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Philippine-American War (1899-1902)

Terms in this set (9)

The war resulted in the deaths of at least 200,000 Filipino civilians, mostly due to famine and disease. Some estimates for total civilian dead reach up to a million. The war and especially the following occupation by the U.S., changed the culture of the islands, leading to the rise of Protestantism and disestablishment of the Catholic Church in the Philippines and the introduction of English to the islands as the primary language of government, education, business, industry and, in future decades, among upper-class families and educated individuals.

In 1902, the United States Congress passed the Philippine Organic Act, which provided for the creation of the Philippine Assembly, with members to be elected by Filipino males (women did not have the vote until after the 1937 suffrage plebiscite). This act was superseded by the 1916 Jones Act (Philippine Autonomy Act), which contained the first formal and official declaration of the United States government's commitment to eventually grant independence to the Philippines. The 1934 Tydings-McDuffie Act (Philippine Independence Act) created the Commonwealth of the Philippines the following year, increasing self-governance in advance of independence, and established a process towards full Philippine independence (originally scheduled for 1944, but interrupted and delayed by World War II). The United States granted independence in 1946, following World War II and the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, through the Treaty of Manila.
On April 22, 1898, while in exile, Aguinaldo had a private meeting in Singapore with United States Consul E. Spencer Pratt, after which he decided to again take up the mantle of leadership in the Philippine Revolution. According to Aguinaldo, Pratt had communicated with Commodore George Dewey (commander of the Asiatic Squadron of the United States Navy) by telegram, and passed assurances from Dewey to Aguinaldo that the United States would recognize the independence of the Philippines under the protection of the United States Navy. Pratt reportedly stated that there was no necessity for entering into a formal written agreement because the word of the Admiral and of the United States Consul were equivalent to the official word of the United States government. With these assurances, Aguinaldo agreed to return to the Philippines.

Pratt later contested Aguinaldo's account of these events, and denied any "dealings of a political character" with the leader. Admiral Dewey also refuted Aguinaldo's account, stating that he had promised nothing regarding the future.

Filipino historian Teodoro Agoncillo writes of "American apostasy", saying that it was the Americans who first approached Aguinaldo in Hong Kong and Singapore to persuade him to cooperate with Dewey in wresting power from the Spanish. Conceding that Dewey may not have promised Aguinaldo American recognition and Philippine independence (Dewey had no authority to make such promises), he writes that Dewey and Aguinaldo had an informal alliance to fight a common enemy, that Dewey breached that alliance by making secret arrangements for a Spanish surrender to American forces, and that he treated Aguinaldo badly after the surrender was secured. Agoncillo concludes that the American attitude towards Aguinaldo "... showed that they came to the Philippines not as a friend, but as an enemy masking as a friend."
The secret agreement made by Commodore Dewey and Brigadier General Wesley Merritt with newly arrived Spanish Governor-General Fermín Jáudenes and with his predecessor Basilio Augustín was for the Spanish forces to surrender only to the Americans, not to the Filipino revolutionaries. To save face, the Spanish surrender would take place after a mock battle in Manila which the Spanish would lose; the Filipinos would not be allowed to enter the city. On the eve of the battle, Brigadier General Thomas M. Anderson telegraphed Aguinaldo, "Do not let your troops enter Manila without the permission of the American commander. On this side of the Pasig River you will be under fire." On August 13, American forces captured the city of Manila from the Spanish.

Before the attack on Manila, American and Filipino forces had been allies against Spain in all but name. After the capture of Manila, Spanish and Americans were in a partnership that excluded the Filipino insurgents. Fighting between American and Filipino troops had almost broken out as the former moved in to dislodge the latter from strategic positions around Manila on the eve of the attack. Aguinaldo had been told bluntly by the Americans that his army could not participate and would be fired upon if it crossed into the city. The insurgents were infuriated at being denied triumphant entry into their own capital, but Aguinaldo bided his time. Relations continued to deteriorate, however, as it became clear to Filipinos that the Americans were in the islands to stay.

On December 21, 1898, President William McKinley issued a proclamation of "benevolent assimilation, substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule" for "the greatest good of the governed." Major General Elwell Stephen Otis—who was appointed Military Governor of the Philippines at that time—delayed its publication. On January 4, 1899, General Otis published an amended version edited so as not to convey the meanings of the terms sovereignty, protection, and right of cessation, which were present in the original version. However, Brigadier General Marcus Miller—then in Iloilo City and unaware that the altered version had been published by Otis—passed a copy of the original proclamation to a Filipino official there.
Annexation of the Philippines by the United States was justified by those in the U.S. government and media in the name of liberating and protecting the peoples in the former Spanish colonies. Senator Albert J. Beveridge, one of the most prominent American imperialists at the time, said: "Americans altruistically went to war with Spain to liberate Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Filipinos from their tyrannical yoke. If they lingered on too long in the Philippines, it was to protect the Filipinos from European predators waiting in the wings for an American withdrawal and to tutor them in American-style democracy."

Months later, after finally securing Manila from the Filipino forces, American forces moved northward, engaging in combat at the brigade and battalion level in pursuit of the fleeing insurgent forces and their commanders. In response to the use of guerrilla warfare tactics by Filipino forces, beginning in September 1899, American military strategy shifted to suppression of the resistance. Tactics became focused on the control of key areas with internment and segregation of the civilian population in "zones of protection" from the guerrilla population. (This is considered to foreshadow the Strategic Hamlet Program that the US used decades later, during the Vietnam War). Due to disruption of war and unsanitary conditions, many of the interned civilians died from dysentery.

General Otis gained notoriety for some of his actions in the Philippines. Although his superiors in Washington had directed Otis to avoid military conflict, he did very little to prevent the breakout of war. Otis refused to accept anything but unconditional surrender from the Philippine Army. He often made major military decisions without first consulting leadership in Washington. He acted aggressively in dealing with the Filipinos under the assumption that their resistance would collapse quickly. Even after this assumption proved false, he continued to insist that the insurgency had been defeated, and that the remaining casualties were caused by "isolated bands of outlaws".
Otis also was active in suppressing information about American military tactics from the media. When letters describing American atrocities reached the American media, the War Department became involved and demanded that Otis investigate their authenticity. Otis had each press clipping forwarded to the original writer's commanding officer, who would convince or force the soldier to write a retraction of the original statements.

Meanwhile, Otis claimed that Filipino insurgents tortured American prisoners in "fiendish fashion". During the closing months of 1899, Aguinaldo attempted to counter Otis' account by suggesting that neutral parties—foreign journalists or representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross—inspect his military operations. Otis refused, but Aguinaldo managed to smuggle four reporters—two English, one Canadian, and one Japanese—into the Philippines. The correspondents returned to Manila to report that American captives were "treated more like guests than prisoners", were "fed the best that the country affords, and everything is done to gain their favor." The story said that American prisoners were offered commissions in the Filipino army and that three had accepted. The four reporters were expelled from the Philippines as soon as their stories were printed.

U.S. Navy Lieutenant J.C. Gilmore, whose release was forced by American cavalry pursuing Aguinaldo into the mountains, insisted that he had received "considerable treatment" and that he was no more starved than were his captors. Otis responded to publication of two articles concerning this by ordering the "capture" of the two authors, and that they be "investigated", therefore questioning their loyalty.

When F.A. Blake of the International Committee of the Red Cross arrived at Aguinaldo's request, Otis kept him confined to Manila. Otis' staff told him about all of the violations of international humanitarian law made by Filipino soldiers. Blake slipped away from an escort and ventured into the field. Blake never made it past American lines, but even within their territory, he saw burned-out villages and "horribly mutilated bodies, with stomachs slit open and occasionally decapitated." Blake waited to report on his findings until he returned to San Francisco, where he told one reporter that "American soldiers are determined to kill every Filipino in sight."
Estimates of the Filipino forces vary between 80,000 and 100,000, with tens of thousands of auxiliaries. Most of the forces were armed only with bolo knives, bows and arrows, spears and other primitive weapons, which were vastly inferior to the guns and other weapons of the American forces.

A fairly rigid caste system existed in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial era. The goal, or end-state, sought by the First Philippine Republic was a sovereign, independent, stable nation led by an oligarchy composed of members of the educated class (known as the ilustrado class). Local chieftains, landowners, businessmen and cabezas de barangay were the principales who controlled local politics. The war was at its peak when ilustrados, principales, and peasants were unified in opposition to annexation by the United States. The peasants, who represented the majority of the fighting forces, had interests different from their ilustrado leaders and the principales of their villages. Coupled with the ethnic and geographic fragmentation, aligning the interests of people from different social castes was a daunting task. The challenge for Aguinaldo and his generals was to sustain unified Filipino public opposition; this was the revolutionaries' strategic center of gravity.

The Filipino operational center of gravity was the ability to sustain its force of 100,000 irregulars in the field. The Filipino general Francisco Macabulos described the Filipinos' war aim as, "not to vanquish the U.S. Army but to inflict on them constant losses." In the early stages of the war, the Philippine Revolutionary Army employed the conventional military tactics typical of an organized armed resistance. The hope was to inflict enough American casualties to result in McKinley's defeat by William Jennings Bryan in the 1900 presidential election. They hoped that Bryan, who held strong anti-imperialist views, would withdraw the American forces from the Philippines.

McKinley's election victory in 1900 was demoralizing for the insurgents, and convinced many Filipinos that the United States would not depart quickly. Coupled with a series of devastating losses on the battlefield against American forces equipped with superior technology and training, Aguinaldo became convinced that he needed to change his approach. Beginning on September 14, 1899, Aguinaldo accepted the advice of General Gregorio del Pilar and authorized the use of guerrilla warfare tactics in subsequent military operations in Bulacan.
The Philippine Organic Act—approved on July 1, 1902—ratified President McKinley's previous executive order which had established the Second Philippine Commission. The act also stipulated that a legislature would be established composed of a popularly elected lower house, the Philippine Assembly, and an upper house consisting of the Philippine Commission. The act also provided for extending the United States Bill of Rights to Filipinos. On July 2, the United States Secretary of War telegraphed that since the insurrection against the United States had ended and provincial civil governments had been established throughout most of the Philippine archipelago, the office of military governor was terminated. On July 4, Theodore Roosevelt, who had succeeded to the U.S. presidency after the assassination of President McKinley, proclaimed an amnesty to those who had participated in the conflict.

On April 9, 2002, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo proclaimed that the Philippine-American War had ended on April 16, 1902, with the surrender of General Miguel Malvar. She declared the centennial anniversary of that date as a national working holiday and as a special non-working holiday in the province of Batangas and in the cities of Batangas, Lipa and Tanauan.

Throughout the war, American soldiers and other witnesses sent letters home which described some of the atrocities committed by American forces. For example, In November 1901, the Manila correspondent of the Philadelphia Ledger wrote: "The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog..." Reports were received from soldiers returning from the Philippines that, upon entering a village, American soldiers would ransack every house and church and rob the inhabitants of everything of value, while those who approached the battle line waving a flag of truce were fired upon.

In 1946, the Treaty of Manila (1946) between the governments of the U.S. and the Republic of the Philippines provided for the recognition of the independence of the Republic of the Philippines and the relinquishment of American sovereignty over the Philippine Islands.