PHELAN MEETING WITH ESTADO FEDERAL DE BISAYAS, JANUARY 11, 1899
Report of an Interview Between Lieutenant Henry Du R. Phelan, Acting Assistant Surgeon 6th Artillery, with the Government of the Federal State of Bisayas.
Iloilo, January 11, 1899.
At the meeting were present: President Roque Lopez and Generals Martin Delgado, Ananio Diocno, Pablo Araneta, chief of expeditionary forces from manila, and various other military chiefs; Lawyer Raymundo Melliza, Francisco Soriano, and others.
General Miller's letter was presented and handed over to the interpreter, and also the letter of Major General Otis which was given by General Miller to Lieutenant Woodward to be read before the meeting. Both these letters were then read and
the discussion opened. Lawyer Raymundo Melliza did most of the talking on behalf of the government, and he said in effect, replying to General Miller's letter, that all that the Americans owned was Manila. I said: "without us you would not have accomplished any results. When the war commenced there was actually no rebellion in these islands, and you took advantage of our war and again rose in revolt. At the beginning of it your chiefs were not here, having fled the country." The president and the lawyer denied this, saying that their chiefs had gone abroad to purchase arms, and that although they were not in actual warfare, their government was still in existence, and in fact they had been in constant rebellion since 1896; since spain had never lived up to her agreement with Aguinaldo at the time of his withdrawal from the country.
Referring to the sacrifices of lives and money which the United States had made in conquering this country, the lawyer said that they also had made great sacrifices in lives, and that they had a right to this country which they had fought for, and that we are here now to take from them what they had won by fighting; that they had been our allies, and we had used them as such; and that now- we are not showing them any gratitude for the help they gave us. I replied that we both worked together and had driven the Spanish out, and that they are now getting their liberty as a result.
They felt hurt about the words "the sovereignty of Spain and of the United States," which appeared in our communications, and said it was simply changing from one to another, and,
while they knew the Spaniards, they did not know us. I told them that we are different from any European nation, and of an entirely different character from the Spaniards; that the people of Manila like us; that we spent a great deal of money in their city, and that business was thriving there as it had not been before.
Mr. Melliza said it would take two years for them to know us, and
meanwhile we would establish a military government here taking charge of all their offices. I replied that military occupation was a necessity for a time, and that it was customary to establish one in new possessions and that as soon as order was assured, it would be withdrawn. All that we wish now is to control the Custom House, the Post Office, the Captaincy of the Port, and to establish good order in the city. They smiled at this and remarked: "we have fought for independenee and feel that we have the power of governing and need no assistance; we are showing it now. you might inquire of the foreigner's if it were not so."
They inquired the meaning of the word "territory" as differing from state. I explained to them what a territorial and a state government was, and assured them that their liberty would be practically as great under such territorial or state government as if they were independent, and, moreover, that they would be free from any foreign interference.
Mr. Melliza replied, smilingly; "since you say you are so friendly and wish to grant us so much liberty, why not have us a protectorate?" I told him that, I had no power to discuss that, that our order was to occupy all the islands.
They stated that their orders were not to allow us to disembark, and that they were powerless to allow us to come in without express orders from their government.
I asked them why they had not communicated with aguinaldo, adding that we had waited patiently for ten days for a reply. They said it was partly our fault, because they wanted us to give them a vessel to take their commission back to manila. I told them that we had no vessels to spare.
Mr. Francisco Soriano, one of the commissioners on the transport Newport with us, took the floor and said: "on Wednesday evening before Christmas General Otis promised the commission sent by him on the Newport that they should ask the North Americans for a steamer in case they would be unable to solve some urgent questions regarding the Government of the Bisayas, in order that they might consult the Central Goverment." This promise was made known to them, according to Francisco Soriano, by Mr. John Macleod on the morning of December 25, 1898.
I asked what proof he had to offer as I knew nothing of this promise. He replied that he had no written proof, us the promises were made verbally.
I told him that the city was in our power, and that we could destroy it at any time, but we did not wish to commit a hostile act but wanted to land as friends. Lawyer Melliza replied that he cared nothing about the city, that we could destroy it if we wished, that it was not theirs as the foreigners owned about all the property. "we will withdraw to the mountains and repeat the north american indian warfare you must not forget that."
In regard to the claim that we made of the Philippine Islands by right of conquest and treaty stipulations, Lawyer Melliza said: "International Law forbids a nation to make a contract in regard to taking the liberty from its colonies. Iloilo was never surrendered to you, you have no right to it. It was ceded to us by General Rios, who, upon retiring, granted us our liberty and thus recognized our independence." I replied, that whatever agreement General Rios might have made with them at the time of bis withdrawal from Iloilo was illegal, as it was posterior to the Treaty of Paris. Lawyer Melliza replied, that they knew nothing of the Treaty of Paris, as they had not received any information concerning it, that they were bound by the central government of luzon only. I told them that their government was not recognized by any nation, that all the world was aware of the cession of the philippines to the united states by the treaty of paris. He replied that it mattered not as they now had agents in europe seeking recognition for their government.
Upon inquiring when they had last heard of Aguinaldo, Lawyer Melliza replied that they had heard from him about January 5, 1899, via Capiz, that the message had been brought by General Ananio Diocno and General Pablo Araneta to the effect that Aguinaldo wanted the Visayas Government not to allow the landing of American forces until an agreement had been made with him.
They then requested once more that commissioners be sent to Malolos to obtain the orders of Aguinaldo, and desired them to be sent at once.
I asked Lawyer Melliza if Aguinaldo said we could occupy the city, would they agree to it. He replied emphatically they would.
At the conclusion of the meeting, it was said that, as this question involved the integrity of the entire republic, it could not be further discussed here, but must be referred to the Malolos Government.