Life as a Reformist

      Jose Rizal is most well-known for his works to enlighten the Filipino and his attempts in giving his country more freedom from Spain. This section outlines his political affiliations, as well as how he stood amongst all who fought for assimilation or independence.


Almost simultaneously with the introduction of Masonry in the Philippines, a civic society called La Propaganda (Junta de la Propaganda / Junta de Programa) was established by a group of patriots in Manila, headed by Deodato Arellano, brother-in-law of Marcelo H. del Pilar. Its members, composed mostly, if not exclusively, of the middle class, constituted the liason between the propagandists in Spain and Philippines, collected the subscriptions and contributions given by patriots in Manila and neighbouring provinces to carry the propaganda work and to defray the expenses of the Filipino reformers in Spain, disseminated propaganda materials and the issues of "La Solidaridad", which were smuggled into the city.

At such times as they had occasion to visit the capital, well-to-do and educated persons from distant provinces also wanted to give their help. If the rich men of Manila contributed very little it was because they mistrusted the persons in charge of the funds, and feared for their own interests. The funds collected were forwarded to the Hispano-Filipino Association. In time, however, the funds of the organization were malversed, and the society passed out of existence.

When Rizal realized that these disorderly and ill-coordinated efforts yielded little, he planned the founding of the Liga Filipina while still at Hongkong. He too had prepared a constitution for this society, thinking that the time has come for concrete action.

On the night of July 3, 1892, at a house in Tondo, Rizal founded and inaugurated La Liga Filipina. Elected were Ambrosio Salvador, President; Agustin de la Rosa, Fiscal; Bonifacio Arevalo, Treasurer; and Deodato Arellano, Secretary.

This constituted a forward step in the reformist ideas of the times in the sense that the new group sought to involve the people directly in the reform movement. Many elements of society who were anxious for change were attracted to the Liga, among them, Andres Bonifacio who became one of the founders of the organization.

As listed in the constitution Rizal prepared, the Liga's aims were:
1. To unite the whole archipelago into one compact, vigorous, and homogenous body;
2. Mutual protection in every want and necessity;
3. Defense against all violence and injustice;
4. Encouragement of instruction, agriculture, and commerce; and
5. Study and application of reforms.

As Rizal envisioned it, the league was to be a sort of mutual aid and self-help society dispensing scholarship funds and legal aid, loaning capital and setting up cooperatives. These were innocent, even naive objectives that could hardly alleviate the social ills of those times, but the Spanish authorities were so alarmed that they arrested Rizal on July 6, 1892, a scant four days after the Liga was organized.

The aims of the Liga were to be carried out through the creation of a governing body composed of the Supreme Council, the Provincial Council, and the Popular Council. The members were each to pay ten centavos as monthly dues. Each of the members was free to choose a symbolic name for himself. The funds of the society were to be used in the following manner:
1. The member or his son who, while not having the means shall show application and great capacity, shall be sustained;
2. The poor shall be supported in his right against any powerful person;
3. The member who shall have suffered any loss shall be aided;
4. Capital shall be loaned to the member who shall need it for an industry or agriculture;
5. The introduction of machines and industries, new or necessary in the country, shall be favored; and
6. Shops, stores, and establishment shall be opened where the members may be accommodated more economically than elsewhere.

Innocent as the society was, the Spanish authorities considered it dangerous and on the night of July 6, 1892, Rizal was secretly arrested. The following day, Governor-General Eulogio Despujol ordered Rizal's deportation to Dapitan.

With Rizal deported to Dapitan, the Liga languished for a while until, through the efforts of Domingo Franco and Andres Bonifacio, it was reorganized. Domingo Franco was elected President; Deodato Arellano, Secretary-Treasurer; Isidro Francisco, Fiscal; Juan Zulueta and Timoteo Paez, members of the Supreme Council. Later on, Mabini became the Liga's Secretary. Upon his suggestion, the organization decided to declare its support for La Solidaridad and the reforms it advocated, raise funds for the paper, and defray the expenses of deputies advocating reforms for the country before the Spanish Cortes.

Yet the association did not have a better fate this time for it had to be dissolved after a few months of life. However, it had promising beginnings. At first the Liga was quite active. Thanks to the efforts of Andres Bonifacio and others, people's councils were soon organized in Tondo and Trozo, and others in Santa Cruz, Ermita, Malate, Sampaloc, Pandacan, etc.

Subsequently a small monthly contribution was required from every member, the proceeds of which were applied to the expenses of La Solidaridad, which were the most urgently to be met. A few months later, however, the Supreme Council of the Liga dissolved the society.

Upon investigation the reformist leaders found out that most of the popular councils which Bonifacio had organized were no longer willing to send funds to the Madrid propagandists because they had become convinced that peaceful agitation for reforms was futile as the Spanish government paid no attention to the periodical. Furthermore it then transpired that those commissioned to organize the people's councils had not required previous assent to the society's program as a condition for membership in the society; and that, on the contrary, Andres Bonifacio, who had recruited more members for the society with his tireless activity, was firmly convinced of the uselessness of peaceful means.

The supreme council, which was more of an organizing committee because its members had not been elected by vote, saw clearly that, as soon as the rank and file elected their leaders according to the by-laws, the program, would be changed. Afraid that the more radical rank and file members might capture the organization and unwilling to involve themselves in an enterprise which would surely invite reprisals from the authorities as the disagreements among its members could lead to its discovery by the authorities, the leaders of the Liga opted for dissolution.

The Liga membership split into two groups: the conservatives formed the Cuerpo de Compromisarios (compromisers) which pledged to continue supporting the "La Solidaridad", while Andres Bonifacio, for his part, on July 7th, 1892 founded a new and secret society - with independence as its objective - under the name of "Katipunan ng manga Anak ng Bayan" (Association of the Sons of the People; in full: Kataas-taasan Kagalang-galang na Katipunan nang mga Anak ng Bayan - Highest and Most Respectable Society of the Sons of the People), already on the very day Rizal was deported to Dapitan.

      Eisele, P. Knights of Rizal.

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