Act 2: Countering the act of repression
The effect of this repressive decree, according to Agoncillo, proved the “unwisdom of Primo de Rivera’s step, which was, indeed, a fatal one.”
As he put it, “Filipinos who were somewhat disposed toward the Spanish government turned against it and joined the rebels, for the decree had a loophole which gave the government’s venal subordinates ample opportunity to exact unwarranted fees from the people.”
The decree actually unified the Filipinos and under Aguinaldo’s banner. From his hideout, the revolutionary general Aguinaldo issued his own proclamation in July 1897 entitled “To the Brave Sons of the Philippines” expressing the demands of the revolutionist at a time when the situation in the field “had all the earmarks of a stalemate.”
Aguinaldo even organized an assembly in Biak-na-Bato, having established republican government in the mountain hideout on May 31, 1897.
From being virtual unknowns to becoming “leading revolutionaries,” Felix Ferrer and Isabelo Artacho, were tasked to prepare a provisional constitution.
It turned out that the first provisional constitution of the “Republic of the Philippines” known as the Constitution of the Biak-na-Bato , were merely lifted by Artacho and Ferrer from the different Cuban constitutions, which the revolutionists prepared. Yet they passed them off as their brainwork.
Epifanio delos Santos later described their works as “characterized by an atmosphere distinctly Cuban, transplanted from its native forest-habitat to the barren spot of Biak-na-Bato.”
Act 3: The opportunity and the opportunists
Eager to finally end the revolution, Primo de Rivera found an opportunity when toward the end of July 1897, Pedro Paterno, a Filipino lawyer he had known in Spain, approached him to offer his services as a mediator between the rebels and the Spanish colonial government.
On August 9, Paterno presented himself to Aguinaldo , with a note that he had “explicit promise” of Primo de Rivera to pardon those who had taken up arms against Spain. He also assured them that an amount might be given to the rebels on which to live.
Aguinaldo, at first, declined the offer. The general declared that they would continue the struggle against Spain, with peace to be discussed only if Philippine independence was recognized.
The general, however, later told Paterno that he would confer with his men on the proposal. This time, it was Paterno’s opportunity to ask Aguinaldo for proper credentials so he can also represent the rebels in his negotiation with the governor general.
In Paterno’s credentials , which Aguinaldo issued on August 9, the latter said that since Spain might grant reforms demanded by the rebels, particularly the civil and religious reforms and that the leaders would be pardoned, and given money as prerequisites to their surrender, he was appointing Paterno to represent him in the negotiations.
On Paterno’s assurance that the rebels’ demands would not be mentioned in writing, Primo de Rivera agreed with the negotiations. His minimum requirements were pardon for all and security in the departure of the rebel chiefs to either China or Japan, in exchange for their surrender and the laying down of their arms.
The Spanish governor-general hinted that his government could offer P1,700,000 to be paid in three installments.