Alcalde Mayor

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Alcalde-mayor refers to the provincial governor-magistrate in the Philippines during the Spanish period. Each province is provided with an alcalde mayor who is then responsible in implementing laws. Many of them abuse the power vested upon them, resulting to a number of complaints from their subjects.



To become an alcalde mayor, one must have at least two years of experience as a lawyer. In the 1900s, one is qualified if he was a judge with an experience of being a lieutenant governor. In 1850s, those who wanted to become alcalde mayor were required to pass an examination in Tagalog.


The main responsibility of the alcalde-mayor was to enforce the colonial laws of governors. Although most of them are not lawyers, they act as the sole judicial magistrates in the provinces. They collect tributo from the people and administer the reales compras. This made them an expert on the stocks of commodities and produce of the Philippines. Lastly, the alcalde-mayor also act as military commanders for their respective provinces.


The Laws of Recopilacion prohibited the alcalde mayor from engaging in trade . These laws were never repealed nor suspended in the Philippines. It was stated in Article 6 of the old ordinances of 1642 that alcaldes were not allowed to do economic-related activities with the natives and Spaniards within their jurisdictions either directly or through agents. Even though this law existed, many alcalde mayors continue to violate this without fear of being punished or removed from office

The remedy to this problem came through the Royal Decree of 17 July 1751 which granted the alcaldes the indulto para comerciar. The word indulto in Spanish laws means the permission or privilege conceded to a person so that he can do what he cannot do without the permission. The decree required each alcalde-mayor to pay an amount for the indulto, thus, giving them consents or privileges to break a particular law. Also, under the decree the alcalde-mayors were to keep trade in their provinces free, without impairing trading by others or buying commodities at rates lower than those paid by other parties.

All measures of weight, volume and length used in the provinces had to be certified or sealed by the alcaldes. They would use fraudulent measures. There are instances when the alcaldes buy the people's harvest at low prices and then resold these back to them at higher prices.

They also abused the natives by recruiting them to become rowers. After a month as oarsmen, the natives were required to serve for another month undpaid. People start leaving the pueblo because of this unjust treatment. Unfortunately, those who were left in the peublos were made to pay the wages that were supposed to have been paid to the rowers.

Alcalde-mayors also harassed the native leaders by making them pay the tributes of those who had left the pueblos and even those who were already dead. Failure to pay meant being flogged or being placed in the stocks. In an event that a native was jailed, he was made to pay for the cost of maintenance.


  • Abinales, Patricio N. and Amoroso, Donna J. 2005. State and Society in the Philippines. Philippines: Rowman and Littefield.
  • Corpuz, O.D. 2005. The Roots of the Filipino Nation Volume I. Quezon City: The University of the Philippines Press.



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