Published: October 26, 2010
The chief executive–or the highest official–in the Philippines during the Spanish rule was the governor-general. He was appointed by the king of Spain and originally received a salary of P8,000 a year; later this amount was raised to P40,000. He was the king’s official representative in the Philippines. His powers were vast and included the executive and a little legislative and judicial power as well.
As the chief executive, he carried out the royal decrees and laws coming from Spain as well as the decrees which he himself made. He appointed and removed colonial officials except those directly appointed by the king of Spain.
He controlled and supervised all the administrative offices of the government. He supervised the collection of taxes and the sales of certain offices–for some offices were sold. Being the commander in chief of the armed forces, he had the power to declare war on neighboring countries.
His legislative powers consisted of the promulgation of executive orders–called superior decrees–for the benefit of his administration. He also exercised veto power–called cumplase–by which he could suspend or disregard the effectiveness of even a law or royal decree issued from Spain.
Until the year 1861, the governor-general served as the president or presiding officer of the Royal Audiencia. As such he enjoyed judicial power as well as executive power. He presided over the trials of the Royal Audiencia. Moreover, he could pardon anyone convicted of a crime and grant amnesty.
As the vice-royal patron (vice-real patronio), he exercised religious power too. This power stemmed from the so-called “royal patronage,” the special right granted by the Pope to all Spanish Kings to exercise control over priests and church officials. This was a reword for Spain’s championship of Catholicism in Europe and the Spanish colonies. With the recommendation of the bishop or archbishop, this power gave the governor-general the right to assign priests to any parish in the Philippines. The governor-general also approved the creation, division, or suppression of parishes and dioceses throughout the archipelago.