-Were soldiers drunk when they butchered Gen. Luna?
BY ALEX P. VIDAL
LAKE FOREST, California — If this crime happened recently, today’s more liberated and technologically literate Filipinos would have raged and wept endlessly by its sheer brutality; and Youtube and Facebook would have recorded the ugly episode for all the universe to see — and denounce.
He was ganged up and butchered like a pig. Shot repeatedly by a group of rank-and-file Filipino soliders and hacked with a bolo until his intestines came out in front of horrified civilians in a public plaza in the Philippines.
This was how historians narrated the terrible execution of General Antonio Luna by soldiers equivalent today to the Presidential Security Group (PSG) on June 5, 1899, a week before the June 12 first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
Perhaps the greatest general and one of the most brilliant patriots to ever serve the Philippine revolution, Luna’s horrible murder from die hards of President Emilio Aguinaldo, became a blot in Philippine history as it gave credence to the French Revolution’s famous dictum that “Revolution devours its own children.”
At 32, Luna, an Ilocano, was five years older than 28-year-old President Aguinaldo, of Kawit, Cavite, when the president’s men known as “Kawit soldiers”, extirpated him.
Luna, director of war and overall Central Luzon commander, was supposed to meet President Aguinaldo who established his headquarters in Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, after receiving a telegram, purportedly signed by President Aguinaldo, ordering him to proceed to Cabanatuan from Bayambang, Pangasinan.
Until today, nobody has confirmed that the telegram was about a “Cabinet revamp” and President Aguinaldo supposedly was to appoint Luna premier or chief of the Cabinet. Was it a trap?
It was widely known then that Luna and Foreign Affairs Secretary Felipe Buencamino were at loggerheads after Luna arrested and jailed Buencamino and incumbent Premier Pedro Paterno for negotiating with the Americans for peace and autonomy calling them traitors and cowards.
President Aguinaldo, however, sided with the two high-ranking Cabinet officials and released them.
Many historians have diligently ferreted out conflicting and different records and accounts from various sources in the Philippines and abroad, but Manuel Martinez, a 1971 Constitutional Convention delegate, pointed to University of the Philippines Dean Vivencio Jose as having presented “the most finished and the most careful account, which appears to be fair at all” in Jose’s book, “The Rise and Fall of Antonio Luna.”
Here’s Jose’s account, according to Martinez in his book, “Assassinations and Conspiracies”:
Luna entered the convent door (leaving his two companions outside). The guard, upon seeing him, got so unnerved that he did not know what to do. Luna, apparently peeved, turned to him and asked whether he knew what he was doing. The soldier got more bewildered and was unable to answer. Luna, vexed at this unexpected reaction from a soldier, slapped him on the face.
Not far off, Luna saw another soldier, an officer, whom he remembered was disarmed at Kalumpit. “Don’t you remember that I disarmed you because of your cowardice?”
The officer, Captain Pedro Janolino, could not answer. He stood there, stiffly, before Luna who was now beside himself with anger. “And you still have the courage to face me?” Luna asked, adding, “Who reinstated you?”
“The officers up there were the ones, sir, who did.”
“Well,” Luna said, “I will settle you all presently.”
Then he hurriedly proceeded upstairs. Up there in the convent, whom should he see but the autonomist whom he hated very much, Felipe Buencamino, now obviously free. To add more to his consternation, Luna learned further that President Aguinaldo had earlier left and was on the way to Tarlac, apparently not complying with the appointment.
“Why didn’t they tell me that they were going away?” Luna said, further angered…In a moment at all, hot words were exchanged between him and Buencamino. And soon they were quarreling while below the presidential guards kept coming and going, whispering tensely among themselves.
Then, as if in preconcerted signal, a rifle shot tore through the blazing afternoon. Hearing the gun report, Luna disengaged from his verbal duel with Buencamino. He went hurriedly rushing down the stairs, where he met Janolino and some soldiers.
Luna shouted, “Who among you fired? Now I am more convinced than ever that you don’t know how to handle a gun.” Luna was indeed seething with uncontrollable rage. Janolino, thinking that Luna would attack him, whipped out his bolo and hacked the general, hitting him on the temple above the ear.
The Kawit soldiers then joined the fray, firing and stabbing at the hapless general. In spite of his wounds, the surprised Luna managed to pull out his revolver and, withdrawing to the streets, tried to press the trigger. Pain and loss of blood were slowly blurring his vision and he missed when he fired.
Luna’s two staff officers, who waited outside, Col. Francisco Roman and Captain Eduardo Rusca, ran to help their boss, whom they saw “staggering towards them, chased and attacked by the Kawit soldiers.”
“The presidential guards fired repeatedly also at Roman who was hit, fatally. Rusca sustained a wound on the leg and fell on his knees, and while crawling got hit again and fell unconscious, and survived to tell his story,” narrated Martinez.
“While Janolino and his companions were butchering Luna with a mixed brew of bullets and blades, many other soldiers were ready behind concrete walls. Luna now reached the plaza, his fist clenched, trying to return the fire of his assassins as copious blood gushed out from his many wounds.
“A bit later it was seen that his intestines were already out. He suffered at least 40 wounds. Each of some 30 of the wounds was said to be fatal. The horror of it all. Never in the course of human assassination was so much wrought by so many on one fellow.”
Luna, in one last great effort, showed the will to fight…to the bitter end, as he muttered audibly, bravely, “Co…wards! Assa…ssins!” Then, strength leaving his body and will weakened to its last gasp of life, Luna slumped to the ground, face upward, his fist still clinched, as if challenging his murderers, his teeth gritting in rage.
Before expiring, he instinctively turned on his right side. So great must have been the soldiers’ fear of Luna that, when they thought that he would stand up in the last grasp of his breath, those in the front line hastily stepped backward pushing those behind them who fell down!
For one hour, Luna’s badly mangled body laid unattended at the center of the plaza.
For no apparent reason, the soldiers reportedly returned and started hacking Luna’s body again “in sadistic glee.”
“Some took off the uniform and among themselves divided the loot of money and jewels. After this dastardly act, they wrapped the body in an old and tattered mat and brought it to the ruined church…There, when darkness crept and settled down the earth, only the bats and other night birds remained the (two) dead men’s sole companions,” Jose added.
“Luna and Roman were buried the next morning with honors, with brass band and funeral march, attended by Gregorio Aglipay, and officials of the government led by Luna’s foe, Buencamino.
The soldiers who had committed the deed were presumably there. Even if they were identified, they were not accosted or arrested or investigated. The place may have been occupied almost wholly by anti-Luna partisans.”
The demise of Luna, the most brilliant and capable of the Filipino generals, was a decisive factor in the fight against the American forces. Even the Americans developed an astonished admiration for him. One of them, General Hughes, said of his death, probably relishing the irony, “The Filipinos had only one general, and they have killed him.”
Subsequently, Presidenty Aguinaldo suffered successive, disastrous losses in the field, retreating towards northern Luzon. In less than two years, he was captured in Palanan, Isabela by American forces, led by General Frederick Funston and their Kapampangan allies, the Macabebe mercenaries.
President Aguinaldo was later brought to Manila, and made to pledge allegiance to the United States.
They may have destroyed Luna, a first-rate polemicist and publisher of La Independencia, but they did not defeat him as history became kind to him.