G.R. No. 1434. February 23, 1904

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3 Phil. 349

[ G.R. No. 1434. February 23, 1904 ]




The defendant is charged with the crime of treason, committed as follows:

That on November 21, 1902, in Manila, he did feloniously, treasonably, etc.,
levy war against, adhere to and give aid and comfort to the enemies of, the
United States and of the Philippine Islands, in that on or about August 30,
1902, he accepted a commission in the regular army of the “Filipino republic”
and served as a captain and carried arms in such army and continued in such
office and continued to carry arms as aforesaid between the said dates of August
30, 1902, and November 21, 1902, the said “Filipino republic” being an attempted
government organized by various persons against the authority of the United
States Government and that of the Philippine Islands and having for its object
the overthrow by armed insurrection of the regularly constituted government in
said Islands.

The defendant was convicted in the Court of First Instance of Manila and
sentenced to imprisonment for a term of twenty years and to pay a fine of

The evidence upon which the court below based this conviction is
substantially as follows:

A Constabulary detective testified that he met the defendant in Bacord, city
of Manila, November 21, 1902; that a companion of the witness told him that the
defendant was a captain in the Katipunan Society; that thereupon they detained
the defendant and took him aside into a clump of trees where they talked to him
and got him to admit that he was an officer of the Katipunan. The officers took
the defendant to his house, where they searched his trunk and found in it and
took away a revolver and a captain’s commission, under seals. The following is a
copy.of this commission:


“By reason of the qualifications of Antonio de los Reyes and the good service
rendered by him to the fatherland, the supreme president has seen fit to appoint
him captain in the regular army of these Islands.

“It is therefore ordered that all persons render him the corresponding honors
and obey all orders which he may issue for the good of the service.

“K. K., the 30th of August, 1902.    
    “S. K., Minister of War.
  “A. G. DEL ROSARIO,,  
    S. K., Supreme President,


  “Appointed Captain in the Regular Army  
  of these Philippine Islands.”  

This Constabulary detective further testified that one Cenon Nigdao was a
lieutenant-colonel in command of the whole Katipunan forces, but at that time
had been captured and was a prisoner at Pasig.

The witness was asked what this Katipunan Society is, and in reply stated
that it is an organization for forming an independent government for the
Philippines, not letting their headquarters or whereabouts be known to the
American Government, and to gain forces and arms by any means they can;
sometimes they use force in securing members.

When asked if he knew any of the armed forces of the society, he said that
they made an attack on May 30 upon a Government force of the United States Army.
He said he had not seen the defendant with the insurgent forces.

Another witness for the prosecution testified that he had been informed of
this so-called government known as the Tagalog republic, or Katipunan, through
captured documents; that they had armed forces approximating 300 men, and that
he knew their seals and recognized the seals on Exhibit A, the commission of the
defendant, as those of the organization.

The next witness called by the prosecution was Cenon Nigdao, who stated that
he was a tailor, 28 years of age, and secretary of war of the Katipunan. He
identified the signatures on Exhibit A. He stated that the Katipunan is the
national party. Its purpose is to defend the rights of the country and to ask of
the American Government the freedom of this country.

He further stated that when he gave this commission to the defendant he told
him to keep it, and when the time came for them to ask for liberty the people
could not do him any harm.

The witness named the secretary of the National party, the minister of the
interior, the minister of state, minister of war, and minister of justice of the

On cross-examination this ” secretary of war,” who had held office only for
one week, testified that he commanded no forces; did not know that defendant
made any use of his commission; that they did not take up arms because they were
here in Manila; and that he was living in the same house with the defendant and
gave him the commission there.

Another witness sworn for the prosecution stated that he was not a member of
the Katipunan, but was a member of the National party ever since he left Bilibid
Prison; that the ” secretary of war ” appointed him a lieutenant-colonel and he
held the commission three months but had no soldiers to command; and that there
was no army when Cenon Nigdao was living at Bacord.

He said he was sent out to Baliuag by one Santiago and stayed there about
three months, and when he found out that there was nothing doing he surrendered
himself and one revolver to the president.

If we reject, as we must, the confession of the defendant made to the
Constabulary officer, because it was not made in open court as required by law
(sec. 9, act of Congress passed March 8, 1902), we have but very little in the
case upon which to base a charge of treason. Even what there is 
contradictory. The charge is that the defendant took arms against the Government
in the regular army of the “Philippine republic,” whereas one witness for the
prosecution swears that the Katipunan is the treasonable organization, another
says that body is known as the ” Tagalog republic,” and another, the so-called
secretary of war, who commanded no troops, but to whom the Government presumably
gave credit because he testified for the prosecution, stated that the Katipunan
was the ” National party ” and the object of that party was to obtain from the
United States, by peaceable means, the independence of the Philippine

The confession of the accused being disposed of, the only other question to
be considered is whether the testimony of one witness that he issued to the
defendant the captain’s commission above-mentioned, and the testimony of another
witness that he found this commission in the defendant’s trunk, is sufficient to
satisfy the requirements of the statute that “no person in the Philippine
Islands shall under the authority of the United States be convicted of treason *
* * unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act * * *.”

There is no proof whatever that the accused did any other act in connection
with this charge than to receive this commission. On the contrary the ” secretary of war ” testified that they did not take up arms because they
remained here in Manila.

I am of the opinion that the mere acceptance of the commission by the
defendant, nothing else being done, was not an overt act of treason within the
meaning of the law. Blackstone says that ” as treason is the highest civil crime
which (considered as a member of the community) any man can possibly commit, it
ought, therefore, to be the most freely ascertained.”

The state of affairs disclosed by the evidence—the playing of the game of
government, like children, the secretaries and colonels and captains, the
pictures of flags and seals and commissions all on paper, for the purpose of
duping and misleading the ignorant and the vicious—should not be dignified by
the name of treason.

Those engaged in this plotting and scheming in the pretense of establishing
an independent government in these Islands, with nothing behind them, without
arms or soldiers or money, and without the possibility of success, are simply
engaged in deluding themselves and perhaps innocent followers and in filling the
cells of Bilibid Prison.

Even though not guilty of treason, they may be tried for other lesser

The case of the United States vs. Magtibay,[1] recently decided by this court, involved much
the same question as this, and is followed.

The judgment below is therefore reversed and the defendant acquitted, but
without prejudice to the prosecuting authorities to proceed against the
defendant for such other crime or crimes as the evidence discloses. The costs
are adjudged de oficio.

Arellano, C. J., Torres, Willard, and Mapa, JJ.,
Johnson, J., disqualified.

[1] 2 Phil. Rep., 703.


Date created: April 22, 2014


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