Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Forgotten legacy

In the past days, colleagues in the media reminded the public about the 109th anniversary of the Malolos Constitution and the First Republic. The Manila Bulletin never fails to feature editorials about historical turning points. The province of Bulacan, no matter the governor’s political affiliation, always celebrates with solemnity and pomp the astounding achievements of those Filipinos who Jose Rizal described as the “brains of the nation”. This year, Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim (originally from San Miguel de Mayumo) was the guest of honor at Barasoain Church.

A couple of radio commentators, notably Mr.Ted Failon, did lament that many of their colleagues were ignoring the 109th birthday of this republic as they anticipated bloody clashes between police forces and grassroots groups commemorating the 1987 Mendiola Massacre (Thirteen farmers were shot by government forces at Mendiola Bridge). To this writer, the non-government organizations and grassroots associations that had painstakingly planned marches and memorials missed an excellent opportunity to place their protest in the proper historical context. Had they connected the 1987 Mendiola Massacre to the 109th birthday of this country, they could have enlightened us and made us understand that their struggle is historical and affects all Filipinos.

As we all know, the teaching of Philippine history , even after 109 years, is still a highly polemical issue. On one hand, colonial mentality prevails so the teaching of history is a low priorityand official hesitation prevails specially about delving into the revolutionary period , the invasion of the USA and the ensuing colonization. On the other hand, the Left, which is supposed to be the purveyor of change, seems to have disengaged itself from the very march of Philippine history by quickly dismissing anything they consider “bourgeois”(burgis). The National Democratic Front has its own national flag design. In my opinion, instead of rewriting history and/ or suppressing it, in lieu of denigrating the the Malolos Constitution and the First Republic or pretending that these never existed, an effort should be made to connect our current peasant problems to the non-fulfillment of the Articulo Adicional of the Malolos Constitution—the forgotten legacy.

Even before the Mendiola Massacre, many Filipino peasants and agricultural workers had already shed their blood because of the land issue. While the“brains of the nation” were deliberating on theMalolos Constitution and inaugurating Asia’s first democratic government, peasant farmer groups were already clamoring for land as the birth of a free nation had awakened great expectations. The delegates of the Malolos Congress did not forget that and proof is the last article of the Malolos Constitution, the unnumbered ‘adicional’, which declared that friar lands and estates that were “taken from the people” had reverted to the nation since the 12 June 1898 declaration of Independence. Peasant groups marched to Malolos because they felt the new government was not moving fast enough to distribute those lands. Moreover, corruption was already rearing its ugly head; historical records show that peasant groups were accusing some generals of the Revolutionary Army of appropriating large tracts of land for their personal use. Apolinario Mabini, chief adviser of Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo wrote numerous memos telling him to punish those officers. After the Philippine-American War, the American colonial government had other plans for the distribution of the friar estates, the rest is bitter history. # ____________________________________________________________________________________Never m