The Passing of Spanish Dominian

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

The Judicial System

A royal decree of 1870 divided the provinces for the purpose of the administration of justice into judicial and rnunicipal districts. Each district was given an audencia, each judicial district a court of first instance, and each municipal district a justice of the peace. The positions of judges were given to lawyers, or persons who had some professional, or academic title, or to those "whose position and circumstances warranted" the appointment.

As a rule, down to the end of the Spanish sovereignty, the judges of the courts were Spaniards, and the entire judicial system, including the codes of civil and criminal law, followed closely, if not literally, the forms observed in Spain. These were characterized by many proceedings calculated to prolong litigation indefinitely, to add greatly to the expense of lawsuits, to keep prisoners in confinement for long periods, and to prevent the impartial and speedy administration of justice.

Among other causes which were calculated to augment the troubles and expenses of all litigants was the ignorance of the alcaldes-mayores, and of many of the judges of first instance, of the law and the proper mode of procedure, as these officials were appointed as a rule for political reasons, or for almost any reason litit proficiency, until after the separation of judicial and executive functions as already set forth. Again, the judges of first instance and fiscales had very small salaries, and municipal judges, and the clerks, and secretaries, of the courts had none at all, being dependent für remuneration upon official fees and such additional compensation as the litigants were willing and able to pay. The result was a great deal of corruption and extortion, and, taken in connection with the many legal obstructions always at hand and always resorted to by the dishonest and unscrupulous, made an appeal for redress to the courts so expensive as to be entirely beyond the reach of the average Filipino. Sawyer, whose opportunities for experience were exceptional, compares the alcaldes' courts to those of the Chinese Yamens, and goes on to say that "bad as the alcaldes' courts were, I think that the culminating point of corruption was the Audencia of Ianila. Escribano, abogado, júez, auditor, fiscál, vied with each other in showing that to them honor and dignity were but empty words.

...The records of these courts from the earliest times is one of long-continued infamy." The venality of the courts and their tortuous methods of procedure were only equaled by their tardiness of action. Sawyer and Foreman each cite instances of deferred justice which came under their personal observation and which it is safe to assert could not have occurred under any other civilized government in the world.

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