Economics and Society 101: A tribute to Andres Bonifacio and his kind


I am writing a series for Nordis on the US crisis but I feel that the heroism of Andres Bonifacio must not be taken lightly. Bonifacio is proletarian and nationalist worth emulating today even as we exhaust the peaceful avenues for justice, freedom, and democracy.

Bonifacio was not into armed struggle in the early 1890s. This is proof that like many revolutionaries, he too had striven to give peace a chance. Andres Bonifacio was a founding member of the Liga Filipina. Jose Rizal had co-founded and led La Liga upon his return to the Philippines in 1892. The goals of Liga Filipina included the unity of the whole archipelago, mutual protection, defense against all violence and injustice, promotion of socio-economic work (instruction, agriculture, and commerce) and reforms.

In 1975, Renato Constantino described Bonifacio’s efforts to organize Liga Filipina chapters in Manila. He said the leading council of the Liga Filipina dissolved Liga Filipina only after just a few months of being active because the council leaders found out that most of the chapters organized by Bonifacio refused to give financial support to propagandists based in Spain after becoming convinced that peaceful agitations for reforms were useless.

After the dissolution of the Liga Filipino, the reformists organized the Cuerpo de Compromisarios and continued the reformist agenda as well as the tasks of supporting the propagandists based in Madrid, Spain. Radicals led by Bonifacio devoted themselves to establishing an underground organization called the Katipunan that was formally organized on June 19, 1892.

In direct contrast with the Cuerpo de Compromisarios, the Katipunan declared for its goal the realization of Philippine independence from Spain. According to Constantino, the aim of the Cuerpo de Compromisarios had been assimilation or the conversion of the Philippines into a province of Spain. The Philippines, of course, was a colony and not a province of Spain in the 1890s.

Other than declaring freedom from Spanish rule, the Katipunan also declared in its constitution that everybody is equal and that members must work to ensure that the country becomes free from all foreign bondage. Members were exhorted to procure guns and other necessary military logistics in the fight for independence.

At first, the Katipunan was an ultra-secret society: members do not know other members but only those who directly recruited them. However, rosters of chapter members were required beginning January 9, 1893 such that the Katipunan became a mass organization: chapter members knew each other and execute various types of plans and organizational work. On May 5, 1893, Andres Bonifacio even called for mass recruitments and issued a call to speed up recruitment work.

The Katipunan adheres to a code of discipline: bandits are excluded from membership, habitual drunkards are expelled from membership, members are instructed not to take things that do not belong to them, gamblers are severely punished or expelled from membership. The code of discipline was promoted by Bonifacio.

Does Bonifacio lack organizational skills? Hardly. In a memorandum executed by the Katipunan Supreme Government led by Bonifacio dated January 4, 1894, the following orders were issued: definitions of the duties of the Presiding Judge, Treasurer, Court Secretaries, Town Presidents, Members of Town Presidents’ circle, Secretary to Town Presidents, and the like. In addition, standard operation procedures were defined such as the logging of all orders, maintenance of a roster and recording of transactions. In other words, the organization of operations of the Katipunan shadow government was defined and articulated by the Supreme Government of the Katipunan led by Bonifacio in its order of January 4, 1894.

I am not privy to documents of revolutionary groups but I suppose that no other revolutionary group in the Philippines has achieved what Bonifacio has achieved for the revolutionary movement under his command: a code of operations for both the national and local governments led by revolutionaries.

On January 30, 1895, the official roster of membership of the Katipunan counted 12,613 members with a fund of at least P22,000 from members’ contribution. On June 30 1895, the Katipunan had good enough funds such that it decided to send a mission to Japan to procure arms. The assistance of Apolinario Mabini was sought in drafting the authorization letter for the revolutionary group tasked to implement the mission. Katipunan funds grew to P53,000 in Manila alone as of May 1896. In addition, by this time, the Katipunan had been getting pledges from individuals belonging to wealthy classes. Pledges as high as P10,000 were being obtained from individuals alone. #

(The writer maintains a blog at Comments can be coursed through,, and +63927-536-8431)


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