A HISTORICAL document dated August 10, 1898, shows that Emiliano Riego de Dios was the “general governor” of Cavite. This means that after the appointment of Mariano Trias as secretary of finance in the Aguinaldo cabinet on July 15, he was, succeeded by Riego de Dios as politico-military governor of Cavite.
It would seem, however, that Riego de Dios did not stay long as politico-military governor because he was soon appointed head of a 500-man expedition to the Bicol region, staying there until mid-October of 1898. Assisting Riego de Dios on the command staff of the expedition were two Caviteño senior officers, Col. Aniano del Rosario of Imus, and Lt. Col. Pedro Aguinaldo of Kawit.
On November 23 Aguinaldo appointed Riego de Dios as vice-president of the diplomatic commission to Europe and the United State to work for the recognition of Philippine independence proclaimed in Kawit on June 12. Headed by Felipe Agoncillo, the commission failed to accomplish its mission.
Riego de Dios was later appointed head of the Filipino junta in Hongkong. He was assisted by Isidro de Santos. It was in his capacity as head of the junta that Riego de Dios sent a letter to U.S. President William McKinley, warning the latter that “the Americans may conquer the entire Philippines but they will never crush the Filipinos’ aspiration to be free and independent.”
Born on September 7, 1864 to a middle class couple, Sotero Riego de Dios and Jorja Loyola, Emiliano obtained his early education in his native town of Maragondon. Then he took his segunda ensenanza in the San Juan de Letran College in Manila, and later pursued his A. B. course in the Ateneo Municipal. However, he failed to obtain his bachelor’s degree because, disgusted with his professors’ method of teaching, he left Ateneo and returned to Maragondon to help his parents run the family farms.
Emiliano was gobernadorcillo and later capitan municipal of Maragondon when the Revolution broke out. He and his two brothers, Vicente and Mariano, were guest of Emilio Aguinaldo on the eve of the annual fiesta in Kawit, July 21, 1896, when they were inducted into the Katipunan. At that time there was yet no Magdalo-Magdiwang conflict, so Emiliano joined the Magdiwang Council in San Francisco de Malabon and eventually became its ministro de fomento.
In the Tejeros Convention of March 22, 1897, Emiliano was elected secretary of war of the new revolutionary government. The Riego de Dios brothers voted for General Emilio Aguinaldo as president of the revolutionary government instead of Andres Bonifacio or Mariano Trias of the Magdiwang Council. They believed that Aguinaldo, having won most of his battles against the Spaniards, was the right man to head the revolutionary government.
It was Emiliano who advised Aguinaldo to commute the death sentence meted out to the Bonifacio brothers (Andres and Propocio) by the Council of War. His younger brother, Mariano, who was a member of the Council, did not sign the verdict because he believed it was too harsh and that the Bonifacios should just be sentenced to banishment for the duration of the revolution.
Emiliano served as secretary general of the Associacion de los Veteranos de la Revolution headed by General Emilio Aguinaldo. He married Gregoria Riel of Maragondon by whom he had tree children: Gorgonio, Juan and Magpuri. He died on his farm in Maragondon of February 4, 1926, at the age of 62. Given full military honors he was buried, at the instance of General Aguinaldo and Senate President Manuel L. Quezon, in the “Libingan ng mga Bayani” at Cementerio del Norte, Manila.
[Sources: (1) Monograph written by Judge Juan R. Narvaez of Maragondon; (2) Prominent Caviteños. Copyright by E.A. de Ocampo; (3) Emilio Aguinaldo, Mga Gunita ng Himagsikan, 19964; and (4) Memoirs of General Artemio Ricarte (Manila, National Historical Commission, 1963).]