Emilio Aguinaldo: The Opportunist?

Many would argue that Andres Bonifacio should have been our national hero, if not for his socio-economic and educational background. Same goes to who should have been declared as the first president of the independent Philippines.

Let’s face it, Andres Bonifacio founded the armed revolt that led to the unfolding of the Philippine Revolution, being and having the title of  “Supremo”, he was technically the first President. Sadly, Aguinaldo was more politically savvy and wealthier than Bonifacio, and this led to the first documented political assassination in the Philippines, which sadly is still in practice to this day.

After the Tejeros Convention that elected Aguinaldo as President and Bonifacio as Director of the Interior, Bonifacio was denied the title for not having a law degree which really insulted him; this event led him to nullify the convention and the result of the election. But Aguinaldo proceeded in taking oath, and eventually launched a coup against Bonifacio’s leadership that led to the trial and execution of the Bonifacio brothers and their associates. This execution was a huge blow to the revolution, and it literally separated the Katipunan into multiple factions which weakened it.

Rebeldes filipinos exiliados en Hong Kong
Rebeldes filipinos exiliados en Hong Kong (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Katipunan weakened, the Cavite leaders brokered a deal with the Spanish authority that led to the Pact of Biak-na-Bato.

The Cavite leaders ended the Philippine Revolution in exchange for amnesty and money. They were exiled in Hong Kong, up until when the Spanish-American War broke out.

The Spanish-American War was a good opportunity for Aguinaldo to return home and pursue his own agenda with the help of the Americans. Little is known of how he managed to convince Commodore George Dewey to help with his return to the Philippines but,  Aguinaldo was able to. Upon his return, he re-established the Philippine militia, declared himself dictator (after the declaration of Philippine Independence), and later President of the first republic.

Little did he know, the Americans had other agendas which led to the Philippine-American War, the establishment of the US Military Government of the Philippines and eventually, Aguinaldo’s capture and his pledge of allegiance to America.

Aguinaldo worked for the Americans for a while, he later stayed away from public until the formation of the Commonwealth of the Philippines where he attempted to run as president against Manuel Quezon and lost.

When WWII broke out, Aguinaldo found another opportunity to work for the occupying force. This time, he worked for the Japanese as their propaganda tzar where he called for General MacArthur to surrender on a radio address. This landed him in jail after WWII ended, and was only able to be free when he was granted the presidential pardon.

There is no doubt that Aguinaldo cared for his people but his hunger for power placed a dark cloud over his heroism.

Sad to say that this is still true with our modern and old politicians. Just look at the wealthy political dynasties like the Marcos’, Aquinos, Romualdez, Macapagal, Estrada/Ejercito, Revilla and the Cojuancos; a lot of these clans have been in politics and “public service” for the most part of the 20th century, and we are still yet to see them pull the Filipino people out of poverty.

We need to free our country from the slavery of the political elite.


  1. “Little is known of how he managed to convince Commodore George Dewey to
    help with his return to the Philippines but, Aguinaldo was able to.”

    I’d like to think it was the other way around. It was the Americans who convinced Aguinaldo to return to the Philippines. After all, at this time–April 1898–Dewey didn’t have yet the ground forces needed to expel the Spanish in Manila. He needed Aguinaldo to do that, with the pretext of independence. It was Aguinaldo who was duped, a consequence of his opportunism.

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