On Constantino: A letter to the editor

Of the many interesting reactions to the two-part column on Renato Constantino’s Americanized view of Rizal, Sonny Melencio’s was the most detailed, the most thought-out. A shorter version of his original letter (whittled down to under 3,000 characters, the limit for letters) was printed on July 6, 2010 in the Letters to the Editor page.

Constantino’s view of Rizal still valid

John Nery’s critique of Renato Constantino’s “Veneration Without Understanding” (Newsstand, Inquirer, 6/15/10 and 6/22/10) may be summarized by the following point: that Jose Rizal was depicted by Constantino as unworthy of being a nationalist hero, a reformist who repudiated the Philippine revolution and whose rise to preeminence was mainly due to American sponsorship.

There is nowhere in Constantino’s writing, however, where Rizal is depicted as “counter-revolutionary” nor an “insufficiently nationalistic” figure.

Constantino, according to Nery, omitted a few passages in Rizal’s letter to Ferdinand Blumentritt in order to bolster his view that Rizal was a “reformist.” But a rereading of Nery’s reconstructed passages does not negate the sense of the letter, which was a repudiation not only of the revolution but the sine qua non of the revolution—the call for Philippine independence against Spain.

The letter was written in 1887. Now flash forward to Rizal’s manifesto of Dec. 15, 1896, 15 days before his execution in Luneta:

“From the very beginning, when I first had notice of what was being planned, I opposed it, I fought it, and demonstrated its absolute impossibility… I did even more. When later, against my advice, the movement materialized, of my own accord, I offered not alone my good offices, but my very life, and even my name, to be used in whatever way might seem best, toward stifling the rebellion, for convinced of the ills which it could bring…”

If Rizal was open to another revolutionary break, he did not live to see it happen. He did, however, repudiate the revolution, and whether one may call it “Bonifacio’s Revolution,” it was the only revolution in our history. Constantino indeed acknowledged that Rizal’s refusal to align himself with the Revolution and his vehement condemnation of the revolutionary movement and its leaders “have placed Filipinos in a dilemma. Either the Revolution was wrong, yet we cannot disown it, or Rizal was wrong, yet we cannot disown him either.”

In his column, Nery made it look like there was a third reinterpretation of Rizal’s position against the Revolution: “In using the reformer-versus-revolutionary box to classify Rizal, Constantino failed to reckon with another and truer alternative: radical.” What does it mean? Is the radical alternative the postponement of the Revolution and the call for independence? If this was the case, there are a number of questions that should be addressed:

One, when was the opportune time to launch the revolution? In 1896, the Revolution was already in full blast. Constantino was correct in saying that for Rizal (or anyone) to condemn the Revolution at that stage was “treasonous” to the struggle of the Filipino people.

Two, was Rizal correct in saying that the Revolution was doomed from the start? The Revolution went on. It did win against Spain, but it was crushed during the entry of another colonialist power, the United States, in 1899-1902 (Philippine-American War).

—SONNY MELENCIO,
chair, Partido Lakas ng Masa,
25 Calderon St.,
Project 4, Quezon City

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Filed under Readings in Politics, Readings in Rizal

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