by Chris Antonette Piedad-Pugay

       One of the major events that shaped the destiny of the Philippines was the Spanish- American War that broke out in 1898. Relations between the two countries severed when the Cuban Revolution drawn the United States to the side of the Cuban insurgents while protecting paramount economic investments in the said island.  On 15 February 1898, the American warship Maine was blown up allegedly by an act of treachery at Havana harbor, giving the American government an excuse to declare a state of war against Spain on 25 April 1898.  Soon after, the Battle of Manila bay was fought and the Americans reached the Philippines.

       On 19 May 1898, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, upon the persuasion of American Consul E. Spencer Pratt and with the advice of the Hong Kong Junta, returned to the Philippines and immediately issued a proclamation urging Filipinos to once again rally for the cause of the motherland.  The support of the Filipinos on his call was overwhelming and was followed with sweeping victories.  While Manila was surrounded by the Filipinos by June 1898, the American and Spanish authorities engaged in secret negotiations paving way for a mock battle on 13 August 1898 and eventually a surrender that would deprive the Filipinos a taste of victory.

       On 12 August 1898, the Protocol of Peace was signed directing five Americans and five Spanish commissioners to meet in Paris to discuss peace terms between US and Spain.  Felipe Agoncillo was sent by Aguinaldo to Washington to serve as representative of the revolutionary government of the Philippines; however, Pres. McKinley declined to recognize him as such.  The commission met from October to December 1898, and agreed upon that some colonies of Spain including the Philippines be ceded to the United States.  On 10 December 1898, without Filipino representation and consultation, the Treaty of Paris was concluded.  It was signed by representatives from the US Government namely: Cushman Davis, William Frye, Whitelaw Reid, George Gray and William Day.  The Spanish delegation on the other hand was composed of Eugenio Montero Rios, Buenaventura Abarzuza, Jose de Garnica, Wenceslao Ramirez de Villa-Urrutia and Rafael Cerero.

       The Treaty of Paris was made up of thirteen articles that stipulate the conditions, obligations, as well as the benefits that the Governments of Spain and United States could enjoy over the ceded islands.  The first three articles provided Spain’s relinquishment of her claims over its former colonies including Cuba, Puerto Rico and other islands in the West Indies, and the Philippine Islands. Article III stated that an amount of $20, 000,000 will be paid by the US to Spain after the treaty’s ratification.  Meanwhile, In Article IV, US maintained that in a period of ten years after the treaty’s ratification, it would admit Spanish ships and merchandises with the same terms as that of American goods and vessels.

         Through Articles V, the American government, in its own costs, assured Spain that all Spanish soldiers taken as prisoners of war will be freed and sent back to their country.  It also provided that Spain would vacate the ceded territories in accordance with the Protocol of Peace signed on 12 August 1898, after the treaty’s ratification.  The same article also confirmed that properties belonging to the naval forces of Spain in the ceded territories shall remain property of Spain.  Article VI held assurance that the two governments by their own respective costs, would release prisoners of war, particularly insurgents of Cuba and the Philippines.

     While claims for all kinds of indemnity were relinquished by both governments in Article VII, Article VIII made clear, however, that relinquishment could not impair the rights belonging to the peaceful possessions of provinces, municipalities, public and private establishments in the ceded territories.  Spain’s relinquishment was also extended on documents and archival materials that may be found in the ceded territories or in Spain.

       Article IX emphasized that Spanish subjects and natives residing in the ceded territories may remain in the territories and preserve their allegiance to Spain but before a record of court. Failure to do so in a year after the treaty’s ratification would make them adopt the nationality of the territories where they reside.  Freedom of religion was given weight in Article X while Article XI upheld that Spaniards residing in the ceded territories would be subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of the country/territory where they reside in accordance to the judicial procedures and implementations incorporated in article XII.

          It was also agreed upon by the Peace Commission panel that Spanish academic and literary works would be admitted in the ceded territories free from dues, only in a period of ten years.  This provision was included in Article XIII of the treaty.  Spain’s right to establish consular offices and officers in the ports and some areas of the ceded territories was provided in Article XIV.  Meanwhile, Article XV stated terms similar to that of Article III only that it emphasized that free dues and charges would only be honored for ten years.  The US Government in Article XVI cleared that its obligation to Cuba is limited only during its occupancy and upon its termination; the created government in the said country should assume responsibility.  Lastly, Article XVII pronounced that the treaty would be subject to ratification by the US President with the aid of the US Senate and by the Queen Regent of Spain. Ratification was expected to be exchanged six months from the date of the treaty’s conclusion.

        The treaty did not go on effect until after its ratification.  Initially, many American senators did not favor it for they thought of it as unfair to the Filipinos and a manifestation of imperialism.  Unfortunately, the Filipino-American hostilities that erupted on 4 February 1899 in the Philippines (known as the “First Shot”) changed the course of the tide. American propaganda made it appear that the Filipinos instigated the hostility causing the breach of alliance and trust. Two days after, the treaty was ratified with two thirds of the majority in the US Senate.

       The American and Spanish government reckoned the Treaty of Paris as an instrument of Peace, but the Filipinos resented its conclusion and ratification for they were not consulted and considered in its making.  Further, the provisions of the treaty were not for the benefit of the Filipinos but for the imperialists, instead.  With the signing and ratification of the Treaty of Paris, the bitter relations between the Americans and the Filipinos turned bitterer and eventually lead to another episode that was known as Filipino-American War.