The Passing of Spanish Dominian

Source:
Forbes-Lindsay, C. H.: The Philippines under Spanish and American Rules. Philadelphia, 1906: pp. 161-200

The Alcaldes

The encomenderos were succeeded by alcaldes, whose rule was less inhuman only because greater restraint was placed upon them. They had not, like their predecessors, the right to the fruits of the natives' toil, but they enjoyed the "indulto de comercio" or privilege of trading. This indulgence was never intended to act as a restriction upon the operations of the natives, but the alcaldes made it the medium for exercising a virtual rnonopoly and forced the natives to conduct all their transactions with them.

The office of alcalde carried with it a salary of $300 a year and upwards. From this sum, however, taxes were deducted and the annual fee for the indulto, which usually amounted to nearly as much as the entire salary. Nevertheless the office of alcalde was much sought after and high prices were paid for the appointment. Mazorca stated, in 1840, that: ,"There are candidates up to the grade of Brigadier who relinquish a $3,000 salary to pursue their hopes and projects in Governorship." The alcaldes often found an additional source of profit in the collection of the Royal tribute. Silver being scarce in the interior the natives were frequently obliged to make payment in grain, or other produce. This the alcalde accepted at an arbitrary appraisement very much below the actual value and in accounting to the central authority made a personal profit of the difference.

These men, to whose hands the fanctions of government and the administration of justice were entrusted, were generally ignorant, often brutal, and never honest. In 1810 Tomas dc Comyn had the following to say of the alcaldes: ,"In order to be a Chief of a Province in these islands no training, or knowledge, or special services are necessary; all persons are fit and admissible.... lt is quite a common thing to see a barber, or a Governor's lackey, a sailor, or a deserter, suddenly transformed into an alcalde, Administrator, and Captain of the forces of a populous province, without any counsellor but his rude understanding, or any guide but his passions. "

In 1844 a Royal Degree prohibited future trading on the part of any Government officials but the administration of the civil rule of provinces remained in the hands of Alcaldes-Mayores, who exercised executive and judicial functions. The situations sometimes arising out of this anomalous condition might have furnished material for the libretto of a comic opera. The Alcalde-Mayor issued an order in his capacity of Governor. A protest was made to himself in the capacity of Judge. The Judge supported the Governor, and an appeal was taken to the central authority in Manila. The central authority referred the matter back to the Alcalde-Mayor for a report upon the actions of the Governor and the Judge. The only result of this circumlocutionary proceeding was to put the composite official in possession of a list of complainants upon whom he could visit his displeasure.

In 1886, a much-needed reform was effected by the appointment of Civil Governors and the restriction of Alcaldes to judicial duties. Each Governor was provided with an assistant, wbo was styled Secretary, and whose most important duty was to act as a check upon his superior.

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created: November 20, 1997
updated: November 23, 1997
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger