directorate].

The ilustrado collaborators were  rewarded with plum positions by Howard Taft, American civil governor of the Philippines. 

On June 11, 1901, Cayetano Arellano was appointed the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

On June 17, 1901, Florentino Torres was named Associate Justice. 

In the same year, Benito Legarda (RIGHT, in early 1900s) and Pardo de Tavera were appointed into the Second Philippine Commission - the US-controlled legislative body of the Philippines appointed by Pres. William Mckinley on March 16, 1900.

It continued to participate in the governance of the Philippines until 1934, when the Philippines was declared a Commonwealth.

Pedro Paterno received an appointment to the prestigious Manila municipal board.

Original caption: "Arch erected by the Partido Federal representing Filipina offering another star to the American flag".