José Sisto

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José Sisto Rodrigo
5th Commissioner of Guam
In office
January 2, 1899 – February 1, 1899
Preceded byVenancio Roberto
Succeeded byEdward D. Taussig
3rd Commissioner of Guam
In office
1898 – December 31, 1898
Preceded byFrancisco Martínez Portusach
Succeeded byVenancio Roberto
Personal details
Nationality Spain

José Sisto, also called José Sisto Rodrigo and José Sixto, was twice Governor of Guam, first after overthrowing Francisco Martínez Portusach, and again after being legitimately placed in the position by the United States government. He served as Spanish administrator of the Public Treasury in Guam until the United States captured the island during the Spanish–American War. When Martínez was named Commissioner, Sisto quickly staged a coup d'état and claimed the position as the highest ranking Spanish official on the island. He began arming native guards and commandeering ammunition, but was briefly overthrown by Venancio Roberto and other pro-American elements on December 31, 1898, but was officially put into power by officers of the United States Navy only two days later after they decided he held a legitimate claim to the position. His second term was brief, and he officially relinquished control on February 1, 1899 after learning that the United States had obtained Guam in the Treaty of Paris. After giving up his post, he was found to have misappropriated public funds, arrested, and exiled to Manila.

Spanish government[edit]

During the last period of Spanish rule in Guam, Sisto served as the administer of the Hacienda Publica, of Public Treasury, for the Spanish government on the island.[1] After the Capture of Guam, Sisto was one of the few Spanish officials left on the island.



After the Capture of Guam by the United States during the Spanish–American War, the territorial Spanish government was deposed; eventually, Francisco Portusach Martínez, the only American citizen on the island, was named Commissioner. However, Sisto claimed the authority to rule under Spanish law and because he was the highest-ranking Spanish official left on the island. He overthrew Governor Martínez and took control of the government, while at the same time naming himself provisional governor of the Mariana Islands.[1]

Upon taking control, he instituted a six dollar tax per head, armed local militia, and commandeered fifteen tons of powder and ammunition.[2][3] Sisto declared American rule of the island void because the 1884 Berlin Conference stated that a country had to actively occupy a territory with a military force to claim ownership of a seized territory, though the United States did not take part in the conference. He formed a coalition consisting of most of the island's priests and other pro-Spanish parties.[4] Sisto, a Filipino Spaniard, soon ran into conflict with the native Chamorro population after releasing a leper from an Asan, Guam hospital.[1] An outbreak of whooping cough brought further tensions when 100 native children died from the disease.[4] By December 1898, Sisto had emptied the treasury, mainly by paying salaries far in advance, and violence erupted in the form of riots between Filipinos and Chamorros.[4] Eventually, local district leaders, including Father José Palomo and former governor Martínez removed Sisto from office and placed Venancio Roberto in the position on December 31, 1898.[1]

Official appointment[edit]

Roberto only held the office for two days, when Lieutenant Commander Vincendon Cottman of the USS Brutus arrived on the island. He heard arguments from both the pro-United States Roberto faction and Sisto, deciding that Sisto had a legitimate claim to the office and re-instated him.[5] His second term lasted less than a month, during which the island experienced relative peace free of communication from the outside world.[1] When news of the 1898 Treaty of Paris reached the island, Sisto acknowledged that ownership of Guam had officially been transferred to the United States, and relinquished his position on February 1, 1899.[1] After he gave up control, it was found that he had paid himself 18 months in advance, draining the treasury in the process.[1][5] He was arrested by new governor Joaquín Cruz Pérez for misappropriation of public funds,[6] was ordered to pay back the salary he had paid himself in advance, and left the island in May 1899 on the Spanish ship Elcano.[4] He was exiled to Manila.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Leon-Guerrero, Jillette (9 August 2010). "Guam Leaders from 1899-1904". Guampedia. Guam: University of Guam. Archived from the original on 20 October 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010.
  2. ^ "Natives Retake the Island of Guam". The Evening News. XXXV (7). San Jose, California. 31 December 1898. p. 1. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  3. ^ "Spaniards Rise in Guam" (PDF). The New York Times. New York City. The New York Times Company. 31 December 1898. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 October 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  4. ^ a b c d Rogers, Robert (1995). Destiny's Landfall: A History of Guam. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 114–116. ISBN 0-8248-1678-1. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  5. ^ a b Taitano, Audreya (5 August 2010). "Padre Jose Bernardo Palomo". Guampedia. Guam: University of Guam. Archived from the original on 21 October 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2010.
  6. ^ Cogan, Doloris (2008). We Fought the Navy and Won: Guam's Quest for Democracy. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii. p. 18. ISBN 0-8248-3216-7. Retrieved 22 October 2010.
  7. ^ Goetzfridt, Nicholas (17 November 2009). "William Safford". Guampedia. University of Guam. Archived from the original on 22 October 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2010.