How ‘unequivocal’ was Rizal’s condemnation of the revolution in Manila? What he repudiated was very specific, a conflict in which people were dying in the belief that Bonifacio had Rizal’s support, an uprising which Rizal held, rightly as it turned out, was premature, information that had been kept secret from the revolutionaries by Bonifacio.
Correctly, the Spanish advocate at his trial, deduced that Rizal was not anti-revolution or anti-separatist, ie., independent at that his opposition was a matter of time and opportunity, not substance.
Rizal certainly favoured independence, as much is implicit in his published writings and speeches and explicit in his private correspondence – if somewhat cautiously – and private conversations – ‘who launches a revolution will have me at his side’ he told his fellow ‘bedspacer’ in Europe, Jose Alejandrino.
Revolution was an optional route to independence, but not necessarily the only option. Rizal’s focus was on liberty, a condition in which Filipinos could achieve their full potential as individuals, as a society and as a nation. This could only be achieved through individual dignity and the respect for the dignity of others.
He was well aware that the greatest threat to liberty was not the Spanish but the Filipinos themselves. There was no point in independence if today’s slaves were to become tomorrow’s tyrants. Revolution and independence were therefore useless unless the endpoint was Filipino liberty – not merely removing the Spanish but preventing, too, future tyranny by Filipinos.
The Manila revolution merely sought to replace Spaniards with Filipinos. No underpinning of political philosophy as such was formalized until mid-1898. It was not unequivocally a revolution for the masses.
Constantino’s dichotomy between owning or disowning the revolution or owning or disowning Rizal as the National hero cannot be resolved in Constantino’s terms. It requires objective study and understanding of the objectives of Bonifacio’s revolution and of Rizal , the application of an instrument which Constantino himself confesses he denies to his Filipino readers – objectivity. To quote Constantino out of context: “This is a disservice to the event, to the man, and to ourselves.”
Freedom, to Constantino, is the absence of Spanish rulers and the presence of Filipino rulers regardless of the quality of their leadership. To Rizal, freedom was the presence of a Filipino liberty which promoted the interests and potential of all Filipinos. Constantino was fully aware of this, he was a well-read man, so was Rizal the real target of Veneration Without Understanding?
“(Considering Rizal as a nationalist leader) … has dangerous implications because it can be used to exculpate those who actively betrayed the Revolution and may serve to diminish the ardor of those who today may be called upon to support another great nationalist undertaking to complete the anti-colonial movement” wrote Constantino. Rizal, then, must be removed from his pedestal not because of his worth as an individual but as an atomic particle in a class which Constantino hold betrayed the 1896 revolution and the Katipunan, because he represents a class which Constantino considered a threat to the anti-colonialist movement of the 1960s.
Rizal must be toppled because Constantino wanted to topple his class among whom, by extrapolation, was Ferdinand Marcos, a lawyer, whose star was on the rise as Contantino wrote his famous article. It has been said that the problem with dictators isn’t that they don’t love their country but that they love it too much. Marcos, odious dictator though he became, was a nationalist and cunningly played US interests against Russian and Chinese interests. It is far too simplistic to see Marcos as merely a super-cacaique who sought to preserve power and extract wealth. He loved his country, identified himself with it and saw an attack on himself as an attack on his country and considered his own leadership as the only one that could defend and protect it.
Out of that nationalism came the very tyranny that Rizal feared, a fear that led to his repudiation of Bonifacio.
To Be Continued