The Passing of Spanish Dominian

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

The Provincial Governors

The Provincial Governor was the representative of the Governor-General; whose edicts he was expected to publish and enforce. He was charged with the maintenance of order and the control and direction of the Civil Guard and local constabulary. He was responsible for the proper performance of the duties of the petty municipal authorities, and he could remove them at discretion. As chief of the police force, it was his duty to cause the arrest of suspicious persons and law-breakers, but he was bound to bring the suspect, or offender, before the judicial authority within three days of his seizure. The Governor had the powers of a police magistrate. He could dispose of minor cases and might impose a fine not to exceed $60, and in default of payment he migbt order the offender to undergo imprisonment not to exceed thirty days.

The Governor was responsible for the postal service and telegraph; public lands, woods, forests and mines; education, health, charities, and prisons; public works, and the collection of taxes; agriculture and industry.

The Governor was not permitted to have any hand in the disposition of public funds. His provincial and rnunicipal accounts were required to be countersigned by his Secretary, who prefixed the word "Intervine" to his signature. The Governor was not allowed any of the percentages which the Alcaldes-Mayores formerly enjoyed, nor any emoluments beyond his stipulated salary.

Under these conditions the Provincial Governor was a great improvement over the Alcalde-Mayor, but it was mainly on account of negative qualities. Few Governors took an active interest in the betterment of their provinces, and, indeed, their scope of action was greatly restricted hy circumstances. In the first place, the Governor found that peaceful administration, and perhaps the retention of his office, depended upon the goodwill of the friars and conformity with their wishes. Loss of office rnight follow a change of ministry, the death or downfall of a patron, or the desire of some influential personage to make a place for a favorite. With such uncertainty as to the term of his official life it could hardly be expected that a Governor would devote himself very earnestly to schemes for the improvement of his province. He would seldom have the satisfaction of witnessing the fruition of his efforts, or even the assurance that his interrupted work work be carried on by his successor. As has been said, he had no control of the disposition of public revenues raised in his province, and wbich should, in large part at least, have been expended upon public works within the districts from which they were derived. All such moneys were, however, remitted to Manila, and by the central government diverted to other purposes, whilst the plans and estimates of provincial officials for roads and bridges were pigeon-holed. If a bridge broke down, so it romained, and the Governmont even made money out of the misfortune of the community by selling the right to establish a ferry. There was in oech rnunicipality a local tax tormed "Caja de Communidad" a sinking fund, contributed by the people against a time of stress and need, but this found its way to Manila and was misappropriated.

Foreman says that in 1887 tho parish priest of Banan, Batangas Province, told him that although there must have heen $300,000 paid into this fund up to the year 1882 by bis parish alone, yet financial aid was refused by the Government during the cholera epidemic of that year.

To quote further from Foreman: "The 'Tribunal,' which served the double purpose of Town Hall and Dak Bungalow for wayfarers, was often a hut of bamboo and palm leaves, whilst others, which had been decent buildings generations gone by, lapsed into a wretched state of dilapidation. In some villages there was no Tribunal at all, and the official business had to be transacted in the municipal Governor's house. I first visited Calamha (on the Laguna de Bay shore) in 1880, and for fourteen years to my knowledge the headmen had to meet in a sugar-store in lieu of a Tribunal. In San Jose de Buenavista, the capital of Antique Province, the Town Hall was commenced in good style and left half finished during fifteen years. Either some one for pity's sake, or the headmen for their own convenience, went to the expense of thatching over half the unflnished structure. This half was therefore saved from utter ruin while all but the stone walls of the remainder rotted away. So it continued until 1887, when the Government authorized a portion of this building to be restored.

"As to the roads connecting the villages, quite twenty per cent of them serve only for travelers on foot, on horseback, or on buffalo back at any time, and in the wet-season certainly sixty per cent of all the Philippine highways are in too bad a state for any kind of passenger conveyance to pass with safety. In the wet-season rnany times I have made a sea journey in a prahu simply because the highroad near the coast had became a mud track for want of mac-adamized stone and drainage, and only serviceable for transport by buffalo. In the dry season the sun mended the roads and the traffic over the baked clods reduced them more or less to dust so that vehicles could pass. Private property owners expended much time and money in the preservation of public roads, although a curious law existed prohibiting repairs to highways by non-official persons.

"Every male adult, or resident (with certain exceptions) had to give the State fifteen days' labor per annum or redeem the labor by payment. 0f course thousands of the most needy dass preferred to give their fifteen days. This labor and the cash paid by those wbo redeemed the obligation were theoretically supposed to be employed in local improvements.

"The Budget for 1888 sbowed only the sum of $120,000 to be used in road-making and mending in the whüle Archipelago.

"It provided for a Chief Inspector of Public Works with a salary of $6,500, aided by a staff of forty-eight technical and eighty-two non-technical subordinates.

"As a matter of fact the Provincial and District Governors were often urged by their Manila chiefs not to encourage the employment of labor for local improvements, but to press the laboring classes to pay the redemption tax to swell the central coffers, regardless of the corresponding misery and discomfort and loss of trade in the interior. But labor at the disposal of the Governor was not alone sufficient. There was no fund from which to defray the cost of materials; or, if these could be found without payment, some one must pay for the transportation by buffaloes and carts, and find the inplements for the laborer's use. How could laborers' hands alone repair a bridge which had rotted away? To cut a log of wood for the public service would have neccessitated communications with the Inspection of Woods and Forests and other centres and many months' delay."

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created: November 20, 1997
updated: November 23, 1997
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