Philippine Presidents: Emilio Aguinaldo Posted by Carrie B. Yan on 03/31/2011 11:55 AM
President of the First Philippine Republic Term: 1898 - 1901
Appointed the position at the age of 29, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo was the first and youngest president of the Republic of the Philippines. He was born on March 22, 1869 in Kawit, Cavite to Chinese and Filipino parents. In 1895, he joined the Katipunan, an organization founded by Andrés Bonifacio which aimed to disarm the Spanish forces and seize the alias Magdalo. He also headed Filipino troops in their ferocious battles with the Spanish fleets.
Aguinaldo and his group won many battles against the Spaniards. They conquered the Spanish guardia civil in Kawit, Cavite and directed the capture of the nearby town of Imus. His greatest conquest was the Battle of Binakayan on Nov. 10, 1896, when he vanquished the corps under the command of Gov. General Ramon Blanco.
On March 22, 1897, Aguinaldo was selected as President of the revolutionary government. However, this open-armed government did not last that long and was discontinued in December 1897 when he signed the Pact of Biac-na-Bato. The treaty aimed to give the country substantial financial reward from Spain and a promise of liberal reform, a seat in the Spanish parliament, and full civil rights for the Filipinos. After the pact, Aguinaldo agreed to leave the country and stay in exile.
While in Hong Kong, Aguinaldo spoke with the American consulate and Commodore Dewey and asked them to help him return to the Philippines. In return, he proposed to assist the Americans in their war with Spain. He returned to the country on May 19, 1898. Upon his arrival, Aguinaldo declared separation of the country from Spain and proclaimed independence on June 12, 1898. An impermanent republic was founded and he became its president. By the merit of the Treaty of Paris signed on December 10, 1898, the Philippines was handed to the United States by Spain.
On the eve of February 4, 1899, the tension between the Americans and the Filipinos arose and the American-Filipino war broke loose. During the battle, the Filipino soldiers were outnumbered by the Americans. Aguinaldo and his men were forced to retreat and went to the northern boundaries of the country. The war came to an end when Aguinaldo was captured at his hide-out at Palanan, Isabela. Aguinaldo surrendered and took his oath of loyalty to the United States on April 1, 1901 and was granted a pension before he retired to private life.
In 1935, when the Commonwealth government was created, Aguinaldo ran for presidency but lost to Manuel Quezon. After losing, he went back to his private life and re-surfaced during the Japanese era in 1941. He was used as a tool by the Japanese to lure American soldiers to surrender. Towards the end of the war, Aguinaldo was detained because of his alleged alliance to the Japanese and was held captive in the Bilibid prison for several months before he was released by president amnesty.
In 1950 President Quirino appointed Aguinaldo as a member of the Council State. Soon after, Aguinaldo dedicated his time to veteran soldiers' interest and welfare, the promotion of nationalism and democracy in the Philippines, and the development of the relationship between the Philippines and the United States.
Emilio Aguinaldo died on February 6, 1964 in Quezon City at the age of 95. He was buried behind his mansion in Kawit, Cavite.