Don Benito Legarda y Tuason (1853-1915)
Don Benito Tuazon Legarda was born September 27, 1853 in Binondo, Manila and died August 15, 1915 in Evian-les-Bains, France; interment in Cementerio del Norte, Manila, Philippine Islands. His parents were Don Benito Legarda y Lerma and Cirila Tuazon. He attended the Jesuits College and Santo Tomas University of Manila. Don Benito married Dona Teresa de Paz and had three children, Benito III, Consuelo and Rita. When Dona Teresa died, he married Dona Francisca del Rosario of Cavite.
He became a member of President Emilio Aguinaldo’s cabinet at Malolos and Vice-President of the Malolos Congress. During the Malolos Congress, Don Benito Legarda walked on the left side of President Aguinaldo with Pedro A. Paterno (President of the Congress) on the right side. Don Benito also held the position of Director of the Treasury Department and was appointed as member of Felipe Agoncillo’s commission that failed to work for the recognition by other nations of the Filipino’s right during the Peace Treaty discussions.
Even if Don Benito walked on the left side of President Aguinaldo during the Malolos Congress, many will denounce Don Benito Legarda as doing damage to the nationalist cause. It is alleged that the appointment of Don Benito Legarda, as one of the first three Filipinos appointed to be members of the Philippine Commission of 1901, was a political reward by the Americans.
Anna Leah Fidelis T. Castaneda writes that the three Filipinos who were first appointed to the Philippine Commission …” were Spanish mestizos and members of the elite who had collaborated with Taft early on and formed the Partido Federal with his blessing.”
Daniel Williams wrote that men like Legarda “clearly recognized what Aguinaldo and his advisers could not or would not see, i. e., that without American support the Filipinos as a people had neither the experience nor the solidarity to organize and conduct a government which would insure internal order or be recognized or tolerated by foreign Powers.”
Helen H. Taft, recalls that Mr Taft presented her a pony “…through the kindness of Mr. Benito Legarda, the staunchest of Americanistas. Batangas was a most unquiet province, the last, in fact, to become pacified, and Mr. Legarda had to pay an insurrecto for bringing the horses through the insurgent lines and delivering them at Calamba, near Manila.”
” I am not displease that some Filipinos have consented to hold office under the Americans; on the contrary, I rejoice that they have done so, for this they will be enabled to form a true estimate of the character of the Americans. I also rejoice that our enemies having had to recourse to the Filipinos for discharge of the duties of the high positions in the public service in its various branches, have shown that they recognize the capacity of our people for self-government.”
We are not sure if Don Benito Legarda took solace in the words of President Emilio Aguinaldo but Don Benito indeed decided to serve under the Americans. Neither are we sure of how Aguinaldo felt when Legarda joined the Americans. Don Benito Legarda was elected as a Resident Commissioner to the Sixtieth and to the two succeeding Congresses (November 22, 1907- March 3,1912). However, he was not a candidate for the renomination to the Sixty-third Congress in 1912 considering what happened during the previous year when a stalemate occured between members of the Philippine Commission and the Philippine Assembly.
On November 4, 1910, the Philippine Commission nominated Manuel L. Quezon and Benito Legarda as resident commissioners but the Assembly rejected Legarda’s nomination by a vote of 53 to 12. Another round of voting was done on November 8, 1910 but still Legarda was rejected 51 to 5. In the next acclamation, the vote was 54 to 5. There were 5 more nominations and Legarda got 2, 2, 2, 1, and 0 votes. The members of the Philippine Commission and the Assembly exchanged numerous manifestations with the Philippine commission highlighting the qualities of Don Benito Legarda:
“In the Philippine revolutionary government Mr. Legarda held the position as director of the treasury, and at times acted as secretary of finance in General Aguinaldo’s cabinet. Mr. Legarda is one of those Filipinos who from the establishment of American sovereignty in these Islands has worked most for the welfare of the people. He labored for the cessation of hostilities and for the bringing about of peace and the establishment of a stable government. To these ends he acted on many occasions as an intermediary between the Government and the people. He went into the provinces to assist in the establishment of municipal governments, and during the military regime was instrumental in bringing about a better feeling between the military authorities and the people. As we have seen, he has interested himself in all classes, and although himself a wealthy man, has on not a few occasions defended the interests of the poor. He was a member of the Commission from its beginning and is therefore familiar with the work of the Government, the important problems on which Congress is to legislate, and the views of the Commission on these matters. Among the Filipinos he is one of the most distinguished, and is highly esteemed by all social classes. He is a personal friend of the President. Aside from all these qualities it should be borne in mind that Mr. Legarda also represents the Philippine commercial and industrial interests, and the Commission is of the opinion that these interests should be represented in the person of one of the Resident Commissioners, some one who has engaged in business successfully, and who has high standing and influence among those engaged in manufacture, transportation, banking, and commerce.”
Fortunately or unfortunately for Don Benito Legarda, the members of the Assembly, while not arguing against the character of Don Legarda, argued that the Philippine Commission did not represent the people of the Philippines and thus was not in the position to nominate Don Benito Legarda. On February 3, 1911, Legarda was again nominated by the Philippine Commission. The session ended in a deadlock with no representative chosen. On November 12, 1912, Manuel Earnshaw replaced Benito Legarda as resident commissioner.
Almost less than three years later, Don Benito Legarda passed away in France.