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The Rizal Retraction and other Cases1

The flow of history is as inexorable as the tidal flow of an angry ocean. But every so often in our
collective recollection, it is remembered that sometimes the skillful use of forgery can redirect
the flow of history itself.

In the Philippines today, forgery is usually resorted to redirect the flow of money from the
rightful beneficiary to the unworthy pockets of invisible people.

That money is usually the target of forgery is known and practiced all over the world, but
forgery in the hands of the wily, has power to effect a redirection of events and undoing of
history. It has the power to obscure or belie an occurrence or create an event that did not
actually transpire. It also has the power to enslave and destroy.

In October 1600, the Muslim Ottoman Army and a Christian army, led by Austrians, with
Hungarian, French, Maltese and German troops were battling it out for territory called Kanizsa.
The Ottoman army was outgunned and outmanned, but the Ottoman commander, Tiryaki
Hasan Pasha was a clever man. He knew that the Hungarians were not too happy to be allied
with the Austrians. So he sent fake letters, designed them to be captured by the Austrians. The
letters contained Hungarian alliance with Ottoman forces. The Austrian upon reading the fake
letters signed by a reliable source (obviously forged) decided to kill all Hungarian soldiers.

The Hungarians revolted and the Christian army disintegrated from within. Thus, did the
Ottomans won the battle, by issuing forged communication.

During World War II, the British, to protect the secrecy of the Allied plan to invade Sicily in
1943, launched operation Mincemeat. This was a deception campaign to mislead German
Intelligence about the real target of the start of the Allied Invasion of Europe.

A series of seemingly genuine secret documents, with forged signatures, were attached to a
British corpse dressed in military uniforms. It was left to float somewhere in a beach in Spain,
where plenty of German agents were sure to get hold of it.

The body with the fake documents was found eventually and its documents seen by
German agents. The documents identified Sardinia and Corsica as the targets of the Allied
invasion. The Germans believed it, and was caught with their pants down when allied forces hit
the beaches of the real target, which was Sicily.

This kind of deception was also used by the British against the Germans in North Africa. They
placed a map of British minefields, then attached them to a corpse. The minefields were non-
existent but the Germans saw the map and considered it true. Thus, they rerouted their tanks to
areas with soft sand where they bogged down.

In 1944, a Japanese sea plane crashed near Cebu. According to Japanese military officials
who were captured, and later released, they were accompanying Gen. Koga, Commander in
Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet. Gen. Koga died in the crash. A little later, Filipino

1
Peter Jaynul V. Uckung, National Historical Commission of the Philippines (Posted: 19 September 2012).
http://nhcp.gov.ph/the-rizal-retraction-and-other-cases/ (Accessed: 22 July 2019).
fisherman recovered some Japanese documents. They delivered the documents to US
Intelligence. The documents revealed that Leyte was lightly defended. As a result, the
Americans shifted their invasion target to Leyte instead of Cotabato Bay in Mindanao.

On October 17, 1944 the invasion of Leyte went underway. Leyte was lightly defended as the
Koga papers have indicated. But it was during the invasion of Leyte when the Japanese navy
launched their last offensive strike against the US fleet, with the objective of obliterating it once
and for all. They nearly succeeded. After this near-tragic event, the Koga papers were
considered by some military strategists as spurious and could have been manufactured by the
Japanese to mislead the American navy into thinking that Leyte was a defenseless island. That
Leyte was a trap. And the Americans nearly fell into it.

In recent memory, there was an incident in which the forging of documents served to
negate the existence of an independent Philippines.

In 1901, the Americans managed to capture a Filipino messenger, Cecilio Segismundo who
carried with him documents from Aguinaldo. The American then faked some documents
complete with forged signature, telling Aguinaldo that some Filipino officers were sending him
guerrillas with American prisoners. With the help of a Spanish traitor, Lazaro Segovia, the
Americans assembled a company of pro-American Filipino soldiers, the Macabebe scouts.
These were the soldiers who penetrated the camp of Aguinaldo, disguised as soldiers of the
Philippine Republic. They managed to capture Aguinaldo. With the president captured, his
generals began to surrender, and the Republic began to fall.

The document of the retraction of Jose Rizal, too, is being hotly debated as to its
authenticity.

It was supposed to have been signed by Jose Rizal moments before his death. There were
many witnesses, most of them Jesuits. The document only surfaced for public viewing on May 13,
1935. It was found by Fr. Manuel A. Garcia at the Catholic hierarchy’s archive in Manila. But the
original document was never shown to the public, only reproductions of it.

However, Fr. Pio Pi, a Spanish Jesuit, reported that as early as 1907, the retraction of Rizal
was copied verbatim and published in Spain, and reprinted in Manila. Fr. Garcia, who found the
original document, also copied it verbatim.

In both reproductions, there were conflicting versions of the text. Add to this the date of the
signing was very clear in the original Spanish document which Rizal supposedly signed. The date
was “December 29, 1890.”

Later, another supposedly original document surfaced, it bears the date “December 29,
189C”. The number “0” was evidently altered to make it look like a letter C. Then still later,
another supposedly original version came up. It has the date “December 29, 1896”. This time, the
“0” became a “6”.

So which is which?

Those who strongly believed the faking of the Rizal retraction document, reported that the
forger of Rizal’s signature was Roman Roque, the man who also forged the signature of Urbano
Lacuna, which was used to capture Aguinaldo. The mastermind, they say, in both Lacuna’s and
Rizal’s signature forging was Lazaro Segovia. They were approached by Spanish friars during the
final day of the Filipino-American war to forge Rizal’s signature.

This story was revealed by Antonio K. Abad, who heard the tale from Roman Roque himself,
them being neighbours.

To this day, the retraction issue is still raging like a wild fire in the forest of the night.

Others would like to believe that the purported retraction of Rizal was invented by the friars
to deflect the heroism of Rizal which was centered on the friar abuses.

Incidentally, Fr. Pio Pi, who copied verbatim Rizal’s retraction, also figured prominently during
the revolution. It was him, Andres Bonifacio reported, who had intimated to Aguinaldo the
cessation of agitation in exchange of pardon.

There are also not a few people who believe that the autobiography of Josephine Bracken,
written on February 22, 1897 is also forged and forged badly. The document supposedly written
by Josephine herself supported the fact that they were married under the Catholic rites. But
upon closer look, there is a glaring difference between the penmanship of the document, and
other letters written by Josephine to Rizal.

Surely, we must put the question of retraction to rest, though Rizal is a hero, whether he
retracted or not, we must investigate if he really did a turn-around. If he did not, and the
documents were forgeries, then somebody has to pay for trying to deceive a nation.