by Chris Antonette Piedad-Pugay

       Most Filipino patriots during the revolutionary period yearned to alleviate and free the Filipino people from the hands of their oppressors.  In their varying means, these patriots and nationalists made contributions, both recorded and unrecorded in order to attain the aspirations of the Revolution.

      One of those who fought and sought to keep Dr. Jose Rizal’s legacy aflame was Artemio Ricarte, popularly known through his nom-de-guerre “Vibora” which literally means viper.  Ricarte was an educator by profession but when he was sent to San Francisco de Malabon (Gen. Trias) in the province of Cavite as superintendent of primary schools, he took the opportunity and joined the ranks of the Katipunan.  He became the Brigadier General of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s army and was eventually elected Captain General in the convention held at Tejeros.  Together with the rest of his compatriots, they valiantly fought the Spaniards to put an end to Spanish tyranny.  When the Americans occupied the Philippines at the end of the Spanish-American War, Ricarte was several times offered by the American government handsome compensations in exchange of his loyalty.  But for several times, just like a wild viper, he kept on rejecting the tempting offers.  To get rid of him, the American government banished him first in Guam with Apolinario Mabini and afterwards in Hong Kong in 1910.

      While he was in the island of Lamah in Hong Kong, he felt the need that he should call upon the Filipinos to demonstrate on the field of battle the purest honor and the precious doctrines left to the race by Dr. Jose Rizal who chose death for the benefit of his country and countrymen.  He thought of drafting a charter that would help in the staging of an “orderly and efficacious revolution.”  With this aim in his heart, on 31 March 1913, the Rizaline Constitution was born.

        Vibora’s Rizaline Constitution was made up of twelve chapters with corresponding articles under each of them ascertaining provisions that will make the revolution “orderly and efficacious.”  The first chapter of the constitution laid down that the archipelago once named by Ferdinand Magellan as “Archipelago of Saint Lazarus” and “Las Islas Filipinas” by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos would be known and recognized as the “Rizaline Republic” with the inclusion of Guam and the Marianas Islands.  Succeeding articles under the said chapter provided that all citizens of the islands would be called “Rizaline” including foreigners who would help the Rizalines acquire absolute independence and those who were born in other country by Rizaline parents. Other clauses stipulated the rights of the citizens in terms of owning properties, right to protection and even the rights of an accused individual.  The last article of this chapter decreed that the Rizalines who demonstrated fervent love for the fatherland would be granted special merit called “Recompense.”

         The second chapter laid down that a Revolutionary Government aspiring to overthrow the American government while protecting and sustaining the Rizalines would be established in the Rizaline territories to be directed by the chiefs of the “Liberating Army.”  It was stated in this chapter that the supreme government would be composed of “Three Powers,” with each of them having their respective president and vice president namely—Executive Power, Advisory Power and the Judicial Power.  The third chapter of the constitution provided that executive power would be exercised by the Captain General, who would also be the President of this branch of authority to be assisted by the Lieutenant General of Luzon as the Vice President.  The Captain General would distribute his duties among his appointed government secretaries such as follows: Executive Secretary, Secretary of War, Secretary of Finance, Secretary of Finance, Secretary of the State, Secretary of Justice, Secretary of Police and Secretary of Agriculture.  Chapter four, on the other hand, stipulated that the president of the “Executive Power” or the Captain General would be responsible in performing the following functions: Finding means to realize the objectives of the Revolutionary Government; Signing of decrees and laws; Accepting or rejecting voluntary aid from foreign country; Granting pardon to any criminal sentenced to death; and Organizing revolutionary committees in other countries with the help of the Central Revolutionary Committee based in Hong Kong.  In the event that the Captain General died, became physically incapacitated, captured by the enemies, prosecuted before a competent court or sentenced, the fifth chapter decreed that the Vice President should assume the abovementioned powers and responsibilities.

         The “Advisory Power” would be composed of a number twice that of the number of districts in accordance to the division of the Rizaline Republic into zones, thus, two representatives in every district, with the exception of the Rizal district encompassing Manila that would have four representatives. This branch of power, as predetermined in the succeeding chapter of the Rizaline Constitution, is expected to cooperate with the Captain General in deriving ways to overthrow the American government, to draft and submit for the approval of the Captain General laws for the collection of funds in each district, appropriation laws, laws of election in every district, interior regulations, law granting “recompense” to patriotic Rizalines and laws prescribing punishment against those guilty of Lesse Patria.

         Meanwhile, chapter eight  delegated that the Supreme Tribunal of the Rizaline Republic  would exercise “Judicial Power” and is expected to hear cases and complaints against any citizen of the republic including the officers of the Revolutionary Government and  the trying of cases relative to real estates and credits.  A Permanent Tribunal of War would be established in each zone while a Council of War would be established in each district.

         The Eight Chapter of Vibora’s Rizaline Constitution bore the characteristics of the Revolutionary Army with its soldiers divided into the Active and Reserve Service.  Those in the active service were delegated in the six zones namely Burgos Zone (Ilocos Norte, Cagayan, Isabela, Abra, Ilocos Sur, Nueva Vizcaya, Bontoc and Benguet), Jocson Zone (Pangasinan, Zambales, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bataan, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija), Bonifacio Zone (Tayabas, Marinduque, Albay, Sorsogon, Ambos Camarines, Mindoro, Cavite, Batangas and Laguna), Climaco Zone (Cebu, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental, Bohol, Leyte and Samar), Lopez Jaena Zone  (Iloilo, Antique, Capiz, Romblon, Masbate) and Sison Zone (Surigao, Agusan, Misamis, Zamboanga, Jolo, Paragua and Guam).   It also provided that the Rizal district would be governed by a special law allowing it to be divided into six zones namely General Flores, General Evangelista, Valenzuela, Rosendo Simon, General Malvar, and General del Pilar,

       While chapter nine presented the different groupings of the Revolutionary Army namely division, brigade, regiment, battalion, and company, the subsequent chapter contained the special protection that the foreigners, except the colonizers, can secure from the Revolutionary Government.  Finally, the last two chapters of this constitution held that the Spanish language would remain the official language of the republic and those Spanish laws not in conflict with the objectives of the Revolution would remain in effect.

         Jose Rizal, our national hero, could have chosen to live a normal life and practice his profession; however, his love for his country was truly deep-seated that he had chosen to die for her.   Just like Rizal, the Rizaline Constitution sounded very ideal, but it encompassed the true sentiments, yearnings and aspirations of our race.  The said constitution was Artemio Ricarte’s means not only to keep Jose Rizal’s legacy alive but at the same time his way of paying tribute to the hero’s valor.  Vibora believed that a race like ours should not remain subjugated, instead, should be absolutely independent, provided that a sound and compelling guiding principle would be enforced to direct the then struggling Filipino race.