Oryang, Part 3
by Kiko Matsing
|“In brief, if the accused had to die, why were they pardoned? And if they were pardoned, why were they executed?”
–Teodoro M. Kalaw
Ay, there’s the rub. After the circus of rigging a trial that condemned the Bonifacio brothers to death, they get Aguinaldo to pardon him, and still, the brothers got executed anyway. What’s the deal here? It seems that no one is to blame, and everyone is to blame. Somehow, between Generals Pio del Pilar, Mariano Noriel, and Emilio Aguinaldo, the fates of Andres and Procopio Bonifacio were decided.
Teodoro Agoncillo in Revolt of the Masses examines the irregularities around the Bonifacio brothers’ death, and the washing of the hands of the principal players.
General Aguinaldo himself confesses that his previous order of pardon was withdrawn when Generals Noriel and Del Pilar prevailed upon him to do so in the interest of unity. This confession, then, coming as it does from the most authoritative source, definitely solves the so-called mystery of Bonifacio’s death.
General Pio del Pilar, originally a Bonifacio man, in a signed statement obviously designed to clarify or rather rationalize the unfortunate incident, contends that
“General Aguinaldo’s order granting pardon to the Bonifacio brothers did not at once reach General Noriel’s headquarters in Maragondon because General Aguinaldo was then in the field between Mt. Buntis and Maragondon and was gathering his men in order to reinforce the revolutionary army fighting the Spaniards who were then attacking the town of Maragondon… General Noriel also told me the same, namely, that the Supremo, Bonifacio, and his brother, Procopio, were already dead when he received the order of pardon. The reason why the order did not reach him on time was that there was a battle raging and it could not be ascertained where General Noriel and his companions were.”
They could not even get their stories straight. Aguinaldo claims del Pilar and Noriel egged him to withdraw the pardon “in the interest of unity”, while the latter two contended that they did not even receive the pardon in time. Granted that at the time things were in chaos, but it is hard to believe a lapse in memory with regards to sending a man to his death, especially one as important as Andres Bonifacio. How can they get their reports so mixed up unless there was some intent to leave this chapter of history in a cloud?
Agoncillo examines the turn of events leading up to the execution of the brothers in order to render obvious the holes in the generals’ lame excuses:
Andres Bonifacio was investigated on May 4, 1897, in Maragondon, then the headquarters of the revolutionary army. On the same day, the Judge Advocate forwarded the papers, including his recommendations, to General Aguinaldo, and the latter, on the same date, sent the documents to the Council of War. The next day, May 5, the trial was commenced and finished. On May 6, the Council of War met and handed down the death sentence on the two brothers. The papers containing the investigation and the decision of the Council of War were forwarded to General Aguinaldo’s headquarters, located in the same town, and Baldomero Aguinaldo, the Auditor of War, wrote his recommendations to the President on May 8. On the same day, President Aguinaldo wrote his order of pardon. The documents further reveal that on the day General Aguinaldo handed down his decision, it was supposedly shown, as required by General Aguinaldo himself, to the attorneys for the defense and to the prisoners, with Major Lazaro Makapagal attesting to it in both cases. There cannot be any doubt that the endorsements, if the documents do not contain forgeries, were received by the defense counsels and the prisoners on the very day that Aguinaldo’s decision was written. If the order of pardon was received not only by Makapagal himself but also by the defense attorneys, then it is logical to conclude that General Noriel’s excuse was a plain distortion of the facts. For if, as claimed, General Aguinaldo was “at the time between Mt. Buntis and Maragondon gathering his men in order to re-enforce the revolutionary army,” how could he have penned his decision and still be able to send it to Major Makapagal who in turn showed it to the prisoners and their attorneys that same day? The Bonifacio brothers were shot on May 10, two days after the receipt of the order of pardon. Moreover, it is clear that when the prisoners were taken to the mountains, the Spaniards had not as yet attacked the town. Major Makapagal himself, who was ordered by General Noriel–note that Noriel was in his headquarters in the early morning of May 10th when he called in Makapagal–to take the prisoners to Mt. Buntis to be shot as decided upon by the Council of War, testifies that Noriel, after giving his final instructions relative to the condemned, reportedly told him: “Hurry up! The Spaniards will attack today.” In other words, the enemy was not yet attacking but was about to attack the rebel capital where Noriel, Aguinaldo, and the prisoners were. And yet the excuse unabashedly claims the Spaniards were “attacking the town of Maragondon” at the time Makapagal was ordered to take the prisoners to the mountains! The excuse, therefore is unacceptable and shows clearly that the death of Bonifacio and his brother was a foregone conclusion the moment they were arrested in Limbon on April 28th. And the court that sat ostensibly to conduct a fair trial of the case, in making a farce out of the judicial process, brought upon its head its own severe condemnation.
Agoncillo then concedes that “there was something irregular in the execution of Bonifacio”, but explains it away as “the abnormal psychology that pervaded the revolutionists toward the close of the first epoch of the national struggle for emancipation”. Abnormal psychology? How about plain ambition, malice, betrayal, treachery? This, to me, render all confusion about the timing of the pardon, and the puzzling behavior of the generals regarding this case extraneous. I do not understand why Agoncillo is reluctant to assign base human qualities to our national heroes, and would rather rationalize their motives with some form of neurosis. He needs a healthy serving of Dante.
The last character in this sordid affair is the executioner himself, Lazaro Makapagal, who in 1928-29 wrote an account of his role in the killing of Bonifacio. In it, he portrays himself as a sympathetic character–a foot soldier caught between duty and fear of military sanction, and his pity for the brothers. He further mitigates his role, by claiming not to have known about the orders of execution until he opened the sealed directive from General Mariano Noriel.
…Pagdating namin sa bahay ay tinawag ko ang dalawa [Andres and Procopio Bonifacio] at sinabi kong sila’y ipinadadala sa bundok ng Tala, kaya’t sila’y manaog agad at dadalhin ko roon. Nanaog naman sila dala ang mga damit. Nagtungo nga kami sa Tala.
Habang lumalakad ay itinanong sa akin na baka raw sila ay babarilin. Sinabi kong hindi, at ang orden sa akin ay dalhin sila sa bundok ng Tala upang ilayo marahil sa laban. Itinanong kung ano raw ang balita ko na gagwin sa kanila. sinagot kong ako’y isang komandante lamang ng “fuerza”, malayo sa mga pinuno, pirme sa kwartel kaya ako’y walang balitang tinatanggap kundi puro utos sa trabaho. Habang lumalakad kami ay naguusap na mapayapa. Wala silang anomang kutob ng loob, at ako, kaya pati mga kawal ay hindi handa sa panganib. Nang dumating na kami sa isang pook na may bundok na munti, tila bilog, malapit sa Cawayanan, kabilang tubigan, harap sa Norte, tanao namin ang bayang Maragondong, kanan ang sikat ng arao at sa licod ay tanao ang bundoc Buntis, ay niyaya nila akong magpahinga raw muna kami at sila’y pagod. Pumayag ako. Nagupuan kaming lahat sa pinakapaa ng bundok na munting bilog, harap sa tubigan at kawayanan. nang malaon nang kaunti ay sinabi sa akin ni don Andres;
“Kapatid, malapit na rin lamang tayo sa bundok ng Tala ay baka mabubuksan na iyong pakete o sulat at ng malaman natin kung saan mo kami iiwan.” Alang-alang sa pakiusap ay pumayag ako. Akala ko’y sa pangulo sa Tala doon sila ibibigay. Dahil sa sabing basahing malakas sa harap nila at ng malaman kaya binasa ko naman ng malakas ang nilalaman na humigit kumulang ay ganito:
G. Komandante Lazaro Makapagal:
Alinsunod sa utos ng Consejo de Guerra na ginanap sa Maragongdong noong ika 8 nitong Mayo laban sa magkapatid na sina G. Andres at Procopio Bonifacio, hinatulang barilin upang mamatay. Sa pamamagitan nito, kayo at mga kawal na nasa ilalim ng inyong kapangyarihan ay inuutusan upang ganapin ang nasabing hatol na barilin ang dalawang magkapatid.
Ipinatatalastas sa inyo na sa ano mang kapabayaan o kakulangan ng pagsunod sa utos na ito ay pananagutan at ipapataw sa inyo ang bisa at kautusang nasasabi sa Codigo de Enjuiciamento Militar Español.
Dios ang mag-ingat sa inyo sa mahabang panahon.
Maragongdong 10 de Mayo de 1897.
Nang marinig nila ang wikang barilin ang magkapatid ay napatigil ang pagbasa ko dahil sa ang Procopio ay napalukso sa upo sabay ang wikang “Naku kuyang!”
Ang Andres ay napaluhod na akmang ako’y yayapusin, sabay na napasigaw ang wikang “Kapatid patawarin mo ako.”
Ako naman ay umigtad at ang minamatyagan ko ay ang kilos ng Procopio dahil sa malakas kay Andres, ay baka ako maunahan. Kinabahan ako ng takot na baka lumaban o makawala at makapagtago sa kagubatan. Awa sa kanila at takot sa nag-utos ang naghari sa akin. Paano ako? At ako’y sumigaw ng “Peloton! Preparen! Carguen, Armas!” Nang marinig nilang naglalagitikan na ang mga gatilyo ng pusil sa pagkakarga, sila’y tumahimik na. Nang magkargahan ang mga pusil hinarap ko ang Procopio, sinabi kong: “Defrenten, Mar!” itinuro ko ang dinaanan, isang landas na munti, patungo sa loob ng gubat. Sa loob ng gubat ay tinupad namin ang utos ng Consejo de Guerra.
Pagkatapos ay binalikan ko ang Andres na binabantayan ng dalawang kawal. Nang ako’y makita niya ay paluhod na sinabi sa aking, “Kapatid, patawarin mo ako!”
Ako noon ay nasa panganib din gaya niya. Nagdaramdam siya ay nagdaramdam din ako, ngunit, “Wala akong magagawa” ang naging sagot ko sa kaniya. Nang makita niyang hindi siya makapamamanhik sa akin ay biglang tumakbo. Tinungo ang kagubatan, kaya hinabol namin. Inabot namin sa tabi ng ilog, pinakasulok ng isang ilog na munti. Sa malaki siya naroon at ang munting ilog ay pinakasanga. Doon namin siya binaril. Pagkatapos ay tinangka naming ibaon, bilang paggalang, datapuwa’t wala kaming panghukay. Gayon man ay nakagawa kami ng kaunti sa bayoneta, tinabunan ng kaunti na mga sanga ng kahoy ang pangdagdag.
Such was the fate of the founding father of the Katipunan, formenter of the Philippine Revolution–buried in a shallow, unmarked grave, near a brook, and a hill named after stars. No one else attested to these facts, and it would not be unreasonable to doubt the motives of Makapagal in portraying himself as sympathetic to Bonifacio, thus clearing him of the judgment of future generations, except for the striking poignancy of his account.
He evokes a very human, very accessible Bonifacio, not a glorious hero whose statue stands erect at Monumento, but a suffering man–“poor, infirm, weak, and despised”–with a very real fear of death. Uneasy with the uncertainty of their fate, he asks Makapagal to open the sealed envelope with General Noriel’s orders, appealing to him as brother (kapatid). Makapagal reads it aloud, as prescribed, and having its contents revealed, both executioner and prisoners were taken by surprise (napatigil, napalukso sa upo, umigtad).
Bonifacio begs him for his life, but Makapagal, alarmed the prisoners might escape, mixed with his pity and fear (“Paano ako?”), rushed to carry out the orders, and shoots Procopio first. The brothers fell silent as the soldiers loaded their guns in what is perhaps the most heart-stopping passage in his narrative: “Nang marinig nilang naglalagitikan na ang mga gatilyo ng pusil sa pagkakarga, sila’y tumahimik na”. With Procopio dead in the forest, Bonifacio pleaded with Makapagal a second time, and, realizing the determination of the latter, tried to escape by the skin of his teeth.
What makes it more poignant was how Bonifacio personally appealed to Makapagal, calling him brother, and phrasing his petition in terms of repentance (“Kapatid, patawarin mo ako!”) as if it was Makapagal whom he had personally injured. The repitition of the appeal and the cadence of the storytelling, to me, evokes the last meeting between Jesus and Peter at the closing of the Gospel of John, where Jesus, in a gesture of forgiveness, asked Peter thrice to tend to his lambs. Perhaps in some sort of inversion, in Makapagal’s own reckoning, he is remorsefully alleviating some of the indignities suffered in Bonifacio’s death by giving us this most human account of the hero’s last hours.