Emilio Aguinaldo has been described as "the George Washington of the Philippines." But this characterization is fraught with difficulty. George Washington was an extraordinary military and political leader who was viewed as beyond reproach. Washington always acted in the interests of his country, but Aguinaldo's actions and motives are open to varying interpretations. From the American perspective, Aguinaldo is best known for his actions as a rebel leader against the US occupation after the Spanish-American War (1898). His reputation among Americans was damaged by his cooperation with Japanese occupiers during World War II (1939–1945).
Aguinaldo is renowned for his leadership of a group of rebels, the Katipunan, in the late 1890s. His devotion to his cause seemed to fluctuate, however. In 1897, he made a pact with the Spanish in which he agreed to leave the Philippines in exchange for financial compensation. Would George Washington have accepted a similar offer from the British during the American Revolution?
Aguinaldo's exile was a temporary, though. The US invaded the Philippines in 1898 as part of the Spanish-American War. Aguinaldo returned to his country to lead Filipino troops against the Spanish once again. After Spain's defeat, he was named the first president of the Philippines (1899–1901). Then he led a guerilla war against the Americans until he was captured. Next, he swore an oath to the US, accepted a pension, and retired.
His life was mostly private until WWII. He then emerged to collaborate with the Japanese. He was pardoned after the war.