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Spain reigned over the Philippines for 333 years, from 1565 to 1898. since Spain was far from the country, the Spanish king ruled the Islands through the viceroy of Mexico, which was then another Spanish colony. When Mexico regained its freedom in 1821, the Spanish king ruled the Philippines through a governor general. A special government body that oversaw matters, pertaining to the colonies assisted the king in this respect. This body became known by many names. Council of the Indies (1565-1837), Overseas Council (1837-1863), and Ministry of the Colonies (1863–1898).
Spain established a centralized colonial government in the Philippines that was composed of a national government and the local governments that administered provinces, cities, towns and municipalities. With the cooperation of the local governments the national government maintained peace and order, collected taxes and built schools and other public works.
As the King's representative and the highest-ranking official in the Philippines, the governor general saw to it that royal decrees and laws emanating from Spain were implemented in the Philippines. He had the power to appoint and dismiss public officials, except those personally chosen by the King. He also supervised all government offices and the collection of taxes. The governor general exercised certain legislative powers, as well. He issued proclamations to facilitate the implementation of laws.
This was a special judicial court that investigates the performance of a governor general who was about to be replaced. The residencia, of which the incoming governor general was usually a member, submitted a report of its findings to the King.
Apart from its judicial functions, the Royal Audiencia served as an advisory body to the Governor General and had the power to check and a report on his abuses. The Audiencia also audited the expenditures of the colonial government and sent a yearly report to Spain. The Archbishop and other government officials could also report the abuses of the colonial government to be Spanish king. Despite all these checks, however, an abusive governor general often managed to escape stiff fines, suspension, or dismissal by simply bribing the Visitador and other investigators.
The Spaniards created local government units to facilitate the country’s administration. There were two types of local government units – the alcadia and the corregimiento. The alcadia, led by the alcalde mayor, governed the provinces that had been fully subjugated: the corregimiento, headed by corregidor, governed the provinces that were not yet entirely under Spanish control. The alcalde mayors represented the Spanish king and the governor general in their respective provinces. They managed the day-to-day operations of the provincial government, implemented laws and supervised the collection of taxes. Through they were paid a small salary, they enjoyed privileges such as the indulto de comercio, or the right to participate in the galleon trade.
Each province was divided into several towns or pueblos headed by Gobernadordcillos, whose main concerns were efficient governance and tax collection. Four lieutenants aided the Governardorcillo: the Teniente Mayor (chief lieutenant), the Teniente de Policia (police lieutenant), the Teniente de Sementeras (lieutenant of the fields) and the Teniente de Ganados (lieutenant of the livestock).
Spain owed the colonization of the Philippines to Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, who valiantly and loyally served the Spanish crown. To hasten the subjugation of the country, King Philip II instructed Legazpi to divide the Philippines into large territories called encomiendas, to be left to the management of designated encomenderos.
To show his gratitude to his conquistadors, the King made them the first encomenderos in the colony. As the King’s representatives in their respective encomiendas, the encomenderos had the right to collect taxes. However, the encomiendas were not there to own. The encomenderos were only territorial overseers who had the duty to: 1) protect the people in the encomienda; (2) maintain peace and order; (3) promote education and health programs; and (4) help the missionaries propagate Christianity.