Heritage

This Letter Could Prove That Emilio Aguinaldo Was Behind General Antonio Luna's Death

The exceedingly rare document, which comes in three pieces, goes under the gavel at Leon Gallery.
IMAGE COURTESY OF LEON GALLERY; PUBLIC DOMAIN/ WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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A telegraph sent to Antonio Luna allegedly from Emilio Aguinaldo before his assassination on June 5, 1899, is up for auction at the Leon Gallery in Makati at a starting price of P500,000. According to a curator from the Leon Gallery, Aguinaldo had visited the telegraph office on June 4, 1899, and told the operator to send a series of messages to Luna.

PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC TO THE SECRETARY OF WAR, DAGUPAN. Paging for an important meeting, therefore you are ordered to come here immediately. This is in response to your previous telegram about urgent matters to discuss. It is really an emergency.”

These were the chilling words that set Antonio Luna toward the path of his gruesome assassination in June 1899. The telegram, allegedly cabled by Emilio Aguinaldo, is among four that were sent to Antonio Luna from El Presidente. Of the four, only two survived the Philippine-American War.

The exceedingly rare document, which comes in three pieces, goes under the gavel on December 1, 2018 at the Leon Gallery in Legaspi Village, Makati at a starting price of P500,000.

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The telegram was dated June 5, 1899. According to Lisa Guerrero Nakpil, curator of the Leon Gallery, Emilio Aguinaldo appeared at the telegraph office before dawn on June 4 and ordered the operator, one Teodoro Cada, to send a series of urgent messages to Luna. Cada described Aguinaldo as “remarkably disheveled, dressed ‘only in an undershirt and shorts’, probably reflecting his sleeplessness over a terrible decision.”

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Four telegrams arrived in telegraph offices in Tarlac where Luna was camped. At the time, Luna was the only Filipino General who was Western trained in military tactics and strategy, surprising the Americans with his superior skill in the battlefield.

As a general, Luna was a firebrand whose double-edged tongue suffered no one, not even President Aguinaldo. It was this penchant for harsh yet honest speech that earned Luna many enemies, especially influential businessmen close to Aguinaldo who he called duplicitous and unpatriotic. In fact, among these enemies were Felipe Buencamino, who Luna mentioned in his reply in the return telegram:

Felipe Buencamino not yet detained based on my accusation,” reads the clipped portion of the document bearing Luna’s handwriting.

Luna had legendarily snapped at a cabinet meeting, slapping Buencamino across the face as he accused him of treason, which was what Luna was referring to in his reply. Buencamino was the Secretary of Foreign Affairs at that time.

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According to Nakpil, the telegram implies that the Luna was being summoned not for a promotion in the cabinet but to bring down an influential enemy. 

Luna made haste for Cabanatuan the next day, bringing his two best officers, Colonel Francisco Roman and Captain Eduardo Rusca. During the journey, Luna, in his anxiety to reach Cabanatuan at the soonest time, discarded his cavalry escort and two carriages that broke down carrying his guards. He proceeded with only one carriage with Roman and Rusca. Upon reaching headquarters in Cabanatuan, they were set upon by soldiers, leading to the death of Luna and Roman, while leaving Rusca severely wounded.

Leon Gallery’s The Kingly Treasures Auction 2018 is on December 1, 2018 to be held at Leon Gallery, Ground Floor, Eurovilla 1, Rufino corner Legaspi Street, Legaspi Village, Makati. 

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