Opinion: Early Crisis in US Occupation in Negros
On July 25, 1900, one year after the enforcement of Gen. Orders No. 30, Gen. James Smith reported the accomplishment of the new Negros government. The authorities in Manila, basing their judgment on the success of their programs as reported by Gen. Smith, but disregarding the fact that there were still some cases of anti-Americanism in Negros, reported the new regime as successful to Washington. Thus did US Pres. William McKinley refer to it in his message of Dec. 5, 1900 and in his instructions to the Second Philippine Commission on April 7, 1900. He told the Commission members to give special attention to the government in Negros so that it would serve as a model for other provisional governments to be established in other provinces.
On October, 6, 1900 Col. E. W. Miner took over the position of Military Governor from Gen. Smith, the latter having been appointed as Chief Collector of Customs of the Philippines. At the start, Miner found himself confronted with three big problems, namely: a reported plot against the US authorities, enforcement of the personal cedula tax and the locust plague. The plot against the government was said to have been led by no less than the Civil Governor, Melecio Severino and Attorney-General Dionisio Mapa. The Negros ilustrados behind this plot supposedly objected to the tremendous powers wielded by the American Military Governor. Apolinario Mabini described this set up in Negros as “popular in form and autocratic in substance,” thus making the civil governor a mere secretary. The movement was reported to have a large following in many towns particularly in Silay. Inspite of some arrests and imprisonments, however, no substantial evidence against both Severino and Mapa could be secured so that no case was lodged against them and both were allowed to continue as government officials. While neither Mapa’s nor Severino’s political careers in the long run were affected by this incident, for a while at least Severino was kept out of political office when US Gov. Gen. Robert Taft replaced him with a more cooperative Negrense, Jose Luzuriaga, on May 1, 1901 when Negros was declared a regular province until he was replaced by Leandro Locsin following Luzuriaga’s appointment as a member of the Philippine Commission on September 1901.
The resistance movement in various parts of Negros going on even when American propaganda was holding Negros up to the rest of the islands as a model of obedience and loyalty to American sovereignty may be seen as two distinct directions: (1) the resistance led by the ilustrados and (2) the reistance led by the mass-based “tulisanes”, “Babaylanes” and other less known bands. The ilustarados led movement, though strong in the beginning, gradually diminished in strength and eventually disappeared as more losses were suffered and more members changed their antagonistic attitudes toward the Americans. This persuasion took the form of important appointments in the new government and the assurance that, as long as the door to conciliation was open, they could expect economic prosperity under a regime of peace, social progress oriented to American values and continuation of their positions of privilege. The alliance of the ilustrados with American interests left the tulisanes and Babaylanes confused but still determined to continue a hit-and-run strategy. When the Aguinaldo government saw the crumbling of the defenses of the ilustrados-led groups, they turned as a resort to the tulisanes and Babaylanes. By this time, however, the American pacification campaign and program of reforms in Negros had become so successful that it was no longer possible to stem the tide in favor of a new colonial power. (References available at NOHCI office library publication/files. For further information or question, please call tel. 476-1798).*