Emilio Aguinaldo

Emilio Aguinaldo

Emilio Aguinaldo y Famy (March 22, 1869–February 6, 1964), Filipino revolutionary leader, first president of the Philippines.

Prime Ministers: Apolinario Mabini (January 21-May 7, 1899)
Pedro Paterno (May 7-November 13, 1899)
Political Parties: Magdalo faction of the Katipunan (1897)
National Socialist Party (1935)
Positions: President of the Revolutionary Government (June 23, 1898-January 22, 1899)
Dictator of the Dictatorial Government (May 24, 1898-June 22, 1898)
President of the Biak-na-Bato Republic (November 2, 1897-December 15, 1897)
President of the Revolutionary Government set up by the Tejeros Convention (March 22, 1897-November 1, 1897)
General of the Revolutionary Army
Other Positions: Member of the Council of State (Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, and D. Macapagal administrations)
Capitan Municipal, Kawit
Cabeza de Barangay, Binakayan, Kawit


Aguinaldo was a principal figure in the Philippine struggle for independence during the revolutionary period. Successes on the battlefield against the Spanish vaulted him to the leadership of the Katipunan and Philippine revolutionary forces. As evidenced by his writings, he could be an eloquent and stirring advocate for the Philippine cause.

Despite Emilio Aguinaldo's key role in the fight for Philippine independence, however, many Filipinos today are cool towards him. This is due to a number of reasons. His succession as head of the Katipunan over Andres Bonifacio at the Tejeros Convention led to Bonifacio's death on Aguinaldo's orders for treason, an event that is seen as having tainted the Philippine Revolution. While Aguinaldo was victorious in several military engagements, the ultimate failure of the campaign for Philippine independence under his leadership made moot his earlier achievements on the battlefield. Furthermore his eventual capture and pledge of allegiance to the United States, allowing him to survive a struggle in which so many died and live to an old age, does not sit well with many. His later cooperation with the Japanese during World War II is another sore point for detractors.

Still a more forgiving picture for his actions can be drawn. Bonifacio's death came after moves by Bonifacio that undermined Aguinaldo's leadership and threatened to splinter the Philippine forces at a critical and precarious juncture during the revolution. Aguinaldo had initially commuted the death sentence for treason to banishment upon Bonifacio's capture but was prevailed upon by others to revoke his stay and proceed with execution. On the second point relating to the short-lived Philippine independence under Aguinaldo, he came very close to his ultimate goal with his strategy of appealing to the United States for support. A vote in the United States Senate on an amendment to the Treaty of Paris ending the Spanish-American War that promised the United States would respect Philippine independence was a tie that had to be broken by the United States vice president.

While Aguinaldo's self-preservation can be faulted for being unheroic, he also had a history of making tactical compromises that would allow him to fight later as the events following the Pact of Biak-na-Bato demonstrated. His experience also wasn't without personal loss. Emilio's brother died in battle while fulfilling a promise to him that a critical position would be held from the Spanish. Emilio Aguinaldo after the conflict with the United States took to wearing a black tie in public in commemoration of all those who died in the struggle for independence and did not cease doing so until the Philippines finally gained independence. As for his cooperation with the Japanese, he saw it in terms of what he thought would be best for the Filipino people. One suspects the betrayal he perceived he experienced at the hands of the United States affected his judgment, but his desire in not wanting Filipinos dying in a war mainly between two foreign powers is also made more understandable.

Still the sorrowful conclusion of his once leading advisor and right-hand man Apolinario Mabini, that to redeem his reputation he'd have to die valiantly in battle against the Americans, weighs heavily. The unsuccessful retention of independence along with the specter of the deaths of Andres Bonifacio and fellow Philippine revolutionary general Antonio Luna at the hands of Aguinaldo's men haunt Emilio Aguinaldo's legacy.