ON the afternoon of Sunday, June 12, 1898, from the front windows of his house in Cavite el Viejo (now Kawit), Cavite, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine independence from Spanish rule through cries of “Viva la independencia” (Long live independence). The event was witnessed by government officials, military officers, soldiers, and town residents. As a written proof of the proclamation, a document titled Acta de la proclamación de independencia del pueblo Filipino (Act of Proclamation of Independence of the Filipino People) was signed by more than 100 persons.
In his popular book The Philippines: A Past Revisited (Quezon City: Tala Publishing Services, 1975), historian Renato Constantino claimed that what was proclaimed on June 12, 1898, was not full independence but a protectorate. Protectorate means a territory, colony, or nation under the sovereignty or rule of another nation. Below is Constantino’s affirmation on p. 211 of his book.
“Part of the declaration says:
“And summoning as witness of the rectitude of our intentions, the Supreme Judge of the Universe, and under the protection of the Mighty and Humane North American nation, we proclaim and solemnly declare, in the name and by authority of the inhabitants of all these Philippine Islands, that they are and have the right to be free and independent, that they be free from all submission to the Crown of Spain, that every political tie between the two is and must be completely severed and annulled. . . .
“As the passage indicates, while the June 12 statement was a declaration of independence from Spain, it put the United States in the special position of protector of that independence.”
For Constantino, the passage “under the protection of the Mighty and Humane North American Nation” meant that the United States became the protector of Philippine independence, and so the heading of this subject in his book is “Protectorate Proclaimed” (p. 211).
What an erroneous interpretation.
If that passage and the entire Acta are read carefully, it would clearly be seen that it was not independence which was under American protection, but we: the signers of the document or the Filipino revolutionary leaders. While summoning God as witness and while under the protection of the United States, they (the signers) declared independence. It’s very clear, isn’t it?
And summoning as witness of the rectitude of our intentions, the Supreme Judge of the Universe, and under the protection of the Mighty and Humane North American nation, we proclaim and solemnly declare … .
There was no protectorate proclaimed. The Acta itself clarified that the Philippine Islands, “like all free and independent States, … have the full authority to declare war, conclude peace, celebrate mercantile treaties, contract alliances, regulate commerce, and realize all other acts and things that all Independent States have the right to do.”
The phrase all free and independent states put the Philippines on an equal footing—not under—with all free and independent nations of the world, including the United States.
Aguinaldo clarified that in his proclamation of January 5, 1899:
“I sincerely declare that never in Singapore, Hong Kong, or even here in the Philippines have I ever favored any treaty, by word or in writing, to recognize the sovereignty of America in this land (La Independencia, January 5, 1899, p. 1).”