Apolinario Mabini

Apolinario Mabini (1864-1903) was a Filipino political philosopher and architect of the Philippine revolution. He formulated the principles of a democratic popular government, endowing the historical struggles of the Filipino people with a coherent ideological orientation.

Apolinario Mabini was born in Talaga, Tanauan, Batangas, on July 22, 1864. His parents belonged to the impoverished peasantry. He studied at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in 1881 and at the University of Santo Thomas, where he received the law degree in 1894. During this time he earned his living by teaching Latin and then serving as copyist in the Court of First Instance in Manila.

In 1896 Mabini contracted an illness, probably infantile paralysis, that deprived him of the use of his legs. When the Katipunan revolt broke out late that year, the Spanish authorities arrested him. Unknown to many, Mabini was already a member of José Rizal's reformist association, the Liga Filipina. And though as a pacifist reformist, he was at first skeptical of Andres Bonifacio's armed uprising, Mabini later became convinced of the people's almost fanatical desire for emancipation. Subsequently, he turned out subversive manifestos appealing to all Filipinos to unite against Spain.

In May 1898 Emilio Aguinaldo summoned Mabini to act as his adviser. Mabini formulated the famous decree of June 18, which reorganized the local government under Filipino control. His policy throughout the struggle can be epitomized by a statement in that decree: "The first duty of the government is to interpret the popular will faithfully. "Mabini was also instrumental in supervising the proper administration of justice, the election of delegates to the revolutionary congress, and the establishment of the mechanism of the revolutionary government itself.

When the revolutionary congress was convoked in Barasoain, Malolos, Bulacan, on Sept. 15, 1898, Mabini found himself opposed to the plans of the wealthy bourgeoisie to draft a constitution. He believed that, given the emergency conditions of war, the function of the congress was simply to advise the president and not to draft a constitution. Defeated by the majority, Mabini then submitted his own constitutional plan, based on the Statutes of Universal Masonry. It was rejected in favor of a composite draft submitted by Felipe G. Calderon, which became the basis of the Malolos Constitution of the first Philippine Republic.

Mabini's conflict with the conspiracy of property owners and the landlord class in the congress led to his eclipse in 1899 as Aguinaldo's trusted adviser—the only competent thinker and theoretician in the Aguinaldo Cabinet. Mabini succeeded in exposing the vicious opportunism of the Paterno-Buencamino clique, who were trying to gain control over, and to profit from, the financial transactions of the revolutionary government. When the Aguinaldo camp fled from the advancing American forces, Mabini was captured on Dec. 10, 1899. Still refusing to swear an oath of allegiance to the U.S. government and continuing to support the insurgents in their ideological struggle, he was deported to Guam in 1901. He died on May 13, 1903.

Mabini's chief work, La Revolution Filipina, a reasoned analysis and cogent argument concerning the ideological implications of the revolution against Spain and the resistance to the American invaders, reveals the progressive and democratic impulse behind his thinking. He always tried to mediate between the people's will and the decisions of their leaders. He was a selfless and dedicated patriot.


Further Reading on Apolinario Mabini

The best critical study of Mabini's life and works is Cesar Adib Majul, Mabini and the Philippine Revolution (1960). See also Majul's The Political and Constitutional Ideas of the Philippine Revolution (1957) and Teodoro A. Agoncillo, Malolos: The Crisis of the Republic (1960). For the general historical background the most reliable text to consult is Teodoro A. Agoncillo and Oscar Alfonso, A Short History of the Filipino People (1969).

Additional Biography Sources

Majul, Cesar Adib, Apolinario Mabini revolutionary, Ermita, Manila: National Historical Institute, 1993 printing.

Villarroel, Fidel, Apolinario Mabini, his birth date and student years, Manila: National Historical Institute, 1979.