Aguinaldo’s Visionary Government That Never Was

By | 09/15/2015

With the decades (centuries if one counts back to the Spanish era) of bloody conflict in Mindanao, we can only imagine what might have been had the alliance between the First Philippine Republic and the Sultanate of Sulu pushed through.

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Back then, Emilio Aguinaldo—controversial as he was—had an even more controversial dream well ahead of his time: the creation of a federation that would include the Christianized Filipinos of the north and the Moros of the south. In this manner, he appreciated and recognized the struggle of the Moros to retain their independence against the Spanish and even referred to them as “his brothers.”

President Emilio Aguinaldo

President Emilio Aguinaldo. Photo Credit: Presidential Museum and Library.

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Armed with his dream, Aguinaldo asked the Malolos Congress to grant him the authority to negotiate with Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram II whose sultanate was the most stable one at the time and then sent a letter to the latter bearing his name and signature as the President of the newly-minted Republic.

Extending his “highest assurance of friendship, consideration and esteem,” Aguinaldo told the sultan how “the Filipinos, after having thrown off the yoke of foreign domination, cannot forget their brothers of Jolo to whom they are bound by the ties of race, interests, security and defense in this region of the Far East” and invited him to join the government with the promise that this consolidated nation would “respect absolutely the beliefs and traditions of each island in order to establish on solid bases the bonds of fraternal unity demanded by our mutual interests.”

Sultan Jamalul Kiram II

Sultan Jamal ul-Kiram II of Sulu (front, 3rd from left) and Cabinet, circa 1920s.

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Unfortunately, Aguinaldo dealt a double blow as the sultan ignored his letter and the Malolos Congress turned down his request, with centuries of distrust inflamed by cultural and religious stereotyping apparently playing a role in the rejection.

Additionally, Kiram was also compelled to negotiate with the Americans to retain his people’s sovereignty, not knowing that all the latter really wanted was to buy some time until the subsequent Philippine-American War could be concluded in Luzon and the Visayas.

The Bates Treaty 1899

The Bates Treaty of 1899: Seated from left is Hadji Butu, the Sultan’s principal advisor, the Rajah Muda, the Sultan’s brother and heir apparent, General Bates, and an Arab advisor to the Sultan. Standing second row from left are three guards, Charlie Schuck, Capt. Samuel S. Smiley, Bate’s Adjutant, Dr. Frank S. Bourns, and 1st Lt. Horace M. Reeve. Photo Credit: US Army Military History Institute – Dinwiddie Collection

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During the conflict, the sultan yet again ignored another request, this time from Aguinaldo’s brother Baldomero who, as the one in charge of defending the southern regions, appealed for a military alliance against the Americans. In the end, the controversial Bates Treaty which the sultan entered into with the US provided the perfect delaying tactic until the Americans could turn their attention to the south, an act that would eventually culminate with the bloody Moro Rebellion.


About the Author: When he isn’t deploring the sad state of Philippine politics, Marc V. likes to skulk around the Internet for new bits of information which he can weave into a somewhat-average list you might still enjoy. For comments on this article, contact him at: [email protected]


Want more amazing Pinoy trivia?



Fulton, R. (2007). Moroland, 1899-1906: America’s First Attempt to Transform an Islamic Society.

Gedacht, J. (2008). The Moro Province of the Philippines: National Imagination and the Periphery in Comparative Perspective. Our Own Voice. Retrieved 14 September 2015, from

Rimban, L. (2015). Textbook history abets anti-Muslim bias. VERA Files. Retrieved 14 September 2015, from