Apolinario M. Mabini (23 July 23 1864 – 13 May 1903), also known as the "Sublime Paralytic" and the "Brains of the Katipunan," was a Filipino theoretician who wrote the constitution for the First Philippine Republic of 1899-1901, and served as its first prime minister in 1899.
Mabini was born on 23 July 1864 in Tanauan, Batangas to Inocencio Mabini and Dionisia Maranan. Despite coming from a poor family, he was able to study at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran because of a partial scholarship. To earn money, he worked as a teacher of Latin in different schools in Manila, Bauan, and Lipa. He finished his Bachelor of Arts in 1887.
He studied law at the University of Santo Tomas while teaching and working as a copyist in the court of first instance. He also worked as an assistant to a law clerk, then as a clerk.
Mabini joined Masonry, adopting the name Katabay. He was among those who revived the Liga Filipina in support of the Reform Movement. When it was dissolved, he became secretary of the Cuerpo de Compromisarios that gave moral and financial support to Filipino propagandists in Spain.
In January 1896, he contracted polio, causing both of his legs to be paralyzed. The revolution broke out then in October 1896, the Spanish authorities arrested him because of his connection with the Reform Movement. Instead of being shot, he was put under house arrest at the San Juan de Dios Hospital because of his condition.
When Emilio Aguinaldo returned to the Philippines in 1898, he ordered 12 municipalities to provide the manpower to carry Mabini in a hammock to Cavite. After their first meeting, Mabini became Aguinaldo's adviser on state matters.
Mabini drafted decrees and the first ever constitution in Asia for the First Philippine Republic, including the framework of the revolutionary government that was implemented in Malolos in 1899. He also headed the revolutionary congress and the cabinet.
He was appointed prime minister and was also foreign minister of the newly independent dictatorial government of Aguinaldo. The government declared the First Philippine Republic. He then led the first cabinet of the republic.
He found himself in the center of the most critical period in Philippine history, grappling with problems until then unimagined. Most notable of these were his negotiations with the Americans. The US and the new Philippine Republic were embroiled in extremely contentious and eventually violent confrontations. During the negotiations for peace, Americans proffered Mabini autonomy for Aguinaldo's new government, but the talks failed because Mabini’s conditions included a ceasefire, which was rejected. Mabini negotiated once again, seeking for an armistice instead, but the talks failed yet again. Eventually, feeling that the Americans were not negotiating 'bona fide,' he forswore the Americans, rallied the people, and supported the war.
In January 1901, Governor-General Arthur MacArthur apprehended Mabini for an article he had written in the newspaper El Liberal titled “El Simil de Alejandro.” MacArthur explained, "Mabini, this is not a punishment. I simply have to segregate you for the time being, so that your usefulness as an adversary will be neutralized. You are too powerful a man here, unless you will submit to self-control and stop doing this." Along with Artemio Ricarte, Mariano Llanera, Pio del Pilar, and scores of other revolutionaries, Mabini was exiled to Guam. Due to failing health, Mabini submitted and returned home on 26 February 1903. As part of his agreement with the Americans, he made an oath of allegiance to the United States in front of the collector of customs upon his entry.
In describing his cabinet, Mabini stated "...it belongs to no party, nor does it desire to form one; it stands for nothing save the interest of the fatherland."
In early 1902, a US Senate committee held a number of hearings to investigate war crimes during the Philippine-American War. MacArthur was called to give his testimony:
"Mabini is a highly educated young man who, unfortunately, is paralyzed. He has a classical education, a very flexible, imaginative mind, and Mabini's views were more comprehensive than any of the Filipinos that I have met. His idea was a dream of a Malay confederacy. Not the Luzon or the Philippine Archipelago, but I mean of that blood. He is a dreamy man, but a very firm character and of very high accomplishments. As I said, unfortunately, he is paralyzed. He is a young man, and would undoubtedly be of great use in the future of those islands if it were not for his affliction."
- Mabini, Apolinario. The Philippine Revolution.
- National Historical Institute. 1990. Filipinos in History, Vol. II. Manila.
- Zaide, Gregorio. 1984. Philippine History and Government. National Bookstore Printing Press.