Jan 17, 1897. 2:20PM
Manila, Philippines - While the Philippine Revolution, which began in earnest on August 30, 1896 when hostilities broke out between the Manila-based faction of the separatist group “Katipunan” and Spanish forces under the command of Governor-General Ramon Blanco, has been successful up to now, the long term sustainability of their struggle for freedom is in question. There are a host of issues, both internal and external, that may well spell doom for the nascent Revolution.
Chief among them are the reports emanating from Cavite of a split between the Magdalo and Magdiwang factions of the Katipunan. Any factionalism or contention within the ranks weakens their ability to repel a concerted Spanish attack. And up to this point they have not truly felt a coordinated and earnest Spanish offensive. Most of the victories, while notable, have been of the variety of minor skirmishes. The Revolution does not have the military might to remain split.
The source of the split appears to be two-fold. First, there is dissension between the two factions concerning the future of the Revolution. Over the last few days of 1896 there was a series of meetings in Imus, Cavite to map out the future of the Katipunan. Simplistically put, the Magdalo group believes that the Revolution has outgrown the Katipunan and a new organizational structure should be put in place. While the Magdiwang, with new leader Andres Bonifacio in the fold, seems to feel that the Katipunan is the Revolution, and thus operates as the de facto leadership organization. The Magdiwang was willing to hold elections as long as the post of leader of the Revolution was reserved solely for Andres Bonifacio. This was rejected by the Magdalo group.
The growing ideological split between the factions is best represented by the statements of Magdalo member Edilberto Evangelista during the Imus meetings: “…the revolution was a Filipino revolution, the fruit of the love of the Motherland in the hearts of all Filipinos, not only those who were Katipuneros.” It was must be said that, according to Diaro’s sources, Evangelista was never a member of the Katipunan, but joined the Revolution after it had begun. This is a situation mirrored by many defectors from Spanish ranks and recent revolutionaries. This growing discontentment between new revolutionaries and the Magdalo on one side and the Magdiwang on the other is divisive and weakening element. As well, some analysts believe the long-standing issue of regionalism may also be coming into play. With the Caviteno iteration of the Revolution being more successful than the Manila-based version.
Second, there seems to be an issue of leadership at play. In the days after the August 30 Katipunan defeat Andres Bonifacio ended up on the run. He surfaced only a few times, only to decisively lose battles to Spanish troops. Sources say that Bonifacio was invited into Cavite, which is a pre-requisite based on the devolved nature of the Katipunan, multiple times, each time declining. However, he eventually accepted the invitation stating that he would leave the province soon after. It appears though that Bonifacio has decided to settle permanently in Cavite, the current center of the Revolution, and take the reigns of the Magdiwang faction. This is causing some consternation on the part of the Magdalo.
While this internecine strife is brewing, the Spanish authorities are regaining their military footing. A leading reason behind the ouster of Ramon Blanco as governor-general was his perceived lack of military acumen in the face of his resounding losses to “uncivilized savages” (as one Madrid government official called Filipinos). Camilo Polavieja, who is known for his brutal yet effective methods in Cuba, took charge on December 13, 1896. In the intervening time he has reworked the military plans of the Spanish, taken stock of the Philippine Revolution, and been reinforced by almost 25,000 Spanish regulars from abroad. Polavieja, with this type of force at his disposal, is something new.
The seeds of that offensive have already been sowed. Polavieja has begun deploying his forces throughout the surrounding areas and has issued a general amnesty to revolutionaries. All indicate that he will begin his offensive soon. In fact, there are already reports that Polavieja is starting to stamp out pockets of revolutionary resistance in outlying areas. It is a divide and conquer tactic whereby he will isolate Cavite and attack it last.
The new face of the Spanish military and the internal strife of the Katipunan may very well be insurmountable problems for the Philippine Revolution. A fractured Revolution will not be able to counteract a coordinated and precise Spanish offensive. That is the situation facing the Revolution today, how they adjust and evolve will spell their potential success or eventual failure.
With contributions from Pedro S de Achutegui, Miguel A. Bernad and O.D. Corpuz.