The Bicol Uprising and Concentration System
During the American Occupation
Resulting to 300,000 Casualties
By Apolinario Villalobos
In 1903, Simeon Ola with about 1,500 supporters continued the uprising in Albay against the Americans after the fall of Aguinaldo. In answer to such insurrection, the Americans resorted to the concentration of the villagers resulting to the casualty of about 300,000 due to the inadequate supply of food and unhealthy accommodation. Hunger and diseases caused the deaths.
Governor Taft vehemently insisted that the move was necessary to “save” the villagers from the supposedly terroristic activities of Ola, an accusation which was denied by those affected of concentration. What followed was the ceaseless negotiation for his surrender. Aside from Vice-Governor Luke Wright, Pardo de Tavera was also involved in the negotiation for the surrender of Ola for which conferences were held and promises were made by the American government.
As a last resort, On September 22, 1903, Col. Bandholtz purportedly signed an agreement with Ola “promising him immunity” and other conveniences. When the band of Ola surrendered, the Americans denied having signed an agreement with him. Instead, the colonizers spread the story that Ola surrendered finally, as he found it futile to continue going against the superior forces of the Americans who were really resolute in apprehending him at all cost. This denial tactic was used also against Aguinaldo when he conferred with Dewey just before the outbreak of the Spanish-American war.
To further pin Ola down, the American authorities also spread stories that Ola turned witness against his band, for which, he was given an “executive clemency”. The hearing was presided over by Judge James Blount and Judge Adam C. Carson, assisted by Prosecutor James Rosa. The proceeding resulted to the release of some of Ola’s followers, others were sentenced for vagrancy, while the rest were charged for sedition. Some got the heaviest penalty which was death, under the Brigandage Act. Ola was slapped with imprisonment for 30 years…ironically, despite his cooperation. Ola was clearly another victim of the American treachery.