The Passing of Spanish Dominian

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

Municipal Officials

Each township had its principales, or headmen, of whom there were twelve, elected by popular vote. From this body the petty local officials were chosen; namely, the Gobernadorcillo, or "Petty Governor," and his lieutenants, the alguaciles, or constables, and other minor officers. For the maintenance of order, and for the protection of the town, chiefly against ladrones, there was a body of local police called cuadrilleros, who where generally armed with bolos and lances, but in the more important centers carried firearms.

The Gobernadorcillos were responsible to the Provincial Governor for the condition of affairs in their respective towns and for the due payment of taxes. The immediate collection of taxes was effected by the headman of each barangay, or hamlet, which was the municipal unit. The barangay consisted of from forty to fifty families, who were termed sácopes. For the payment of the proper taxes of his sácopes the headman was held responsible and a great deal of latitude was permitted in the rnethods of collection. The son of the Barangay Chief was recognized as his assistant, and both were exempt from taxation as remuneration for the perfomance of their duties. The office was hereditary, and on account of the unpleasant nature of its duties and the penalties attendant upon failure, was seldom desired, but it could not be avoided. No excuse was admitted for delinquency on the part of the headsman. His goods were liable to be sold to make up a shortage in his returns, and that recourse failing, he would be cast into prison.

The Gobernadorcillo disposed of petty disputes arising in his town, but when these assumed a legal aspect they were referred to the local Justice of the Peace, who was directly responsible to the Provincial Judge.

The salary of a Gobernadorcillo was $2 per month, wbich, of course, fell very short of the actual expenses which he incurred in the performance of his duties, so that he was often forced to recoup himself by illegal exactions from the townspeople. The office carried with it the title of ,,Captain," and on that account was frequently sought by wealthy natives without regard to any profit that might he derived from it.

Under this system of administration five or six Spaniards would furnish tlhe entire cornplement of European civil servants of a province. The salaries attached to all offices were very small. The system was therefore economical in te extreme, but the taxpayers derived no benefit from that circumstance. Every official, the native no less than the Spaniard, looked upon his position as a field für plunder. The reform of 1886 did not effect any improvement in this respect. In fact, one of its immediate results was to increase the number of the parasites who fastened upon the country and pilfered the funds that should have been applied to public works. Frequently officials retired to Spain with accumulations far in excess of the aggregate of their salaries for the term of office, and this despite the fact that in most cases they paid a largo premium for the appointment, or remitted a considerable proportion of its emoluments to the patron annually. So universal was the corruption pervading the administration that it came to be regarded as a matter of course. Foreman relates that he ,"met at table a provincial chief judge, the nephew of a General, and other persons, who openly discussed the value of the different Provincial Governments (before 1884) in Luzon Island on the basis of so much for salary and so much for fees and 'caidas.' "*

The office of Governor-General was not free from the taint. Sawyer, referring to what is practically a proven fact, says "Weyler was said to have purchased the appointment from the wife of a great minister too honest to accept bribes himself, and the price was commonly reported to have been $30,000 paid down and an undertaking to pay the lady an equal sum every year of his term of ofiice." Foreman undoubtedly refers to the same individual when he writes: ,,A General who has quite recently made for himseif a world-wide notoriety for alleged cruelty in another Spanish colony enriched himself by peculation to such an extent that he was at his wit's ends how to remit his ill-gotten gains clandestinely. Finally he resolved to send an army Captain over to Hongkong with $35,000, with which to purchase a draft on Europe. The Captain left, but he never returned." If the story lacks anything of truth let us hope that it is only in an understatement of the sum involved.

Worse, however, than the corruption that characterized the civil departments of the administration was the shameful venality of the judicial branch from the supreme court to the provincial justice of the peace.

* Caidas, ateral]y ,"droppings." This was the expressive term employed by tho Spanish officials to denote what we would caIl, "rake-offs."

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created: November 20, 1997
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