Glimpses on Mabinian Diplomacy
By Rudy A. Arizala
Santiago, Chile 10 July 2013
It may be recalled that on 23 June 1898, the Department of Foreign Affairs was formally created by General Emiio Aguinaldo eleven days after the Proclamation of Philippine Independence at Kawit, Cavite. It may also be recalled that the first Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Aguinaldo Government was Apolinario Mabini. Although Mabini was no longer in the government service having resigned en masse with the other cabinet members in May 1899, he continued to be consulted by Filipino diplomats for advice and assistance.
This could be gleaned from his long letter of 25 July 1899, addressed to Filipino diplomats in Hongkong, pertinent excerpts of which deals on various aspects of diplomacy and domestic affairs.
II. Excerpts from the Letter
“Rosales, July 25, 1899
“Messrs. Kanoy and Ikkis
“My dear Friends:
“I acknowledge the receipt of your letters of the 25th and 26th of June which I got only two days ago, not knowing what could have caused the delay. I sent ‘Puno’ the translations of the foreign news, with the copy of the treaty between Spain and Germany, and your letters to him. I wrote Buencamino, telling him to inform you of the decision of the Government about Ilustre’s request for 800 gold pesos for his return expenses, an amount which, to me, seems somewhat excessive, unless he has to meet some obligations. . . .
x x x x x x x x
“ ‘Puno’ has just written to me about the appointment of Antonio Regidor as envoy to America. He tells me that Regidor’s power is limited to asking for the recognition of our independence. Woe to heaven that he be more lucky than ‘Kita’. As long as he would not allow himself to be flattered by the Americans, like the political acrobats of Manila, he can be of some service to us . . .
“With my last letter of July lst, I enclosed a narrative, which I signed, of the events or of the behavior of the Americans towards us. Please translate it into English so that the American people shall know of such behavior. If you think it necessary, you can give the lie to an interview which is attributed to me, because there has been no such interview, and much less have I said that we are awaiting foreign intervention, that is, a European one.
“Congress has voted a foreign loan of twenty million pesos in order to give formal authorization to ‘Kita’ to negotiate for it. I am against any other world power, aside from America, to be our creditor nowadays because I am afraid of a dangerous intervention. That world power will get back her money either by siding with us or by forging an understanding with the enemy to divide us between them. The means that I consider safest is that America herself, upon recognizing our independence, should lend us the money. However, if that loan is badly needed I consider it indispensable that the world power which will be our creditor should recognize our independence or, at least, our belligerence.
“Our communications are in truth, very slow, but I have already previously written to ‘Puno’ about your wishes that he arrange a faster means of communication. I am now going to reiterate this request. ‘Puno’ has just told me that you have retained the credentials of Regidor and that he has approved said retention, and ordered the sending of said credentials withheld until further orders, because of certain inconveniences that you have found and which is considered reasonable. . .
“Buencamino wants also to assure for himself of an honorable exit. He is working on the clergy so that they will appoint him ambassador to Rome. But his intentions are not good, because he says that he will earnestly try to obtain from Nozaleda the appointment of an Ecclesiastical Governor, I do not understand what this man thinks. But I told the clergy that they allow themselves to be taken in and come to an understanding with Nozaleda, they will become the enemies of the country and of the truly patriotic elements. I feel ashamed of having to inform you of these internal problems, because I consider them ugly; but I trust in your discretion and, besides, I believe it convenient that you should know what is going on here.
“I received with great satisfaction the news that my answers to the foreign traders and to the questions of the Oceanic had contributed to the formation abroad, of a favorable opinion about our aptitudes, and I am deeply grateful for your congratulations, although I do not deserve so much, because very few are really free from this childish weakness.
“A Spanish Commission, working for the freedom of the Spanish prisoners, has been here a short time ago to confer with the Government, and our Government has asked for six or seven million pesos as indemnification. I can understand that, maybe, the penury of our Treasury and the expenses which the maintenance of the prisoners occasions in our towns, could have forced the Government to this decision; but I am afraid that the payment may be interpreted as a ransom and other people may form a very poor idea of our culture. . . .”
“Enclosed herewith is a number of La Independencia that carries one of my articles. . .it is up to you to decide whether it is advisable to send this article to ‘Kita’, so that he can see whether or not it is suitable for publication in European papers. It seems to me that you should work over there so that the Pope will appoint a Filipino Bishop, inasmuch as to appoint a foreigner would result into schism, because the clergy has established its Chapter for the government of the Philippine church and appointed a Commission to Rome which sails as soon it can.”
“ I am still as before, waiting for relief that may never come. Regards to all from your affectionate
(The above excerpts from the letter of Mabini are taken from “The Letters of Apolinario Mabini”, compiled and translated by the National Heroes Commission, Manila, 1965, pp.200-206. The letter of 25 July 1899, was written when Mabini was vacationing in Rosales, Pangasinan after he resigned from the Aguinaldo cabinet.).
As earlier stated, it may be noted that Mabini although retired already from the “corridors of power” in the Aguinaldo Government, he continued to be sought for advice by our diplomats and exchange letters with them on diplomacy, local domestic politics and struggle for power within the Aguinaldo government.
And when it comes to helping lowly bureaucrats in our foreign service, Mabini never hesitates to extend a helping hand although no longer in the government. For example, on 12th May 1899, he issued a Certification in favor of one Mariano Aguilar as follows:
“This is to certify that Mr, Mariano Aguilar is an officer 4th Class, of the Office of the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. He has rendered satisfactory service throughout the period he has been employed.
“Sgd. AP. Mabini”.
Mabini was not only willing to help people who worked with him in the department of foreign affairs but also those who wish to work in the other branches of the Philippine Government. In a letter addressed to President Aguinaldo, he wrote on 24 September 1899, as follows: “The bearer, Mr. Jose Fernandez, a very good friend from Manila, wishes to be appointed military Chief in the reserved force. Regarding his position and conduct, I can’t say anything against them. I suggest that you ask for information regarding his character and conduct from persons in the government service and if you consider his petition fair enough, please give him a fair deal. Excuse me for bothering you. I am at your service as always, Sgd. AP. Mabini.”
Reading Mabini’s letters is like reading today’s newspapers about our domestic affairs and foreign relations problems such as negotiating a treaty; choosing alliances; obtaining foreign loans; release of prisoners; delayed diplomatic correspondence; question of credentials; appointment of ambassadors; financial problems of diplomats; dealing with the clergy; dissemination of information; internal struggle for power; intramurals within the government; promotions in the bureaucracy; etc.
It is likewise noted that Khadaffy’s practice of establishing diplomatic “Committees” in capitals of the world instead of embassies or missions is not new. As early as 1899, Aguinaldo through Mabini established diplomatic “Committees” in various parts of the world the main task of which is to secure recognition of Philippine Independence by foreign powers.
On the 150th Birth Anniversary of Apolinario Mabini, the first Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs, let us remember his sterling qualities, moral rectitude, dedication to duty, patriotism, and brilliant mind how through him, the Aguinaldo Government was able to grapple with the issues of war and peace and conducted foreign relations at a most critical and difficult stage in the history of our nation.
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