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(© 2019 Journal GlobaLinks)


CHICAGO (JGL) – President Duterte is not claiming full credit for the return of Balangiga Bells. But historians will take note that it is under his

administration that one of the longest-lasting major irritants between the United States and the Philippines has come abruptly to its end.

If he wants to keep his streak going, Mr. Duterte could possibly include in his ongoing debate with the Philippine Catholic Church a demand from the Catholic Church to reveal Jose Rizal's letter, if there is any, prior to his execution where the Philippine national hero was alleged to have recanted his “religious errors” that allowed him to be married to Josephine Braken hours before his death, a claim Rizal's next-of-kin believe to be non-existent.

Five years ago, Rizal's great-great-grandnephew Dr. Ramon G. Lopez had written Pope Benedict to order the Archbishop of Manila to disclose the original letter purportedly written by Rizal as pre-condition that would allow Rizal to be married under the Catholic Church shortly before he was executed, a practice by the Catholic Church with other condemned prisoners at that time.

But the Manila Archbishops have continued to keep the document if there is any, close to their chests during the last 122 years!




PRESIDENT RODRIGO Duterte was conferred with the Knight Grand Cross of Rizal during the 21st International Assembly and Conference of Knights of Rizal in Davao City. (MALACAÑANG PHOTO)




In my video interview with Dr. Lopez, an obstetrician, gynecologist and inventor, in 2014, he said that he wrote a letter to Pope Benedict at the Vatican but he never got a response.

But when Pope Francis took over, Dr. Lopez followed up his letter in 2013. The letter took an added urgency and significance as Pope Francis had just announced that he was traveling to the Philippines and would celebrate mass before millions at Luneta where Rizal was executed.

But after the papal visit to the Philippines, Dr. Lopez never heard from the Vatican. Dr. Lopez also furnished the Manila Archbishop, Luis Chito Cardinal Tagle, the copy of a letter he sent to the Pope.

So, when Cardinal Tagle came to Chicago, Illinois shortly after the papal visit, I was introduced by his Filipino lay hosts to the good Cardinal as a Filipino American journalist.

When Cardinal Tagle learned that I am a journalist, his warm smile turned cold, saying he was not interested talk. I was surprised by the Cardinal's unfriendly demeanor because the last Manila Archbishop I interviewed in Chicago, the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, one of the heroes of the People Power Revolution, was very warm to me.

In fact, Cardinal Sin even brought me up to speed with a piece of news, telling me, “Do you know that (former Manila Times-turned-Daily Express columnist Teodoro) Doroy (Valencia) had died?”




Cardinal Sin even invited me to a seminary, where he was going to have another public event if I wanted additional information from him. But I begged off since it would be in the suburb of Chicago and he had provided me enough information for my news article about his arrival in Chicago.

I wanted to get Cardinal Tagle's impressions of the papal visit to the Philippines but I never got a chance to ask him as he shook hands with Filipino Americans waiting to greet him.

Because Cardinal Tagle did not want to talk to me after he celebrated a mass at the Holy Name Cathedral, I handed him a letter, asking him if he received the letter sent to him by Dr. Lopez. I saw him put my letter in his pocket but I never got a response.

When I visited the Philippines the following year, I handed my follow-up letter to his aides in Intramuros, Manila but I never got a response either.




MANILA ARCHBISHOP LUIS Chito Cardinal Tagle (left) is with Pope Francis in this photo.

Dr. Lopez said in his letter to the Pope, he quoted Philippine Sen. Camilo Oasis as saying, “Either Rizal did or did not retract. The burden of proof is upon those who insist that he did. And they must come forward with a documentary or other evidence that is irrefutable and convincing. Until that evidence that is incontrovertible and overwhelming is produced, free men and thinking men cannot accept Rizal’s retraction as fact. … Now, if he retracted and yet he was executed on that fateful December 30th, the crime of his murderers becomes doubly heinous.”




A Manila-native and now resident of Chicago’s outlying suburb of Joliet, Illinois, Dr. Lopez told the Pope by quoting Austin Coates’ book, “Rizal – Philippine Nationalist and Martyr,” as saying that “Fr. Vicente Balaguer, S.J., claimed that he performed the canonical marriage between Rizal and Josephine Bracken from 6:00 a.m. to 6:15 a.m. of December 30, 1896, nearly on hour before Rizal was executed by firing squad. The marriage was purportedly witnessed by one of Rizal’s sisters. But the Rizal sisters denied their presence at such wedding as Rizal was martyred at 7:03.

Lopez said nobody reported seeing Bracken in the vicinity of Fort Santiago in the morning of execution.

There were three priests – Fr. Jose Vilaclara, Fr. Estanislao March and Fr. Vicente Balaguer – who escorted Rizal from Fort Santiago to his “last mile” to Luneta to give spiritual care to the condemned Dr. Jose Rizal. Why is it that only Father Balaguer could “describe” a wedding while Fathers Vilaclara and March could not corroborate the occurrence of such marriage ceremony?

It was claimed that marriage was consecrated by Fr. Balaguer because Rizal had recanted his “religious errors.”

If Bracken were married to Rizal, her subsequent marriage to Vicente Abad at the Roman Catholic Cathedral in Hong Kong would have shown records that she was a “Rizal” by marriage, or that she was the widow of Dr. Jose Rizal.

Lopez said nobody reported seeing Bracken in the vicinity of Fort Santiago in the morning of execution.




In 1960, there was an inquiry over the Cardinal-Bishopric of Manila for evidentiary proof of a Rizal-Bracken marriage but nothing came out of the inquiry. And he asked, “Why?”

From Dapitan to Fort Santiago, the Catholic Church had demanded from Dr. Rizal a retraction before allowing the canonical marriage with Bracken. Coates said, “The Spaniards publish the same thing about everyone who is shot. Besides, nobody has ever seen this written declaration in spite of the fact that a number of people would want to see it .. It is (always) in the hands of the Archbishop.”

Lopez said, “if there was no marriage, there could have not been a retraction, and Dr. Jose Rizal met his martyrdom “unconfessed.”

Lopez said at the Paco cemetery, the name of Dr. Jose Rizal was listed among those who died impenitent. The entry made in the book of burials at the cemetery where Rizal was buried was not made on the page for those buried on Dec. 30, 1896 (where there were as many as six entries), but on a special page, as ordered by the authorities. Thus, Dr. Jose Rizal was entered on a page between a man, who burned to death, and another, who died by suicide – persons considered “unconfessed” and without spiritual aid at the time of death.

Fathers March and Vilaclara, who accompanied Dr. Rizal to the execution site, could have ordered a Christian burial, but did not. They must have known that no retraction was made. Dr. Jose Rizal was laid to earth bare, without a sack, without a coffin. This was the onus of the “unconfessed.”

If President Duterte can find a voice to raise this issue with the Catholic Church and the Catholic Church would come clean, he is in line to solve a back-to-back century-old riddle. And he will also be doing so as a matter of duty as he was conferred with the Knight Grand Cross of Rizal during the 21st International Assembly and Conference of Knights of Rizal in Davao City in 2017.

Happy New Year to all! (Contact columnist: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)


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