Assassination of General Bustamante


History can attest to the potent influence of the Catholic Church in Philippine society. The Catholic Church have proven its capacity of swaying the public to its volition. The 1986 EDSA People Power revolt has catapulted the church as a strong political force capable of brining about social change. In fact, Church leaders have been criticized by many because of their involvement in a jurisdiction not belonging to their sphere –Politics. 

Two hundred years ago, the Catholic Church incited a similar People Power revolt against Governor General Fernando Bustamante y Bustillo. Bustamante was murdered by a mob of friars. The event was illustrated in Felix Ressureccion Hidalgo’s “Assassination of Governor Bustamante” which is currently on display at the Hall of the Masters at the National Arts Gallery (formerly known as the National Museum).


Ambeth Ocampo reports the incident taken from Volume 44 of Philippine Islands by Emma Helen Blair and Alexander Robertson. According to Blair and Robertson: 

The Franciscans, Dominicans and Augustinians came out from their convents, each as a body, carrying in their hands crucifixes and shouting, ‘Long Live the Church! Long Live King Felipe V!’… they were joined by people of all classes and proceeded to the Church of San Agustin…  

The governor who was roused from his sleep and informed of the arrival of the mob sprang up and ordered the guards to keep back the crowd…  He dispatched an order to the fort to discharge artillery at the crowd; but he was so little obeyed that, although they applied a match to two cannons, these where aimed so low that the balls were buried in the middle of the esplanade of the fort.  

Without opposition, this multitude arrived at the doors of the palace… As for the soldiers of the guard, some retreated in fear, and others in terror laid down their arms. The mob climbed up by ladders and entered the first hall, the halberdiers not firing the swivel-guns that had been provided, although the governor had commanded them to do so…  

{the governor} attempted to discharge his gun at a citizen standing near and it missed fore; then the governor drew his saber and wounded the citizen; the latter, and with him all the rest at once attacked the governor. They broke him right arm, and a blow on his head from a saber caused him to fall like one dead. 

According to Ambeth Ocampo, the accounts of the 1717 friar-led revolt even condone the murder, as if Bustamante deserved what he got in the first place. Bustamante was an honest man who tried to collect money which people (including friars) owed the Crown. He pursued, arrested, and prosecuted corrupt officials, often violating the sanctuary offered by the churches who hid these officials. The archbishop complained and later excommunicated Bustamante who in turn, threw the prelate and other Church leaders in jail.  

Ocampo noted that this was Bustamante’s mistake. The friars were too powerful and that the arrest of the archbishop was the root cause of the conspiracy against him. 

No account can identify who gave Bustamante the dead blow since the acting governor general after Bustamante’s death did not press for thorough investigation of the assassination and all the accounts about the incident were written by friars.


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8 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well if I’m going to be ask regarding this matter, the past is not what we are doing in the present time but we have to be reminded that the events in the past has a great contribution of what we have now.

  2. its just that Governor Bustamante deserves it. It’s just that to the side of the Friars, it will be unreasonable for them to punish the Governor by Murder. Especially they integrates morality to the people. Back to thousand of years ago, friars are the ruler of the world. They doesn’t want to enforce government because they want to rule the world. Though church cannot stand alone and that’s for the government to exist. But with this kind of government, im sorry to say, i rather follow the so-called God of the Friars than to follow the Nation’s voice.

  3. If the account of the killing of Governor General Bustamante was written by Friars, then the story is not reliable. but it is clear that the crime was commited, and it is also clear that the Catholic Church can put the law on thier hand

  4. Hi, can I have permission to re-post this picture on Facebook? I’m running an informal series on art, for my friends only, and I’m planning to include this painting as it made a huge impression on me when I saw in in the National Museum. Would you believe that upon a Google search, yours is the only fairly legible image of this painting?

    • sure cynthia h.

  5. In response to the previous post: Ambeth Ocampo himself states in most of his lectures that history itself does not repeat: what never changes, it seems in light of recorded Philippine history, are its people. WE REPEAT HISTORY. As such, we can only wonder at hindsight what will be made of the two People Powers which enthroned two women and yet drove the country into more poverty.

  6. History repeat iself.
    Kelan ba naging tama ang people power na pinangunahan ng simbahan.

    • History does not repeat itself.

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