Long before the official creation of the defense department in 1939 by President Manuel Luis Quezon, the country has had a semblance of a defense organization dating back to the pre-Spanish period when our barangays had an organization of able-bodied men of the village charged with the protection of the community from hostile forces. This organization was the forerunner of what we now call our armed forces.
In the early days of the Katipunan, Andres Bonifacio, as Supremo of the revolutionary society, had picked Teodoro Plata, his brother-in-law, as his Secretary of War. When Emilio Aguinaldo was elected President in the Tejeros convention on March 22, 1897, and succeeded Bonifacio as leader of the Katipunan, Emilio Riego de Dios was also elected as Director of War.
The war against Spain demonstrated for the first time the Filipino people’s capability to organize an army to fight foreign colonial masters. Aguinaldo’s two high-ranking military officers during the Spanish-Filipino war were Artemio Ricarte as Captain-General and Mariano Llanera as Lieutenant-General. Other officers of general rank included Vito Belarmino, Mariano Noriel, Pio del Pilar, Pascual Alvarez, Manuel Tinio, Tomas Mascardo, Jose Salvador and Pantaleon Garcia.
The capture of Aguinaldo on March 23, 1901 at Palanan, Isabela, tolled the death of a struggle by the Filipinos for independence against the powerful United States of America.