June 12 is not the very first moment in Philippine History that independence was proclaimed. Fact is, even the unveiling of the first Philippine flag was not accomplished in this day. That flag, which is claimed to be the one now housed in Baguio by Emilio Aguinaldo's great grand son, was not unfurled the very first time in June 12, 1898. Prior to that dramatic unveiling at the balcony of Aguinaldo's ancestral house in Kawit, Cavite, that flag has been shown in previous occasions, austensibly at a theater in Cavite being controlled by the Katipuneros. This flag has even been used by the Katipuneros in several skirmishes with the Spaniards as a rallying point.
Historical records show that it was August 21, 1896 when the first cries of independence was heard. It was also in this date when the very first Philippine government was established. Many who will read this will definitely argue, since August 21 preceeded the series of attacks led by the Katipuneros against the Spaniards. Legally speaking, the lands occupied by the Spaniards were still under their control, and not by the Filipinos.
If we are to use this argument, then this also applies to June 12, 1898. At that time, the Katipuneros were still in the thick of their fight against the Spaniards. Fact is, after this so-called "proclamation of independence", Aguinaldo's forces were quickly repulsed by the colonial forces and was forced to retreat.
Why is it that several historians want June 12 as the day when independence was proclaimed. First, this emphasized the role of the United States in the war effort. When Aguinaldo reportedly proclaimed Philippine independence on June 12, 1898, it was made with the backing of the United States. Apolinario Mabini protested this, saying that that proclamation transformed the Philippines from an "independent state" to a US protectorate. The presence of an American envoy during the proclamation and he signing the June 12 declaration made it such.
Second, the recognition of June 12, 1898 was made using Ilustrado lenses. Since the entry of several Ilustrados in the Katipunan, there was already a debate whether to recognize the plebian government of the Katipunan led by Bonifacio or not.
For purposes of historical accuracy, there was a self-sustaining government of the Filipinos prior to June 12, 1898. What happened in June 12 was a coup. Aguinaldo wanted nothing more than recognition as the leadre of the Katipunan at that time. Why? What was Aguinaldo's reason for doing so?
Shortly after the brutal execution of the Supremo, several Katipunan groups disengaged themselves from the leadership of Aguinaldo. These groups did not recognize Aguinaldo's leadership. Fact is, several of them even questioned Aguinaldo's patriotism. Bonifacio and some of the Katipuneros even accused Aguinaldo of betraying the cause of the Revolution.
By declaring a government, Aguinaldo wanted to consolidate the Katipunan forces under his control. Why? To be able to effectively negotiate with the Spaniards and the Americans. Like the politicos of old, Aguinaldo wanted to use the Katipunan ranks to be able to hammer out an agreement with the colonialists.
This explains why Aguinaldo retreated to Isabela and the North because Aguinaldo just lost the support of Katipuneros operating in Northern, Central and even Southern Luzon. Several groups in the Visayas also did not recognize Aguinaldo's leadership.
By recognizing this day as the day of Independence, President Aquino just legitimized an illegitimate son of the Revolution.
Now, what happened on August 21, 1896? Read the next entry