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The most contentious issue in the Revolutionary Congress that crafted the 1899 Malolos Constitution pertained to the separation of church and state, which won by a mere one vote. Until now this episode in Philippine history has not received a satisfactory explanation, which this article seeks to offer. The debate in Malolos, as argued here, was profoundly divisive because the two sides were driven by differing visions of national community. A crucial point was the Filipinization of the Catholic Church, which the proponents of church-state unity championed and which their opponents sidestepped. Even as the debate raged, however, Aguinaldo's revolutionary government acted on the church-state issue out of political expediency. In the end, the issue that Filipino elites could not resolve was settled by US colonialism, which imposed church-state separation without Filipinization.

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